As most of you know, I’ve not been blogging nearly as much as in the past–I go through periods like this. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing/thinking/analyzing things. I was just looking at all the recent drafts I’ve been working on and decided rather than trying to finish one I’ll just post some of the things I’ve been exploring in these posts–kind of a “cliffs notes” version of my blogging thought process. Some of this is inspired from some recent discussions I’ve been having on Facebook or other social media (where it seems like I’m having much more active interactions about these subjects), the rest is just I’d like to get some of these ideas out there even if they’re not complete thoughts yet.
One of frequent questions I’m asked when I point out the immense growth of opera companies, orchestras, and classical music ensembles over the past few decades is what their financial model is and whether that translates to making a livable wage or even whether that translates into the organization being sustainable and able to stay out of the red more than the mainstream, incumbent organizations.
Since my narrative, contra the Classical Music Crisis, involves demonstrating the field is simply constantly changing and evolving and redistributing total [performance and contributed] revenue to other newer organizations, I’ve been much more concerned with the trajectory of Classical Music group life-cycles.* The Crisis narrative focuses primarily on the mainstream and incumbent organizations and their health as a litmus test of the health of the field overall. Much of that narrative relies on a relatively static ensemble (and in some cases, a static and hegemonic audience culture) that’s unwilling to change.**
Some time ago I read a Silicon Valley Business Journal piece about the Symphony Silicon Valley’s Live-to-Projection Lord of the Rings concerts. SSV President, Andrew Bales, expected to sell out the two full runs of the trilogy in their Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose. This would mean selling out 15,000 seats for the two cycle run, and if an early review in the San Jose Mercury News is any indication (11,000 tickets had already been sold), then it’s like that SSV came close to that goal.
The quote in the title of this post is from a Chip Michael’s piece from a few years ago.
It’s also something that is symptomatic about what’s wrong with comparisons between different kinds of musical genres. In the end, yes, what we’re talking about is live music played by live musicians for a live audience, but as the old adage goes, “The Devil’s in the Details.”
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to play a number of casino gigs. These are often some of the best paying gigs for musicians of any stripe and the competition for getting into a roster of acts for them can be pretty fierce.
Last night after filling in for Sweeney Todd at CenterStage here in Louisville, a few of the musicians went out for some drinks and near the end of the night I had a conversation with a family member of one of the players about her experiences working at the local casino. She was relating how there’s been a bit of a push for bringing in Younger Audiences. This is often done by a shift in entertainment.