New book episode — and Allan Kozinn’s essay

new episode of my book is online today. Again it’s about classical music history, the part they might not teach in music school. I’m trying to establish that classical music wasn’t always classical. And in this episode, when I get to Baroque opera, things get a little crazy.

The next episode goes online on Monday, June 12. That one might be crazier still. Vivaldi went to extremes, improvising as he led performances of his operas! Mozart’s singers improvised part of the Don Giovanni finale!

Isn’t scholarship wonderful?

On June 26, I’ll post another episode, and then I’m going on vacation. I’ll be out of the country for all of July, and not writing anything. And for August, I trust I’ll be out of action, workwise, except for composing. Probably I’ll look over everything I’ve written for the book so far, and map out future episodes. But once June is over, I don’t expect to post anything new until after Labor Day. That’s for the book. I expect to be blogging in August, though not in July.

And there’s one more thing that’s important to say. Many of you may have seen a huge  piece in The New York Times on Sunday — it was linked in ArtsJournal — by Allan Kozinn, called “Check the Numbers: Rumors of Classical Music’s Demise Are Dead Wrong.” Certainly many people have e-mailed me about it. Allan, whom I’ve known for years and like a lot, really believes that classical music has never been healthier. And he thinks he’s got statistical support for that.

But what’s weird is that there really aren’t many statistics in his piece, and most of the numbers Allan does use aren’t very relevant. He cites ticket sales, for instance, in a few small New York venues. But what about the Metropolitan Opera? What about the New York Philharmonic? What about the whole big world outside New York?

What about long-term trends, easily documentable statistically, that show declining ticket sales and an aging audience? I’m have a detailed comment on this here, later this week. The timing of the article is in one way very odd: In the upcoming issue of Symphony magazine, the publication of the American Symphony Orchestra League, there’s a long position paper by the League’s incoming board chairman, which for the first time says in public some of the things I’ve been hearing people in the orchestra world say privately. Namely, that orchestras face some serious problems, and these (with one small exception) go unacknowledged in Allan’s essay.

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Comments

  1. Allan Kozinn says

    Hi Greg —

    There are a few things I’d like to note while I await the larger dissection of my Times piece. First, I didn’t have the luxury of unlimted space: I had 2500 words maximum. So I had to decide what I was going to cover and what I wasn’t, and therefore, apart from a passing note about the number of orchestras in the country and the densitiy of performances (orchestral only), and a reference to several national orchestras offering music by download, I decided to confine my observations to New York. That’s what I cover, it’s where the greatest density of classical music performance is, and at any rate getting into the situations that pertain in other cities would simply not have been tenable in the space at hand. Similarly, I largely ignored opera because it really should be a separate article.

    Statistics: again space was an issue, although as you yourself point out, the available statistics are not plentiful, and certainly not going back to the days before he ad industry sold us the notion that only 18 to 34 year olds are important. But the aging audience — with the exception of your cited 33-year old median for Grand Rapids in the days when its audience was housewives and students (thus, in my view, not comparable to a typical audience now), the statistics one CAN get seem to show that the median age has been a steady 55 for the last couple of decades. With some exceptions, like the Brooklyn Philharmonic, which claims a median age of 45. And anecdotally, that middle age median stretches as far back as I’ve been able to trace living participants who seemed to have a clear idea of who the audience was back then.

    I’m not sure what, if anything, you meant to imply about the oddness of the timing. I have no way of knowing what Symphony is about to publish, but any case, the story has been in the works for several months, and it was scheduled for Sunday on the basis of a phone call from my editor, who was trying to fill in his calendar and felt that it might make sense to publish it as an end-of-the-season piece. Partly because it was a couple of months ago when he scheduled it — and I will agree to any deadline a few months hence, on the theory that the world might end and i won’t have to do it — and partly because I thought it made sense as a season-ender as well, I agreed. That’s the entire story of the scheduling.

    You have a point about my mentioning a lot of small halls (and, by the way, Carnegie and Lincoln Center, which I think pretty much covers the large halls in New York), but this is exactly part of the point I’m making. In the 1950’s, a classical music night in New York involved one large hall (Carnegie) and possibly, but not necessarily, one or two chamber halls. (Again, opera is outside my calculation, but basically that comparison is a wash anyway). Today, most nights during the season have something on at Carnegie and Avery Fisher, and all those small halls I mentioned. You do the math: more people are going.

    My larger point, though — and this is why the ticket problems at the Met and Philharmonic (problems that have plagued them both, on and off, for decades) is not such a big issue for me — is that what I’m seeing is that the entire model of classical music performance and, for lack of a better word, consumption, is changing. If you want to regard how the Met and Philharmonic are doing — or how orchestras and opera companies in general are doing — as the benchmark of how classical music as a whole is doing, well, okay, that to me is Deadsharklust. And by the way, Greg, I remember a time when you would have said so too, back when you and Joe Horowitz and Michael Walsh were what you called “a group of dissident music critics” advancing that argument.

    Anyway, I don’t expect you to agree with my piece, or at least, with broader aspects of it, but I wanted to clarify those few things.

    Allan


    Thanks, Allan. This will be a good discussion. I’ll let you know when I post something longer.

  2. says

    A while back, Artsjournal linked to a great article by Matthew Richter about Seattle’s nonprofit scene. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but his conclusions are quite relevant here: he basically says that while the pie for nonprofits has held steady or gotten bigger in the past 20-30 years, the number of nonprofits doing useful things has skyrocketed during that same period. So even though the nonprofit scene looks healthy and productive as a whole, individual organizations are feeling the pinch like never before, because so many of them need support for the same basic things (like salaries, benefits, infrastructure, fundraising, marketing, etc.). I think this is playing out in the discussion that you and Allan are having here. You’re looking at it from the perspective of the organizations (primarily orchestras) that are feeling the pinch, whereas Allan is saying, “look at how many performances there are! Look at how much music there is! How can anyone be saying that classical music is dying?” And, in a sense, you’re both right.

    Thanks, Ian. This is very helpful. And I like the perspective on Allan and me.

  3. Allan Kozinn says

    I think that’s a great point, and perhaps its analagous to the situation I described regarding orchestral expansion between 1964 (with the start of 52 week contracts) and 1967 (with the Ford Foundation grants). At the times — and even still — many people worried, and not unduly, that this expansion would cause a glut. And certainly market corrections, so to speak, have occurred and will no doubt continue to occur. I see it as part of the normal cycle of expansion and contraction that occurs in any realm, business or artistic. But for me the bottom line is that the contraction has never been so extreme as to bring the activity back to a pre-1964 level.

    This is very good to think about. A contraction to pre-1964 levels would be a big surprise now, not just because the longer seasons (in the large orchestras) are well established by this point, but also because of the increase in population. Even a steady-state performance — no decline in unadjusted numbers since, let’s say, the 1970’s — would in fact really be a decline.

    But at present, we appear to be in the midst of a decline that’s independent of the business cycle, and continues despite the normal year to year fluctuations. I conclude this from two sources. One comes from the ASOL, which supplied me with figures on attendance at orchestral events from 1990-91 to 2003-04. The peak during this period was in 1996-97. I posted these numbers here in my blog.

    The second source comes from numbers privately collected within the orchestra world, which show a longer, sharper decline. And this isn’t simply in overall attendance, which would include (as the ASOL confirmed for me) free concerts in parks in July 4th, and events where schoolkids are bussed to the concert hall. The private figures show a notable decline in sales to the core classical concerts that orchestras give. This is larger than the decline in overall attendance, and would tend to show that orchestras are having a harder and harder time fulfilling their core mission. And getting people to pay for tickets to it. (One sidelight here. I learned from some supplementary figures the League gave me that the core classical concerts — the events we think of when we picture to ourselves what orchestras do — amount to no more than around 30% of the events performed by American orchestras. The number might, in fact, be as low as approximately 20%. The lack of precision comes from lack of precision in the League’s data, which includes a reasonably large category of events simply labelled “Other,” whose nature nobody I’ve spoken to knows how to interpret.)

    Of course, the figures I’ve just cited — the private ones — aren’t available to everyone. But they could be. I imagine that any journalist who wanted them could either get them, or else expose orchestras as unwilling to supply accurate statistics about their operations. The process would be lengthy, but in essence very simple. Go to the 15 largest orchestras in the US, and ask them for their ticket sales to their core classical series for each year from 1990 or so to the present. They have these figiures. How would they justify not releasing them? It would be important to ask for sales figures, not attendance figures, because attendance figures could include free tickets given away to high school kids, and other similar things. I’d also think it would be helpful to ask for the dollar value of each year’s sales, so we could adjust for the effect of half-price promotions, rush tickets, and the like. It’s possible to sell more tickets, and make less money.

    And that last point is important — the amount of money that orchestras take in — because the decline in ticket sales has been accompanied by a growth in deficits. I’m going to stop this comment soon, and not run on about other signs of trouble, but I should mention what they are. The financial squeeze orchestras face is very serious. This, as they see it, is quite a long-term phenomenon. The larger orchestras — and some of the mid-sized ones, too, at least in my experience — talk privately about “structural deficits,” which of course means that they feel they’re locked into spending more money than they can possibly bring in.

    There are many visible signs of this. Look at the Balitimore Symphony, taking fully 1/3 of its endowment to pay off its accumulated deficit. That’s a desperation move, and if things don’t improve, puts the orchestra in a difficult long-range position, because it now loses some of its annual income. The endowment will earn 1/3 less interest than it used to, which will reduce by around 1/3 the amount drawn from that interest that can be applied to the orchestra’s annual budget.

    Or look at Cleveland, which retired some of its accumulated deficit with a large foundation grant. Those grants won’t be easliy repeated (especially since many foundations are now increasingly unwilling to give any money to classical music at all. (Or so I heard from a leaeding figure in the orchestra world who tried to interest foundations at an annual foundation gathering. He said that most of the foundations in attendance wouldn’t even come to a meeting he set up.)

    Orchestras have also been asking their musicians to take pay cuts, something we haven’t seen since — welll, I don’t know. I’m not sure it’s ever been heard of since the ’60s. I recently had an opportunity to speak to a negotiator for the AF of M, the musicians’ union, and he says that financial troubles are common now in the orchestras he negotiates with, leading to notable pressure on musicians’ pay.

  4. Tamara says

    Could some of the pressures on orchestras of the recent past be due in part to the increasingly high salaries of employees in many professions in general? Or similar to what various city governments are now facing, where rocketing pension and healthcare costs, among other issues, are forcing budgeteers to do contortionist routines in order to avoid creating even bigger mountains of red ink.

    If prevailing wages in the world of classical music, when adjusted for inflation, are higher today than several decades ago, wouldn’t that require management to raise ticket prices, which in turn would put an even bigger damper on the public’s willingness to attend concerts? In other words, a vicious cycle.

    There are many factors squeezing orchestras, but the biggest, I think, is declining ticket sales. I’ve heard people who know much more than I do say that this alone can explain the deficits that have bedeviled the field in recent years.

    But the largest problem, lurking in the background, is very likely a diminished interest in classical music. The market for it, in other words, is shrinking. That, of course, puts everything classical music institutions do in a new light. A profit-making business would simply adjust its product line, and sell something that would interest more people. But orchestras have trouble doing that, and even trouble conceiving it. They think they have their mission, which is more or less to play what they’ve always played. If they can’t get people to come to hear that, they don’t quite know what to do.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that the factors you mentioned don’t play an important part. Twenty years ago, all kinds of things — high pay, year-round seasons — were sustainable in the orchestra world that might not be so sustainable now. But to me, again, the most fundamental problem is a loss of interest in society at large. Certainly there’s data from the National Endowment for the Arts that pretty clearly shows that the classical music audience is getting older, and isn’t being replaced by a large enough number of younger.people.

  5. says

    Allan, I guess I wonder why the focus of the Sunday article wasn’t made explicit: that is, that you were focussing on the NYC scene. It’s not remotely clear that was your intention. Maybe I should have read the article more carefully, but you make sweeping statements that imply you’re talking about the whole country. For example: “The numbers tell a very different story: for all the hand-wringing, there is immensely more classical music on offer now, both in concerts and on recordings than there was in what nostalgists think of as the golden era of classics in America.” You say above that you largely ignored opera, but you do discuss the financial history of the Met a bit.

    Greg, that 20-30% number is very weird. I’d be curious about which orchestras those figures apply to. I do not think it’s the biggies, like SFS and NYPO, do you?

    Lisa, I wondered about the same thing. The figures I had were for all ASOL member orchestras (or, more realistically, whichever of them actually reported their data, a large majority, I believe, but probably not all of them). I immediately asked, in my most hopeful tone, if it might be possible to break the numbers out for orchestras of different sizes, and also to get the figures for earlier years. But the League couldn’t do that for me.

    And since you brought up what you thought was the thrust of Allan’s piece, let me say that other people have had the same impression. I’ve gotten e-mail from people who work in the business, and every one of them thought that Allan’s essay said that things were in good shape across the board, in orchestras as well as other institutions.

    About those League figures: One curious thing was that they showed the number of orchestral performances increasing, even while total attendance was falling. Nobody I’ve talked to has a clue what that means.

  6. Andrew M. Manshel says

    I agree with Allan on this. There has been a “paradigm shift” in how classical music is consumed here. The health of the field needs to be evaluated in light of theses changes.

    As was stated above, notwithstanding the broad continuing interest in the art form, a number of significant institutions which operate using a business model that worked for a relatively brief period of time, are finding that the model no longer works for them.

    Orchestras seem to drawing the most attention for their problems. However, those orchestras that have substantial endowments and/or successful summer venues seem to be making the transisiton well — providing them with an opportunity to retool their marketing approach in order to deal with the shift in consumer preferences.

    Allan points out in his article that a number of new halls are in the planning/development process. An overview of the field, however, indicates that these traditional insitutions might better focus on building endowment if they are going to maintain a 52 week season, particularly in secondary markets.

    I’d be the first to say that a paradigm shift is going on, but I don’t think it’s kicked in enough to be able to do much for the financial health of the field. Certainly there a lot of terrific new music concerts, but even in New York, the people playing in them are (at least as far as I know) making a living playing more mainstream events. And they also got their training at institutions that wouldn’t exist if they weren’t training people for the mainstream. People aren’t giving money to Juilliard in order to produce sharp new music players. They’re giving it, by and large, to develop a pool of talent for the Met and the Philharmonic. I’m sure this is changing, and that it’s less true than it used to be. But it’s still largely true.

    As for the orchestras, Andy, you and I have discussed this kind of thing in private. But it seems pretty clear to me, from what I’ve seen on the inside, that it’s perfectly possible for an orchestra with a large endowment and an established summer season to get into a very troublesome financial squeeze. As I said in response to another post, it’s the decline in ticket sales that’s the biggest problem, reflecting (as I think it does) a declining interest in classical music. It’s hard to fight that no matter how large your endowment is. If you watch yourself running increasing deficits with each passing year, you project that into the future, and see yourself going out of business. Then, of course, you try to figure out how to prevent that, but your summer season may not be much of a help (it might be contributing just as much to your deficit as your regular season does, proportionally), and your endowment only gives you a temporary cushion. You certainly don’t want to do what Baltimore did not long ago, which was to spend fully 1/3 of its endowment to retire its accumulated deficit.

  7. Allan Kozinn says

    Since my article — as you pointed out — focused mainly on New York, I should point out that New York’s population has actually not expanded greatly. When I was growing up, the figure always given was 8 million. That’s the figure given today as well. So the growth I’ve described (in New York) is set against a fairly steady population.

