Bringing Millennials to the San Francisco Symphony
Social and taste-discovery tools to bridge the knowledge gap
Bringing Millennials to the San Francisco Symphony
Social and taste-discovery tools to bridge the knowledge gap

The San Francisco Symphony has an aging audience and is not attracting new, younger attendees.

They sought a tool to help millennials recognize the history, structure, and context of classical music, helping to make them into regular concertgoers.

Team & Duration

Lean UX process went from initial brief to high-fi prototype in 2 weeks. Our team of 3 UX students collaborated on ideation, early prototyping, and user testing. I was lead on primary research, data analysis, InVision prototyping, and structuring the client presentation.

Tools & Methods

  • Secondary research on other arts organizations
  • User interviews and surveys
  • User journey mapping
  • Usability testing
  • Interactive prototype design

Millennials need background knowledge and social context

We uncovered an audience ready for conversion: The Bay Area millennials we surveyed and interviewed were actively interested in new music and new experiences and felt no cultural barriers to attending the symphony. However, they said they didn't know how to choose which concert to attend and didn't have friends to recommend or attend performances with them.

Help millennials enjoy the symphony in the same way as the other music they love
Insight: Not all users are ready to buy tickets. Have several paths, each ending with an appropriate call to action.

Through education: Our webapp that helps visitors learn their classical music tastes by rating 20-second snippets of music. They can read more about the artists, composers, and genres they liked, and are directed toward currently-playing concerts that fit their tastes. The webapp links users to the SF Symphony's existing archive of articles, images, and recordings in a personalized and easily browsable way.

Through connection: Integration with Facebook helps visitors discover friends who share their tastes or invite others to attend a concert with them.

Users enter the site, typically through a social media link. They rate music and learn their tastes. The available actions are designed to encourage sharing and continued engagement with the symphony:

  • Share tastes or concert opportunities with friends
  • Sign up for notifications about concerts matching their tastes
  • Save or export a playlist so they can continue listening
  • Purchase tickets
Survey: User concerns are knowledge and social connection
Insight: These users don't need persuasion. They need better choice architecture.

A quick dive into the research on audience acquisition for arts organizations provided many hypotheses about barriers to entry. Our survey of Bay Area millennials found that, unlike those in many other cities, they didn't feel the symphony was forbidding or irrelevant. But it supported the belief that they needed to know more about the music the symphony plays. Our survey and user interviews also found many who primarily choose events based on recommendations and invitations from friends.

Interested in
attending symphony

Would feel comfortable
at symphony

Would know which
concert to pick

Personas: Designing for music-lovers and socialites

Justin, music lover

"I found out about this show because I liked the guitarist's side project on Soundcloud."

Key features: Personalized recommendations, recordings of performances

Miriam, social butterfly

"Going to a concert sounds like fun, but I don't think any of my friends are into it."

Key features: Sharing events on social media, see who else is going, last-minute ticket deals

Anjula, tastemaker

"My friends go to the symphony because I go to the symphony."

Key features: Exciting & shareable content, flexible ticketing so late buyers can sit with friends (planned for next version)

Insight: Design for current symphony-goers, too. With social tools and fun shareable content, they can be evangelists and educators.
Early testing helps determine the right frame

Before we even had a sketch of our music quiz, we started talking to potential users about it. We found that the word "quiz" raised associations of low-quality, clickbait websites, so we restyled our idea as an open-ended game. Users immediately clicked with the idea of a Tinder-style interface that would let them flip through music samples and learn a few facts about each one.

Build on client strengths

The SF Symphony has an enormous library of articles, images, and recordings from their 100-year history. In addition to using this content to illustrate the app, we aimed to give users an easy pathway in by directing them to articles relevant to the artists and genres they rated highly.

User journey map

Key touchpoints and emotions during the journey from site visit to concert. Without the app, users risk uncertainty and bad concert matches (red area). With the app, they can experience anticipation and attend concerts they'll enjoy (gold area).


See the clickable prototype (sorry, no audio).

A way to get millennials in the door — and find out what they need to stay.

The app is still in the concept phase. If released, things will get really exciting! The immediate KPIs will be web traffic, sharing of taste results, and first-time ticket buying by people who enter through the app.

But I'm most curious about how those attendees will fare after their first concert. Will they have higher satisfaction than those not entering through the app? Will they return for future concerts?

The SF Symphony is confident that providing knowledge and context will help people enjoy their concerts, but we don't yet know whether the tidbits and taste guidance offered by our app are enough. If they are, then we have plenty of ideas for extending the content and social features to keep visitors coming back to the app and sharing it with others. If not, our app is still a first step toward winning their interest, and we can explore further options for education and acculturation before, after, or even during concerts.