Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More Reciepts than Beats

One could be forgiven for mistaking the online debate between Greg Sandow and his New York chum, Alan Kozinn for a dispute between two accountants. The music industry is at the heart of their debate – by which I mean the business of commerce - not music itself - let alone the love of music.

In my humble opinion there’s a crucial distinction between the parlous state of the music industry, and the condition of classical music, which by contrast, is increasingly threatened by it’s own defenders. Am I even allowed to venture the opinion that sales figures and statistics are not necessarily the only (or even a very useful) indicator of the level of interest in classical music?

I appreciate that these guys are drawing on statistical evidence to back up their assertions but it’s possible to draw all manner of conclusions from such selective data as we can see by the disparity of their views. On a number of occasions (notably in his online book) Greg Sandow has sited the greying and shrivelling of concert audiences as evidence of the imminent demise of the art form. But as this reflects the general demographic throughout much of the western world it’s neither as surprising nor as significant as he’d have us believe.

That the classical music industry is in trouble seems to me as plain as day but the methods used to remedy the problems are in themselves part of the cause. The widespread reverence for contemporary management and marketing practices often has us barking up the wrong tree. Despite Klaus Heymann’s best efforts, I don’t believe that the sales technique of a peanut vendor is a pertinent means of propagating the fine arts. The last 20 years of business development, have left few arts organisations, whether orchestras or major record companies, with a musician or even a serious music lover at their head. Instead we find a businessman/woman leading a large enough team of under managers to form a small orchestra of their own. Decca Records now has more staff than ever before, yet not one of them is a record producer. The LSO has more than 5 times the administrative staff it had 20 years ago – 7 of them engaged in marketing alone. Interestingly enough, in the 1980’s they chose
“a revolutionary orchestral manager plucked from the ranks of the LSO’s cellos to run the orchestra on the basis that he had owned an antique shop and therefore knew how to read accounts – he took on the job without actually knowing what the crisis was. He cleared the deficit in two years – and took the risk in 1985 of mounting Claudio Abbado’s costly – but highly successful - ‘Mahler, Vienna and the Twentieth Century’ festival.”
The LSO: A Century of Triumph and Turbulence by Richard Morrison

But now that we’re in the 21st century, arts organisations no longer have the remit to lead public opinion: to recommend, inform, or educate. Instead they follow popular creed – chasing trends and market share. Some of the small independent record companies still have some success because, for the most part, they continue to be led by a team – or by an autocrat – with clear vision and passion for a particular branch of music. Meanwhile, the so-called majors plunge ever deeper into the pit of mediocrity.

3 Comments:

Blogger exposedfifths said...

what's even more appalling is that this money ethic has crept its way into charities and other NGO's. Performance targets are set for fundraisers, and if they aren't met, somehow they weren't being "sympathetic" enough.

It all starts with one slip of ideals, and no wonder people are calling for arts organisations and non-profits to be taxed. They're a business by any other name.

Another top post,

Garry

Saturday, June 10, 2006 8:43:00 pm  
Blogger Guthry Trojan said...

Thanks Gary,
Commercialism is now taken to be fundamental precept of....well, everything in the western world. Nothing is deemed to be of any real value if, for whatever reason, it is unable to turn a profit.

Sunday, June 11, 2006 12:04:00 pm  
Anonymous guile said...

nice, cozy place you got here :)..

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 10:45:00 am  

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