By Joe Long
The problem with classical music is marketing. Why is Brittany Spears so popular? Young people are TOLD that she is popular. It is much easier to insert commercial advertising in and around music that comes in 2 to 4 minute segments than hour-long symphonies. There is also a style and culture that comes with Brittany Spears. You're not just buying her songs, you're buying into the world- and life-view that has been created around her. And it is a view that requires very little effort on the part of the consumer.
The Brittany solution:
* Promote, promote, promote! - Aim your orchestra concert series promotions at a younger audience. The old folk who want "all Beethoven, all the time" are not going to be around much longer.
* Free concerts and reduced price concerts - you have to expose people to classical music for them to come to love and understand it.
* Different venues - Brittany is everywhere. Classical music needs to be more places, too. Play in the malls, outdoor arenas. Our community has a successful summer series at the World's Fastest Half-mile Track , the Bristol Motor Speedway, one of the premier stops on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. * Increase visibility - give away T-shirts. Create a "cool" image for the orchestra. Lose the tuxedos and play a concert in matching T-shirts with shorts! Make a concert more relaxed instead of more intense. You will even get a better performance when the musicians relax and let the music speak through them.
* Education - if you do not know about classical music, you are not going to listen to it. Local, state, and national budget problems are threatening to cut what little music education there is from the schools. Musicians need to go to the schools and play solos or small groups. Don't worry about playing a perfect Mozart concerto - have fun!! Arrange rock or pop music or even "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" - something the students will recognize and remember. Use your local talent! They want to play!
* Flexibility - Concerts need to be educational opportunities as well as musical events. Talk about what you are playing. Point out to the audience what they should listen for and why.
The music industry can help. Naxos could give monetary grants to small, community orchestras. $1000 will go a long way in a local group. Help buy T-shirts. Commission pieces designed to attract people. Provide CDs for low cost to small orchestras to give away during concerts. Help us to build the local base.
We classical music lovers have to understand that the superior product MAY NOT be the most successful in the marketplace. Look, people are paying quite a bit of money for bottled water these days - and water is virtually free in most parts of the modern world. You CREATE A DEMAND first and then deliver the product. Let us create a DEMAND for classical music. Everyone will be the better for it.