Dear [Musicians of all levels],
Remember Karajan? Was he not the biggest pop idol of his time? I want to do two things with an orchestra.
- Try to brand it in much the same way that pop music is, yet still keep artistic integrity. No more of this lame subtle, polite, friendly image crap.
- Use a management system like Apple, in which everything is tightly controlled, from house management to the musical librarians to concert dress. Even the programme designs would be controlled! Holy!
I think this is what Herbert (can I call him Herbert?) managed to do with the Berlin Phil. when he was around. When I think about this concept of orchestral management I remember that story about Karajan not giving full rehearsal time to a solo pianist because the orchestra had to take PR photos. That’s pretty boss.
Modern day versions of this? I’m sure people will argue that most of the top level orchestras are somewhat like this, but no orchestra has the same self centered, conceited, evil, diabolical… plastic image that a pop artist does, or a jazz artist tries to have… AHAHAHAHAHHA. No really. The Esprit Orchestra here in Toronto kind of manages to do it; well designed webpage, fresh looking programmes, brilliant marketing, and great technique. Though, Alex Pauk is a little too old (fashioned) to fully conceptualize his orchestra like this, and I’m also sure that many artistic directors would rather try to stay clear of this because it almost seems like you’re selling out. But if you’re only selling to yourself, then what’s the problem?
I think the young solo artists have it down… Yuja Wang dresses stunningly, Lang Lang looks anything but dated on his album covers, Yundi Li is hotter than Rain, Glenn Gould’s reincarnation is… well… look. (Wait. Wtf… Yundi Li is hotter than Yuja Wang… hotter than Kim TaeYeon… OMG HE’S HOTTER THAN PETER OUNDJIAN.) I think many of the more established artists take these young musicians as a little bit of a slap in the face. “How dare they walk into my hall and queer it all up… wait… how did the house fill up???!!!” Well fuck-dee-doo-da! Turns out, you aren’t any better at bringing people to your own concerts.
Anyway. The days of appealing to the younger crowd with programs like “TSoundcheck” are over. It makes it affordable to see a world class orchestra, yes, and for music students, what else would you want? This really does nothing to connect with youth on any level other than their wallets, though. I don’t know if I’m right, but making the orchestra seem fun, or friendly doesn’t seem to work. Many of my friends wouldn’t see the TSO even if the tickets were free. AHAHAHAHAHHAHA. The problem might be with programming, but I don’t think many kids have even given it a shot, and a change in image to make an orchestra look as eccentric, conceited and young as a pop artist might encourage just enough people to try it.
Interestingly enough, Esprit has captured a niche market, and in that market it is the ultimate pop idol. I don’t think that the “new musics only! LOL” format of programming is what keeps people going to their concerts, but the rejection of other orchestras’ senior discount, old white guy with a moustache approach to marketing and image. There are definitely a few seniors around Koerner Hall when Pauk conducts, but they are greatly outnumbered by the eccentrics in Toronto’s younger generation… and until other orchestras try something drastically different in terms of the way they look to the public, this is where they’ll stay… and the other young people will stay in the ACC watching a woman who dresses in glue prance around on stage.
So just a last note. I’m not saying that Oundjian hasn’t been successful in bringing people to the TSO. After all, behind every super successful organization/group/orchestra there is a figure with an extremely successful image. I’m just saying that the TSO’s marketing team isn’t pushing the fact that he looks like the youngest guy in RTH quite enough (read: Harden up! Your signs don’t need to be easy to read! Old people don’t read, and holy crap, young people don’t either LOL!). And honestly, dress the front of house staff in something less… well, old.