How do you secure an audience member for life?
How do you secure an audience member for life? Is it with discounts . . No. Is it with loyalty programs . . No. It is with the latest initiative by the Australian Music Examination Board (AMEB)!
There is one crucial factor which creates an audience member for life . . . Were you exposed to it as a child? It doesn’t matter if it was theatre, movies, music or sporting games, those fond memories are likely to shape the entertainment choices for the rest of your existence.
What are the styles of entertainment which you love? Do you go to the footy every week? Do you try to see as many shows on Melbourne’s theatre scene as you can? Do you still dance around the house to the melodic talents of A-ha and Wham!? Whatever your poison, there is a good chance you can remember the turning point in your childhood which shaped your passion. I certainly do. I remember seeing Lisa McCune in The Sound of Music as my first theatrical endeavour and falling in love with the experience.
Well, if you want to develop musical theatre audiences into the future, then you need to start this passion young by giving them the opportunity to be exposed to it. And this is exactly what the AMEB has done!
Previously, its vocal syllabus offerings skewed more towards the classical because it is perceived that is where you learn technique and the foundational skills that will allow you to grow and develop later in life. But if you weren’t a fan of classical music, then there wasn’t much of a theatrical alternative within this popular exam structure. Now, that has all changed. Starting next year, the AMEB will be offering Musical Theatre learning streams completely devoted to exploring this genre of music – a program which was launched by Drew Weston, Silvie Paladino and Lisa McCune at the Arts Centre this week.
This small step will help develop the audiences of the future because even if the students don’t go on to become the next Audra McDonald, Idina Menzel or Kristin Chenoweth of the Australian theatre industry, they will have been exposed to this music from a young age. And if they enjoyed it then . . . chances are they will be knocking down your door for the hot tickets in a few years!
But the benefits don’t stop there. The AMEB are actually solving two problems with one stone due to their latest musical theatre initiative. The Daily Review recently published an article (rather dramatically) titled ‘The Problem with Musical Theatre in Australia’. This article went on to condemn the public and the industry for not embracing obscure and risky musicals and instead favouring the more accessible, popular and mainstream options.
Well, if you want to solve this, the answer doesn’t lie in audience blaming. Nor does it lie in educating the audiences. The AMEB is already solving the issue. Expose kids to more left-of-field options. Give them the opportunity to explore past the popular favourites and find interest in new niches of musical theatre. Then in the future they will search for these opportunities and become a large enough audience to embrace more inventive productions. It just takes a little exposure . . .