Six projects are selected to join Audience Labs

Audience Labs logo
Produced by: 
Sound and Music

Audience Labs 2015 - 2016 

Six projects have been selected to participate in Audience Labs, Sound and Music's new audience development programme designed to test new ways of communicating and presenting new music to audiences. 

Covering an array of disciplines and approaching the puzzle of audience engagement from a mutlitude of perspectives, the selected projects will test and share the results of their experiments with the sector, building a stronger community of new music organisations, promoters, and artists. 

From interactive apps, to monitoring you whilst you sleep listening to music, the selected projects are unified in a joint mission to find out how best they can can engage with audiences using data and experimentation. 

Meet the projects:

Photo of dancerAdrienne Hart and Neon Dance (South West)

Neon Dance is an internationally recognised dance company that produces exciting, collaborative work for the stage and screen. Collaboration is at the heart of every Neon Dance production with the company creating work designed for a diverse range of spaces; from intimate theatre venues to large-scale festivals. // @neon_dance // Vimeo video 



The Project : 'Empathy' Showcasing & Audience Development

Between October 2015 and May 2016 Neon Dance will embark upon a UK tour showcasing its first full length work 'Empathy'. A collaboration between Artistic Director and Choreographer Adrienne Hart, Mads Brauer and Casper Clausen (Efterklang), multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, cellist Gyda Valtysdottir this ambitious new work, based on the work of Professor Simon Baron-Cohen (Zero Degrees of Empathy), features innovative set and costume design from design collective Numen and fashion designer Ana Rajcevic. Touring to 8 venues across the UK, from festivals and mixed arts venues to more traditional dance venues, the tour will be complemented by exclusive online content that demystifies the creative process and featues an expanding set of short interviews, photography and music from the composers, choreographer, dancers and designers.  

As this is Neon Dance’s first full length touring work we have a unique opportunity to find out more about our audience at a relatively early stage. An important part of this is appealing to and building on our existing audience, which largely consists of people between 18-35 years. This will mean working with each venue to collect and analyse audience data from ticketing as well as from audience feedback. To help develop our profile we will offer a bursary to a young Media Intern. Working alongside Neon’s Producer and external PR team Float PR, the Media Intern will design and implement a campaign to interest and attract younger audiences to the live shows and help develop our online content. By better understanding our audience, both physical and virtual, we hope to retain and grow audiences for new music and dance and explore opportunities to share meaningful data between art forms to grow participation in high quality contemporary performing arts.

The Experiment: 

We will be investigating what proportion of our audience are attracted to our live shows via our collaborations with musicians and designers. Equally, those attending primarily through our reputation as a contemporary dance company are exposed to other art forms, particularly new music, which Neon Dance exclusively commissions and is often performed live. 

Sarah Nicolls with 'Moments of Weightlessness' (South East)

Sarah Nicolls with her pianoSarah Nicolls is a pianist, performer, inventor and mum. She has performed classical contemporary music at top venues around the world and is now embarking on a new venture, creating her own music and a theatre show around her latest 'Inside-Out Piano', a dramatic vertical grand piano that stands 2.5m tall. Sarah's show 'Moments of Weightlessness' will tour from 28th November 2015 and her first album of her own material releases on the same day. // // @sarahpiano // Youtube // Trailer

The Project: In Our Hands | Audience Development for 'Moments of Weightlessness'

My show is about motherhood, creation and the moments when life holds you, not knowing what will happen next. Combining lyrical music, movement, narrative and a grand piano played like you've never seen before, I tell my story of becoming a mother.
The main aim of ‘In Our Hands’ is to make parents, especially mothers, feel like my show is for them. I’m inviting parents from the areas I'm touring to to take part in a filmed conversation with me a couple of weeks before each performance. The idea is to talk about shared experiences of birth, the relentless chaos and exhaustion of parenting, the delight and wonder of meeting small people then watching them grow), to delve a little into shared experiences.  In the film, only our hand gestures will be seen so people won't feel self conscious, and so stories are really listened to. 

The Experiment:

I want to engage people who know nothing about me, or perhaps don't get the chance to watch music or theatre performances, who's connection to the work is purely because they share the life experiences central to the show.  When I premiered the show in Brighton, my new mum-friends said they were really surprised that they’d enjoyed the music, thinking that this wouldn’t be ‘for them’. Many also said they wouldn’t have gone to a show like this if they hadn’t been told so explicitly it explored things relevant in their own lives.  They found it profoundly moving and related absolutely to the show but crucially were also able to enjoy things that really were new to them: a new kind of piano, a way of playing they hadn’t seen before, some totally new music.

I’m asking, how do we attract new audiences for new music through having conversations about daily life?

I am hoping to connect to parents, through their own stories, through sharing experiences, and also – where possible – through relaxed performances, to which they can bring their children.


Mark Geary and Eightfold Way (London)

Eightford Way LogoEight Fold Way is an organisation of collaborators producing events that border conventional genres, categories, and settings. It specialises in providing creative solutions and technical support for exhibitions, live performances, and scientific research projects. Eight Fold Way was created in order to engage with artists and practitioners in the field of experimental art and explore new strategies to advance traditional listening experiences.

