sydney symphony orchestra | a concept project

Using content strategy to hit the right note with millennials


The problem

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra was concerned about remaining relevant and needed a way to attract millennial audiences on a regular basis by providing a meaningful, fulfilling experience of symphonic music.


the solution

A refocused content strategy based on a new artistic mission for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

the timeline

2-week sprint finishing June 8, 2018

the team

I collaborated with teammate Chris Choi and led all research activities and synthesis. I was also responsible for the solution strategy.

the methods

  • Stakeholder research
  • Competitive and comparative analysis
  • Surveys and user interviews
  • Affinity diagramming
  • Archetype and scenario creation
  • Journey mapping
  • Concept mapping and feature prioritisation
  • Content canvas creation
  • Sketching
  • Usability evaluations

The approach

My teammate and I collaborated heavily in each project phase, using the following principles to guide our thinking:

Start broad

Achieving a longstanding connection between millennials and the SSO offering required us to widen our research scope past just the symphonic performance experience.

All elements of the solution needed to connect directly back to our insights from millennials’ current attitudes and behaviours.

Experience first

We learned early on that the SSO successfully dedicated a variety of resources to engaging their current attendees, so we resolved to leverage these resources to appeal to the millennial gap.

Don’t reinvent the wheel



Stakeholder research and competitive analysis

'It’s a wasteland… millennials just don’t care'

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s wealth of human-interest content, emphasis on legacy through education, and social media presence demonstrated a dedicated and creative approach to maintaining a wide reach.

However, the event detail page assumed significant symphonic music knowledge on behalf of the user, and their Facebook engagement left a lot to be desired in terms of findable and relatable content.

It’s no wonder then that an SSO employee deemed the millennial demographic a ‘wasteland’ in terms of symphonic music performances, detailing further that ‘they just don’t care’.


Reaching out with an artistic mission

Click to enlarge: Comparative analysis of general event providers

The SSO’s competitors demonstrated the effectiveness of simple, emotion-based language, atmospheric visuals, and most importantly, an artistic mission to set them apart and give their content an edge.

When we turned to different channels millennials used for exploring content such as YouTube and Triple J Unearthed, we also saw the value in relevant, interactive content.


Surveying and interviewing millennials

‘I just don’t feel a connection’, ‘I don’t know enough’

A survey with people aged between 18 and 30, revealed the majority of the 43 respondents had not attended a symphonic performance in the last 18 months, with ‘I don’t feel a connection to the music’ and ‘Not enough knowledge’ being the top factors for that decision.

What did they say would motivate them to attend a performance? If they could attend it with friends, or if it was something special to them.


Already a foot in the door

Interviews with three users under 30 revealed that despite a perceived lack of knowledge and emotional connection to symphonic music, each user already had some form of positive exposure, either through modern media or study and relaxation playlists on Spotify.

24 years old

least exposure to symphonic music

I do have a study playlist - classical music and soundtracks
What I have seen, I actually found really arresting... It takes you on a journey
Even though they were our age, everyone at this performance had suddenly become these snooty people - I mean, I’m allowed to laugh

26 years old

recent exposure to symphonic music at Harry Potter in Concert

I guess I need a push to get into it… I don’t really know where to start
The orchestra was really dynamic... I haven’t seen instruments like that in that atmosphere before
I’m not sure if I’ll go to the Goblet of Fire - apart from another movie I wouldn’t get much out of it

30 years old

successful classical music composer and performer

I do find myself often playing to a room full of white hair, which isn’t a bad thing - I think they just have the life experience that’s required
Exploring the accessibility side of things for young people really fuels my love for playing piano
I’m looking for inspiration, I learn so much from interacting with my audiences

Key insights

Millennials needed to be met halfway

Affinity diagramming led us to identify two key trends:

  • Despite a perceived lack of emotional connection or required knowledge of symphonic music performances, millennials demonstrated a willingness to explore symphonic music based on what they already knew, for example, movie soundtracks.

  • Most millennials would be willing to attend a performance if they knew it was ‘special to them’, or if they could share it with friends.


Finding the make-or-break point with archetypes and journey maps

We grounded these insights in reality by exploring the goals, needs, and pain points of socially-motivated ‘team player’ and emotion-driven ‘sceptic’ archetypes, complete with scenarios, and examined their decisions in retrospective journey maps:.

Click to enlarge : 'Sceptic' journey map

Click to enlarge: 'Sceptic' journey map

Click to enlarge: 'Team player' journey map

While millennials were capable of connecting with symphonic music, the event page was both too obscure and too alienating to sustain this connection for more than one performance, or for any performance at all.


The solution

Our solution was to define a new inclusive and empowering artistic mission for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra using a quote by SSO CEO Emma Dunch:

"Music is a universal language, and what we do is a joy to be shared as widely as possible, through every possible channel."

We then used this artistic mission to reframe the SSO’s content strategy and facilitate a more engaged conversation between the SSO and millennials.

Since completing the project, I re-synthesised these elements into a ‘content canvas’ to view the strategy more clearly:


To see the artistic mission and content strategy in action, I sketched a wireframe of an SSO symphonic event description page, which my partner transformed into a high-fidelity mockup:


Not reinventing the wheel

We prioritised features on the event description page such as the Spotify listening option, and integrated content the SSO already produced into the page so that both the ‘sceptic’ could see this was an event they could belong to, and the ‘team player’ would know this was a night to be enjoyed with friends.

Screenshot 2018-07-17 15.18.11.png

Creating content that spoke a ‘universal language’

Keeping in mind the different types of positive exposure millennials already had to symphonic music, we created a ‘You may know this from’ section with movies, music, and more that used the piece being performed.

Screenshot 2018-07-17 15.17.54.png

We also capitalised on the effectiveness of atmospheric visuals and interactivity seen in competitive analysis by including samples users could download and remix into their own version, creating their own emotional connection to symphonic music.

Screenshot 2018-07-17 15.18.04.png

Using ‘every possible channel’

For users to connect with this content, we needed to ensure they could find it through their familiar channels, so we strategised simple changes such as:

  • making every performance a Facebook event that included some of this more relatable content
  • using Spotify for Brands to target demographics listening to specific music genres.

Usability evaluations and curtain call

'I can relate to that'

To explore whether our artistic mission was hitting the right note with users, we performed two usability evaluations of the mockup.

Users reacted positively to the event content and new ‘You may know this from’ and ‘Create your masterpiece’ content, saying ‘I like knowing what I can do before and after’, and ‘I can relate to that’, indicating our solution was heading the right direction.

The problem was not simply that millennials ‘don’t care’ as the SSO would originally have believed; they just needed to be communicated to in a way that they understood - in other words, a universal language.