    It’s undoubtedly true that I could have pressured the top 15 orchestras into providing figures. I did, of course, have the Knight Foundation study, which looked at15 orchestras around the country and yielded some interesting data (and, I think, some questionable conclusions and recommendations). But all that would be for a story other than the one I was writing on. I’m not concerned principally with the orchestra world, or with regarding it as, in any way, a ne plus ultra of classical

    music activity, but rather, as one of many kinds of music-making in a field that is expanding more vigorously in other directions. And I’m beginning to wonder if, in this regard, we might be in generally greater agreement if we were telling the same story — that is, if either I focused more than I did (and do) on orchestras, or you focused less on orchestras and more on everything else. There may be an extent to which we disagree because we’re talking about apples and oranges.

    I would, of course, not by any stretch of the imagination argue that the orchestra world’s sky is unclouded, and I did allude to some of the problems in my piece. Granted, I did so only in passing — but my feeling was that these are so plentifully aired at this point that I needed only to allude to them, and could use the rest of my space to make an argument that isn’t heard much, and that considers a different model of the classical music world.

    So yes, of course orchestras are strapped. And of course they’re pressuring for givebacks: consider that at the biggest orchestras, the contractual minimum wage is around (or above) $100,000 a year — and that this is a very theoretical minimum, in the sense that everyone exceeds it. If you have an orchestra of 100 players, you’re starting out with a $1million budget line — and that’s just straight salary minimums. In 1975, there were only 15 orchestras in the country with budgets that, in their entirety, exceeded $1 million. Ticket income has never come close to covering defecits, and there’s only so far you can keep raising prices — particularly (and I’m sorry if this is ideological rather than purely factual) for what (and who) orchestras are routinely offering now.

    I would add, however, that for as long as I’ve been covering or even following music — and I’m getting to be of an age where this actually means something — orchestras have had these same problems and have wrung their hands in the same way. Doing so is a

    part of the fundraising posture. It costs an immense amount of money to run these things, and if you sit back and say “hey, we’re covered,” you’re behind on raising next year’s cash. You will never hear a non-profit say anything other than that times are tough, money is hard to raise, expenses are escalating. It’s what they do. And they’re not even lying! This is a business in which handouts are the life’s blood — whether governmental (in days of yore) or corporate/philanthropic (still the case and getting increasingly difficult as other extended hands, including many from medical and other undeniably worthy/urgent causes, compete for slices of that particular pie.) And you can’t — or at least, not-for-profits are reluctant to — make a case for a handout without making the need seem dire.

    Ultimately, of course — and this may be what you’re saying — there’s dire and there’s dire, and with escalating musicians fees and other costs, it’s increasingly difficult to get handouts big enough to close the gap.

    This is an issue where my usual surfeit of opinions reaches a brick wall. I wouldn’t want to be the one to argue that musicians should take pay cuts. But logically, I think there probably needs to be some kind of cooperation along those lines. Time was when I used to cover labor negotiations at the big institutions, and in the 1990’s, a paricular line was crossed: until then, musicians outlined their demands openly in the press. But once that theoretical minimum passed $80,000 and headed towards $100,000, they simply stopped saying publicly what they were fighting for in terms of wages, and spoke only in generalities. I can’t prove this, but my feeling was that at a certain point they realized that their salary demands were no longer of a sort that would gain a great deal of sympathy from the general public.

    But then — for me, it’s back to ideology. I have to think that if orchestras and the people who run them weren’t so afraid of the new, and the young, they’d at least see less audience erosion. Look at the LA Phil. Some of it may have to do with curiosity about the hall, and there has been a slight falloff since the first season Disney opened. But that’s a healthy orchestra, doing exciting things, for an interested and involved public. Mainly, they’ve shown that it can be done.

    I think the population of the NY metropolitan area has gone up, and probably that’s relevant. Certainly the audience for mainstream classical events comes from the suburbs as well as the city. That’s much less true for new music concerts, I’m sure. For Weill Hall, whose attendance numbers you cited in your piece, Allan, I imagine the audience comes from out of New York often enough, as groups from elsewhere making their debuts bring their local fans with them. But this is something I’d love to have more data for.

    As for what orchestras say, and why they say it, my experience is that they’re notably discreet. They think it would hurt their fundraising if they openly stated how bad they think their position is. This leads to a debate inside the orchestra world about how open orchestras should be, with some people saying that the problems are — or soon will be — so bad that nobody will be able to hide them. But others favor continued discretion (not the only word possible in this context), hoping that the problems can be solved before they need to be talked about.

    I agree that orchestras need to try something new, and particularly should be thinking about how to approach new, younger audiences. I’ve had quite a lot to say about this both in public, in my blog, for instance, and when I work with orchestas as a consultant. And I might quote what someone from an important orchestra once said, at a private meeting: “We should try new things, even if they fail, because the only thing we know for sure is that the old things aren’t working.”

    That said, the LA Philharmonic is still selling fewer tickets than it was 10 years ago, and translating the kind of programming that works in small places like Miller and Zankel, and in a city like New York, to large halls throughout the country isn’t as easy as all of us would hope. The numbers don’t quite add up. What might be easier, financially, would be to present more standard classical repertory in new, more varied, lively and informal ways (which absolutely doesn’t mean dumbing it down). (Might, in fact, mean smartening it up.)

    And, in all of this, one terrific model might be Red, an Orchestra, in Cleveland, an alternative orchestra (for lack of a better word) that sells, or so I was recently told, 1500 tickets per concert, to a new, young audience. I’ve joking told people at the Cleveland Orchestra that they ought to acquire Red — and I suggested to some people at Red that they ought to acquire the Cleveland Orchestra. (Which would be more fun.) But Red does suggest that other projects like it could be launched all over the place, and that established orchestras might do very well if they created a new brand for the new audience they all say they’re looking for.

  8. Anonymous says

    Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that classical music as a profession is in trouble. It seems by some standards (music school applicants, for example) interest in classical music is in fact increasing; it’s just that most of the increase is on the part of practitioners rather than listeners. The effect of this is a monstrous supply-and-demand problem (not just on the part of individual musicians, but industry-wide: composers, organizations, ensembles, presenters, arts administrators, and so on) where the art of classical music is healthier than ever, but the business of it is in big trouble. The only organizations that seem to be doing well in this whole mess are the music schools and universities. Most of them are running surpluses of anywhere from 5-25% (look up the 990’s on Guidestar if you don’t believe me).

    Many thanks for this. I think it’s absolutely right. And I didn’t know music schools were running surpluses. Very, very fascinating to learn.

  9. says

    Sorry, the above comment (about music school surpluses and classical music as a profession) was me.

    And here I thought you might be a high-level mole! (Hey, it’s happened.)

    Good work on Guidestar.

  10. Allan Kozinn says

    Lisa — I did touch on some other places, and noted the number of halls going up around the country, as well as certain important trend shifts (for example, shifts in the record market, and the expansion of the orchestra season) which are all national. So were my conclusions about the shift in repertory, at the end. and I used several studies published by the ASOL and the Knight Foundation, which were natinoal. But the most focused part of the article — the section on the number of halls that have gone up (at least a dozen offhand) vs. those that have closed (zero) since 1962 — was specifically about New York. I felt, nevertheless, that taking the other aspects noted above into account, I could extrapolate what I was finding nationally. And judging from reader mail from various places, my observations and experiences seem to correlate with those that people across the country have had.

  11. says

    I think it’s wrongly dismissive to paint a concern with America’s major classical institutions as Deadsharklust. Without them, the whole picture crumbles and classical music, qua industry, can no longer be spoken of.

    Not only do the concerts at places like Miller use a lot of players with other mainstream gigs, they survive in part because of access to a huge STUDENT population that lets music directors turn concerts on the cheap.

    No doubt many such pockets of talent grow near universities around the country: my hometown of Madison, Wis., for example, always has interesting concert series and local performances that all can incubate, directly or indirectly, thanks to the large university in town.

    These small platoons of creative excellence are indeed to be celebrated, but they do not create an industry in themselves. Neither do small, mom-and-pop shop, not-for-profit record labels.

    As has been pointed out, the prestige conservatories could never maintain their scale and profile without a bread-and-butter business as feeder schools for the major classical and opera organizations. Without this core, I don’t think classical music will be an industry any more.

    So I agree with the other posters that no justification has been presented for the headline, “Check the Numbers: Rumors of Classical Music’s Demise Are Dead Wrong.” If Mr. Kozinn wants to argue that Classic Music is undergoing a radical shift towards small, experimental platoons, then you are prophesying a massive process of creative destruction which the article doesn’t really hint at. But if Mr. Kozinn believes that the numbers contradict the conventional wisdom about the declining status of classical music as we know it, that’s very different, and classical music as we know it needs to be the focus of the discussion. To that extent, the article seems frustratingly misleading.

  12. Allan Kozinn says

    Yes, it may be that my deadsharklust comment was wrongly dismissive, and this touches on a more general point. The article makes the arguments it makes, and includes much of (though, for space reasons, not all of) the data that led me to my conclusions. It was carefully written, over several weeks, to make specific points. My comments here, on the other hand, are reactions to other comments, and are necessarily off the cuff. I think the article stands as it is, and while one may or may not agree with it, in whole or in part, the things I say here shouldn’t be taken as contradictions of what I’ve written there.

    My comments about the article’s New York focus, for example, was a concession to an observation originally made by Greg, because in fact I did confine the discussion of attendance data, halls, etc., to New York. I feel I did that for a sound reason. Had I looked only at Carnegie and Lincoln Center and ignored the small halls, then hopped to Cleveland, Chicago and LA for their major hall data; or only at Carnegie and a few small halls, but neglected Lincoln Center in order to accommodate info about the out of town halls — or any permutation thereof — would, at least in my view, have created a less complete picture rather than a more complete one. It made most sense to me to look at one city — for THAT part of the discussion. But thinking about it in light of Lisa’s comment that I hadn’t been forthcoming about my intentions, I thought maybe I gave in a little too easily on the New York focus, because there is a lot in the piece that goes beyond tha focus.

    In the case of Eric’s comments, my remark about Deadsharklust was a reaction, but in fact, if you read the end of the piece, it should be pretty clear, and not frustratingly misleading, that I’m saying that things are changing and will inevitably continue to do so. I’m NOT projecting the end of classical music as we know it. I’m saying that orchestras and opera companies, seen in the narrow view, aren’t all there is. But look at the attendance figures for Carnegie Hall, and note that while the figure fluctuates 100,000 tickets either way, the most recent high point was in 2003 (which was the 2002-3 season) — not long ago. That’s standard, mainstream classical stuff: it didn’t include Zankel, which hadn’t opened yet.

    I don’t entirely agree with your points about Miller Theater, either. Miller says that the student component of its audience is actually only 25% — significant, but by no means the majority. And yes, some of the people who play there hold down mainstream jobs — but maybe fewer than you think. A lot of them are members of lots of smaller ensembles, but from what I’ve been able to tell, not a lot of them turn up on the rosters of the mainstream ensembles. And by mainstream, here, I necessarily mean mainstream freelance, like St. Luke’s or the Brooklyn Philharmonic. The only New York Philharmonic player I see regularly participating in the kind of new music concerts I see as a growth industry is Daniel Druckman, the percussionist. The musicians in groups like Speculum, New York New Music Ensemble, Sequitur, etc., are people I see mostly in those kinds of groups, often recombined. And that’s just Miller. Zankel’s brief seems to be repertory reconfiguration as well, and there are other places where this is the case, with no university connection and no presumption of a large student audience.

    So what I’m saying in the article is that, yes, I see a shift toward smaller venues and, if you want to put it this way, experimental platoons, but that does not mean I’m prophesying the “a massive process of creative destruction.” I do think it’s true, Carnegie’s continued success notwithstanding, that we will be seeing smaller halls. I don’t have a problem with that. Acoustically and historically, it makes a certain amount of sense: the humongous hall is, in a way, a 19th century abberration, and we’re already seeing that as new halls are built — Disney in LA for example — they’re smaller than the Carnegie/Fischer model. Yes, this will have ramifications for the ticket sale / presentation expense ratio, and I’m not sure how orchestras will overcome that, given the problems we’ve discussed in some of the earlier posts, but I believe that a lot of them will.

    What they really have to overcome as well, though, is their creative inertia. There’s no reason an orchestra can’t harness the energy of one of those “experimental platoons” — but they seem afraid to. Eventually, desperation may push them towards it. Will that be the end of Beethoven and Brahms? I doubt it. Because that, I agree with Eric, would mean a jettisoning of the tradition rather than an evolution of it, which is what I’m projecting (or saying is already happening, in much of the business) in my article.

    I hope I haven’t opened up any other loopholes around taking my article at face value, though if I have, I’m sure I’ll be hearing about them.

    I will, however, be disappearing between tomorrow night and Saturday night; my absence won’t be a result of disengagement, and I’ll try to catch up on Sunday.

  13. says

    I just read Allan’s article in the New York Times (28 May) ‘Check the Numbers – News of Classical Music Demise Wrong’. I agree completely with the sentiment. As the editor of online listings website Opus 1 Classical, I travel all over the world attending music festivals, opera and concerts – I can tell you, for example, it can be almost impossible to get tickets for the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in Northern Finland (just 200 miles north of the Artic Circle). 60, 000 people visit this place in the middle of nowhere for 2 weeks every year. In Nantes, Western France, a 7 day festival which takes over a whole conference centre with at least 10 halls is sold out within a few hours of tickets going on sale. We have over 2000 visits per day on our site, and get enquiries for tickets from Anchorage to Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. The art form is far from dead – I think that it’s importance can’t and shouldn’t only be measured in numbers (a horrible product of the incessant scourge of global capitalism!). If classical music was measured only by the depth of emotion that it can and does instill in the hearts of the people who listen to it, it would be considered as important to existance as the air which we breathe. Just as there are talented new generations of artists emerging every year, new listners are also emerging. It’s just that people often don’t fully develop a taste for the music until they reach their middle ages – so it’s really not a problem that the audience is middle aged, and dare I say it, greying, it simply takes time for some of the repertoire to be appreciated. Many things in life take time to mature and develop, and musical taste is one such thing. I can assure you that the old and new classical repertoire will continue to awe, inspire and motivate people for some time to come, and if you consider that one of the best known brand names in the industry and probably the world, continues to inspire millions across the world 250 years after his birth – and if you tried to imagine how life would be without his music, or that of his contemporaries, I think you’ll appreciate the continued importance of music in our lives. Don’t worry about the numbers – listen to the music!

  14. Donald Clarke says

    I’ve been buying classical recordings for 50 years, and I’m still buying them, through the mail. I simply do not believe the audience is smaller: it is simply diffuse, and not well served.

    The major labels could be recording classical music, but they won’t, because they are chasing bigger bucks. Independent labels are taking up the some of the slack. Retail stores cannot do a good job or stocking the discs because the big-box stores are killing them selling the pop rubbish as loss leaders.

    As for live music, the Austin S.O. is doing very well, thank you, and here in Des Moines there’s a regular orchestra season, and two chamber music series. But one of our local ‘critics’ recently thought that Mozart had written the ‘Immortal Beloved’ letter. (I do not know which is worse: that she didn’t know about Beethoven’s passionate loneliness, or that she didn’t know that Mozart’s immortal beloved was sitting across from him at the breakfast table.) The Tokyo Quartet played here a year or so ago, subsidised by Drake University: the tickets were only $10, the hall is a perfect one, and it was half full, because the concert got zero publicity in the local media. The problems are all economic, not helped by the greed and stupidity of the media, not with the music or the desire for it.

    Donald Clarke

    Thanks for this. If I may raise a murmur of disagreement, I think, Donald, that your comment underlines the need for solid information on what’s going on. You “simply do not believe” that the audience is smaller, and I, on the other hand, simply do believe that it is — and what are our beliefs really worth? Not so much. What we need in these discussions is not belief, but data. There are ways to measure the audience, or there ought to be, and once we use these tools, we can begin to know what’s going on.

