Previously, in this series of posts: a piano teacher talks about how much independence and creativity kids in bands have.
The subject of this series is attitudes toward pop music in the classical world, and how a disdainful attitude isn’t just wrong, but hurts classical music.
Here’s the second installment, posted by Kate Nielsen in her blog God Help Me, I’ve Started Blogging. Earlier in the post (full disclosure here), she says nice things about me. Thanks for that, Kate, and thanks especially for emailing me to tell me about your post. What matters in it, I should hardly have to say, isn’t her Greg Sandow praise, but her very savvy thoughts about marketing and the new audience, as follows. Note especially the last two paragraphs:
Classical Music enthusiasts complain about dwindling sales but the ability of classical recordings to reach new audiences is being held back by the same people who want the genre to remain elitist and won’t accept change for fear of ‘dumbing down’ or not doing things the way they have always been done.
The idea that Classical Music requires some sort of specialist, trained ear to really appreciate is pure nonsense and there is no reason why it should be marketed in the apartheid way that is currently is. Rock magazines talk about Reggae. Jazz magazines talk about Hip Hop. Most real music fans have a very catholic range of likes. What makes Classical Music people think they are so special?
I know plenty of people with tastes for long, challenging, instrumental, beat-less pieces of music. They listen to classical music if it is on labels like ECM or Rune Grammofon and promoted via blogs and websites that carry other styles of music that they also like. In fact I know a lot of people who obsessively seek out this kind of thing. They wouldn’t think twice about buying a collection of string quartets or an album of orchestral music if it was presented to them in this way.
But they won’t know about it if it’s only reviewed in Classical Music publications and they won’t buy it if it has a picture of a violinist in an evening dress on the cover.
I asked Kate to tell me more about the people she’s describing, and — with a blend of modesty and precision we all might emulate (including me) — she carefully specified what she knows and what she doesn’t know. What she feels she can speak about are the people she knows who do what she’s described. There are also people she doesn’t know, and she can’t speak for them.
The people she does know, she describes as “music enthusiasts in their 30s and 40s who work in the creative and media industries in London and NYC.” She adds that “it’s fair to say that 30-40-something creative types are an adventurous audience musically. And that they spend decent money on buying records (and MP3s).”
This sounds like an older version of the young audiences I’ve seen, and blogged about, at concerts in New York. It’s beyond dispute, by now, that there’s a large potential audience for classical music, who won’t be attracted to normal classical concerts or recordings.
It’s also beyond dispute that these people listen to a lot of serious pop music. And so, my friends who dump on pop, or despise it, or rage against it, or tolerate it but think it’s artistically inferior — how are you going to bring this new audience to classical music, if you keep telling them that most of the music they like is crap?
Footnote: I hadn’t heard of Rude Grammophon. It’s a Norwegian record label, which on its website is described this way:
Rune Grammofon is a record label dedicated to releasing work by the most adventurous and creative Norwegian artists and composers.
Being music enthusiasts almost to the point of absurdity, we don’t want to limit ourselves to certain genres, as long as there’s real heart and personality. With an increasing number of indifferent records bombarding the market place, we modestly aim to recapture the magic connected to the discovery of new artists and buying their records. Our aim is to put love and care into each release, giving it the best possible design and packaging. No plastic, ever. All releases come in the digipak format with exclusive design by brilliant designer Kim Hiorthøy.
I’ve been listening to tracks from their releases, and love them. People who rage against postmodern bogeymen will probably hate this stuff, but anyone comfortable with Stockhausen and Bjork should take it in with as much delight as I’m having.