Thursday, December 12, 2013
Classical music's big opportunity is its current audience
Let's look at alternative strategies for a moment. For instance, classical music could finesses its current audience instead of chasing the mythical monolithic / young / hip / rock loving / vibrant / technically literate / affluent 'new' audience . If every current audience member attending ten concerts in a year (that's less than one a month) was persuaded to come to one more concert, the classical music audience would increase by 10%. Similarly if every classical music buyer purchasing 10 CDs (or downloads) a year bought another CD, the market would grow by 10%. And, at the risk of repeating myself, if every classical radio station listener increased their listening from 10 to 11 hours a week, the classical radio audience would be 10% bigger. Admittedly this strategy is not as sexy as turning classical music into rock by another name, but 10% growth is a lot better than classical music's big new ideas are currently achieving.
A statistically insignificant sample of one proves that the 10% strategy will work. As my credit card bill (and wife) will attest, my CD purchases in 2013 were up more than 10% over the previous year. But looking back over my acquisitions, a substantial number of these were of composers new to me. One discovery I particularly want to share is Georg Christoph Wagenseil (1715-1777), who music historian Charles Burney ranked alongside Handel, Scarlatti and Bach. Given that judgement Wagenseil's absence both from the concert hall and record catalogue is puzzling. But I heartily recommend the two CPO recordings of his sparkling symphonies - see above - and, of particular interest, his Quartets for Low Strings (three cellos and double-bass) and Organ Concertos.
Classical music's big opportunity is its current audience. That audience can be grown by bold, imaginative and, above all, intelligent programming - more Wagenseil, Malcolm Arnold and Ramon Humet please - in the concert hall, on CD and on the radio. But for this strategy to work loyal concert goers will need to be cherished, instead of being treated with the contempt that is currently fashionable. The 10% strategy may not be the glamorous quick fix that bonus driven music industry executives desperately want. But at least it is realistic.
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