    It’s no wonder, then, that the classical record business has become — to a greater extent than many people realize — a nonprofit operation. Allan, in his essay, mentioned exciting small record lables, including Bridge and Cantaloupe. Both are non-profit. Neither could exist solely on the income for CD sales.

    But even bigger classical recording operations can be specially funded. The Metropolitan Opera’s recording of the Ring on Deutsche Grammophon, made in the ’80s, was privately funded! Or so the Met’s press office confirmed to me a few years ago, though they didn’t want to say how much of the cost was paid by private funding. For a classical record these days to be a purely commerical operation — that is, the record company pays for it, and hopes to make the money back through sales — is rarer than many of us might think.

    Naxos, of course, is the great exception. Except…they pay their artists almost nothing, and retain all the rights. So that’s a very different financial model from the classical recordings of the past, and one not favorable to musicians. And some of their recordings, too, are subsidized. Composers having CDs released in the “American Classics” series may have to deliver fully finished master tapes to Naxos, which they pay for themselves. (Which means they pay for the musicians, for the recording space, and for the recording engineers and the editing.) Or at least that was true in one case I know about, with one of America’s best-known composers. I’m sure it can’t be an isolated example. Orchestras, too, that record currently for Naxos are bearing at least some of the costs.

    As for the media, I’ve worked in the media, and wouldn’t be so quick to attack it for simply being greedy. Look, for instance, at the pop coverage in the NY Times, or in most pop music magazines. A lot of space is devoted to groups that aren’t remotely on the pop charts. That’s not what you’d cover if you were greedy, and wanted to appeal to the most lucrative audience. The truth ,in my experience, is that the people working in the media, many of whom are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, are simply expressing their own taste in what they cover. If they don’t stress classical music, it’s because they don’t stress it in their own lives, or in their listening. It’s hard to blame that on greed

    The classical audience, of course, is larger than the people who go to classical concerts. A Knight Foundation study showed that; the relative success of classical downloads underlines it. So there’s currently a disconnect between the classical concert hall and many people who listen to classical music. How that can be addressed is a crucial question for classical music’s future.

  15. says

    The back-and-forth on this really reminds me of the old blind-men-and-the-elephant parable; we’re all just to close to the issue to really see what is going on.

    The oversupply of highly-trained musicians emerging from America’s music schools has been discussed here a number of times. In the context of the “Is Classical Music Dying” question, one has to ask why are so many young people still interested in being performance majors? It’s a fact that is somehow simultaneously depressing (thinking about any one individual’s career chances) and inspiring (to see so many young people with such a love of music). Ian Moss’ comment about music schools’ surpluses begs the question, why?

    Regarding the NYC new music scene, Miller, Zankel, etc: don’t underestimate the importance of Broadway’s role. Many friends of mine in the new music world work Broadway shows and get subs as needed to do concert work.

    Indeed the domains of symphonic music vs. chamber or small-ensemble-new-music need to be addressed completely separately in this discussion. No question in my mind that there will be a winnowing out of orchestras nationwide, or at the very least, a crash of the employment model which will result in drastically lower section player salaries in many orchestras. Probably this will happen as a result of orchestras being shut down and then independent orchestras being reconstituted in those same metropolitan areas with new salary structures built from scratch. When that day arrives, music school enrollment probably will begin to drop.


    Very wise thoughts. That last bit is a worst-case (or very-bad-case) scenario, but not at all impossible. Similar things have happened in private industry.

  16. Allan Kozinn says

    A lot of interesting things in Donald Clarke’s note and Greg’s response. I’ve written pretty extensively about the economics of the classical record business over the years, and what Greg says is correct in terms of what things cost at major labels. And he’s right about Naxos and its Dickensian pay to musicians — except that when I’ve spoken with musicians about this, they’ve pointed out that it’s still in their interest. Why? Because unless they’re a superstar, they’re not going to get an advance, and therefore will have to await royalties, and given the combination of sales-against-recording/marketing costs,and the inventive accounting that goes on at record labels of all kinds, pop and classical, the reality is that they’re not going to ever get a royalty. From that point of view, the flat fee that Naxos pays, along with having an actual disc in the bins — and now online — is, in their view, a good thing. I know that may sound unlikely, and I wouldn’t have believed it myself, but for having musicians themselves explain it that way.

    About having to cover the costs of recordings, Greg is correct in suggesting that this is pervasive, although I thought it was actually pretty well known: it was certainly the case for American orchestras, which are considerably more expensive to record than European ones, since sometime in the 1980s. What we’re seeing now in terms of orchestras starting their own labels is simply a logical extension of this — the feeling that, if we have to raise the money for the recording anyway, why shouldn’t we market it ourselves and cut out the generally uncooperative, uninterested middleman (i.e., the major label)? That said, the majors came to subsidization late: CRI liked being presented with a complete master as well, and its policy in any case was to charge the composer a fee per side.

    I’m not sure what Greg means when he says that labels like Canteloupe and Bridge can’t survive by selling records alone. Canteloupe is of course a part of Bang on a Can — but it’s hard to imagine that performances by the Bang on a Can All-Stars are subsidizing the label. Bridge does nothing except make recordings, although its founder, David Starobin, is also a performer, and they do a little bit of management, I think — though, mostly that’s been things like putting on George Perle tribute concerts, which again, probably doesn’t subsidize the label’s activities. If what you meant is that the recordings are subsidized with grants, that somehow doesn’t seem so unusual to me. All arts endeavors are subsidized.

    At the majors, there USED to be a sense that the success of pop recordings could and should subsidize classics. It wasn’t that classics EVER turned a profit. I remember Brown Meggs, who was at various times president of Capitol (pop) and Angel (classical) told me that in the 1960’s EMI’s US operation (Capitol and Angel) would sit down with a pad, write: “Beatles sales: $25 million” at the top, and then figure out what they could do in terms of all kinds of projects. By the end of the 1970’s, though, that approach was no longer taken at major labels, because bean counters had taken over and insisted that every division hold its own. Hence the desperation for more Three Tenors albums. More recently, when Sony and BMG merged, I interviewed the (now deposed) head of the combined label and asked him if, as in the old days, the vast profits from the pop division might defray the costs of classical recording, and he said, straight out, after declaring his devotion to classics, “We don’t want to get into the arts subsidy business.”

    So that’s why I say in my piece that what the majors are doing is beside the point. They DO make some exceptional recordings with musicians like Mitsuko Uchida, Yo-Yo Ma (between crossovers), various singers, etc., but increasingly I’m finding that orchestra-run labels and companies like those I mentioned, plus Avie, Bis, ECM, New Albion, Nonesuch (I realize some of these are sizeable operations now, but their roots are modest, which I think proves my point) and dozens more are doing the really interesting work, in and out of the mainstream repertory.

    In terms of the live stuff, I don’t know Greg — it’s anecdotal, but if Donald Clarke is going to concerts and seeing lots of people at them, and seeing lots of them offered, that’s also a species of data. It’s not telemarket researched and pulled apart to see how they fit the demographic grid, but people in a concert hall count as people in a concert hall, whether you simply see them in their seats or have their data in rows of correlated paper work.

    Greg and I have both mentioned the Knight Foundation study. Basically, one of its more interesting conclusions was that, having contacted an adult sample by phone in 15 cities that have orchestras, and having eliminated those who expressed outright a lack of interest in classical music, they concluded that 27% of the American population is — as self-described — open to attending classical music events. That’s a lot of potential audience. What they also found, though, is that only 10-15% of those people actually do attend concerts. (And as the RIAA tells us, only 3% of the record market is classical music).

    So Greg is correct when he says that the orchestras (and other ensembles) need to find a way to reach their potential audience. But the pervasive suggestion that the audience is shrinking isn’t really true: it’s there. It’s just got to be reached.

    My view, based to a great extent on what I see when I go out to concerts night after night — but also on what I hear from places like LA, where Esa-Pekka Salonen has remolded the Philharmonic — is that it can be done by taking a fresh look at the repertory and finding ways to balance that excitingly against the core repertory. Unfortunately, the Knight Foundation’s recommendations were to do things like offer orchestral equivalents of Three Tenors concerts. I don’t think that’s the way — although if Greg is correct when he asserts that core performances account for only 20-30% of what orchestra’s do, then maybe it’s already happening. (Personally, having just perused a two-foot stack of this season’s and next season’s schedules as part of an office-cleaning move, I don’t think it’s correct, but I’m reserving judgment on that.)

    And finally — the media. I don’t think it’s just a question of young writers writing about what they think is important. Move up the ladder a bit: it’s about whether editors think it’s worth hiring critics who are equipped to cover classical music, and whether they’re willing to devote space to it. The “Immortal Beloved” story was truly disheartening. It suggests… well, a whole lot, but I’ve gone on way too long to get started on that. I do think, though, that there is a degree to which the pervasive doomsaying about classical music has a part in this.

    From an editor’s point of view (or, I guess, a certain kind of editor’s), if nobody’s going and nobody’s interested in this stuff, why devote space and staff to it? And then it becomes a vicious cycle: the performances don’t get either coverage or listings, so nobody hears about them, which means that the organizations have to devote larger budgets to direct mail, advertising, etc., with limited results, on top of which they get no feedback in the media to give them a sense of what’s working or not (at least, for a particular critic) and to let other people who might be interested know that there’s something out there. They become trees falling in the woods…etc. They then fall on hard times, and THAT gets into the press, further feeding the idea that the classical music world is failing (and justifying the editors’ disinclination to cover it in the first place.)

    I’m by no means suggesting that real problems shouldn’t be reported when they occur. But I think there’s a great degree — looking at the music world as a whole, not just at orchestras and opera companies — that the paradigm shift is being misinterpreted as a collapse. Which, as they say, brings us back to Do….

    Fabulous stuff, Allan.

    I’ve come to think that we’re looking at a very long evolution here, or maybe a very long paradigm shift (or series of them). And it’s in this context that I look at classical recording. Back in the early days of recordinng, Caruso sold a million records. A million! (I don’t know if that was of one record, or of all his records combined, come to think of it.) Given how new recording was, how expensive recordings and players were, and how much smaller the population was, that’s just amazing. Certainly it shows that classical music was commercial, for record companies. And the subsequent history, at least till the second world war, appears to show that, too.

    After the war, in the ’50s and ’60s, classical recording continued to be a commercial proposition. I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like to about this period, but we saw big record companies release, under commercial auspices, every new piece Stravinsky wrote, and also the pioneering Solti Ring. I doubt the Stravinsky records were ever profitable, but the Ring eventually was. I’m told by someone who used to be at Decca that it started to make a profit in 1970. The first installment of it (Das Rheingold) was released in 1959.

    Part of that commerical viability surely has to do with shifting funds from pop to classical. Probably at Columbia (U.S.), where Goddard Lieberson put out those Stravainsky LPs (and so much more), pop revenues could have financed some classical operations. Which later became, as Allan notes, something big record labels didn’t want to do.

    But one reason they didn’t want to do it was that classical music didn’t have as much prestige any more. Possibly also less of a market, but certainly less prestige. So you were much less likely to have a David Sarnoff, a corporate leader who’d create the NBC Symphony for Toscanini, and broadcast its concerts on the NBC network. And record its performances on his RCA label.

    More generally, I don’t think these corporate changes occur simply for financial reasons. They follow changes in popular (and even elite) taste, which for one thing register in the marketplace, but also affect corporate thinking. Something that seemed like a reasonable expense, even if not strongly profit-oriented, in one generation might not seem reasonable later on.

    And clearly elite taste has changed. The shrinking of classical music on PBS and public radio is a really notable phenomenon. At one point, it was taken for granted that these radio and TV stations would broadcast classical music. (Which had been on commercial TV in the ’50s, by the way.) Now we’re in a different era. When WNYC in New York cut back on classical broadcasting, their audience research had found that 80% of their listeners changed the station as soon as the classical broadcasts began each morning. A new generation of public radio listeners just didn’t want to hear classical music. As for PBS, I remember the priceless comment of John Goberman, who’d been involved, of course, in broadcasting live opera on PBS. Looking back at the numbers, he said that it would have been more cost-effective simply to send a videotape to each listener who was interested. I have a friend who produces live-concert telecasts. These telecasts used to include many classical concerts which PBS would show. But no longer. I asked her today how her work was going, and she said her company hadn’t produced a classical telecast in four years. The market isn’t there. This doesn’t mean that PBS and public radio have suddenly gotten greedy. It means that the economics of classical broadcasting, in terms of the number of people who listen, have become insupportable. (A really savage twist on this, by the way: It’s well known in public radio circles that classical listeners contribute less money, proportionally to their numbers, than people who don’t listen to classical music.)

    My point here is that we have a really large-scale, long-term change of artistic climate, so to speak. That’s something too big to blame on anybody’s greed.

    As for the percentage of orchestral classical concerts…that data comes from the ASOL, and is for the 2003-4 season. I know it’s hard to believe, and I know that the subscription brochures Allan and I see don’t reflect what the numbers show. In part it’s because by far the largest category of concerts — that is, the most numerous kind of concert — is listed as “educational.” These events might involve schoolkids bused to the concert hall, or orchestra musicians going out into schools. Those events won’t be listed on season brochures. But, you know, if you look at small-orchestra websites, you’ll see quite a few non-classical events listed on the orchestras’ season schedules. When you see that, the League’s stats might make more sense. I’m sorry, by the way, that I can’t share them. I was asked not to. God knows why it’s OK for me to talk about them, but not actually to quote the numbers. And I wish I had one further breakout — how many listeners attended each kind of event. Only 30% of all orchestral events might be classical concerts, but these concerts might involve 65% (to make up a number) of all listeners.

    But what does this prove? Nothing. Talk about the blind person and the elephant, as another, wiser, person did, in another comment! We have to make sure — and I aim this at me, no less than at anybody else — that we don’t sound like somebody commenting on global warming, more or less as follows: “Wow! It was cold last winter! What’s this global warming crap!” Or, just as dumb: “It’s been hot all week! Global warming’s getting worse!” We need solid, comprehensive data, and one reason the future of classical music debate is less certain, at this stage, than the global warming discussion is that solid data hasn’t been made widely available.

    One last thought. “The audience is shrinking.” “The audience isn’t shrinking.” That all depends on what is is, to coin a phrase. Or, more seriously, we need to use words very precisely. So let me formulate my view this way: “The existing audience is shrinking. Whether the potential audience is shrinking — or growing, or staying the same — is something we don’t know right now. We do know that the potential audience appears at this point to be bigger than the existing one.”

  17. Greg Sandow says

    (From Greg: I first posted what follows as a regular blog post. But since it’s very relevant to this discussion, I thought I’d put it here, too, because some people may be coming from the ArtsJournal link, and bypassing my blog site.)

    We talk a lot about the age of the classical music audience.

    Generally people now assume it’s always been (or at least for generations has

    been) more or less what it is now, 50 and up. That’s what Allan Kozinn said it’s been in the essay we’re debating on one of

    my comments

    pages, and I can’t blame him. After all, this is what everyone says.

    But is there any data to support this common view? I’ve

    never seen any. And in fact I’ve seen data that opposes it. Some years ago, I

    found a 1940 book that reports the results of a 1937 study of American

    orchestras. This study wasn’t much concerned with the audience (its focus was

    finance), but it did survey the people at concerts in two cities, Los Angeles and Grand

    Rapids, MI.

    And the result? It’s a shock! The

    audience was young — median age 27 in Grand

    Rapids, 33 in LA. In LA (but not in Grand Rapids),

    subscribers were older than single-ticket buyers, with a median age of 38,

    which of course is older 33, but nowhere near as old as the subscription

    audience now.

