In a recent Telegraph piece by Hannah Furness we’re told that Peter Sellars has called for the end of Mass art forms
In a speech about the importance of art, Sellars argued the changing world had left consumers wanting a different experience from simple, traditional mass market.
Saying opera had an “irrational beauty” which is “incredibly powerful” in front of an audience, he added: “Meanwhile the new technology means you don’t to have an opera house to do an opera
“In fact, most young people don’t want to go to an opera house and it’s not how those people want to have a good time, to sit with 5,000 other people.
“In fact, what’s very exciting is some of the most exciting opera experience I’ve had is in a room with 15 other people, or 30 or 40 whatever, in an intimate situation.
As I’ve shown numerous times at this blog, the same can be said about large scale pop or stadium/arena rock shows as well as Sporting events which often take place in big stadiums. But does this mean the end of large scale mass entertainment or art forms? I’m not so sure.
I remember while looking for legging extension ideas for some CosPlaying ideas I had, I’d come across some intriguing dinosaur costumes which didn’t bother with the whole artifice of hiding the human legs from view. You can see the ingenious costuming in this video below
And you can see how the glaring artifice of the costume doesn’t often detract from the effect and response. It wasn’t long after seeing numerous costumes (and variants for aliens) like this that I came across the Walking with Dinosaurs arena show. While the large scale (and hatchling) dinosaurs are animatronic, the juvenile T-Rex’s were, as above, people in costume.
Having experienced the emerging large scale touring acts like Cirque du Soliel, The Blue Man Group, and Stomp–all of which have multiple touring and stationary groups–it wasn’t hard to see things like the Walking with Dinosaurs show evolve out of this switch from the old large scale mass performing forms.
The newer touring arena shows have depicted everything from old comic book movie franchises, such as the Batman Live arena show
To staged show depictions of other cultures like the touring Shaolin Monk Wheel of Life show
Or the Gumboots show
I remember when I was actively touring around the US and nearly every large concert hall or festival sized venue also included the Shen Yun show (tickets for when they performed here in Louisville averaged $150, I recall).
The Shen Yun orchestra is also now also giving solo performances
Also, despite the revenue problems I’ve mentioned for non-headlining acts of big music festivals, we still can’t deny that they are a pretty prolific form of mass entertainment.
Mass entertainment/art forms aren’t declining so much as they are changing and some of that change reflects how audiences are interacting with entertainment, which has nothing to do with Classical Music on its own as it has to do with all live entertainment forms.
One of those reasons Ethan Smith reported
Older acts clearly dominate the market. Some in the music industry have complained that their business does a poor job of grooming new young acts that can fill arenas.
In recent years, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber have emerged as significant draws. But in general the biggest attractions tend to be acts that appeal to an older demographic.
In fact, the online publication Digital Music News recently calculated that the members the top 50 grossing touring acts in 2009 had an average age of 46. Had the Rolling Stones or the Who been on the road they would have pushed the figure even higher.
One would think we’re talking about the aging Classical Music audience here, but this is simply an artifact of the superstar effect and how the older mass media functioned to create the superstar culture and how nostalgia concerts are, well, usually attended by people who grew up on the acts in question. Kyle Bylin states
Others said the live music business is failing to draw in the younger audience.
“There is a real generational shift with regards to concerts,” Mike Jones wrote. “The older generation who go to these concerts grew up in an age where the concert experience was a part of life.” He worries that the live music business is missing the bigger picture. If teens and twenty-somethings are priced out of the experience early on, they won’t establish concert-ticket buying habits. Then, as they grow older and gain a disposable income, they won’t go and buy a ticket.
Instead, they’ll spend their money on the activities that they enjoyed in the past.
Since a majority of the highest-grossing acts of 2010 are targeted towards wistful adults, hoping to see the performers that they cherished in their youth; it’s easy to see Jones’s argument. You can’t sell someone’s youth culture back to them in the form of a +90$ ticket if they don’t have any fond memories of concert going to begin with. They never went back then. Why the hell would they tolerate paying expensive fees later? They’re more likely to buy a limited edition copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops than a ticket. Their money will go where youth nostalgia lies.
All the hand-wringing about declining and aging audiences has much less force when we consider the broader cultural trends which show that Mass Pop entertainment forms are in the same boat as the traditional SOBs (Symphonies, Operas, Ballets). And once we realize that there are many structural and economic similarities for how the “Mass Entertainment” and “Mass Art” forms operate–including economic problems–we’ll be stuck proposing solutions which have nothing to do with those of us who have already been changing with the times and finding our own audiences.
If nothing else, the newer Mass Entertainment/Art forms show us how much audiences are ready for shows that have little to do with the older Western/Euro-American forms of Pop or Art Music.