Classical:Next, day one: Korea’s classical market

- 31 May 2013

The Classical:NEXT conference schedule began on a tragic note. Joohoo Kim, ceo of the Lotte Hall in in Seoul, died shortly before he was due to deliver the opening address, on classical music in his country.

However, the text of his speech gives not only a detailed snapshot of the Korean classical audience but also suggests that there is a much larger potential audience.

The opening night of Classical:Next
Photo: Eric van Nieuwland

Korean promoters put their ticket-buying audience at 100,000, to which must be added those attending free concerts and education programmes under the Free For All banner.

In contrast to the West, Korean classical audiences are young and predominantly female. ‘I do see often artists are surprised or slightly embarrassed by the unexpected big cheering and clapping from the [Korean] audience,’ Kim wrote.

The Korea Arts Management Service found women accounted for 67.1% of the classical audience, 77.4% of them aged 19-44, and over 40% came from the Gangnam suburb of south Seoul ‒ famed as a yuppie haven.

And 53% of survey respondents affiliated themselves to the Christian churches, ‘which represent Western culture to the Korean people’.

Romantic-era music was favoured by 31.3%, followed by Classical at 26.1% and Baroque 14.6% with favourite composers being Beethoven (24.1%), Mozart (16.6%) and Bach (14.6%).

Word of mouth was the principal influence for deciding which concerts to attend (27.9%), followed by websites (23.9%), and online communities and print media (both 10.5%).

Online ticket purchases accounted for 46.8% of sales, on-site purchases being just 12.1%.

About 4,000 students majoring in Western classical music graduate from 87 universities in Korea every year and Kim bemoaned the tendency for many to pursue performing and teaching careers simultaneously.

Classical accounts for about 8% (27m euros) of performing arts ticket sales but many concerts are dependent on corporate sponsors, who seek big-name performers and there are frequent complaints about ticket prices, which can reach 350 euros.

International artists tend to play big venues on economic grounds and the number of small-scale concerts is decreasing, Kim wrote.

With Korea being one of the world’s most advanced digital societies, classical music needs to look at platforms such as YouTube and Go Classic, an online community with 145,000 members, and smartphones for growing its Korean audience, he concluded.

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