    Can we believe this data? It’s hard to say. It’s pretty

    fragmentary (surveys in just two cities, at an unstated number of concerts, though

    with more than 1900 replies; no further data on the methodology used, though in

    the book where I found this, there’s at least an appendix where we can read the

    questions that the surveys asked). But on the other hand, it’s the only data

    I’ve ever seen from this far back, and the authors of the book, in writing about

    it, show no sign of surprise. Surely, if they’d been as amazed as we’re likely

    to be, they would have said something.

    And now I’ve found data that appears to corroborate that

    1937 study. From 1963 to 1965, people at the 20th Century Fund did a study of

    the performing arts. They made a point of studying the audience, and passed out

    questionnaires, according to a book about their work, at 153 performances

    (orchestra, theater, opera, dance, chamber music, and “free open-air” events)

    in 20 cities. They got nearly 30,000 usable replies.

    And how old was this audience? Median age 38! Again a shock. Of course, we have to wonder what the

    breakdown was among the various performing arts, and at this point I have to

    say that I haven’t seen the full study report (which was published in a book in

    1966), but only a single chapter from it, reprinted in a 1973 book about

    American orchestras. But that chapter does say that — even though the orchestra

    audience has a greater percentage of people over 60 — “the audiences from art

    form to art form are very similar

    [the book’s emphasis]. They all show a median age in the middle 30’s.” The orchestra audience, then, really did seem to have a median age of 38.

    And again this information is reported without any sign of

    surprise. What does surprise the authors is the percentage of women in the arts

    audience; it’s smaller than they expected, only 48%. (In

    1937, more than 70% of the orchestral audience surveyed in the two cities was

    female).

    So what does this mean? First, it means we don’t know our

    history. Nobody I’ve talked to in the orchestra world had ever heard of the 1937,

    and I’m betting they also don’t know about the later one, since if they did, they

    wouldn’t be saying that the audience was always as old as it is now. (And I

    should add that I came across these studies only by chance. I was browsing

    through the Juilliard library, looking for books on other subjects, and came

    across these two volumes, one a few years ago, the other just today.)

    Second, these data fragments suggest that our history might

    not at all be what we think it is. The classical music world, as I’m beginning

    to think, is in the midst of a very long-range shift, which we won’t fully

    understand until we learn a lot more about how things used to be.

    Citations:

    Margery Grant and Herman B. Hettinger, America‘s Symphony Orchestras And

    How They Are Supported. New York:

    W. W. Norton & Company, 1940, pp. 226ff, 301ff.

    George Setzer, The Professional Symphony Orchestra in the United States. Metuchen, NJ:

    The Scarecrow Press, 1975, pp. 240ff.

  18. Dave Meckler says

    I think you are much too focused on The Orchestra. Why should I go hear the San Francisco Symphony when I can hear a much more lively program from the Philharmonia Baroque or a more beautiful program from the Tallis Scholars? The big trend is not the aging of the audience, it is the fragmentation of the audience. Top-40 radio is no longer the dominant format in radio, but no one is writing articles about the impending collapse of pop music. Movies, TV networks, rock concert promoters and so on are all screaming for attention, and are facing declining numbers. Classical music’s problem is more one of prestige than numbers, once everything is a niche audience. I would like to solve that mindshare problem!

    You are quite correct in seeking hard data, but from my individual perspective, things in the SF Bay Area seem healthy. The SF Contemporary Music Players concerts were packed (c.600) this year. Maybe I have very median tastes, because most of the concerts and operas I have attended in SF, Berkeley, LA, and Seattle this year were full crowds. A few tragically small audiences now and then, but that was when my own music was on the program . . .

    So, Dave, applying the standards of some pop critics, your music must be really good, because so few people came to hear it. Seriously, though, I know what you mean, since I’m a composer, too.

    I want to make what I think is an important point: It doesn’t matter how small or how old the audience is. What matters is whether the enterprise serving that audience is sustainable. And, moving on from there, what has to happen for the enterprise to be sustained.

    The Tallis Scholars are a fine example. By chance, I’ve just recently fininshed Peter Phillips’s witty and informative book, What We Really Do, about his life as founder and leader of that group. And it’s clear that their activity is barely sustainable. Philips, as co-owner of their record label (with a million sales notched on its belt), is making a living, but the singers aren’t. They all have to do other, most often more mainstream gigs in order to survive.

    Often, sustainability depends on an ecosystem. It’s easier to put on fascinating new music performances in New York or San Francisco or Houston (where there are a lot of music students to play in those concerts) than it would be in many smaller places. The audience is more diverse, too. In 1984, I attended a long new music festival in Hartford ,CT, and the audience essentially consisted of the same few visitors from New York, going from concert to concert.

    Sustainability as applied to (sorry, Dave) orchestras: People sometimes talk about performances of the past with many empty seats (in the ’70s, let’s say), and this is supposed to prove that the current era isn’t any different. We have empty seats, there were empty seats 30 years ago, so why are we in any more trouble than they were?

    The difference is again in the ecosystem. If we go back 60 or 70 years, we’ll find orchestras that, as far as I know, were more likely to have depenable patrons. As in large donors. So if Mrs. Weatherby is more or less guaranteed to give the orchestra much of what it needs each year, then it doesn’t matter if ticket sales are 70% or 90% of the house. The orchestra survives.

    In our era, though, an orchestra’s funding comes from all sorts of sources. Ticket sales are important. The difference between 90% of capacity and 70% can be the difference between survival and a crippling deficit. Funding increasingly depends on community support. That is, corporations and state and local governments and also many individual donors will give money to the orchestra only if they see the orchestra playing a vital community function. And if the orchestra is playing to many empty seats, that’s evidence that the community relationship has fallen apart.

    So what’s the ecosystem for the performances Dave enjoys so much? I’m guessing that it’s fairly modest. That is, these performances aren’t tremendously expensive. Thus they’re sustainable. They don’t draw tremendously large audiences, but they don’t have to. The Tallis Scholars would be an example. They’re fabulous, but they’re not being paid what many educated professionals would consider a living wage. (See Phillips’s book about this.)

    So then back to the large institutions, the poor old San Francisco Symphony (so dismissed by Dave, so often cited as an example of everything an orchestra should be by New Yorkers, who of course don’t hear it on any regular basis). To what extent are these institutions the flagships that keep classical music in all its forms alive? They’re the ones paying musicians (and also their staff) the kind of money educated people expect to make. Not the kind of money these same people might make in private business. But still, reasonable money. They’re the ones for whom government and corporate funding primarily exists. The NEA wasn’t founded to fund epoch-making new music performances. It came into being to fund the big boys, and then some of the money trickled downward to others. As a former staff member at the New York State Council on the Arts, and former panelist at the NEA, I’ve seen this firsthand. Corporations, likewise, don’t normally start arts funding programs because their executives are in love with Josquin or Ockeghem. Instead, they want in on the glamorous action. Once they’re giving money to the arts, though, there may well be something in the kitty for small and interesting groups.

    So are the big groups currently sustainable? Maybe not. And that’s the present problem. They’re forced to operate on a large scale, in order to pay their bills. They play in halls that are too large, pander to cautious audiences, have more people on their staff raising money than doing anything else. And even then they’re feeling a financial squeeze, because the number of people who’ll be attracted to go to hear them, under current conditions, really does seem to be shrinking. Doesn’t mean there aren’t other people who might come if these conditions changed (if orchestras dressed less formally, if concerts were more exciting, if the same music wasn’t played over and over again, if opera productions really meant something, if terrific new music — with, maybe, some incisive social and political content — was challenging an audience whose reaction to other arts shows that it’s ready to be challenged. But finding that audience, finding these new ways to do things — this, too, costs money, and institutions that have never had to go out in the world to actually earn their keep by doing things that people really get excited about have no idea how to adapt. They can barely find the money to do what they’ve always done. Now they have to find new money from new sources to do something new — and what if they fail?

    In a way, the big institutions are still back in the era of Mrs. Weatherby, except that she’s now morphed into a vast array of corporate donors, foundation grants, government grants, and individual donations of all sizes, plus of course ticket sales, program book ad revenue, money from sales at the gift shop, and much more. But keeping all this going used to be more science than art. You found pepole who knew how to do it, and if you were the dominant orchestra/opera company in your area, and your performances weren’t horrible, and you knew how to find and keep a good board of directors, everything worked. It was all as dependable as Mrs. Weatherby used to be (though it took much more work to maintain).

    This is no longer true, and if you look through the game plans (so to speak) of leading musical institutions nowadays, you’ll find very little certainty. (I mean private game plans, of course. They don’t talk about this stuff with the public.) They have very little confidence, for instance, that the familiar audience will continue to buy tickets, and very little confidence that others like the existing audience will spontaneously appear, as happened in past generations. It’s sobering to see an institution whose projected future ticket sales are supposed to come from people who’ve never bought tickets to any of the organization’s performances before — and then to realize that the organization has no dependable plan to find those people.

    It’s so much easier to put on new music four times a year for an audience of 600, especially if some of your musicians are students, or accept a pay scale (for all their activities) that makes it hard for them to have health insurance. I’m not putting these concerts down, least of all for their music. But it really is easier than making a large organization go. (Not maybe a popular view, but in my experience — and I’ve been on the boards of small organizations — it’s true.)

  19. Donald CLarke says

    A lot of the evidence in this discussion is going to be anecdotal, so I am going to throw out a few more bleeding chunks.

    My friends on the music chatlists can’t buy recordings on major labels of repertoire that Charles Munch, William Steinberg etc didn’t get to record, so we are swapping bootleg airchecks of artist and repertoire that the majors could have recorded 50 years ago, but didn’t, so they’re not making a profit on it now.

    Of the two chamber music series here in Des Moines, both hiring touring artists from all over the western world, the one that sticks to ‘classical’ chamber music is always packed out, while the one that throws in jazz pianists, male choruses, guitar quartets playing transcriptions etc is the one that seems to be struggling. Go figure.

    Advertisers ought to be interested in reaching a large demographic with disposable income, so TV is cluttered with adverts for precription medicine for aging boomers. But the arts pages of the newspapers are aimed at young people. Does that make sense? Critics at these newspapers who review rock acts that few have ever heard of are showing each other how hip they are, while newspaper circulation continues to shrink.

    The question is very complicated, and extends across the whole culture. I personally think young people are hipper than they are given credit for. I don’t usually go to the concerts of the local symphony orchestra because the programs are uninspired (and the hall is a dreadful concrete barn); I really think that if they played Elliott Carter (and got help from the local media) they might sell some tickets they’re not selling now. But it ain’t gonna happen.

  20. Greg Sandow says

    Someone who’d like to be anonymous posted what follows to another topic on my blog. But he wants it to be here:

    I read the Kozinn piece with interest and fervently hope he is right. However, in my opinion while there are many more concert venues now there are also a whole lot more people. The US population has mushroomed in the last 50 to 60 years. What is missing is that in the 50’s and early 60’s (the golden days) there were venues like the Lewisohn Stadium concerts where the audience consisted mainly of young (college age) people who would sit on the stone steps and hear a marvelous concert for 25 cents (and listen to Minnie Guggenheim too.). Those are the people who developed life long love for (addiction to) classical music.

    That’s fascinating, especially given what I posted yesterday about the age of the orchestral auadience in times past. I went to some Lewisohn Stadium concerts, and also to Philharmonic concerts in Carnegie Hall, during the Bernstein years. I was a teenager myself. I don’t remember anything about the audience. Whoever was there, I took that for granted, as I’m sure most people did.

    I think that in this, as in many things in this discussion, there’s a reciprocal relationship. It’s not just that cheap concerts were available that attracted younger people, and so therefore younger people got interested in classical music. It’s also that there already were younger people interested in classical concerts, so venues arose to serve them. (Of course, it’s more complex than that. But we should always remember the second part of the circle — not just that circumstances influence attitudes, but that attitudes influence circumstances.)

  21. says

    Hey Greg,

    A small point. You’ve been using that John Goberman quote for a couple of years. It’s always struck me as doubious the way you quote it. I don’t have the original article, but in the May 21 2006 NY Times Arts & Leisure section, there was an article about Live from Lincoln Center that quoted him as follows:

    Shows must appeal to ”people who don’t know but want to know, and people who want to come to Lincoln Center, but can’t,” said Mr. Goberman. ”We’re not doing opera for opera nuts,” he added. ”If we did something so recherché, we’d be better off putting it on cassettes and mailing it to people.’

    This strikes me as a more realistic assessment of the world of classical music on television than the words you attribute to him.

    From your friend in the classical music television business.


    Hi, Janet. Nice to see you here.

    The quote comes from an article in the February, 2003 issue of Opera News: “Blackout,” by Barry Singer. A subhead identifies the subject as “the bleak future of opera on public television.” Here’s the passage with the Goberman quote:

    “I believe that first Bohème from the Met, with Pavarotti, remains the highest-rated opera on television,” notes John Goberman, the original, and still reigning, executive producer of Live from Lincoln Center. “I hesitate to say what our lowest was. There have been some broadcasts over the years where we’d have been better served to have made videocassettes and just sent them to the people who actually wound up watching.”

    I’m glad you called me on this, though. I see I’ve magnified the quote, and made it stronger than it was. He wasn’t talking about all opera telecasts, just some of them. But the article makes it unmistakably clear that opera hasn’t been a paying proposition on public TV. Here’s another passagae with a quote from Goberman:

    But why should Lincoln Center and PBS care about ratings? Don’t their not-for-profit programming concerns transcend such commercial considerations?

    Hardly, says Goberman. “In a way, we’re denying the use of our airwaves to a gigantic number of people by not offering something that more will find appealing,” he insists. “I’m not necessarily talking about pandering. I just feel it’s my obligation to deal realistically with our potential audience. I wouldn’t put an opera on that I thought would appeal to practically no one, or even an opera people thought they might want to see but if they saw it, I thought they would hate it. Is Porgy and Bess an easier sell than Dead Man Walking? Yes. With television, you have to keep in mind that you’re dealing with access to the greatest number of people. In the same way that you wouldn’t put on a specialized opera in Madison Square Garden or at Yankee Stadium, there is the same sort of calculation with what we’re doing here. The difference between television and being present in the opera house is you can turn your television set off. We are a guest in somebody’s living room, and we are the weakest link in the room.”

    Plus this, about a corporate sponsor of Live from Lincoln Center:

    Live from Lincoln Center’s principal corporate sponsor is the insurance company MetLife. Speaking to MetLife spokesperson Sibyl Jacobson on the subject of opera funding and public television is not an encouraging experience. “We are not supporters of opera on television,” Jacobson announces bluntly. “We are supporters of Live from Lincoln Center. Opera just happens to be part of the programming package. I don’t think that we would ever support a purely opera show on television.”

    And this, about where the Met gets money for its telecasts :

    The Metropolitan Opera never has been part of Live from Lincoln Center. From the beginning, it opted to go its own way, televising its own operas and raising its own funds to do so. Most of the funding today for television at the Met comes from the company’s endowment income. There are no living, big private funders who support television broadcasts regularly, nor are there any large corporate sponsors.

  22. Michael O'Connor says

    Andy’s report on how Naxos keeps its costs down are right on the money. They are not the only label that does this. Centaur requested my friend’s group to do the same. But even though the business model leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I still gobble up the budget-priced but often quite excellent Naxos recordings since they record important repertoire that I want. I wouldn’t mind mind paying another dollar or two if they were bit more accomodating to the musicians, though.

