Optimal duration of a concert

How long should a concert be? for the audience to fully enjoy it? for the audience not to leave prematurely? How about using the maximum length of a CD as a guide?

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What should be the optimal length of a concert?

This morning Robert and I gave a 30 minute concert. My mother complained afterwards that it was too short.

“You whetted everyone’s appetite but didn’t deliver the food. Everyone’s wondering how come it’s over so soon?”

She advised us to get the director of the housing area to organise a full-length concert for us and announce it in the monthly newsletter.

“Mom, why don’t you do that for us?” I suggested.

“I can’t. I’m not your agent.”

That’s why we gave a 30 minute concert. It was not official. One of her neighbours was enthusiastic to have two musicians staying here and slotted us in the time before the weekly luncheon. There were no posters or newsletters or flyers mentioning our concert. Just a word of mouth and a handwritten announcement on the white board in the community room.

Despite that, the upright piano did get tuned. There was a basket for donations. We were each given a fragrant lei around our necks at the beginning and a kiss by the elderly lady who welcomed us.

Just how long should a concert be?

It has nothing to do with the number of people in the audience or the price of the ticket or our own remuneration.

For nursing homes with a high percentage of alzheimer patients, the organisers typically request short concerts with intermissions, e.g. 30 minutes + 15-minute intermission + 30 minutes. 45-minute concerts without intermission are also common. At most 1 hour without intermission is usually the limit.

Intermissions are good opportunities to sell CDs. At house concerts we learned that we shouldn’t be hiding in the back preparing for the second half but actively selling and signing CDs. At one house concert, we learned that people tend to leave right after the concert. Hence, intermissions are vital for CD sales.

When there are no intermissions, for fear of people leaving during the intermission or to adhere to standards or house rules, we are happy giving a 1 hour concert or at most a 1 hour 15 minute concert. Anything more than that would be too much for us and the audience. I do think there is an maximum length of time for which a person can listen attentively without becoming bored, restless, or aching to use the restrooms.

In our experience, it’s nearly impossible to expect elderly residents (of a senior housing area or nursing homes) to buy CDs because they usually 1) don’t carry any cash, 2) don’t have CD players, and 3) don’t want to own anything.

What about gift giving?

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo CD Summer
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo CD Summer

Today we received an order for 10 CDs from a doctor in New England who wants to give them away for Christmas. We have only 12 CDs in our possession (leftover from 200 CDs we brought with us on our USA tour), 8 on CDBaby, and 100 stored away in a sealed box in our attic in Utrecht, Netherlands. After that, it will be out of print. We will be working on our next CD “Winter.”

A CD has a maximum duration of 80 minutes playing time which translate to 1 hour 20 minutes. Perhaps that could be an indication of the optimal duration of a concert.

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

2 thoughts on “Optimal duration of a concert”

  1. Normally 45 minutes is the length of any activity that people are able to concentrate; on a speech, in a rehearsal, or on listening to a concert. If they know that a break, or the end of the concert will come soon, people will be able to hold their concentration till 60 minutes (if the activity is interesting).

    So generally one might state: 60 minutes for a concert without a break (otherwise with a paid concert people think it is too short). For a concert with a break maximum 60 minutes before the break, 45 minutes after the break.
    The part after the break has to be shorter than the part before the break.

    Exceptions are when the audience knows and expects that the parts will before and after the break will be longer, e.g. St Matthew’s Passion, Bach.

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