Friday, January 11, 2008

Heard the Bach - got the T-shirt


An article by pianist Angela Hewitt in today's Guardian prompts me to ask what is the difference between journalism and a press release? The full-page piece promotes Hewitt's forthcoming tour of twenty-five countries and uses the first person throughout.

I am a huge fan of pianist Angela Hewitt and will be broadcasting a recital by her of Bach (two Toccatas) and Messiaen on Future Radio on January 27. But, for me, this uncritical Guardian piece reads as though it came from her agent. Together with the Bach world tour website, the artist website, the DVD (sponsored by her piano supplier), CDs (above), and the official world tour T-shirts, posters and souvenir programme, not to forget her couturier.

I'm certain Tatiana Nikolaeva didn't have a couturier. But there is still hope. Gentlemen, old Bach is here.
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14 comments:

Pliable said...

Thanks to 'Sander' the bad link to my webcast recital played by Angela Hewitt is fixed:

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2008/01/early-and-late-music-reaches-new.html

Kat said...

Hi there

Angela Hewitt did write the article herself, it was intention to be promotion and the critics will come after the concert.

Kat

Pliable said...

Kat, precisely my point. The Guardian published a press release verbatim, and the problem is it reads like a press release.

It's not the first time -

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2007/05/lets-hear-it-for-advertorial.html

Or the second -

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2006/11/classical-music-and-paid-for-media.html

Kat said...

but this time it is not a press release being published. she was asked to write a diary form of her experience on tour, the only fault i can see is that they didnt note this or make it clear in a short introduction.

i like the article very much to be honest.

Matthew said...

I'm certain Tatiana Nikolaeva didn't have a couturier.

I'm not certain she would have turned one down—that's a great dress.

Pliable said...

Kat, I think we are going to amicably differ on this one.

Giving an artist an editorial carte blanche to promote her forthcoming London concert, together with the related CDs, is a cheap, and lazy, way of filling the arts pages of the Guardian.

The style of the article is, for me, so obviously promotional that it loses virtually all editorial credibility and authority.

But there is a more important point. I am sure that the marketing men thought this 'advertorial' was a clever idea.

But they are one step behind what is happening.

There is a small but growing market segment of CD buyers and concert goers who are not only unswayed by this kind of promotion with its T-shirts and other tacky tools.

The market segment, and it includes me, is actually turned off the artists who become involved in it.

I have many Angela Hewitt CDs, and I have been to several of her concerts in recent years. She is a great pianist, and her music making is her best promotion tool.

Her London concert on January 20 is virtually sold out. Isn't that enough?

Pliable said...

Matthew, OK then -

I'm certain Glenn Gould didn't have a couturier.

violainvilnius said...

Not sure I'd want to be seen having a CD with a picture like that in my collection. Why is she screaming like that? 'Thank God that is over'? or 'Hey, I can get out of this stiff dress now!'

But then some people might like a collection of this one, the one of Hilary Hahn (?) wearing only her fiddle, some other woman wearing only a cello ....

Surely lots of people have done 'diaries' which happen to be published in papers just when their book or CD comes out, no? And all those appearances on talk shows - would that not also be a no-no?

Pliable said...

I guess you are right vv, and it is just me being old-fashioned.

I can't help feeling a little sad though, that Angela Hewitt is now just another person using every possible way to put bums on seats and sell CDs.

Matthew said...

I'm certain Glenn Gould didn't have a couturier.

What happens in Toronto, stays in Toronto. :)

In terms of getting bums in seats, I always pragmatically remind myself that the great thing about music is that it's still what happens once the bums are actually in the seats that matters.

Pliable said...

Matthew, an appealing argument.

But is it always true?

When the bums are actually in the seats the story doesn't always end ...

