Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Is classical music really rich enough to sponsor Google?


In his exposition of the holy triangle formed by composer, performer and listener Benjamin Britten explains that music appreciation requires serious effort by the listener as well as by composer and performer. I am a great admirer of Michael Tippett's underrated The Rose Lake which is being performed by Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra on Sunday (April 22) at the Barbican*. It is perfectly possible to attend London concerts from my home in East Anglia, although it does require serious effort. But why should I make that effort when the complete concert is available free and in real time on YouTube courtesy of the LSO, and when I have a high-end home cinema system with Chromecast streaming technology from Google - who, not coincidentally, own YouTube? And I don't even have to watch The Rose Lake live: it is available from the LSO's YouTube channel on demand for 90 days. So it is goodbye paying audience and goodbye holy triangle, and hello to the brave new world of effortless 'congeniality' and hello to a hike in YouTube's already astronomic advertising income.

An overlooked inconvenient truth is that there are close parallels between the business model of current darling of the classical music industry YouTube and that of the much-vilified Facebook, notably that both are in reality not 'free'. Like Facebook, the product that YouTube sells is its users - namely you. In 2018 YouTube's advertising revenue is set to is set to reach almost $4.0 billion. This revenue is generated from targeted advertising; the key characteristic making this targeting attractive to advertisers is its exploitation, without user's knowledge, of personal search history data from Google's globally-dominant search engine. Which is very similar to Facebook's disclosure of personal profiles. To put that $4.0 billion YouTube profit figure into perspective, the value of the global classical music market is less than $1 billion. Is classical music really rich enough to sponsor Google's even more eye-watering $12.6 billion annual profit, while also being party to yet another commercial exploitation of personal data and to systemic copyright infringement? Let me answer my own question: classical music's biggest problem is that no one cares.

* Incidentally, I also have links with the other work in the Rattle/LSO concert - Deryck Cooke's performing version of Mahler's uncompleted Tenth Symphony. Please note Overgrown Path is no longer linked on social media. But new posts can be received by RSS/email by simply entering your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

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