The artistic director of Eight Fold Way, Mark H. Geary, has a background in music and sound art, and can call upon his expertise in sound culture and new technologies to facilitate a variety of production demands. Mark’s work within the fields of culinary and sonic arts, sound engineering, and experience design provide him with a unique perspective as a producer and consultant.

For the Soporose, Mark has teamed up with Tabi Trahan, a music psychologist focusing on sleep, and Mendel Kaelen, a neuroscientist and sound artists, to develop the first of its kind research into the sleep and music. // // @8foldwayevents

The Project: Soporose

Although many people will experience a listening phenomenon at some point in their life, there is little research done on the environment or conditions that create these experiences. Whether it is from the emotional information that is inherent in the music, collective feelings that spread as a contagion, or the physiological state of the listener, these altered experiences have profound implications for how it can help people explore the many modes of perception through listening. 

The Experiment: 

Soporose is a sleeping concert that will examine the altered listening experience that can sometimes be had during extreme relaxation and dreaming states. Guests will have an opportunity to rest and sleep while hearing hypnotic, ambient and experimental music played live by sound artists. 

Soporose is also an experiment that will test selected relaxation techniques in the sleeping concert environment by recording live physiological data and feedback from participants. At its core, this project is an investigation into how people can get better sleep by understanding themselves and their environment. 

Soporose is open to all who are interested, however, the parameters of the experiment require defined groups of people that have good sleep and bad sleep. Information will soon follow about how to express your interest in the project. Feel free to join the mailing list on the website or our Facebook group.


Mathieu Barthet (Queen Mary University of London) and Kate Hayes (London)

Open Symphony picture

Kate Hayes is a creative musician (vocalist) performing and leading projects throughout the UK and Europe. She combines her music work with sound design, and regularly devises cross-disciplinary collaborations and creative music-making projects. Expression and engagement are key areas of her creative practice which remain central across her performing, composing and leading work. Her recent projects have included The Monster in The Maze, an international community opera with London Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker and Festival D'Aix; performances at Wembley Stadium, Copper Box Arena and Olympic Stadium; and recording with producer Gary Noble (Amy Winehouse, Jasmine Sullivan).

Mathieu Barthet is a Lecturer in Digital Media at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and musician (guitarist). He teaches sound recording and music production techniques as part of QMUL's Media and Arts Technology (MAT) programme. His research interests include music informatics, affective computing, musical timbre, interaction, wearable technology, computational musicology and music tuition. He co-invented and developed Mood Conductor, a web-based system for audience-directed musical improvisation and Moodplay, a collaborative music jukebox and discovery app. His works have been showcased in venues such as Wilton's Music Hall and the Barbican Arts Centre, and conferences including the International Symposium on Computer Music Multidisciplinary Research (CMMR), the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII), Digital Shoreditch and BBC's Sound: Now and Next conference.

Working with QMUL MAT students
Yongmeng Wu and Leshao Zhang, the team has developed Open
, a novel
system supporting audience-performer interaction for participatory live music
performance. //@matdiffusion // // //  Youtube // Flickr

The Project: Open Symphony

Open Symphony reimagines the music experience for a digital age, fostering alliances between performer and audience and our digital selves. The project was conceived to acknowledge and capitalise on a listeners ever-growing digital presence within live music settings; designing a system to resolve the disconnect between reality and digital-reality and transform digital technology's possibilities to encourage more present and meaningful experiences. Its concept is designed to promote person-person engagement allowing the social benefits of music-making to foster a meaningful mutual experience, with technology building a new access point to the collective music event.

By reconfiguring the chain of communication and redistributing the skills of musicianship, Open Symphony overrides the unidirectional relationship between audience and performer, establishing a co-leading partnership for music-making. The shared roles of participants create a unique environment which draws upon the improvisational and performance expertise of the musician and the active listening and reflection position of the audience. Although applications are not restricted to specific musical genres, the system is suitable for the “directed improvisation" musical form in which performers receive a set of external directions that contribute to establish what and how they will play. This is facilitated by the web-based application we developed which can run on any mobile devices with access to Internet and throughout data visualisation techniques.

The Experiment: 

During the Audience Labs programme we will investigate how to embrace digital technology in the live music environment to engage both audience and performers and develop new platforms for music composition, performance and listening. We will also test the scalability of the system. We wish to extend our outreach to both our performer and audience participants. Through the organisation of interactive music performances we aim to reach various audience groups at venues and festivals opened to new music genres.

Our target audience includes both performers and audience members, segmenting this group into those interested in new music genres, interactive technologies, compositional techniques and alternative performance styles. The project looks at our shared relationship with a musical experience so therefore engages both performers and audience in new ways.


Benjamin Picard and London Symphony Orchestra (London)

More to come...

Edmund Harcourt and Hogarth Productions (South East)

More to come...



About the programme

Audience Labs, previously known as the Audience Development Incubator, is a new programme designed & devised by Sound and Music to test ways of growing and diversifying audiences for new music, together.

Lab members will trial, explore and experiment with new ideas to understand and grow audiences, which will test new ways of communicating and presenting new music to audiences. Together they will explore how we engage with audiences and provide a deeper experience. Together, we will challenge how audiences are engaged with and find new ways of creating life-changing experiences for audiences through music.

As projects will run simultaneously, we will provide an environment to share findings with each other and the wider sector, be they successful or not, in an effort to strengthen our collective understanding of new music audiences.


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