Friday, November 23, 2007

Marketing Musings

Here at the BSO, we have a couple of programs designed to make classical music Sexy to people of various categorized ages. First is Repartee, which is designed for "fun, curious" individuals aged 21-35. So this is marketed either at students who are not intrepid enough to stand in line at Rush and get the really good seats for 9 bucks and awkwardly scan the room for that special girl with whom they can have a conversation about varying degrees of political dissidence in Shostakovitch symphonies, or at happily married/coupled thirty somethings who come for the free cheese.

We also have Bolero, which is a "high-spirited program" for individuals over 40 who I guess our society deems "the older set". This makes a little more sense because the assumption on the BSO's part, I'll bet, is that people of this age who would voluntarily attend the BSO are of the certain socio-economic class that they are there just for the social networking and will perhaps buy a subscription next year.

I recently turned down a baby marketing gig at the Ballet, and something has begun to irk me. I used to thank my lucky stars that we don't live in Vivaldi or Mozart's time, where most of the money-making music was commissioned by the church and used in sacred contexts. But right about now that seems sort of refreshing.

I'm sick of admitting that something that I like so much personally just because .... I do .... has to be shoved down people's throats in fun, flirty little packages to survive. It will not be long before opera, one of my favorite art forms, is affected. It's always teetering on the "make it accesible without changing its essence" precipice

I know, call me impractical or whiny, or whatever, but consider the premiere of the Rite of Spring:

This music, which was helping dramatize a story which no one was quite ready to hear, was so ... well, UNmarketable that it incited a fucking riot, and only Schoenberg could be heard yelling over the screaming right wing pundit equivelants that the music itself was actually sort of good. Not sort of good -- rather, essential, revolutionary. An instant classic. Something that would define a generation.

I guess I'm a bit down in the dumps about the practical aspects of contemporary opera and symphony. What appeals to me about straight theatre is its ability to morph into an art form which is basically controlled by its creators. Good opera, grand opera -- whether it is from the classical period or something like Picker's American Tragedy -- its fate is ultimately dependent on a board of directors whose fortunes were probably made very far away from the creative drawing table. Some donors I've dealt with are lovely people ... but the majority of them are crusty, crazy, alchoholic, and a bit out of touch with, well, everything. How could one not be when 1,000 is "pocket change"?

Why do we live in an arts culture frighteningly similar to 18th Century Court Patronage?

And that makes me sad pandaz.

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