  23. Greg Sandow says

    (From Greg)

    Here are some pithy and (I think) important comments from

    Joe Kluger, who ran the Philadelphia Orchestra for

    many years. He stepped down a year or so ago, and now works very happily as a

    consultant. He sent these thoughts to me as part of a private e-mail, and I’m

    posting them here with his permission:

    I agree with those on your blog who say that his premise and

    yours (or Noteboom’s in Symphony?) are not mutually

    exclusive. I think Allan is correct in

    saying that there has been a dramatic increase in the number and variety of

    classical music events in the last several decades. (The ASOL stats you put on your blog in March

    showed a 36% increase in the number of orchestra concerts in the last 10

    years. Even if this data is flawed, no

    one can contest that the number of concerts has increased dramatically.) Where Allan’s article fails is in the use of

    this isolated data to counteract the conclusion that some orchestras have major

    financial problems. They DO for all of

    the reasons you and others have articulated.

    What really frustrates me about this is the polarization of people as

    either Pollyanna-types, who think there is no classical music industry problem

    or that it is only temporary, or Chicken Little-types, who say that classical

    music is doomed to extinction.

    I firmly believe that this music as an art form will stand

    the tests of time and societal changes and may even be more appreciated in the

    future than today. The institutions

    which create this music may not survive, however, if they don’t acknowledge the

    necessity of adapting themselves to their changing industry environment. This means:

    • Reducing

      concerts to meet the expected demand.

      (If the number of customers increases, but their frequency of

      attendance decreases, overall sales can still decline.)

    • Reducing

      expenses to meet the expected revenue.

      (If contributed revenue and endowment income exceed 50% of the

      expense budget, I believe the expenses for conductors, soloists, musicians

      and administrator should be reduced accordingly.) and

    • Presenting

      performances of “value” to audience members. (“Value” is defined here as a high

      quality artistic endeavor, performed with passion, presented in a format

      to which the audience can relate, and at ticket

      prices which generate sales that average 90% of capacity.)

     

  24. Vitellia says

    Not to repeat the mantra that neither Sandow’s or Kozinn’s ideas are mutually exclusive, but really this entire discussion (even the focus of this blog about how classical music is changing)–it’s all part of the vitality of classical music in all it’s forms. Yes classical music IS changing; we are learning about how to be more savy about selling it too, and the fact that there is so much exciting crossover nowadays (I have been trying to convince our artistic director to hire metallica and do the s & m album for $75/80 a pop for ages…) really prooves the validity of classical music in my mind. It’s changing because it has to, and I think that’s what is helping music sales, in all of music’s new forms. Sure some orchestras and opera companies aren’t selling, but some have 106% ticket increases. Those who adapt, like the record companies switching to downloads, are those who will survive. It’s not like evolution is new peeps – it’s the adaptable species, i.e. businesses, that survive into the next age.

    Kozinn’s examples are of orchestras/venues/record companies that changed, that found new venues, that found better ways to sell their music, or different methods to disseminate it.

    There will always be those who can’t change: people who get stuck on tradition. I was shocked in my musicology days when I learned that people used to play poker and talk in between (and during) classical concerts – why did we let Wagner ruin our fun???? I want classical music to be a mob experience like baseball or basketball games. I want to express the ecstasy I feel in my soul when I listen, but I can’t I have to wait until the 40 minute piece is over, and by then I might not even remember how cool the 2nd theme in the 3rd movement was!

    But some people can’t allow change, maybe it’s just too much anarchy. Case in point: I have been trying to convince the rest of the marketing department at my company to encourage clapping BETWEEN movements at classical concert. But we didn’t do it because that was just too chaotic, when that used to be tradition. Only in the modern cathedral-like concert halls of classical music are former traditional (what is usually equated with conservative) expressions too liberal!

    Nevertheless, perhaps the simple change of letting people clap in-between movements without the conductor or orchestra members glaring at the audience, could yield a huge change in letting the types who’ve never experienced classical music to actually relax and enjoy themselves. Do you think first timers in audiences who get glared at for expressing apprectiation, or told that they aren’t dressed up enough for classical music by the GREETER AT THE DOOR ever come back? Do they feel welcome? Do they feel like part of the symphonic family and more likely to buy season tickets next year?

    I think not, I think they go back to listening to classical music on their radio, streaming on the internet, cds, and downloads. I think we all know that far more people listen to classical music on the radio, internet, or recordings then will ever be seen in a concert hall, and that trend will continue as long as the live concer experience is inhibitive to new audiences.

    I remember reading about a performance of Tosca in the 50s or 60s in which the diva broke into some random aria from a DIFFERENT Opera, for her encore after an amazying performance of Vissi D’arte because the audience was sooooooo ecstatic and wouldn’t sit down and stop yelling. Why not allow that? Change doesn’t need to just happen in how we perform the music, sell the music, write the music, but also in how people are allowed to enjoy the music.

    But the simple fact is, change is happening and we all know it, and that’s why classical music isn’t dead yet but vibrant.

  25. says


    This comes from Klaus Heymann, the founder and CEO of Naxos. It’s invaluable reading. Klaus runs one of the most successful classical music enterprises, and here he tells us — thanks, Klaus — a lot about how his company operates.

    Dear Greg,

    I have been following your book episodes with great interest and I have also been reading your comments on Allan Kozinn’s essay in the New York Times which was compulsory reading for all of us in classical music.

    Much of what you have to say makes a lot of sense even though I’m not nearly as pessimistic about the future of our music as you — more about that later.

    What you have to say about the classical record industry, though, is not nearly as convincing.

    The classical record business has not become a nonprofit operation –most of the independents make a profit although it may not be the kind of profit or return on investment financial investors might be interested in. For us independents being in the classical record business is a lifestyle, that allows us to live reasonably or very well depending upon how good we are at what we’re doing. And there are different business models — most of the independent full price labels actually make money through sales of CDs and, in some cases, DVDs. Naxos being a budget-priced label has to rely on other sources of income to make a profit — licensing, downloads/streaming, subscriptions.

    Quite a few of our recordings and those of our competitors are subsidized — either by sponsors, by the taxpayer, by foundations or by the estates of composers.

    All of us pay our artists “almost nothing” and those of us who can afford it also buy out all the rights from the musicians. And yes, it is practically impossible to make money from selling contemporary music if it is not Adams, Glass, Corigliano and a handful of other commercially viable composers. Whether or not orchestras bear some of the costs depends on the kind of contracts they have with their musicians. In most of the rest of the world, recording is part of the musicians’ salaried jobs and orchestras actually make money from recordings because they can fill empty slots in their schedules. In the United States, too, some orchestras have deals with their musicians that include a limited number of recordings for which they have to pay the musicians whether they can sell them to a label or not. Others have to find sponsors to subsidize recordings.

    I do object, though, to Allan Kozinn’s “Dickensian pay to musicians” [although he does admit that musicians think our terms are in their interest because at least they get a fee and we pay all expenses such as travel, hotel accommodation and per diems]. “Dickensian” is defined in dictionaries as describing ‘poor social and economic conditions [of the working classes]. But somehow, in the context of his contribution, he seems to imply that like the Dickensian capitalist of the past we are exploiting the poor working musicians and make a fortune from doing so. Nothing could be further from the truth — like the musicians recording for us we don’t make any money from new recordings, especially not when contemporary music is involved.

    Here are the facts: when we sell a CD to one of our distributors we get $2.00 [yes, $2.00] because we sell our CDs at budget price. Manufacturing cost is about 65 cents per CD which gives us a gross margin of $1.35. 35 cents go towards overhead which leaves us $1.00 per CD to pay for the investment in the recording. In other words, for every dollar we spend we have to sell one CD. When it comes to contemporary music, another 50 cents come out of the $1.00 to pay for mechanical royalties [more in the United States and Canada because there the mechanical rates are based on playing time and not on the selling price, as in the rest of the world ].

    An instrumental recording costs us around $6,000.00 [$2,000.00 for the artist including expenses and $4,000.00 for production –producer/engineer, hall rental and piano rental and piano tuner if a piano is involved ]. The first 4000 copies sold pay for the cost of actually releasing the CD [cover picture and cover design; booklet notes; mastering; marketing and promotion, etc.]. This means we have to sell at least 10,000 copies to break even — most artists understand this calculation and are happy with our business model. Composers understand it too — and at least they get some mechanicals back if they deliver a fully paid master to us.

    Orchestral recordings cost us between $15,000.00 and $20,000.00 and, if copyrighted repertoire is involved, we have to pay another $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 to publishers for the right to record the repertoire [it’s called “material rental” ]. You can do the numbers yourself — with the first 4000 discs covering the release cost, we have to sell between 15,000 and 20,000 CDs to break even with public domain repertoire and double that if the works are in copyright. For example, each of the six volumes of the complete orchestral works of Barber cost us $25,000.00 to record but, on average, we’ve sold only about 25,000 CDs per volume — which means we have yet to recoup our investment. On the other hand, we paid more than $100,000.00 to the publisher in material rental and mechanical copyright. The calculation is not much better for other big projects like our complete Lutoslawski and Penderecki orchestral works and many others.

    Then how do we make money? We’re selling lots and lots of compilations — The Best of Mozart, The Very Best of Mozart, Chill with Mozart, and so on. And there are a few evergreens that keep selling year after year — my wife’s [Takako Nishizaki’s] Four Seasons has sold more than a million copies to date since it was first released in 1987 and continues to sell between 15,000 and 20,000 copies per year — and we have another 20 or 30 titles that do almost as well. Then we license many of our recordings as background music to movie and television production companies. At the 2004 Olympics all the national anthems performed at the medal ceremonies were our recordings, generating healthy public performance income. Then there is the Internet — many people subscribe to our naxosmusiclibrary. We are regularly the most downloaded classical label on iTunes, E-Music and others and in Germany and Japan we even had the most downloaded album across all genres [classical, pop, and rock].

    This is one of the reasons why I’m optimistic about classical music — it is doing much better on the Internet than in the record shops and in the concert halls. On iTunes, classical music accounts for 12% of revenue as compared to only 3% in the record shops [although the percentage is slightly higher in other big markets ]. This means, there are many people out there who don’t go to shops to buy their classical music or to concert halls to listen but who nevertheless enjoy classical music and are willing to pay for this enjoyment. Classical music is also alive and well in Asia — we had a record year in Japan last year — we sold 200,000 sets of a 10-CD box with Mozart’s 100 most popular works.

    2 million pianos are sold in China every year and more than 30 million young Chinese are taking piano lessons.

    The market is there but people and performing arts organizations will have to learn how to adapt to changing market conditions. I think that, in the not too distant future, orchestras will have to change and become cooperatives providing all kinds of music to their communities with the cooperative providing a minimum but stable income to their musicians and with all members sharing in any profits. Orchestras will have their own chamber orchestras, modern music ensembles, chamber music groups, jazz ensembles and rock bands — and they will enjoy a lot more support in their communities than at present. And management needs to improve in today’s orchestras — too many are run by music lovers who have no idea of how to run a business or by business people who have no idea of music.

    How many chief executives of orchestras and other performing arts organizations could successfully run a normal business with 150 full-time employees and turnovers of between 20 million and 100 million per year?

    Klaus Heymann

  26. says

    i think the key is in gregs book, that is, at one time classical music was alive, and thus not classical. this should be thedirection of his discussion, rather than this mba garbage—- to support my position i cite the names of two modern conductors neither of whom, as far as i know, has much of an american audience, sergiu celibadache and wilhelm furtwangler…to this i hope to add my own work with bach and mozart. there is also the problem of the a rising above 440, and the discovery that pre 20th century metronome rate was half the current speed…

  27. says

    The economists Baumol and Bowen wrote a classic article in the 1960s about what they call the “cost disease” faced by performing arts organizations. Their article is just as relevant today, and probably always will be. The authors describe the lack of productivity in the arts as compared to most of the rest of society. For example, an auto manufacturer, through technological advances, increases productivity 4 percent per year. Workers’ pay can then be increased 4 percent per year without any negative implications to the bottom line. However, a 45 minute Beethoven quartet always has and always will take 3 man (or woman) hours to perform; the same number of rehearsals will always be required, and so on. The only productivity gains are that musicians can travel more speedily than they did decades ago and computers make the business office more efficient. But most of the costs faced by orchestras are artistic costs, and these costs will only rise as musicians’ salaries are increased so they can keep up relative to the society in which they live. THis is why costs continue to spiral above revenue, even with dramatically increased ticket prices and increased donations.

    Another point I would like to make relates to marketing the arts. There has been much discussion here, appropriately so, about the relevance of the music being performed, but it is clear that more attention needs to be paid to people’s changing lifestyles, needs, interests, and preferences in terms of how the art is marketed to its current and potential audiences. Rather than bemoaning the environmental changes of recent years that decrease the effectiveness of “tried and true” strategies, arts marketers should embrace the opportunity to become relevant and meaningful to new lifstyle segments, new demographic segments, and be responsive to changing ticket purchase behaviors.

    For example, the huge attendance growth during the 1960s through the 1980s was fueled by the boom in season subscriptions. However, in recent years, people have become more spontaneous in choosing their entertainment options and younger audiences in particular are less likely to commit months in advance to specific dates or to an entire series of performances. Organizations that have emphasized appealing to single ticket buyers have seen their ticket sales remain stable, even though subscriptions have declined. Those organizations that still maintain the attitude that single ticket buyers are the “necessary evil” to fill the seats not sold to subscribers will continue to see their ticket sales decline. Good subscription campaigns can still build the subscriber base, but the increase in single ticket buyers is not a blip on the screen caused by 9/11, it is a trend that is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

    There are many other aspects of consumer behavior that need to be addressed. Arts marketers must work to develop insights about what attracts their target markets and what barriers inadvertently prevent their attendance. Doing more of what marketers have always done will only get them more of the same results.

    Joanne Scheff Bernstein

    Author: “Arts Marketing Insights: The Dynamics of Building and Retaining Performing Arts Audiences” (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, forthcoming in November 2006) and co-author “Standing Room Only: Strategies for Marketing the Performing Arts” (Harvard Business School Press, 1997).

    Thanks, Joanne. By coincidence, I was just reading that Baumol and Bowen paper. They did end, if I remember correctly, with an optimistic thought. Because of the rise of productivity in the economy generally, society is now richer as it was, so there’s more money available for the arts. But that doesn’t change the overall picture they so accurately described.

    Thanks especially for pointing out the problems with subscription sales, which aren’t always well understood. I’d add that single tickets are more expensive to sell than subscriptions (one sales effort produces one sale, rather than one sales effort producing many sales at once), and also that instituitions that have depended on subscription sales in the past — like orchestras — are only starting to learn how to sell single tickets. Or at least how to sell them in the numbers that now are required. It’s sobering to see the strategic planning of such an institution. Sales to the core audience have been falling for some years, these plans will typically show. Projections into the future will show the sales falling further. So where will new ticket sales come from? From new ticket buyers, buying single tickets, often people who’ve never bought tickets to see these performances before.

    And how will these new ticket buyers be found? Hmmm…that’s a work in progress. I don’t mean to say that these institutions will necessarily collapse. (I don’t want to be one of the Chicken Littles that Joe Kluger rightly criticized.) But they’ve got new challenges to meet (as Joe himself said).

    In the orchestra world, one of the strong remaining subscription advocates is Larry Tamburri, who runs the Pittsburgh Symphony. Others in the business look at him, it’s fair to say, with a combination of amazement and eager curiosity, wondering whether he can still find a way to make subscriptions work.

  28. Walter Ramsey says

    “Nevertheless, perhaps the simple change of letting people clap in-between movements without the conductor or orchestra members glaring at the audience, could yield a huge change in letting the types who’ve never experienced classical music to actually relax and enjoy themselves. Do you think first timers in audiences who get glared at for expressing apprectiation, or told that they aren’t dressed up enough for classical music by the GREETER AT THE DOOR ever come back?”

