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June 20, 2007

Can't Stop, Won't Stop

by Molly Sheridan

Doug probably nailed it when he said I had a nonchalant anticipation of the coming changes. Maybe that can be attributed to the fact that my own experience in the performing art world has evolved very fluidly alongside rapid technological changes--at least as much as one can witness in a decade. Creating multimedia web content that supports these art forms is exciting specifically because it keeps changing so quickly--just like the young people Vanessa writes about, I'm creating alongside the artists I admire.

But what can this mean to an audience that is not, by and large, made up of heavy new technology users? Just because we have gotten comfortable as an industry operating behind the curve, I don't think that's a great reason to stay there. New technology is very exciting in the context of this discussion not because it changes the art itself in any fundamental way, but because the one piece we all seem to be struggling with is how to deepen the experience of going to the hall and witnessing a production without treating our artists like dress up toys or our guests like they are idiots. The technology makes creating such related products relatively easy and inexpensive. You don't need the budget of Dreamworks to participate; you don't even need the budget of the Cleveland Orchestra. You can create websites, blogs, podcasts, movies, radio broadcasts--all with just a few thousand dollars worth of equipment and an internet connection--and share that information among your colleagues and your fans who can then turn around and share it with theirs. Audiences can pick and choose what information they want and how they want it, and they can respond by creating their own content and posting their own reviews. We can adapt now and use the opportunity to motivate a big push or just add it to the list of things we mean to catch up with later.

We may be a niche, but at this moment there are still quite a few orchestras in this country and a lot of money behind them. Let's not miss the opportunities we have right now, only to look back a decade down the road and wish we hadn't been so passive. Set a goal to deepen the relationship you have with your audiences and meet it. Get outside help and inside help as you need it to foster fresh thinking, but this is not a "consultant" issue, it's a very personal one. I say it's time we get loose and start using the tools we have and some great new ones we can afford to learn. Don't lock away the music you love and the passion you use to create it. It's too important.

Posted by msheridan at June 20, 2007 10:54 PM


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