Sunday, November 07, 2010

Who wears the trousers in classical music?


Anecdotal information leads to an interesting path. I am told research shows that around 95% of readers of Gramophone magazine are male. There are two ways of looking at this. First, and this is the one as a committed non-reader I subscribe to, Gramophone has long ceased to have any real relevance to classical music. But the second explanation is worth reflecting on and revolves around the assumption that the magazine still plays a role in decision making. Classical music audiences are most definitely not 95% male. But could it be that decision making among classical music listeners is still male dominated? Every possibility needs to be considered in the search for new audiences.

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11 comments:

Jessica said...

I have a theory about this: Gramophone's appeal is largely to record collectors and it's men who collect stuff. I know inveterate collectors of all sorts of things - recordings, films, 1950s magazines, magnets, Danish Christmas plates, you name it - and all of them are male. We women sometimes hoard junk, but that's different...

Pliable said...

Jessica, I think you are right.

The music industry figure who gave me the Gramophone data cited the recent example of the stamp collection auctioned at Sotheby's. Here is a quote from the Guardian report -

Ashton said Lady Mairi's collection was outstanding, one of the finest of recent years... It is also unusual because it is the collection of a woman. "It is a male-dominated field, I'm afraid," said Ashton. "Although there's more equality in the far east."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/nov/05/sotherbys-sells-lady-mairi-bury-stamp-collection

Elaine Fine said...

Perhaps the data about this view of the classical music audience hasn't taken into account the number of elderly women who go to concerts. Data can be skewed.

I believe that Gramaphone gives a skewed perception of the world of music. These claims of "greatness" bother me, and perhaps, if their audience is 95% male, their strategy is to lure customers with the promise of "greatness." Perhaps women are more skeptical (a generalization I don't have research to support). Perhaps they don't make their purchases, musical or otherwise, because of what an "expert" says. I don't know.

I write reviews for a far less glitzy magazine than Gramophone, and I imagine my "audience" to be made of people interesting in reading about recordings they either have heard or are interested in hearing. I don't think the term "collector" really applies to the classical music listener anymore (unless it is old stuff).

The mindset of a record review magazine subscriber would probably be to get their hands (and ears) on recordings while they are available, because so often CDs, particularly small label CDs, only have a single printing.

vp said...

"Gramophone has long ceased to have any real relevance to classical music. "

This is true, of course, but how is it an explanation of the maleness of the magazine's readership?

Pliable said...

This is true, of course, but how is it an explanation of the maleness of the magazine's readership?

What I was trying to communicate VP was that the Gramophone readership is now just an unrepresentative niche.

In fact Jessica's theory is most probably right. The Gramophone now caters very largely for record collecting geeks, and they are almost all male.

It would be interesting to see the readership demographics for other periodicals such as BBC Music Magazine.

But in the end these print publications are just dinosaurs. Online is where it is happening. And what is interesting is that at least two of the comments here come from very knowledgeable ladies. So no male bias problems here.

vp said...

It may also be relevant that the reviewers of "Gramophone" seem to be disproportionately male. I don't know how one gets invited to become a reviewer, but Its easy to imagine a self-perpetuating male clique.

If one looks at, for example, the newsgroup rec.music.classical.recordings, the posters are predominantly male but there are also some very prominent female posters. I certainly agree that "online is where it's at".

Pliable said...

VP, your point that classical music reviewers, and not just for the Gramophone, are disproportionately male is an important one and deserves further development.

ian said...

Likewise, another thing to note is that the reviews in Gramophone - though they are nicer now than they used to be (as far as one can tell from the near-impossible-to-search archive) - and e.g. classicstoday tend to be quite nasty, sometimes in arbitrary ways. The reviewers on Building a Library on Radio 3 are also overwhelmingly male, if one checks the archive of recommendations ....

Elaine Fine said...

I got invited to write for the American Record Guide unintentionally. Back in 1993 I wrote a long letter to the editor responding to points I disagreed with in one of his "point of view" articles. His response to me was, "Too bad you can't write for us," to which I responded, "Is there any reason why I can't?" A week later he sent me a style sheet and a stack of recordings.

When the ARG was looking for a specialist in early music, I recommended someone. That's the way it happens. There's no self-perpetuating male clique there.

Perhaps if more women took the initiative to make the importance of their opinions about music known, we would have more critical voices from women.

Consider that until only a handful of years ago, most of the classical radio announcers were male.

Pliable said...

It is interesting and illuminating how a consensus has emerged from a range of readers.

It is not just the Gramophone readership that is male dominated. It appears that a far more important decision influencing group also has a male bias, classical music reviewers.

I would agree with Ian's comment about BBC Radio 3. Although the station has a number of female presenters most of the station's opinion influencing programmes have male presenters.

As I said in my post - every possibility needs to be considered in the search for new audiences

P. M. Doolan said...

If the readers of Grammaphone are male because the readers are record collectors and it is males who collect stuff, which seems to be the consensus, doesn't it beg the question, why do males collect stuff? Is it because the hunting instinct has become sublimated into hunting for stuff like records and copies of Gramaphone?