    Although I don’t doubt the last example took place, I wonder why in the realm of classical music such isolated incidents are always ballooned into stereotypes. For all the talk blog-wide these days about classical music snobs et cetera, I have yet to meet one in person. I have shown up dozens of times to concerts such “hallowed” venues as Severance Hall, Met Opera, Wigmore Hall, Herkulesaal, Carnegie Hall, etc etc etc, in what might be (charitably) described as casual tourist garb, and never received any complaints. That’s not scientific or stastical evidence, but then neither is your example. Actually the problem here is prejudice against classical music and a preconcieved, prejudicial resentment that makes all concert halls and their rules and standards an automatic enemy. All this nonsense about forced silence at a classical music concert, and the emotional suffering endured by those that have to be – sit down and grip the arms of your chair – !glared! at ?! Try going to Wimbledon and expressing yourself, and then complain about tennis snobs as you are shown the door. Go to the international world series of poker or whatever, and cheer on your favorite move, and you may find yourself the next morning at the bottom of the Hudson with a brand-new pair of concrete Jordans. damn poker snobs. Why should people be persecuted for wanting to go to a concert where the God is in the details and actually wanting to listen?

    Walter Ramsey


    Thanks,Walter. I don’t want to take away from the truth of what you say — in details, or in the spirit of your thoughts — but I’ve met plenty of classical music snobs. You might even say I’m a magnet for them, because I’ve done so much public speaking about my ideas about the future of classical music. Here’s one example, from a private gathering. I was hired by a large orchestra to lead some conversations with members of their audience. The idea was to encourage the audience to speak up. In one conversation, I asked how the group I was talking with would feel if concerts were made a little more informal, to encourage a younger audience. (The people in the conversation were all long-time subscribers, all probably over 50.) Lots of people shook their heads, without asking for further details. One man said that informal concerts would be like casual Fridays in business — which, he said (quite without evidence, I think) completely destroyed productivity. An extreme view, maybe, but you’d might be surprised by how often I hear things like that.

    In one case I know, an orchestra had conductors and soloists talking from the stage for a very short time, at a very few concerts. Half their audience, they discovered, disapproved. And then there are the many guides to concert etiquette found in orchestras’ program books, which typically warn against clapping between movements.

    In New York, things seem looser now. I think the snobs are losing. As Allan can attest, because he was there, applause broke out spontaneously at a Pittsburgh Symphony concert in Carnegie Hall, after the third movement of the Pathetique. The performance, with Dohnanyi conducting, was so hot that people — rightly — couldn’t resist.

  29. Allan Kozinn says

    Lots of interesting stuff while I was gone. Two brief comments at the moment.

    Joseph Kluger writes that “Where Allan’s article fails is in the use of this isolated data to counteract the conclusion that some orchestras have major financial problems.”

    I had/have no intention of trying to counteract the conclusion that some orchestras have major financial problems. I believe there was an allusion in the piece to the fact that some do. I’m looking at a larger picture of which orchestras are a part, not the main focus, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think they should correct their shortcomings — which I think I’ve mentioned here, and know I’ve mentioned in other articles.

    The second is Klaus Heymann’s objection to my calling his fees Dickensian. If it makes him feel better, the first time I ever heard that term was during my freelance years when I asked an editor at the Times what I was going to be paid for a particular piece and he said, “oh, the usual Dickensian mite.” So he’s in August company. Still, my use of the term yielded his interesting analysis of Naxos’s per-disc financing. So let’s just look briefly at a couple of items. That 10 CD Mozart box that sold 200,000 copies in Japan: here is one that wouldn’t involve the extra 50c royalty that contemporary music requires. And I might be wrong, but it has the hallmarks of a compilation made from recordings originally made for individual release, the costs of which are therefore probably already amortized. So, as a set of recordings relatively unencumbered by standing expenses, it looks to me like this set alone yielded a $2 million profit. And if you have turnover of between 20 million and 100 million a year, yielding a buck each, let me put it this way: I think Naxos is doing fantastic work and I don’t begrudge Mr. Heyman a handsome profit for inventing the company, but perhaps a $2000 flat fee (including expenses) really can, in this context, be described as Dickensian without objection from anyone other than Mr. Heymann.

  30. Allan Kozinn says

    Walter Ramsey wrote:

    “For all the talk blog-wide these days about classical music snobs et cetera, I have yet to meet one in person.”

    Try hanging around the classical department of a large record store. My favorite snob story involved a kid in his twenties, with long hair and a stack of rock discs, looking through the classical section because he wanted to try some Mozart operas, among other things. A middle aged snob engaged him in conversation, during which the younger shopper clarified that he didn’t know a lot about it, but had heard of Magic Flute and wanted to get one, but was daunted by the number of choices. The middle aged guy first told him that it was great that he was looking into classical music, then disparaged the rock discs he was carrying as useless trash — and then told him that the key to a great Magic Flute was the Sarastro.

  31. Klaus Heymann says

    I am afraid Allan Kozinn’s calculation regarding our Mozart 100 set is wide off the mark — the set sold for only 3000 yen [US$27] retail and we made a profit, after marketing and distribution expenses of only $1.00 on each set — still a handsome return from existing recordings, allowing us to produce another 10 money-losing recordings of copyrighted orchestral music.

    Klaus Heymann

  32. says

    Klaus Heymann wrote:

    “I think that, in the not too distant future, orchestras will have to change and become cooperatives providing all kinds of music to their communities with the cooperative providing a minimum but stable income to their musicians and with all members sharing in any profits. Orchestras will have their own chamber orchestras, modern music ensembles, chamber music groups, jazz ensembles and rock bands — and they will enjoy a lot more support in their communities than at present.

    I’m not sure why the idea of “cooperatives” always seems to pop up, or why providing musicians with a “minimum income” plus profit sharing will do anything but drive good people out of orchestras and stop good students from aspiring to replace them. We are, after all, a non-profit business. Klaus’ whole argument for not paying musicians well is that any profit he might make would be wiped out otherwise.

    And management needs to improve in today’s orchestras — too many are run by music lovers who have no idea of how to run a business or by business people who have no idea of music…How many chief executives of orchestras and other performing arts organizations could successfully run a normal business with 150 full-time employees and turnovers of between 20 million and 100 million per year?”

    Certainly more orchestras would be in better shape with better management – but then that’s true of the airline industry, the auto industry, and the US government. My guess is that most of those running orchestras with budgets in excess of $20 million would have done quite well running for-profits of equivalent size – which, for the most part, are not as complex as are orchestras.


    Robert, I wonder how we could measure the complexity of orchestras vs. non-profit businesses. Orchestras certainly are unusual; someone we both know even called them dysfunctional in some ways, not too long ago. Orchestras are hard for outsiders to understand. I’ve seen business consultants come to grief with them. Or go into shock. And certainly the tripartite structure of orchestras – – board, staff, musicians — takes some getting used to, with nuances it takes years in the business to understand. (And which vary from orchestra to orchestra.) Certainly, too, it’s hard to comprehend how little connection most of the people in the tripartite structure have with the orchestra’s artistic work. Except as listeners — though much of the staff doesn’t even go to the concerts.

    But then for-profit businesses have one complexity orchestras don’t have. They introduce new products, whose conception and marketing can be very tricky. Orchestras do very little in that area. So I don’t know — there are arguments on both sides.

  33. Greg Sandow says


    Again from Greg: I got a very cogent e-mail message from Nathan Botts, a freelance trumpet player in New York, and a former student in my Juilliard course on the future of classical music. He’s reacting to the discussion here, and with his permission I’m posting what he wrote to me:

    It has increasingly become my

    perception that all of the recent talk about interpreting the

    vital signs of classical music avoid one simple problem: what

    constitutes success in this business?

    Record company executives (like

    Klaus Heymann) would define the success of classical

    music in it’s ability to sell a CD and turn a

    profit.  Musicians would define success as their ability to play music and

    get paid.  Orchestra executives would define success as their ability

    to keep the orchestra, and their salary, alive and well.

    So, if classical music

    is suffers in the concert hall, NAXOS pays it’s artists next to

    nothing, buys out their rights to a record, or relies on state subsidized

    orchestras for recordings (as NAXOS largely does — and often recordings

    by those orchestras that were made years ago!!); if all of this is happening

    and someone admits that classical music is flourishing on the internet, who is

    winning here?

    So, as a musician, I see that I get

    scant concert attendance, hardly any fee to record, no rights compensation for

    future broadcast of the record whether by radio or internet, and finally I see

    that the next release by this record company will be taken from a

    recording made and paid for years ago by a state-run orchestra.

    As one who makes a living

    by selling performances, both live and recorded, in the present and

    future, I simply don’t follow the logic presented by Mr. Heymann

    that this is success.  I don’t mean to sound anti-business, anti NAXOS, or anything of the sort!  I simply mean

    to point out that success in this business is not always based on

    universally advantageous parameters.

    Now, forgive me as I become wryly

    poetic.  I feel fully aware of my situation as a "classical

    musician"; dependant as a suckling child on the tit of my

    patrons.  I’ve suckled the Communists, Wall Street, God, a handful

    of fairly wealthy people, and a number of Swiss Banks (let’s not talk

    about the origins of that gold!).  And in spite of all this I

    find complete emptiness if I don’t occasionally suckle the fickle tit of the

    masses.  You sometimes meet starvation — like in most NYC clubs—, or exhileration —like playing for a stadium crowd— but

    then I’m usually moonlighting as some kind of backup musician, and the lead

    singer might be singing something about writing the songs "that make the

    world go round."

  34. Allan Kozinn says

    >>>I am afraid Allan Kozinn’s calculation regarding our Mozart 100 set is wide off the mark…we made a profit, after marketing and distribution expenses of only $1.00 on each set

    Mea culpa. So the profit was only $200,000. While you have the books open, what was the artist expense, again? And to what degree was it already offset by profits on the original releases (since this was a compilation)? I’m just curious, because I’m not yet convinced that I’ve misused Dickensian here.

  35. anonymous says


    This comment comes from a senior professional in a major classical music institution who prefers to remain anonymous.

    Among those I found at last week’s ASOL Conference who’d read “Check the Numbers: This is the Golden Age,” the near-unanimous opinion was “Good news is better than bad news, even if it’s wrong.” I was surprised at how few people had read it, though; this is apparently NOT the golden age for newspapers.

    “Moaning about the state of classical music has itself become an industry,” the piece says. “But as pervasive as the conventional wisdom is, much of it is based on sketchy data incorrectly interpreted.”

    OK then, here are a few facts:

    1. “Nationwide concert attendance peaked in the late 1990’s and has declined in every year since.” So says the American Symphony Orchestra League, in the strategic plan it unveiled at last week’s conference.

    2. “The proportion of the classical music audience in their 20s and 30s has gone down dramatically between 1982 and 1997, from 46% to 25%. Over the same years the proportion of the classical music audience 60 years of age or older has nearly doubled, going from 15.6% to 30.3%.” So says the NEA in “Age and Arts Participation 1982 – 1997,” a report based on their twice-a-decade nationwide Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. This survey of 17,000 US adults, defines the classical audience as anyone attending any symphonic, chamber or choral concert, regardless of whether they purchased a ticket or not, and regardless of whether the concert was truly classical.

    Their 2002 follow-up “Demographic Characteristics of Arts Audiences” says the trend has continued — that the classical music audience is the oldest of all the performing arts, and is aging at twice the rate of the US population. But, it could be worse — jazz’s audience is aging even more rapidly than ours (though it’s still much younger).

    3. All of those new halls Mr. Kozinn cites — Disney, Nashville, Orange County, Toronto — have 20 – 30% fewer seats than their predecessors. Yes, the smaller halls will likely result in a better experience for those who attend. But that’s a very different thing from saying these halls are being built to handle the growing demand for classical music.

    Ultimately, what concerns me is that this article sets up a straw man argument: accuse people of saying classical music is dying, and then refute it. But nobody is literally saying classical music is dying. We’re saying it has an aging, shrinking audience that threatens its vitality, and it’s way past time we started dealing with it. Yes, some change is underway, but it is a sliver of the amount of change required — the piece, unfortunately, severely overstates the attendance levels of baroque and new music concerts compared to symphonic audiences, and the size of the download market (yes, classical is 12% of ITune downloads, but total downloads are less than 5% of all recorded music sales, according to the RIAA). I worry that the article will perpetuate the sense of denial that’s gotten us in so much trouble in the first place.

    P.S. Putting aside the numbers and speaking artistically, one could make a convincing argument for the golden age. The overall level of musicianship in American orchestras, top to bottom, seems higher than ever. It’s just hard to see how this level of performance can long endure under the current flight path, and that’s what the people concerned about the future of classical music are talking about — not death, but atrophy. And here, Mr. Kozinn’s dead shark analogy is spot on.

  36. says

    I don’t pretend to be extremely well informed on this issue, but I’m not really understanding the hate for Naxos here. It seems clear from Mr. Heymann’s post that Mozart box sets which rake in $200k in China are the exception to the rule, and are used to fund the many money-losing releases of contemporary music that the company puts out. (Mr. Heymann could be making this up for all I know, but my own limited experience with the new music record market suggests that the claim is more than credible.) As a for-profit company, Naxos has absolutely no obligation whatsoever to undertake these projects. If Mr. Heymann wanted to be rich, he could easily strip the entire catalog of all non-PD material and put out Mozart compilations to his heart’s content. Instead the company releases innumerable recordings of contemporary music which end up employing far more musicians, albeit at “Dickensian” rates, than the projects which actually make money for the company.

    With all due respect to Robert Levine, Nathan Botts, and others, I’m not sure what they would prefer: that these recordings never get made at all, since they are pretty much guaranteed money-losers? Thus creating even fewer jobs for musicians like them? Or would they rather share in the “profits” for such projects, at the risk of earning nothing or even losing hundreds or thousands of dollars? After all, this is the dilemma that composers face.

  37. Allan Kozinn says

    >>>Ultimately, what concerns me is that this article sets up a straw man argument: accuse people of saying classical music is dying, and then refute it. But nobody is literally saying classical music is dying.

    My good friend Norman Lebrecht wrote a book called, in the US, “Who Killed Classical Music” (and, in the UK, “When the Music Stops.”) Killed and Stops are, to me, someone saying it’s dead or dying. Norman’s 2003 article on the record business declared that the classical music business would be dead by the end of 2004. And Norman, while probably the most prominent of those saying classical music is dying, is not alone. I’m surprised all this talk appears to have eluded you.

    Classical music attendance, you say, peaked in “the late 1990’s” and has declined ever since. So, Norman’s book, for example, published in 1996, actually came out before this peak. And from the perspective of 2006, the late 1990s is not so long ago that declines — while certainly worrisome — are statistically significant. In other words, in so comparatively few years, it could be cyclical. And again, Carnegie Hall’s recent attendance peak was 2003, which was the last year for which I could get figures that didn’t have Zankel figures woven in.

    I recognized that new halls tend to be smaller (which I think is a good thing, aesthetically), but my point wasn’t that they represent an increased demand, but that the fact that new halls are being built — not an inexpensive proposition now — suggests that people see a future for this music. Granted, there are other reasons halls are built. Improving real estate values, etc. But most of those reasons are dependent on there being an audience.

    My hall-based argument for an increased audiece had more to do with what I’ve observed in New York: halls keep going up (small ones, admittedly) and then join the night-by-night competition for an audience; no halls have been torn down in the last 45 years. In this same period, seasons expanded considerably, and numerous institutions have been born and have thrived.

    I’m not saying that the classical music world should sit back complacently and not address the very real problems that it (like all other business) has; and if sitting back and doing nothing is the classical music world’s response to either the good or bad aspects of its situation, then it deserves whatever happens, and I don’t believe that can be blamed on my article.


