This Week’s Insights: Outcry over orchestra gender imbalances… What happens when you take smartphones away from your audience… Is there will to make theatres accessible for all?… Rethinking how we sell tickets… Fighting (and being aware of) tech addiction.
- Is It Okay For Orchestras To Have Seasons With Only Male Composers? Several orchestras unveiled next year’s seasons this week, and reaction in the press and on social media was sharp. The Chicago Symphony’s and Philadelphia Orchestra’s, Pittsburgh Symphony’s and Houston Symphony’s seasons features all-male composer lineups, and criticism was swift. Musicologist Doug Shadle diagnoses it this way, putting the blame for the lack of gender and racial representation on a system that encourages it. “Simply put, lack of diversity on concert programs is built into the institutional structure of American classical music organizations, leading to systemic discrimination against women, people of color, and other historically underrepresented musicians.” Not that gender representation hasn’t been a longstanding issue that critics have repeatedly pointed out over many decades. But this year that criticism seems sharper and has greater urgency. One orchestra getting over-the-top praise this week for its plans for a diverse season next year is the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Critic Mark Swed writes that no orchestra has ever programmed such an ambitious season as the LA Phil. New Yorker critic Alex Ross tends to agree, and suggests that orchestras that aren’t programming women are probably not programming contemporary music. Do audiences care about diversity politics? Critics have faulted orchestras for being out of touch with the larger culture for years. The larger culture is more diverse. Draw your own conclusion.
- Want To Change An Audience? Take Away Their Phones: The tech backlash picks up steam, and we’re going to see more and more of these stories. Here’s what happens when you make audiences give up there access to their smartphones at a concert: “The effects are immediate: At first, people seem agitated and unsure of what to do with their hands. But then they adjust. In line at the concession stand, you’ll overhear people talking about the artist and the show, and then about the fact that they’re having this conversation because they don’t have phones. You’ll see people fully engaged with each other talking, and the feel of it is radically different.”
- Do We Really Want To Make Our Theaters Accessible For All? We have the means to do it, from physical accommodations – ramps, wider aisles, ear buds, smart phones – but are audiences up for it? “Many audience members seem increasingly intolerant of any distraction in their theatre-going experience, an attitude likely brought on in part by the steep rise in ticket prices. Will the use of smart phones, even with a non-glare app, inspire some nasty exchanges? Will open captioning continue to be seen as some kind of niche practice that intrudes on the serenity of the “mainstream”? Will autistic audience members always be accommodated through a policy of separate but equal?”
- Rethinking How To Sell Tickets: There has been no shortage of experimentation with ticket-selling schemes. But innovation in ticketing has been slow to be adopted because of the risks. New York’s Joyce Theatre is the latest to experiment, having secured funding to inoculate it from disaster. The Joyce initiative is on two fronts, targeting two groups. “The JoycePass gives registered dance professionals the opportunity to buy $10 tickets to any performance this season. The Pay What You Decide initiative invites patrons to watch selected shows and then decide what they would like to pay.” The former aims to encourage more cross-pollination of work across the dance community. Studies show that dancers and choreographers often don’t get out to see one another’s work. The latter aims to lessen audience sense of risk when trying something new.
- How Tech Tries To Make You Addicts: The big tech giants have been at work studying human behavior to devise ways to addict you to their products. This week, a group of former Facebook and Google employees launched a campaign to expose the practices and help people fight addiction. YouTube is a good example: “YouTube is something that looks like reality, but it is distorted to make you spend more time online. The recommendation algorithm is not optimising for what is truthful, or balanced, or healthy for democracy.”