Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Is this really the best way to promote classical music?


Recently Jessica Duchen wrote a nice piece praising the new classical venue of Saffon Hall in Essex, England. Jessica quite rightly praised its "warm and blooming, ample and resonant" acoustic and described the venue as "a national treasure of a concert hall". She went on to explain that music is thriving at the high school Saffron Hall is attached to, saying "This should be a model for anyone to follow".

I couldn't agree more, and it is worth digging deeper into that model. Saffron Hall was built with the help of what is believed to be the largest private direct donation to a British state school: a gift of over £10 million from an anonymous local donor channeled through a local charitable trust. We have to accept that with traditional funding sources drying up, such philanthropy will become essential to the future health of classical music. However, a Guardian report on Saffron Hall quotes an authority on philanthropic funding as saying "Philanthropy has a vital role to play in education, but is much less common in Britain than the United States".

Classical music faces massive funding pressures and must turn to new sources including charitable donations to stay alive. There is immense competition for funding from these new sources, and this is coupled with increasing ethical awareness. Which prompts me to question the image projected by Slipped Disc, the go-to "inside track on classical music" and the music industry's communication platform of choice. Of course shit happens in the real world, and that shit needs to be reported. But I suggest that anyone with £10 million to donate or a child wanting a career in the arts would look elsewhere after perusing Slipped Disc. A clickbaiting cocktail of scandal and gossip punctuated by extremist comments and plugs for Universal Classics may be the best way to maximise page hits and advertising revenue. But is it really the best way to promote classical music?

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