    Without commenting on the largest issues here, I’d note a couple of details. First, the ASOL’s statement at the conference talked about the late 1990s. The actual figures, which I got from them and posted on my blog some months ago, show the preicse concert season when the peak occured — 1996-97. Thus the decline has been going on for nine years. That, I’d say, looks significant.

    Note, too, that the decline the ASOL speaks of is a decline in total attendance at all orchestra events. That means it includes free concerts, pops concerts, school concerts. If you measure ticket sales, rather than attendance, and look apecifically at the ticket sales for the serious classical concerts orchestras do — then, from everything I’ve seen, the decline is longer, and sharper. This would suggest that (a) orchestras are in worse trouble than the ASOL statement suggests, and (b) that they have particular trouble fulfilling their core mission. They do comparatively better attracting people to free July 4th extravaganzas in a city park than they do attracting people to buy tickets to hear Mahler in the concert hall. And — no small thing — this discrepancy appears to be growing worse as the years pass.

    The age-of-the-audience data (mentioned in the post Allan is responding to): It’s very important, in my view. It shows, pretty much beyond dispute, that the audience for classical music is growing notably older, even when adjusted for changes in the age of the population at large. Worse still, if we bring together all the NEA’s data from 1982 to 2002, something really striking emerges — a change not just in the median age, but in the distribution of age gropus. Imagine a classic bell curve, with the age groups most stronly represented in the audience in the middle, and the age groups least strongly represented at the ends. The age of this most strongly represented group has been steadily increasing for two decades. It’s as if one group of people — people of a particular generation — entered the classical music audience at a point some decades ago, and remain in the audience as time passes — but aren’t being replaced. It’s like traffic reports I used to hear on holiday weekends when I rented a house about two and half hours north of NY city. They’d talk about the knot of holiday traffic leaving New York, and measure its progress north on the New York State Thruway. The classical musc audience appears to be like that — one preodminant knot of people, all born during more or less the same decade (approximately), and growing older without being replaced by anything approaching the same number of younger people.

    Hall building. i’m bery curious about this. Obviously, halls are planned (and the money raised for them) years before they actually open. How many of the current spate of new halls were planned during the late ’90s, when orchestras were publicly and privately optimistic about their prospects?

    Secondly, the planning and fundraising for new halls depends on perceptions, not reality. That is, as long as there’s money around, and people still think (or can be made to think) that orchestras have a bright future, that money can be raised for new concert halls. So, given that orchestras, over the past few years, have partly been in denial about their situation, and partly been careful not to tell the whole truth, they can still raise money. Once the truth is clearly understood, it might be harder.

    Another way to put this might be: Orchestras and their donors may believe that the future is bright enough to justify building new halls — but that doesn’t mean that the future actually is that bright.

  38. Allan Kozinn says

    I don’t hate Naxos. I like Naxos a lot. I’m simply responding to Mr. Heymann’s objections to my use of the word Dickensian. I also wonder if there is a fairer model for artist payments on projects that turn out to be unusually lucrative.

  39. Allan Kozinn says

    I had posted a comment on this earlier, but it may have gotten lost, since something I posted later has turned up. I just wanted to address one other point made in the Anonymous post:

    >>>the piece, unfortunately, severely overstates the attendance levels of baroque and new music concerts compared to symphonic audiences

    Since you were taking me to task for setting up straw men, I can’t resist. Exactly where in the piece did I give figures about early music (I did not separate out the Baroque) and new music concerts? First show me those numbers, and then we can discuss the degree to which I “severely” overstated them. I said only two things about them: that they are a growth industry, an observation I based partly on my experience attending concerts most nights for the last 30+ years, and partly on information given me by people in the programming departments at concert halls, including but not limited to Zankel and Miller. That these audiences are expanding is indisputable to anyone who’s out frequently enough to see it. I mean, who would have thought that a handful of concerts by a gamba player (Jordi Savall) would be among the most packed events two seasons running? And at concerts by Alarm Will Sound, Kronos, Ethel and various other new music groups, the audiences are decidedly younger than the norm. And this was the second point I made in my piece: that the growth in these two parts of the business reflect the tastes of the 50+ year olds who are increasingly both the musicians and the core middle-aged audience, but also reflect the tastes of younger listeners.

    As for the article’s supposed “severe” overstatements and comparison of these audiences with symphony audiences — that is the very definition of setting up a straw man and knocking it down – although, I note as well that apart from saying that I’ve severely overstated these things, you provided no data, either about what you must assume to be my numbers, or yours.

  40. anonymous says

    The key word in my statement “Nobody is literally saying classical music is dying” is ‘literally.’ Yes, I own a copy of Mr. Lebrecht’s book, but I did not take its title so literally as you.

    How long as this been going on? As a % of the adult population, the decline dates back to at least 1982, even by the NEA’s extremely broad definition — which includes self-reported attendance at pops, free outdoor concerts, etc.

  41. anonymous says

    OK, fair enough. Recent studies of the classical music markets in two major metro areas with a very high density of classical music events have found the contemporary audience is 5% – 7% of the total classical concert market; it’s striking that both studies reported such similar numbers. You mention Kronos — is the Kronos audience really larger than their “Purple Haze” days? I remember SRO crowds for them at Jordan Hall in the 80s. . . Yes, the halls may be packed, but they’re small halls. But hey — don’t get me wrong. The success of Alarm Will Sound et. al. is a wonderful thing. But does this constitute “The Gold Age?” Maybe I took it too literally. . .

  42. Allan Kozinn says

    To answer your question about Kronos – this spring they played a series at Carnegie (main hall) and Zankel. I attended a few but not all of them. The ones I attended, including the one in Carnegie, were packed.

  43. Anonymous says

    I’m happy to see that this discussion is alive and well, however there are just a few factors in the situation that I’m not sure are receiving enough attention.

    Although I don’t intend to start a political debate, I would like to point out that my lower-middle family could afford to donate to the Seattle Symphony AND attend concerts in the late 90’s and early 00’s but can no longer do so. Take a look at this article for example. The logical effect of these economic trends on a symphony orchestra is falling attendance, loss of lower-middle class contributions, and increased reliance on last minute bailouts from the rich. Seattle Symphony figures chronologically mirror my family’s financial condition, from surpluses in the late 90’s to deficits in the mid 00’s. The Symphony was recently kept afloat by emergency $5 and $10 million contributions from the Benaroya and Simonyi families respectively. Frankly, I don’t know what to do about the situation but attempt to elect politicians who believe in progressive taxation. The extreme result of the widening gap between the rich and the poor is that the rich will basically decide which arts organizations continue to exist. I don’t allege that anything like that is currently happening, but I do think that we are seeing the beginnings of it and that the effects are real.

    But on a more optimistic note, I have seen a few programs enacted by symphony orchestras that I view to be major progressive solutions to some of the problems that are commonly discussed. When I was a high school student in Seattle, I could regularly attend Seattle Symphony or Seattle Opera concerts for $5-10 or for free. The Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras serves over 1,000 young musicians each year – and the Seattle Symphony wisely offered us low cost tickets every week. Even if only one in ten musicians had taken these offers, the effects would still have been significant. If projections show that there are reliably going to be vacant seats around the edge of a concert hall, better to fill them with $5 student ticket holders than leave them empty. Like playing in a Youth Orchestra, attending Seattle Symphony concerts was also kind of a social thing. But this is not to say that we didn’t also love the music, and develop an appreciation for it. Many of my colleagues who grow up to take on other professions are among the people that we as musicians must count on as future audience members. I believe that the Seattle Symphony has similar programs open to University students as well, which is also crucial. Any orchestra would be wise as well to offer ticket incentives to community ensemble musicians if they don’t already. I can think of at least a dozen community orchestras in the Seattle area, that’s at least 600 more potential audience members. Although the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera sent musicians and outreach advisors to my public school, it is important that there even be a music program available at the high school for them to speak to. Preserving these programs returns to the first point, it is most likely something that will have to be done politically. My experience with student-ticket programs in NYC is that although they are widespread, they are also disorganized. Several times that I have been informed that there are no student tickets available and I just go home, I heard later that the house was empty.

  44. Peter Alexander says

    Something I’ve been thinking about in the context of the current & perpetual discussion of the future of Classical music — something that I have never seen addressed in print — is the impact of the spread of the Suzuki movement. I don’t know how much impact this has around the country; I only have personal, and therfore local, experience to deal with this, but I do know that it has grown enormously. Its impact on school music programs is quite remarkable: there are young string players today who are far beyond what anyone was doing in the public high schools I attended.

    In our small city in Iowa, dozens of studets are enrolled in the Suzuki program every year. My son plays violin, and he would have been a superstar in either of the high schools I attended (one in Texas and one in Connecticut); today, as a sohppomore, he sits at the back of the second violin section in a high school orchestra of astounding quality. They play standard orcehstral pieces, as written (not arrangements) — Overture to Oberon, Mars and Jupiter from the Planets, Beethoven symphony movements, etc. — and they play them well. The string sections are large and most amazing to me, far better than the wind sections. And this is just one high school in Iowa.

    I have to wonder what effect this will have on audiences. There are an awful lot of kids out there playing Vivaldi and Bach and Mozart, accepting Classical music as just another choice that they have learned to enjoy. I don’t know the answer obviously, but I believe that it is, for many reasons, a very good thing that so many children are being exposed to music in this way.

  45. Peter Alexander says

    Something I’ve been thinking about in the context of the current & perpetual discussion of the future of Classical music — something that I have never seen addressed in print — is the impact of the spread of the Suzuki movement. I don’t know how much impact this has around the country; I only have personal, and therfore local, experience to deal with this, but I do know that it has grown enormously. Its impact on school music programs is quite remarkable: there are young string players today who are far beyond what anyone was doing in the public high schools I attended.

    In our small city in Iowa, dozens of studets are enrolled in the Suzuki program every year. My son plays violin, and he would have been a superstar in either of the high schools I attended (one in Texas and one in Connecticut); today, as a sohppomore, he sits at the back of the second violin section in a high school orchestra of astounding quality. They play standard orcehstral pieces, as written (not arrangements) — Overture to Oberon, Mars and Jupiter from the Planets, Beethoven symphony movements, etc. — and they play them well. The string sections are large and most amazing to me, far better than the wind sections. And this is just one high school in Iowa.

    I have to wonder what effect this will have on audiences. There are an awful lot of kids out there playing Vivaldi and Bach and Mozart, accepting Classical music as just another choice that they have learned to enjoy. I don’t know the answer obviously, but I believe that it is, for many reasons, a very good thing that so many children are being exposed to music in this way.

  46. Klaus Heymann says

    Nathan Botts gives us a freelance musician’s opinion that needs a response.

    I do not define the success of classical music as “my ability to sell a CD and turn a profit”. Yes, Naxos has to make a profit to be able to do all the things the label is doing; but profit alone is obviously not the main reason for the existence of the label — otherwise we wouldn’t record and release such a wide range of repertoire [much of which doesn’t make money], including a lot of contemporary music, or invest a large amount of money in educational products [take a look at the Naxos website and click on Educational]. Many musicians do play music and get paid, even though their pay is frequently subsidized by sponsors and/or taxpayers if they play in orchestras.

    Let’s face it, orchestras [and classical music] have always been subsidized — whether by a prince or nobleman, the state, a municipality or sponsors. And most recordings these days, especially in the United States, need sponsors to make them happen — I cannot understand Mr. Botts being upset because a lot of European labels rely on recording orchestras which are funded by the taxpayer [actually, if donations to orchestras are tax deductible, even American orchestras are indirectly financed by the taxpayer].

    I also don’t understand the reference to “recordings that were made years ago” — almost all new Naxos releases are new recordings with the exception of re- releases from our own Marco Polo catalog. If Mr. Botts refers to our Historical series, I can assure him that there’s no money to be made in this business –it’s a hobby — most of the releases don’t reach the magic quantity of 4000 copies to break even [how many people are interested in the Weingartner Beethoven symphonies or 15 CDs with all of Gigli’s singles?]. Regarding Allan Kozinn’s latest contribution, he is correct in stating that there was no artist expense involved in our Mozart 100 set because it was compiled from recordings which had been amortized years ago — but I’m afraid that’s the business model — we make good money from such projects but, unlike the major record companies , we plow this money back into other, less profitable projects [American Classics, for example],

    including all our educational products.

    Regarding a “fairer model for artist payments on projects that turn out to be unusually lucrative” I could easily come up with such a model if he comes up with a model for how artists can contribute to unusually money losing projects.

    Ultimately, artists and other performing arts organizations don’t make recordings to make money [or at least that’s not their primary motivation] but to get exposure — an artist will use a recording as a calling card to get better paying concert engagements or to leave a ‘record’ of his or her performances of great masterworks; orchestras and other performing arts organizations may want to get the national or international exposure that Naxos can give them. We don’t tie artists or orchestras to us with long-term contracts [although we have house artists and orchestras] — they all records for us out of their own free will because they think it will benefit them, notwithstanding the “Dickensian” fees they get paid.

    And lastly, I would like to comment on Peter Alexander’s contribution regarding the Suzuki movement. I happen to be married to a violinist who was the first student of Suzuki to complete his course of ten books at the tender age of nine [the certificate signed by Suzuki himself hangs on one of our walls at home]. My wife has taught hundreds of students over the years but we have both frequently commented on the fact that very few of the students ever attend concerts or buy CDs — both parents and students seem to think that learning an instrument is part of a child’s education but going to a concert [or buying a CD] is not. This is the largest untapped reservoir for classical music — if somebody can find a way of getting all these kids into concert halls and record shops nobody will ever have to worry about the future of classical music again.

    Without dissenting on Klaus’s larger points, I’d like to note one thing I’ve recently discovered. It came as a surprise to me, and might also to the rest of us. It’s about the support for classical music institutions in decades past. I’ve previously mentioned a study of American orchestras conducted in 1937. According to that study, the largest orchestras were almost entirely supported by ticket sales and other earned income during the 1936-37 season. A surprise, but true. “Other earned income” includes program ads, and fees paid to the orchestra for radio broadcasts and recordings. (Yes, classical broadcasting was a commercial proposition back then, and orchestras could be paid for giving their broadcasts to a station or network that wanted them.) Money from donors and interest from the very small endowments some orchestras had amounted to just 13% of total income. (I mean that the endowments were very small by current standards)

    This, I must say, supports my growing belief that the current situation of classical music institutions is the latest stage in a very long evolution. These institutions have faced a growing financial squeeze ever since the 1930s (at least). Always, up to now, they’ve been able to solve their financial difficulties, essentially by establishing, step by step, the financial structure they now have. It’s fascinating, as an iillustration of this, to read about how the Metropolitan Opera began to establish regulary fundraising campaigns, only in the 1950s. (This is in Irving Kolodin’s detailed history of the Met.)

    But this doesn’t mean that the present financial squeeze will be as easy to solve as the previous ones. It was always pretty clear where more money could come from, in the past. It’s not so clear now. Thus, in the 1960s, leaders in the performing arts could agitate for government funding, a campaign that led to the creation of the NEA and state arts agencies. The idea for this wasn’t hard to conceive, since European arts organizations already were goverment-funded. Current thinking about what needs to be done would probably be along Joe Kluger’s line — that you have to do fewer performances. That makes for a bigger, more disturbing change than previous innovations did.

  47. ken nielsen says

    A fascinating discussion. thank you all.

    My backgound is in business – consumer products marketing, mostly. I the industries I am familiar with when faced with problems, the debate would not a about ‘what has gone wrong?’ or ‘how can we get back to the good old days?’ but ‘how do we deal with and work within the conditions we face today?’

    People change, tastes change, competition changes: all that is healthy and explains why people are not listening to the same music and reading the same books their parents or grandparents did.

    This is not to say that music organisations must just give audiences what they want, but it does mean they need to live in the world as it is and is becoming and not just complain that things ain’t what they used to be.

