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How NOT to sell your orchestra

The man presently in charge of the orchestra in this film has been announced as the next president of the New York Philharmonic.

See the credits. You really couldn’t make it up.

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  1. Susan Bradley says:

    It’s a good beer on a hot day! And yes, they are local musicians!

  2. What’s wrong with the ad? You obviously don’t get the Aussie sense of humour. What a way to sell your orchestra than by a bloody good beer ad? Good on him!

  3. Obviously this is an ad for a beer, not for an orchestra anyway. Good on them for getting on board and having a laugh!

  4. Lindsay Ryan says:

    Well, it brought a smile to this ex-pat’s face. Agreed, the Aussie sense of humour is on show here, not dumbing down orchestral music or musicians. I think the fact that we see the lighter side of life is refreshing – if you’ll pardon the pun on a beer ad!

  5. Making of found here:

    Also appears to be over 4 years old too

  6. Good on ya, MSO and OV. The old world has no idea. Sad, in a way.

  7. This is one of the funniest and best ads involving an orchestra I’ve ever seen. Good hire, NY.

    Norm, you’ve got to lighten up and have a beer.

  8. Amusing. It’s a commercial not a concert, and it’s for beer!
    I hate to think what would be done for an insurance company.

  9. It’s an Aussie beer ad (something we do best, I must say) and this a great one – the iconic theme of VB beer ads played by the MSO – what’s the problem?

    • Bad idea to present orch as a bunch of bored slobs, woken up by a draught of beer. Image counts.

      • I disagree completely with your assessment. This is exactly the kind of larakin image that the average Australian relates to. Indeed, Australian arts organisations have to work very hard to dispel the stuffy euro-stocracy image that classical music can carry with it.

        With all respect, frankly, unless you know the words to the tune they’re playing (do you? I do, as does any Aussie who watched TV in the 70s, 80s & 90s), I really doubt you’re going to understand the target audience of this ad. The ad is a number of years old, and has had no adverse impact on the standing of the MSO, AFAIK.

      • I didn’t see it that way – I saw the orchestra as fun-loving and ‘regular’, even in full orchestra dress. Down to earth and approachable.

      • Mr. Lebrecht:

        While I agree with you that “Image counts,” t disagree with everything else you’ve said.

        In addition to AF’s and Melanie Watson’s responses above, I’ll also say that it was well executed, and if you were to watch the related behind-the-scenes video, it’s clear that the orchestra musicians were keen to do an excellent job, which they did.

        There is absolutely nothing in either commercial or BTS video that shows the musicians as “a bunch of bored slobs, woken up by a draught of beer.”

        Is your problem that it they are associated with any alcoholic beverage, or is beer in particular somehow beneath your preferred “image” for a symphony orchestra? Would some wine or scotch be more appropriate?

        Furthermore, are you saying that this commercial should have kept Matthew VanBesien (the soon-to-be Exec. Dir. of the NY Phil whom you call out for being associated with this video’s production) from being considered for the NY post? If so, why exactly?

        Completely baffled by your response to this.

        • They perform a tired, false caricature of their hardworking profession and do a disservice to the orchestral cause. Isn’t that enough?

          • Not really. I have no idea what kind of “tired, false caricature” exists that you are talking about. Is there a caricature of them being beer-swilling drunks that I don’t know about? Seriously, enlighten me.

            I really wish you would expand your comments in more detail because I am truly trying to understand your point of view on this.

  10. “How NOT to give your blog post a misleading and irrelevant title”

    1. Not selling an orchestra, selling beer.
    2. Not slobs (heck, they’re wearing formal concert wear and observing utmost decorum, almost too much so)
    3. Not bored – it’s obvious they’re adopting a exaggeratedly solemn demeanour in honour of the fact that Aussies take their beer very, very seriously. (Of course, that wouldn’t be funny if classical music didn’t have a reputation for being terribly serious itself.)
    4. An oldie but a goodie. The significance here: before the NYP Executive Director-elect’s time.
    5. Lighten up, mate.

  11. This series of posts is great example of why the arts are in so much trouble: A bunch of insiders sitting around deciding what is or isn’t a good ad. Sadly, this is how most arts marketing is done.

    Only research and results can determine the quality of an ad. What the audience thinks or feels and how they act is all that matters.

    • This particular post doesn’t represent arts marketing. It’s an ad for beer and you can be sure that Victoria Bitter and its ad agency did their research and measured the results in beer sales. :)

  12. tiredofitall says:

    Well, excuse us for having an opinion and daring to express it.
    I suppose we or anyone else who takes part in discussions on this blog and others like it
    1) have no right to our own opinion or express it
    2) aren’t part of the target audience at which the ad is aimed.

