Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Classical music needs new tipping points


Bernard Haitink's LP of Mahler's First Symphony was repackaged in 1972 by Philips to tie in with a prime time BBC TV profile of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. As a result a substantial new audience was created for the music of Mahler, Haintink and the Concertgebouw. Other classical music tipping points have included Ken Russel's Elgar film, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey which did for Richard Strauss and Gy├Ârgy Ligeti what Amadeus did for Mozart, and Leonard Bernstein's TV broadcasts in the States and David Munrow's radio programmes in Britain.

Writing my recent post about the Mahler tipping point created by Visconti's 1971 film Death in Venice took me down the path of music marketing. Today's classical music marketeers have only two tools in their kit, namely celebrity and social media, and neither have not been particularly successful at hitting the all important tipping points. L.P. Hartley may have told us "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there", but I see little in the promotion built around the current Mahler anniversaries to match the joined up marketing seen in the two accompanying images. Undertaking case studies of what worked before YouTube and TV talent shows were around might just help classical music find that elusive new audience.


* The joy of syncretic blogging - days after posting lamenting the neglect of Gustav Holst's music and just before uploading this post I learn that BBC TV is screening a new Tony Palmer profile of Holst on Good Friday (April 22). It would be nice if Universal Music moved quickly and repackaged their wonderful 2 CD Holst set as a tie in, but I am not holding my breath. More on Holst and that set here.

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