Another happy memory of my wife’s and my visit to Florida State.
I mentioned in my earlier FSU post that we helped a faculty chamber ensemble plan an upcoming New York concert. Here’s what we did. This ensemble will make its New York debut in a respectable venue late this spring. They wanted to know how to get reviewed, especially in the New York Times. Anne and I had to tell them the sad truth. There’s almost no way they can get reviewed. There are just too many concerts in New York. Doesn’t matter how good they are, doesn’t matter whether they play a piece by a notable living composer, as they thought they might do. Maybe an entire program of new music might raise at least a little interest, but basically they’re swimming upstream against an all but invincible current.
So what else could they do to generate interest? They’re not worried about attracting an audience, they said. FSU alumni will come to the concert. They want the review for all the understandable reasons that anyone would want it — for prestige, for validation on a high professional level, and for use in future publicity and in efforts to get more concerts. What could they do that might generate at least some of the same benefits?
Here’s what Anne and I thought of. They first should arrange to have their concert streamed on the Internet, as an audio stream, at the very least, but preferably with video. Then they should organize a group of listeners back home in Tallahassee, who’d gather to watch the concert streaming live.
Then they should start a blog, in which they’d talk about their preparation for the concert. Ideally this, too, would involve audio and video, and one of its key subjects might be rehearsing the program they’re going to play in New York. More broadly, they might discuss how they prepare all the repertory for their combination of instruments. They should go into great musical detail, as professionals talking to other professionals, and to advanced students. This is something younger ensembles might find very helpful, not to mention students at schools all over the world.
And menwhile they should contact friends and colleagues at other schools, people whom they said would readily book them for concerts. They should get these friends and colleagues interested in the blog, and get them to recommend it to their students. With any luck, the ensemble now would be developing a national, and very likely international community of students and professionals who follow what they do. They could consider live chats, live streams of rehearsals, even master classes conducted via Internet 2, or even with Skype. (I’ve heard of people using Skype for this. How reliable is it? Does anyone know?)
Once all this is happening, they should ask their colleagues at other schools — and anyone else interested — to organize listening parties to watch the live stream of the concert, just like the one at FSU. Now they’d have a national audience for the event, which conceivably could be brought into the New York concert in some way. The ensemble could say a few words, greeting their audience in other places, and naming what some of the places are. Or they could go a little further (if this wouldn’t be too hokey), and arrange for some of the people watching the concert elsewhere to say hello to the New York audience.
Now they have a serious event, something much more substantial than an unadorned New York concert. They can publicize it. Get it written about, and talked about. Maybe now they really will get reviewed! Maybe now the concert stands out from other events. Maybe now it’s a story that even the New York Times might want to tell.
Would this work? I’d love to know. Has anyone tried something similar? I understand that not every chamber group would feel comfortable doing all these things. Many musicians, after all, didn’t sign up to make themselves so widely visible, doing more things than playing music. Many musicians don’t have the urge or will to publicize themselves so fiercely. But still it all sounds like a good idea, at least to Anne and me, and if any particular ensemble doesn’t have the stomach to arrange it all themselves (which would be completely honorable), they still might find others who’d do the work and networking and promotion for them.
Anne then had one other good idea. At FSU we’d met a student who’d made video documentaries. So why shouldn’t he make a documentary about the group doing all the things we talked about, or at least about them preparing for the concert?
(If anyone likes this idea, and wants my help in implementing it — or something like it — in their own situation, I could be available.)