    Got that, everyone? We’re just a bunch of geeky insiders, whose opinions are totally irrelevant.
    Let’s all just pack up and go home.

    • tiredofitall says:

      Oh, and by the way, WE are personally responsble for the troubles that the arts are currently in. It’s all our fault. How could we forget that?

  13. I am not an Aussie but I think this ad is terrific. I also think an ad in a similar vein for the New York Philharmonic would be terrific.

  14. There is a similar advert out there with the percussion section of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The more interesting story I see here is how the composer of the advert has been “influenced” by Elmer Bernstein’s or Ennio Marconi’s theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (I can’t remember which!) and how by the use of simple compositional devices like inversions etc he has managed to create a “unique” musical composition which will see royalties going directly to him via his performing rights collection agency.(as opposed to the creator of the work alluded to) Judging from the comment above, I gather that no one else seems to get the real story! Any thoughts??? :):)
    8 hours ago · Like

  15. I think he shows some courage – he’s got a lot of bottle.

  16. Dear Norman,

    I think you’re being a bit square about the TV ad. I believe that culture in Australia is suffering from funding cut-backs too, so everyone has to look at how to make an (Oz) buck.

    In a way I think the ad is good, because it is humorous and defrocks some of the orchestra mystique barrier which keeps a lot of people away from classical concerts.This ad humanizes the orchestra musicians in a way which no amount of stage lectures and Q&A sessions can do.

    I suppose that that the target markets for beer and classical concerts differ significantly, so this may not bring in new audiences. But at least they got noticed.

    Remember the old adage: There is no bad publicity except no publicity.

  17. Susan Bradley says:

    Several of the people in that ad are personal friends of mine. They are not playing at caricatures, nor are they bored slobs. They are hard-working professional musicians, some of whom – shock! horror! – probably enjoy a beer or three after a gig. The ad itself pays tribute to the hard work that musicians do, as is obvious from the words that fit the music, which as AF says in an earlier post, every single Australian who has ever watched television could quote. ” A hard-earned thirst deserves a good cold beer, and the best cold beer is Vic” . Sorry Norman, but you’re barking up the wrong gum tree here.
    It was a very popular ad in its day with the general publice, and probably did a lot to make symphony orchestras seem less stuffy.

  18. I would have liked the ad better if the beer tasted any good! I too, am sponsored by a brewery; my chair in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is called the Liverpool Organic Brewing Company Principal Trumpet. Now, that’s a quality beer! Our new season launch is due at the beginning of May…

  19. harold braun says:

    It´s about selling beer,not an orchestra.And it´s really well done!

  20. Nina Scott-Stoddart says:

    I love this ad — thank you for exposing me to it. I kept waiting for something shocking to happen, though, that would justify your headline, and then realized that perhaps your interpretation of it and mine were different. I saw a positive, upbeat and delightful ad which shows that orchestras and conductors (I LOVE the moment when the conductor laughs at the end) are dedicated and professional, but also human, playful and fun.

    I still don’t understand where you got the “bored slobs woken up by beer” thing. They were clearly having a great time the whole time and were anything but slobs.

  21. Part of the current problem facing orchestras–and much of classical music for that matter–is its elitism. We’re driving away out potential audiences in droves by sticking to our age-old conventions of attire, applause, repertoire. In addition to my work as a conductor I also am a teacher. You have no idea how many young people come back from a live performance loving the music but–in many ways–hating the experience. They’re looked at scornfully for wearing “improper” attire, stared at for clapping at the “wrong time,” and subjected often to a series of lengthy works that would challenge even my own abilities. All too often we forget that it is a fairly contemporary phenomenon to present an entire symphony in consecutive order. In a way I long for the kinds of performances offered by the virtuoso of the 19th century. They looked to be much more fun–which is exactly what the Melbourne musicians are doing here. Actually “using” our traditions to sell a beer? Good for them. They’re helping to remove some of the patina that has long built up on the orchestra and its staid traditions.

  22. Cooper Lassiter says:

    This would make me more likely to go see them than a more serious ad full of stuffed shirts who seem to be totally out of touch with the contemporary world. The Philharmonic ought to do a series of these, with the beer bottles and cans, with snippets of famous orchestra pieces. Fun, fun, fun!

  23. Tim Dowling says:

    Great ad! For beer. Who looks bored? Don’t be such a grump Norman..

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