This Week’s Insights: Are algorithms leading to worse art?… The best subscription machine we had is failing… Will listener stats kill podcasts?… The Nutcracker that ate dance… How to deal with “problematic” plays.
- When Algorithms Determine Our Audience: Not for the first time have people raised concerns that algorithmic selection of content for us to see narrows our choices. Depending on the algo, of course, the behind-the-scenes selections can narrow our taste and reinforce biases. But increasingly it’s obvious that algorithmically-driven content is actually changing the kinds of content being produced. Then , the middleman – the critics and producers – are having less influence. “On the consumer side, streaming and social-media platforms have transformed the nature of music discovery, which was previously more proactive by necessity—requiring manual effort to open up a newspaper, dig through crates at a record store, or attend a live show. Nowadays, “discovery” can be as easy and passive as scrolling mindlessly through a personalized feed or shuffling an algorithmically -curated playlist in the background of a holiday party, without help from a critic or other human guide. Because of its inherently passive nature, algorithmic curation has also made one core function of criticism defunct.”
- Even The Master Of Subscriptions Is Failing: Chicago Lyric Opera used to more than sell out its entire season. And it wasn’t so many years ago, either. Today is an entirely different picture, and it’s grim. The decline in subscribers is upending the already fragile economics of opera, changing how companies operate and what they program. Lyric now gives a quarter fewer main stage opera performances than it did two decades ago — it gave 60 last season — and has started presenting a musical each spring
- Ratings Come To Podcasting: Until now, the only tools for telling how long users actually listened to the podcasts they downloaded were the proprietary ones of Apple and Spotify. So NPR developed an open-source tool to get data beyond download figures. But with the privacy scandals that have broken over the past year, some podcasters are leery. Why? Do we need to remind you of the corrosive effect content stats have had in the form of clickbait?
- When One Mega-Hit Dominates Your Art: Nutcracker towers over the dance landscape. And it is the economic engine that drives much of what happens in dance in America. “[Dance/USA] just reported on the state of The Nutcracker for the first time since 2008, and the data shows just how much the ballet’s prevalence has grown in the past 10 years — and how much companies have come to rely on it as a revenue source.”
- Audience Talkback And Dealing With Controversy: Maddie Gaw, who was part of the selection panel for the first-ever Problematic Play Festival this past fall, writes about what makes plays “problematic” (i.e., subject matter violent or controversial enough to make most theatres and funders flee) and about how the festival altered the standard post-play talkback to make it safe for audience members to process what they had seen.