  48. says

    I think the Suzuki-related comments made important points. Not only is Suzuki booming, but early childhood music classes in the US have seen nothing short of an explosion in the last 10 years. As has been pointed out, children’s orchestras are doing great and conservatories are packed.

    I agree with Mr. Heymann that if orchestras are ever going to have a bread and butter business again, it’s going to involve families, and dovetailing more of the orchestra’s activities with childrens’ music education. Everyone agrees it’s a worthy cause to get youngsters exposed to classical music, for many reasons, not least of which is building tomorrow’s audience. So why does the standard orchestral experience involve leaving them at home with the babysitter? And how can this be changed without alienating the core audience? No one wants crying babies during Isolde’s Liebestod.

    Given the success of music education, one would think orchestras would be trying to engage with it and learn from it as much as possible. But I’ve always had the impression that outreach, music ed, etc. are “side issues”. Could a prominent music director, like Barenboim or Maazel, name three high school music teachers in their vicinity, for example? That’s a laugh. But why should it be?

  49. says

    An undoubtedly hypocritical (and rambling) note from the world of opera, new opera, non-opera, new music-theatre and the like:

    It was stated early that the article did not concern opera, which would require another article all its own. With all the bemoaning about statistics, however, I have to point out that the opera world at least has done a better job of compiling statistics, and is therefore more open to research. When I cared to be a member, OPERA America would deliver to me evey year their Annual Field Report, which included an extensive survey and sample group financials as well, full of data. If you wanted to go further back, you could read through the Central Opera Service archives.

    The focus of these surveys is hopelessly slanted, in hierarchical fashion, towards the big companies, which would serve the discussion of whether an ecosystem exists to sustain the large institutions. Because my focus has been on new work, I’ve never cared to look closely at the trends in the large institutions, whose contributions to the ferment necessary to sustain the generation of new work has always been negligible. OPERA America has always been able to read their own statistics, and has attempted to compensate, banging the drums for new work in their Newsline magazine, publishing a New Works Directory, and including a New Works sampler at their conferences.

    They sponsored a particularly interesting American Express market study, which discovered that the typical audience member was exposed to opera at a young age by an older relative. They also discovered that people preferred impulse buys, that the “membership benefit” model was becoming outmoded, and that opera lovers often planned vacations around the scheduled productions of companies for which they ostensibly had no connection. Lots of lessons to be learned in the symphony world from the opera world, I think.

    I used to bemuse myself by posting to the C-Opera listserv periodic considerations of the OPERA America statistics, as they pertained to new work. It gave me full confidence to assert in my article for NewMusicBox, with no dissents, that “new American Opera is Canadian.”

    Yes, I’ve written that contemporary opera was “dead,” I’ve written that Western art is “dead,” as well. But I’m typically writing of the death of the old models. That Naxos reports a significant growing revenue stream from iTunes is significant. My radio has been reduced in use to a clock and alarm, but I listen to virtual radio on the Internet all of the time – just listened to a CBC Two stream last night, in fact.

    My feelings about niche markets have evolved, from fear to new hope. What’s curious to me is that, apparently, the big guys are still needed. If Amazon.com and eBay and iTunes can’t make money off of the big stuff, then they won’t be around to help people make money off of the small stuff. So we might make a big stink about how few Grammys there are to hand out for new and old classical music recordings, but let’s face it – there wouldn’t be nationally broadcast Grammy Awards ceremonies if it wasn’t for the other bigger genres.

    In my usual “on the one hand/on the other hand” way, not sure what I’ve contributed, but I hope it’s cherse.

  50. Allan Kozinn says

    Mr. Heymann writes:

    >>>Regarding a “fairer model for artist payments on projects that turn out to be unusually lucrative” I could easily come up with such a model if he comes up with a model for how artists can contribute to unusually money losing projects.

    Sure. I mean, neither side of this equation is brain surgery. A model already exists and is widely in use whereby performers contribute to projects that can be expected to lose money. It’s called coming to the project with corporate or foundation sponsorship. I’m sure this is not unknown at Naxos. And on the other side of the deal, it would seem fair if, once a recording passes a certain number of sales or a certain level of profit, a royalty kicks in. Perhaps the two could be combined: if the performer brings susidy of any kind, the pre-royalty ceiling (i.e., the amount of profit that must be made before the royalty kicks in) is lowered to reflect that. Just offhand.

  51. Allan Kozinn says

    Greg — I don’t see why the concept of bloated organizations giving fewer performances should be so disturbing, particularly if you consider how long in coming this market correction, so to speak, has been. As I pointed out in my article, people were saying as early as 1967 that the season expansion created by the advent of 52-week contracts (in 1964), and the within-the-week expansion created by the Ford Foundation grants (in 1966), would be unsustainable. And I’ve heard that said all through the years. Yet it has taken 39 years for that prediction to become true.

    If you look at what some of the major orchestra’s do — and hey, I’m not mentioning of any of them specifically, so no need to complain, Mr. Maazel — do we really NEED four performances a week? Of course not. (Yet in that particular case — the one I didn’t quite mention, exactly — there does actually seem to be sufficient audience to sustain four; not at full capacity, but at a capacity that surpasses what three concerts could accommodate, apparently.)

    I suppose where reducing the number of concerts would be problemmatic is at contract negotiation time, when the orchestras would want that change reflected in salaries, and where the musicians would (if they remain true to form) blame the managements for not having the creativity to sell as many concerts as they schedule. So before that happens, there would probably be a middle ground of some kind, where orchestras cut back on subscription programs but somehow (and I admit it’s a big somehow) try to find different kinds of services for the musicians to play. Runouts, for example. Or if they were really being inventive, they could reinstitute programs like the Rugs concerts, or Prospective Encounters — remember those? And it’s possible that if they come up with something inventive and appealing enough, it could work. Not to mention that doing something new usually means being able to write entirely fresh grant applications.

    The bottom line, though, is that reducing the number of performances could actually be a sort of necessary and long belated culling that might make the organizations healthier.

  52. James Orleans says

    I am glad, and surprised, to hear (as one contributor stated) that early childhood music classes have exploded in the past 10 years (where is that happening, by the way?), and that a string program in Iowa is producing terrific High School players, because I haven’t seen anything like that in Massachusetts. It was about 10 years ago that a group of concerned parents in my town finally organized and raised awareness and money to reinstate the 4th grade instrumental music program that had been absent for years. Mr. Heymann’s note about 30 million young Chinese taking piano lessons is encouraging but, also, depressing; the steady erosion of music and art from elementary school curricula (at least in the eastern US) over the years prior certainly has contributed to the audience concerns we have in this country.

    Years ago I was talking with a major symphony manager who said that the one factor, common to most audience members, that contributed to their adult interest in attending symphony concerts was that they had learned an instrument as a schoolchild (so we might expect that those Suzuki-trained students, once they reach the right demographic age, will become concert hall attendees. Give them time). This idea that classical music organizations must be able to come up with a magical way of enticing younger people into the concert halls is, to me, a rather spurious, and unfair, one. The process of building an audience must necessarily begin long before it will ever be reflected in attendance figures. Since when did it become the responsibility of non-profit performing groups, which are stretched to the limits just keeping their heads above water, to make up for failures of the education system? That our many “education” Presidents have abdicated their responsibility to the arts puts us in an impossible situation. Outreach, outreach, outreach is all we hear now, and pretty much the only activity we can expect to get grant money for. Yes, we need to find ways to address a generation of adults deprived of music education. But it is implausible to expect that performing organizations are equipped to take over the job of educating a community’s school children. Yet this is essentially what they are being asked to do. In 1992 the NEA was awarding grants to the major orchestras to the tune of about $350,000. This year the largest grant to a major orchestra is around $180,000, about half of what it was 14 years(!) earlier. That’s many fewer dollars available for increased educational outreach.

    And we’re not going to change things just by bringing in Metallica, or Symphonic Floyd, or Keith Jarrett playing Mozart, or the Final Fantasy Suite, or other crossover type programs (I wouldn’t be surprised if some director of programming somewhere is right now trying to figure out how to make a “Three American Idols” concert possible). Where we can be most effective, and within our reach, is in our programming for youth concerts. Selecting colorful, exciting, predominantly newer music to present to kids just might perk up their ears a bit more than the standard classical repertoire usually foisted upon them by symphony orchestras. Leopold Stokowski promoted the idea of playing new music for children. He felt they would be more open to its sounds, and might be more likely to attend concerts of newer music as adults. That makes wonderful programming sense to me. As far as our adult audiences are concerned we must necessarily be more cautious, but by reintroducing (and repeating) underplayed masterworks from the mid 20th Century (Honegger, Martin, Hindemith, et al., and earlier works by Tippett, Dutilleux, Lutoslawski, et al, for example) to the repertoire we can help acclimate audiences to more contemporary idioms, the stagnation of the repertoire being another one of the major problems in audience development.

    The Baby Boomers are continuing to join the concert-going demographic and will for quite a few more years. Since the average age is getting older, perhaps we can expect that a portion of them will come to the concert hall a few years later than the previous average. Just trying to be optimistic here.

    On the rising costs issue, I am hearing much about musician’s salary increases straining resources, but no mention of the exponential personnel increases on the management/development/support/staff/etc. side of the equation. The number of musicians has remained constant, but staffs, my goodness, have almost dodecupled over the decades. One contributor mentioned the number of people employed in development just to raise money (over and above their salaries). Certainly the finance issues are not all the musician’s fault.

    With the number of orchestra positions dwindling and the pool of players continuing to grow, conservatories need to develop a more vigorous two year recruit/review/renew policy. Bring greater scrutiny to the second year promotional process and encourage students, whose potential for success has proven to fall short, to pursue another path (saving them tens of thousands of dollars and giving them a 2 year head start on a new educational path). Aggressive recruitment efforts will fill those vacancies for the next two year cycle. This way conservatories (at least those other than the full scholarship schools like Curtis and Rice) can stay in business and the pool of players is both reduced (to reflect demand) and more accomplished (to raise performance quality). Of course this requires making tough decisions about students’ careers.

    I agree that big changes are in the works as far as recording in America goes (not even the Boston Pops is recording now–nor are they doing TV for PBS anymore). It is, however, still quite vibrant in Europe, Scandinavia, and the UK (where they continue to perform and record their composers; even the living ones). I have purchased close to $400 of CD’s so far this year (all contemporary symphonic) and only two of them involved American orchestras (one of them no longer in the AFM). The other was a reissue. One American label CD with 2 symphonies by an American was recorded by a Polish orchestra. For orchestras in this country it seems the internet is the only hope. All the major orchestras are readying themselves (or they should be) to go to online distribution of their live performances through their websites. It is now up to the AFM to renegotiate the national agreement to allow for such undertakings. Seattle withdrew from the AFM a number of years ago in large part to pursue an adventurous recording plan. Many orchestra players understand that it is better to make recordings (in any form, and for nominal compensation) and remain in the public ear than it is to lose exposure for no money.

    Thanks for the forum on this issue. I’m telling all my colleagues about it.

  53. says

    Nice post! These are important things to keep in mind, it’s typically easy to forget about the straightforward things when you get consumed by a project.

  54. says

    I agree that big changes are in the works as far as recording in America goes (not even the Boston Pops is recording now–nor are they doing TV for PBS anymore). It is, however, still quite vibrant in Europe, Scandinavia, and the UK (where they continue to perform and record their composers; even the living ones). I have purchased close to $400 of CD’s so far this year (all contemporary symphonic) and only two of them involved American orchestras (one of them no longer in the AFM). The other was a reissue. One American label CD with 2 symphonies by an American was recorded by a Polish orchestra. For orchestras in this country it seems the internet is the only hope. All the major orchestras are readying themselves (or they should be) to go to online distribution of their live performances through their websites. It is now up to the AFM to renegotiate the national agreement to allow for such undertakings. Seattle withdrew from the AFM a number of years ago in large part to pursue an adventurous recording plan. Many orchestra players understand that it is better to make recordings (in any form, and for nominal compensation) and remain in the public ear than it is to lose exposure for no money.

    Thanks for the forum on this issue. I’m telling all my colleagues about it

  55. says

    There are many visible signs of this. Look at the Balitimore Symphony, taking fully 1/3 of its endowment to pay off its accumulated deficit. That’s a desperation move, and if things don’t improve, puts the orchestra in a difficult long-range position, because it now loses some of its annual income. The endowment will earn 1/3 less interest than it used to, which will reduce by around 1/3 the amount drawn from that interest that can be applied to the orchestra’s annual budget.

    great move.

  56. says

    A though back, Artsjournal linked to a great article by Matthew Richter about Seattle’s nonprofit scene. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but his conclusions are very relevant here: he basically says that whilst the pie for nonprofits has held steady or gotten larger inside the past 20-30 years, the amount of nonprofits creating fascinating elements has skyrocketed during that exact same period. So whilst the nonprofit scene appears healthy and productive being a whole, individual organizations are feeling the pinch like in no way before, due to the fact so quite a few of them require help for the exact same straightforward elements (like salaries, benefits, infrastructure, fundraising, marketing, etc.). I believe that is playing out inside the discussion that you and Allan are owning here. You are searching at it in the perspective from the organizations (primarily orchestras) that are feeling the pinch, whereas Allan is saying, “look at how several performances there are! Contemplate how a lot music there is! How can anyone be saying that classical music is dying?” And, in a sense, you might be each right.

  57. says

    Troy Peters drew my attention to record-sales statistics for the year 2006. Most categories showed falling album sales over the past year. The category that posted the biggest gain, from 15.8 to 19.4 million units, was, er, Classical. You may credit Il Divo, Bocelli, et al, but they were there the previous year, too. I think there’s more to the story. I’d like to see category breakdowns for Internet and digital sales…. More: A reader points me to the Long Tail blog, where Chris Anderson takes note of the rise and attributes it (as I suspected) to high classical volume on online sites. People are buying more classical records for the simple reason that the Internet has made them easier to get. If you don’t know the Long Tail theory, it’s well worth reading up on.

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  58. says

    Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that classical music as a profession is in trouble. It seems by some standards (music school applicants, for example) interest in classical music is in fact increasing; it’s just that most of the increase is on the part of practitioners rather than listeners. The effect of this is a monstrous supply-and-demand problem (not just on the part of individual musicians, but industry-wide: composers, organizations, ensembles, presenters, arts administrators, and so on) where the art of classical music is healthier than ever, but the business of it is in big trouble. The only organizations that seem to be doing well in this whole mess are the music schools and universities. Most of them are running surpluses of anywhere from 5-25% (look up the 990’s on Guidestar if you don’t believe me).

  59. says

    i think the key is in gregs book, that is, at one time classical music was alive, and thus not classical. this should be thedirection of his discussion, rather than this mba garbage

  60. says

    i think the key is in gregs book, that is, at one time classical music was alive, and thus not classical. this should be thedirection of his discussion, rather than this mba garbage..

  61. says

    I don’t hate Naxos. I like Naxos a lot. I’m simply responding to Mr. Heymann’s objections to my use of the word Dickensian. I also wonder if there is a fairer model for artist payments on projects that turn out to be unusually lucrative.

  62. says

    Hi Greg —

    I do not consider that classical music attendance, peaked by the end of 1990’s. In my personal opinion classical music has declined since 80-s. Nowadays we can hardly find a young person who is interested in classical more than in other musical genres. Also I’d like to mention that I could hardly get statistics figures on classical music attendance.

  63. says

    I think that the problem is a disconnect between the average person and the world of the symphony or opera. The stories told are real and beautiful, when you distill them away from all the well to do snobbery. Giving people a clear picture of what’s happening, without cloaking it in superfluous language and conceited metaphors would do a lot in getting people interested in it again.