Audience Personas: from Consumer to Citizen

One way of making the assumptions of an audience explicit is through personas. Personas are descriptions of the actual and/or desired audiences (in this case: audience of the orchestra). They are fictional characters that are used to describe the attitude, opinion, behaviour, wishes and desires relating to a specific product or service (Green Room Creatives, 2018). Personas are ways to make user experiences explicit.

The concept of the persona originated in software design to describe archetypical users. It has become a central term in contemporary marketing and branding. Instead of persona, researchers in the AP project use the term imagined audience as this opens up the implicit role audiences play in the entire orchestra.

The so called ‘aspiration persona’ is a fictionalised version of an ideal audience, or of an audience that challenges the existing offer of the orchestra (Green Room Creatives, 2018). The goal of formulating an aspiration persona is to find new audiences, to turn infrequent or non-concertgoers into concert-goers. Target audiences could be youths, urban professionals, and the irregular or occasional visitor.

Personas are ways to make your actual and desired audience explicit and discussable. They can also help marketeers and others to make decisions about marketing goals, or about the organisation of concerts. However, personas often still remain firmly based on ideas of audiences as either consumers who need to buy more tickets, or amateurs who need to be informed and educated into appreciating the Western canon of classical music. Usually, these two imaginations go hand in hand.

So how to create alternative personas? How to imagine the audience as citizen? In contrast to consumers (who can only state preferences), citizens have hopes, ideals, worries, concerns. Citizens have a responsibility, towards fellow-citizens, but potentially also towards the orchestra. When creating a fictionalised character, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What does your ideal audience hope for? What ideals could they have? (i.e. you can think about individualist ideals, such as becoming a kind person, but also societal goals such as a better climate or less poverty).
  2. What are concerns of your ideal audience? What do they worry about?
  3. How could you address these concerns and ideals of this fictionalised audience, using classical music? What story could you tell about these ideals and worries, using specific concerts?
  4. What does your ideal audience offer the orchestra? What can you learn from them?
  5. Treat your ideal audience as a local neighbour, who shares some responsibility for the orchestra. How could your ideal audience contribute to the orchestra (apart from buying tickets)? How can you give this audience some form of ownership over the concerts they attend?
  6. Try to discuss in your department the question of societal relevance of classical music. Why should an audience come to experience a concert? Why is this concert important, right now, right here? Why is experiencing classical music in general important in our contemporary society?
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