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July 25, 2006

Price Point

by Frank J. Oteri

There seems to be pretty clear evidence that if you want to reach a wider audience for classical music you either have to create more opportunities for free encounters with this music or make it more affordable. Barbara mentions the BBC Beethoven downloads, and we all know about Klaus's ongoing success with Naxos. Since NewMusicBox launched in 1999, it has offered in-depth articles, multi-media interviews, commentary etc., all accessible for free for anyone who visits. The running joke when we launched, which was in the wake of the deaths of every general interest classical music magazine in America, was that if we had to deal with subscription sales, predetermined advertising revenue, and other vagaries of the commercial marketplace we couldn't survive. We don't and so we did.

The reality is that in this day and age the price point has a great deal to do with whether something can reach a wider audience. But this has always been true to some degree. In the days of courtly patronage, a lot of great music was created but it reached far fewer people than this same music reaches today through affordable recordings, radio broadcasts, etc.

So, yes: free concerts, free museum admissions, you name it! But opening the doors only works when people know that they are open which means education and a greater responsibility to fostering the arts in the mainstream media. And, of course, there also needs to be a way to fund all of this. At a time when even a 1% government stipend to support the arts is considered controversial, money needs to be raised in other ways.

There's been a lot of banter in the blogosphere and the greater online media community about the Metropolitan Museum of Art raising its admission to $20. My favorite is still an ArtsJournal link from earlier this month in which Christopher Knight cheekily asserts that the Met should raise admission to $50 since Velazquez is a greater artistic genius than ABBA and tourists are willing to spend $100 for tickets to Mamma Mia.

Knight points out what I've always known as a lifelong New Yorker: since the museum is situated on public land you can donate anything you want and the Met cannot refuse you admission. But once again, this is further proof that for those in the know, there are few barriers to access these days. The question remains: what do we do to remove the barriers for the people for whom these same barriers have made our music as unrelated to their lives as the folks who had no access to court concerts in earlier times?

Posted by foteri at July 25, 2006 11:53 AM


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