Seeking out alternative and unusual concert venues can be a great way to reach a new audience

What kinds of venue attract audiences?

Presenting site specific work, outdoor concerts or concert walks with contemporary music can add an extra level to the audience experience.

The classical concert hall is like a museum, usually built ages ago, and seen by many as a dusty exhibition hall where old works are displayed as in a glass case. Concert halls scare the audience away, and this problem is particularly painful for contemporary music that was never written for the old concert halls anyway.

This is why many contemporary music ensembles are busy to get out of the concert hall. Contemporary concerts are increasingly played in old industrial buildings, in the streets, in department stores and other places that are not reminiscent of another time. 

Looking for new venues is also about meeting a new audience where the audience happens to be located. A lot of contemporary pieces do, for example, mix well with both techno and other underground genres, and several ensembles have had the idea of playing hard core concerts late at night for a young audience at nightclubs. And if you want to attract the audience that loves theatre but haven’t discovered contemporary music yet – well, perhaps you should find a theatre to play in.

During the NewAud project, the ensembles involved have explored the potential and challenges involved when ditching the concert hall in favour of unusual venues.


  • NewAud Evaluation Report

    The final report sums up the outcome of the NewAud project. It evaluates the results regarding audience development, the cooperation of the ensembles, as well as the ensembles' artistic development throughout the project.

  • What Makes a Good Venue?

    This document contains the presentation slides from a talk by arts consultant Heather Maitland on what makes a good venue.

  • What Makes a Good Venue?

    This document contains the presentation slides from a talk by arts consultant Heather Maitland on what makes a good venue.

  • What Kinds of Venue Attract Audiences?

    In this article arts consultant Heather Maitland briefly describes how audiences prefer venues where they feel they belong. Research shows, that we all actively seek a third space, besides from home and work, where we spend most of our time, in which we can meet our social needs through creative interaction with others. Heather argues that art spaces and concert venues have the ability to be that kind of third space, if they strike a balance between informality and formality. Where that balance lies, however, depends on the type of music and individual preferences.

  • Alternative Concert Formats - What Works Best

    New World Symphony in the US wanted to develop new concert formats that attracted new, younger and less-experienced concert-goers. They developed four formats. To give them all a chance of success, all four were programmed each season for three years and carefully evaluated. The tested formats varied from 30-minutes mini-concerts to club night concerts ending with a full-on party. The general conclusion was that alternative concert formats do attract new audiences. This document sums up the results of the research.

  • How Can Ditching the Concert Hall Help Us?

    The ensembles in the NewAud working community 'Exploring Venues and Concert Formats’ met for a workshop discussing how ditching the traditional concert hall can help us. This document lists their arguments for staging concerts outside of the regular concert venue. The list includes claims that it can help you reach a new audience, get sponsorships and bring new inspiration and energy to the ensemble.

  • Ditching the Concert Hall - What Works?

    The ensembles in the NewAud working community ‘Exploring Venues and Concert Formats’ met for a workshop discussing what makes an effective event outside the concert hall. This document lists their recommendations for what to focus on and aim for, when you meet your audience outside of the regular concert venue.

  • Space Acoustics and Music

    The Federation of Three Wallonian Ensembles gave a concert at the legendary Halles de Schaerbeeck in Brussels, based on the ambition to find the perfect piece of music for a particular room. The audience was seated in deck chairs scattered in the large room, three orchestras and three conductors performed simultaneously, and the focus was on the total experience of space, acoustics and music. This document in brief describes the concert.

  • Staging a Concert at The Devil's Hole

    St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra staged a concert in the Devil's Hole, a geological monument in a Lithuanian forrest. The aim was to attract both nature lovers, adventurers and those seeking events with a strong atmosphere. The concert was a great success with more than 600 people attending the event. This report sums up the benefits and challenges of ditching the concert hall in favour of a hole in the ground.

  • Music and Machines

    St Christopher Chamber Orchestra wanted to create a link between music and technology, and therefore engaged young students from the Vilnius Technical University as collaborators in a unique concert. The concert was held in the turbine hall at the Museum of Energy and Technology. The ensemble composed short pieces for the students to play, with the technical instruments, old machines and turbines as musical instruments. This concert report describes the process and outcome of the project.

  • Acoustic Experiments at The Airport

    Sinfonietta Rīga gave a concert at the old Spilve Airport, a half abandoned Soviet era heritage with neo-classical architecture and special acoustic qualities. The concert programme presented the premiere of a site specific composition by the young Latvian composer Kristaps Pētersons, Mastering of acoustics, which was performed simultaneously from 10 different spots in the building. This report describes the artistic intentions in mixing contemporary music and 20th century architecture, the process and results of the project.

  • Twitter Opera Performed by #sinfoniettariga

    Sinfonietta Rīga performed what is most likely the worlds first twitter opera, retelling a heated debate on the economic situation in the Baltic. With the relevant subject and contemporary format, the ensemble got a lot of attention from the media as well as new audiences. They aimed at engaging the audience through social media before, during and after the concert. This report describes the process and results of the project.

