Boston, and the other Cambridge

I'll be making two trips in the next two weeks.First, on May 4 and 5, Boston, to speak at a graduating students' lunch at New England Conservatory, and also to speak with various people, most definitely including those involved (students, faculty, staff) with the school's impressive program for entrepreneurial musicianship. Then, on May 13, I'll be taking part in a formal (black tie!) debate at Cambridge University in England: "This house believes that classical music is irrelevant to today's youth." This will be presented by the Cambridge … [Read more...]

The cost squeeze — ticket sales

First: a cost squeeze is more than just a negative balance sheet. It's an ongoing thing, something that develops over time. Your expenses keep rising, and your income keeps shrinking. And you think that's likely to continue.So one part of the orchestra cost squeeze -- which I started writing about in a recent post -- centers on ticket sales. In the past, orchestras sold most of their tickets to subscribers, people who bought several tickets (maybe many tickets), before each season started. And did it year after year. This was very helpful. … [Read more...]

The cost squeeze

Following my previous post about the unfortunate Philadelphia Orchestra -- and why their bankruptcy could be a tipping point for the entire classical music business -- here are some gloomy details. Sorry for the gloom, but it's important to understand what's going on.Orchestras are caught in a cost squeeze, a spiral of financial distress. Nor are they alone. Our economy is clearly going through what we might politely call a major reorganization. And other cultural organizations feel the pinch. Today ArtsJournal linked to a story about financial … [Read more...]


Yesterday, in class, one of my Juilliard students said he felt discouraged. We'd been talking about the Philadelphia bankruptcy, and what a turning point this is for classical music. So the student said that he found all the bad news depressing. Even though the reading for class yesterday was about some positive steps. (Follow the "class" link above to see what the reading was, and to do it yourself, if you're so inclined.) Why, this student wondered, should he go into a practice room, and keep on working?He wasn't seriously depressed. And … [Read more...]

Tipping point

Two big thoughts for today. First, that the Philadelphia Orchestra bankruptcy opens a new era of classical music distress. And second, that we should treat this as a time of opportunity, a time to foster the rebirth of classical music. Which means that we should devote ourselves to classical music with more passion than ever. The Philadelphia Orchestra bankruptcy is a huge, huge event. I told my Juilliard students yesterday that it's the biggest thing that's happened, related to the future of classical music, since I began teaching my … [Read more...]


If the Philadelphia Orchestra really does declare bankruptcy this weekend, as news stories suggest (here and here) -- that's huge. People in the orchestra world, speaking privately, have been wondering which large orchestra might be the first to crash, with Philadelphia normally mentioned as a likely candidate. And now, maybe, it's happening. This should be a wakeup call for the entire classical music business. Because, yes, the Philadelphia Orchestra has had serious problems, but those problems can't the sole cause of the bankruptcy. … [Read more...]

New model money

The lesson here: Classical music needs some new financial models. Big institutions need to survive while selling cheaper tickets to a new young audience. Classical musicians need a way to make money playing in clubs. Classical musicians and composers -- especially alt-classical ones -- need a way to reach a larger, pop-oriented audience. When I last posted, I praised the New York City Opera for its savvy and successful plan to build an audience for its Monodramas. The company willing to accept smaller houses, early on, hoping that the … [Read more...]

Monodramas — success story

In my posts about the new classical music audience in NY, I mentioned the New York City Opera Monodramas production as a key event, one that drew this audience. I'd been to it on opening night, and City Opera was mobbed with the kind of people (younger than usual, for a start) that you don't usually see at the opera. An arts crowd, not a classical music crowd.But was there a problem? Some people thought there was. I started hearing that later performances didn't get as many people as opening night. Which, as I've learned, was true -- until … [Read more...]

It’s over

The pop/classical debate that's raged in the comments here, I mean. That's what's over.      Simon Rattle agrees  The "it's over" thought came to me (not for the first time) when i read an interview with Rattle, published in the Wall Street Journal, and linked today on ArtsJournal. To quote from this interview:As much as any figure in contemporary classical music, Sir Simon, 56 years old, has stood for an expansion of the concert repertory, and a conversation about music may reference anyone from the Beatles and jazz … [Read more...]

Only in New York?

So now the punchline for my series (possibly too long) on the new audience that seems to have emerged in New York. (Here, here, here, here for past installments.) Can this audience be created elsewhere? First thought: It may already exist elsewhere, most likely in big cities: London, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Flood me, if you like -- I'd be thrilled -- with info. I saw an audience like this in the '80s for one of the new music concerts John Adams curated and conducted with the San Francisco Symphony. And Present Music, the terrific … [Read more...]

Still more on the new audience

What I'm going to talk about -- but not quite yet -- is whether this new audience could be found outside New York. But first, a summary. I'm reminded in a blog comment from my friend Aleba Gartner (who does publicity work with the triumphantly resurgent  New York City Opera) that City Opera's Monodramas production -- three atonal one-act, one-singer operas, currently in repertoire, and tremendously worth seeing -- also drew the kind of audience I've been talking about. Which would be an audience of smart (and in this case, maybe … [Read more...]