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2005/05/classic-misunderstandings-hildegard.html

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2005/06/tippett-can-still-empty-concert-hall.html

Kat said...

hi everyone,

i have been reading the comments with interest.
funny enough Angela sells her concerts before any promotion or press in the papers.
she also sells a lot of Cds and to be honest her fans are so devoted it doesnt need an article in the guardian to get them to come or buy anything.

i think you are missing the point here, which is trying to get new people interested in her. giving her profile in the press and recognition.

quite right , every interview, every talkshow appearance is promotion and just because this time she got to write it herself..

also , the real criticism and journalism is existent in CD reviews and journalists coming to concerts.

Kat

Pliable said...

'i think you are missing the point here, which is trying to get new people interested in her. giving her profile in the press and recognition.'

'But it doesn't always work as Dominic Sandbrook recounts in his excellent book White Heat, a History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties? 'Many Protestant churchmen, alarmed at their inability to reverse the long decline in church-going, concluded that 'relevance was the order of the day'. According to Grace Davie, the churches, besotted like so many other institutions by the 'desire to be modern', consequently 'looked to the secular world for a lead and borrowed, in some cases rather uncritically, both its ideas and forms of expression'. It was in this period, for example, that liberal churchmen first began wielding guitars, introducing handclapping into the Anglican rite and generally conducting themselves like frustrated pop singers, a tactic that failed to attract many new parishioners and often alienated those still loyal to the Church of England.''

http://www.overgrownpath.com/2007/12/happy-long-tail-to-all-my-readers.html

'Several souvenirs are available for sale to the public over this website. They include the official Bach World Tour poster in two sizes, and T shirts. The T shirts are designed in Italy using a fine quality cotton and a sophisticated design. The front of the T shirt is simplicity itself, with the elegant Bach World Tour logo stitched in bronze or silver. A list of cities visited during the tour is printed on the back. The T shirts come in four colours and a range of sizes, with a classic unisex version and a choice of styles for women.'

http://www.bachworldtour.com/souvenirs.php

Kenny Wood said...

After reading through the comments left here I cannot believe that some become so petty as to pick at selling tour posters, t-shirts or the use of a couturier or even the photo used for the cover of a recording.
Why should Miss Hewitt NOT offer her public a few momentos as keepsakes? Hearing the WTC performed in it's entirety is an EVENT that the majority have never before experienced nor might they ever again (let alone one defined with such tastefulness and musicianship of the highest order) so why not a small token to hold onto in remembrance? If you've had the fortune of attending any of the tours' performances then you'd have seen that the souvenirs are really not what people are after but rather her recordings and the chance to say "hello" to her as she's gracious enough even after a two hour marathon to greet her public and sign a cd, program or ticket stub. There's not a doubt in my mind that were there NO souvenirs at all her recitals would STILL sell out (as has been evidenced time and again BEFORE she embarked on her current tour). As a result the idea of using promotional items as a way to fill seats really is an inane and moot point. However, if the idea of grabbing a t-shirt or a tour poster motivated you to go hear some of the greatest music ever written performed by arguably it's greatest interpreter then perhaps it's your own priorities that need be examined though you're certainly richer for the experience.
To those questioning Miss Hewitt's use of a couturier would you rather see her in jeans and a sweatshirt? I find her choice of such beautiful attire to be complimentary of such great music (does music of such genius deserve anything less?) as well as a show of respect for her audience. It's always amazed me how many IN the audience show up in a pair of jeans or even a ballcap. It's a TON of hard work and a life long labor to bring such artistry to the stage so why is it some find it such an effort to simply put on a shirt and tie for a few hours if only to show a medium of appreciation and respect for the artist? I'll go one further and say that if pop performers can bring such lavish outfits to the stage then why shouldn't an artist speaking on a much higher level be just as, if not more, fashionable?
Finally to those so concerned with what photo or artwork you find on the cover of a recording...you're missing the point completely! It's what INSIDE that really matters! It's not as if it's an offensive or objectionable photograph and I simply can't believe anyone would have a problem with it but then there are those who always have to find something to complain about.