According to Robin Pogrebin in the New York Times (Oct. 16, 2002), symphonies have a problem. Some people who used to buy season tickets prefer single ticket sales.
In a culture of commotion, this makes sense for three reasons.
First, we are moving from the culture that reveals the Arnoldian notion of culture, the idea of a hierarchy of taste that puts fine things on high and more popular culture below. This conceit, hypnotically powerful in one form or another in the West for at least 500 years, is now losing its vise-like grip on the way people think about themselves, the culture they care about, the things they consume. (See book 2, Transformation, for more on this.) This means that the status giving, identity defining importance of symphony subscription is on the wane. This is not to say that people don’t care about high culture and the status it brings them. It is to say they care about many other kinds of culture and identities as well.
And this brings us to the second reason. Because people now have bundles of selves that cover a range of class, age, experiential, stylistic, gender definitions, they are obliged to have access to a range of cultural events. This means we have to spread the same dollar over symphonies, clubs, web access, diverse books, several magazines and so on. That symphony subscription takes up too much of our available resources. Better to dip into the symphony season as and when it looks useful and leave those other resources for deployment in a different venue, for a different purpose.
There’s a third reason. The just-in-time nature of our culture. We can’t know when we are asked to sign up for symphony season who we will be at the end of it. And we certainly dont know where contemporary culture is going to be. Don’t make us choose early. Give us the latitude to choose as and when it becomes apparent who we are becoming and where the several groups to which we belong are heading.