A wild time

It’s a wild time for classical music.

That’s the headline on my home page. And it’s the opening sentence of the revised and final version of my book.

Why is this a wild time?

First because of the classical music crisis — declining ticket sales, a shortage of funding, an aging, shrinking audience, all these things we’ve talked about for so many years.

And, of course, lying behind all that, there’s the sense we’ve all had that classical music — at least for the past generation — has been growing more distant from the rest of our culture.

But here’s another reason why this is a wild time. Some people (as we’ve certainly seen from comments on this blog) don’t believe classical music is in trouble. They don’t believe the crisis is real.

I’ve said before how odd this is, first because the reality of the crisis is provable. (The audience, to give one example, really has aged, and in fact has done so dramatically). But even more because, well, why don’t we know? Why don’t we know how classical music is doing, since people in other crisis-ridden industries (newspapers, obviously) know precisely what’s going on?

But here’s the third thing that’s wild — change is sweeping through classical music. It comes in two flavors. Some changes (especially those made by big institutions) are deliberate attempts to respond to the crisis, to make classical music more accessible, or to attract a young audience. These (in my view, at least) can be unconvincing. They’re dutiful, made by people who think change is needed, but may not really want it.

Other changes, though, are made by people who — often with great excitement — really want classical music to be different, to be more like the rest of our culture. Some of these changes will work, some won’t, but here (again in my view) is where we see what the future will be.

Because these changes go to the heart of why classical music has problems — its cultural failure, the way we keep doing things that just don’t work in our larger culture, and in fact make us look not just stuffy, but silly and dumb. And make it hard (if not impossible) for us ever to find a new audience.

Which then suggests that we need to make really big changes. It’s time for that now!

My role in this:

  • I can help you understand what’s going on, and what you should do.
  • I can help you change, if you hire me as a consultant.

More on all of this coming!

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  1. says


    I’ve sent you an invitation to join me in an online discussion of Engaging a younger audience in the concert hall.

    I hope you’ll be able to attend,