  • Reopening a Long Lost Concert Hall

    Sinfonietta Rīga held a concert marking the reopening of an old concert hall, hidden from the public for more than 30 years. The concert hall is located at the Latvian Academy of Science, and the concert engaged young scientists in the project. With the multidisciplinary nature of the concert, and the venue being a Soviet era heritage, Sinfonietta Rīga's ambition was to attract a broad variety of audience groups: Academics, urban explorers and cultural heritage enthusiasts. This report describes the project and its results, pointing to the great promotional effect for the ensemble.

  • Dance, Performance and New Music

    The Polish ensemble Orkiestra Muzyki Nowej addressed varied groups of audiences for their concert as part of an international festival for dance and performance. Young people interested in dance and performance art, the regular new music audience and local authorities of culture politics were all invited to a concert. Among others the concert presented a piece written by the former Croatian president. This document describes the concept and aim of the concert.

  • A Concert Experience Beyond the Standard Format

    The Dutch ensemble Lunatree created a one hour non-stop performance where the pieces were connected by a soundscape, achieving a sense of “theatre for the ears”. The aim of the concert was to create an intimate setting for the audience and musicians to get together and enjoy previously unheard music. This case report describes the concept of the concert and sums up the do's and don'ts of the experiment, emphasizing the benefits of creating an informal atmosphere and mingling with the audience.

  • New Music at the Jazz Club

    The Dutch ensemble Lunapark brought new music to the audience at a jazz club in a relaxed, informal setting. They presented the piece Bulp by Donacha Dennehy, and contrasted its acoustic minimalism with the electronic minimalism of Japanese sound artist Ryoji Ikeda. This report in brief describes the aims and results of the concert.

  • London Contemporary Orchestra Goes to Church

    London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO) presented a concert at Holy Trinity Church in Sloane Square, Chelsea, London.The aim of the concert was to make the audience feel an ultimate connection with melody and witness something quite spiritual and moving in the intimate and elevating surroundings of Holy Trinity Church. This report describes the concert and shows the findings from observations of the advertisement prior to the concert and the various reactions of the audience during the concert.

  • Beating Drums at The Museum

    KammarensembleN filled every corner of the Art Museum Färgfabrikken with the sound of drums. Walking through the museum rooms the audience would meet a drum roll here, a knock there, whizzing cymbals here and the pounding of tom-toms there. It all melted together in a total installation of room and sound. The aim was to explore the concert space in unexpected ways, create links between the music and other art forms and attract a new audience. This concert evaluation report describes the project, and shares the answers from an audience survey.

  • Inspiratum Festival - An Extraordinary Experience

    HERMESensemble was involved as main partners in creating the The Inspiratum Kanaal Festival in Antwerp. Here they presented a contemporary and multimedial concert programme at an untraditional venue: an old, restored brewery in an industrial area. The festival attracted a wide audience, and reached out to children and youngsters through collaborative workshops. For audience research in depth interviews was made with three members of the audience. This evaluation report describes the values and challenges of the project and shares conclusions and recommendations based on the interviews with audience members.

  • The Concert Hall vs. Alternative Venues

    The Hebrides Ensemble held two concerts aiming to take their work beyond the major venues, comparing the audience's experience at a concert hall and at an alternative venue. The ensemble held a third concert marking the start of a new collaboration with young musicians from the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland. They made an extensive audience survey at the three concerts. The survey indicates that when programming new music as part of a concert, the ensemble should make sure that the whole experience matches the concert. It also shows that including modern work in classical programmes can help redefine the perception of what your ensemble represents amongst audiences. This evaluation report shows the findings of the survey.

  • Contemporary Music Taken to Court

    The Galway Ensemble in Residence: ConTempo Quartet and Crash Ensemble joined forces in ditching the concert hall and making the concert a more sociable experience. The local courthouse was chosen as the venue, and on the night of the concert a survey was handed out to learn more about the audience. The main goals of the survey were to build a localized profile of contemporary music audiences and gauge the effectiveness of the concert setting to the audience experience. This concert evaluation report describes the concert and the context of the New Aud project, and shares the findings and analysis from the audience research.

  • Brand New Music at The Office

    Athelas Sinfonietta focused on setting the scene for socialising, when they played a concert at a shared creative office space. Athelas aims at making concerts where videos, happenings and staging effects bind the music pieces together to one artistic event. In this case there was a new music video battle before the concert started, and free drinks afterwards. This document in brief describes the concept.

  • Brand New Music at a Rock Venue

    Athelas Sinfonietta played a new music concert at a typical rock music venue. The concert was part of their experimental concert series Brand New Tuesdays. With these concerts Athelas focus on opening up the concerts by rethinking them as social events that embraces and includes the audience. This document in brief describes the concept.

  • A Brand New Concert Format

    Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen integrated their experimental concert format Brand New Tuesdays as a part of the avant-garde music festival KLANG. The vision behind Brand New Tuesdays is to create a direct dialogue with the audience in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. After the concert the ensemble invited the audience to stay for a drink and an informal chat about the works. Athelas conducted a focus group interview with members of the audience, and shares the findings in this evaluation report.