Why do people attend live concerts?

By Barry Kempton

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been reminded that attending a live performance is a choice made by individuals for a variety of reasons.

Here are five recurring themes I’ve heard when people talk about why they attend concerts. I’m sure there are many more.

1. Spiritual reflection

Especially for people whose lives are busy with work, active families and multiple demands on their time and attention, the experience of sitting quietly at a concert for two hours of uninterrupted inspiration is an oasis. “It’s a time for me”, a time to restore the spirit and refresh the soul with music as the focus.

2. Discovery

Audience members with a sense of adventure hunt out performances and performers who will satisfy their curiosity for something new and different. Often (but not always) this is the audience for new music by living composers. But there is of course unfamiliar music from every period we know from mediaeval to the present day.

3. Much-loved music revisited

Many audience members are motivated to attend a live performance because they know and love a program, some or all the music. They probably know it from a recording, perhaps they know it because they have played or sung it, but they are curious to hear it freshly conceived by a performer, ensemble or orchestra whose music-making they esteem.

4. Sense of occasion

In an age where it’s possible not only to listen to favorite performances on your own high quality recordings but also to access multiple versions of music on Spotify, Pandora and the like, the rationale behind attending a live event for many is the occasion itself. For those of us in the business of presenting concerts, we should never forget that the occasion we are inviting audience members to includes the venue, the welcome, the ambiance and even the parking experience.

5. Sense of belonging

People attend concerts because they enjoy belonging to a community with similar interests. These are of course likely to be concert attenders who subscribe to a series or attend regularly, for whom the experience of listening en masse is an important reason for choosing to attend a performance. Indeed it is not only listening together but also the opportunity to discuss and critique among friends which makes the live experience preferable to sitting at home with a recording or the radio.

It’s important for The Schubert Club as a presenting organization to remember that people attend concerts for different reasons. There are no doubt more than the five listed above. I’m curious to know about others if your motivation is different. Please share.