kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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Why the Philadelphia Orchestra Should Have More of My Money

Why the Philadelphia Orchestra Should Have More of My Money (and How They Should Get It)
trillian_stars and I have been members of the Philadelphia Orchestra for a number of years now and we've watched them change -- trying to find the right space in this New Digital World just like everybody else in the music industry. We've seen the gift shop at the Kimmel center shut down (likely for the best), the third floor bar (for inexplicable reasons) and their foray into Twitter and Facebook and the feelers they've reached out with -- trying new music, old favorites, the blog (not terribly engaging, but its there and now we know that cellist Yumi Kendall is also a kickboxer) talk backs, pre-show talks (lifting the ... stage/audience barrier) -- largely all good things. But having recently declared bankruptcy it's obvious they still have a long way to go.

I'd like to give them my money and occasionally we work something out -- either they call and ask for a donation, which I sometimes shell out, or they get me to buy a really expensive drink in the Wolfgang Puck bar which is kind of hit-or-miss and I don't think is the best way. Instead of this they should be triple charging me for music at the point at which I already have my wallet out. What?? Yes.

Walt Disney long ago stopped thinking of sales in terms of people coming to the park and paying to get in the door. They realized that those people eat, and they stay in hotels, and accordingly, the business that Disney did expanded to food and hotels in an ever widening net of providing services. When people left Disneyland they were like orange trees that had been shaken until every bit of fruit had fallen off -- and all that fruit had landed on one blanket spread out beneath.

This is something the orchestra hasn't seemed to figure out yet.

Increasingly for people a very central function of the Internet has been autobiographical, we keep photo albums, lists of countries that we've been to, conversations with old school chums, our precious moments recorded and archived for the future. As anybody who's Instagrammed a photo of their breakfast can tell you, this is how people think now.

The orchestra is part of my life and it shouldn't be a fleeting part. Listen up, here's how to get my money and make us both happier.

The orchestra tunes up before a show.

1) Sell me music before I see it
Before we see a show, Trillian and I usually buy whatever music it is that we're going to listen to -- we like to go prepared. If there was an option at the beginning of each season to buy previous Philadelphia Orchestra (if possible) recordings of the music we'll be listening to, for say ... an extra $40 I'd do it. These are sales that are already going to happen, but they ought to be going to my orchestra, not or even if they do use amazon as a front end, they could set up an affiliates program. But it's got to be convenient, and it's got to be less expensive than me going to eclassical.

2) Sell me the experience of seeing it
They seem to have this down, I buy tickets on the web, they show up in the mail. And they're doing a decent job of trying to entice me to come to the Kimmel center earlier, though shutting down the third floor bar makes it a lot less fun. Some day they might realize they can have a caterer up there serving food and charge me for dinner too.

3) Sell me music after I've seen it.
This is a big one, and it's one of my primary regrets about my orchestra experience -- that I can't re-live it. For years we saved the playbills but it's not the same, because a lot of the music I completely can't remember at all, thought I remember thinking at the time it was so much different than the recording I'd listened to in preparation.

If I could also buy a copy of the concert I've just listened to for ... say $9 or so ... I'd do that as well. I imagine sitting on the sofa with Trillian in a dozen years or so and saying "let's listen to that concert we went to oh those long years ago," and being born back upon a wave of nostalgia. Wouldn't that be some sort of engineering hassle? Not really. Last year I discovered while listening to Chamber Orchestra Executive Director Peter H. Gistelinck at a talk-back that the orchestra already records every show they perform. What happens to these tapes? Who knows. But, you may ask, wouldn't this be a union problem? A problem with guest conductors? Maybe, but that's something for someone to negotiate. (EDIT: It seems that the union already has a pay structure for it, starting at $0 up front.) It's a win for everybody, extra money for the orchestra, extra money for the musicians. Do they sell the exact concert I saw or do they pick the best of four performances? Who knows. Someone needs to figure out how to make it work.

Clickenzee to Embiggen

"Ah, but Mr. Cassidy," you will say, "you obviously are a naive fellow who knows nothing about how musicians unions, buildings, endowing organizations, patrons and management function and interact." -- This is very true. John Kennedy didn't know how to put a person on the moon -- he only knew that he wanted one there, and on an insane, completely unrealistic deadline. People are like water: they'll find the riverbed on their own. You can make a sluice that they all pass through and generate electricity on the way down or they'll make their own way, but they'll get to the riverbed. All this stuff either already happens or will happen, it's just a question of who gets to benefit from it.

The world's obviously changed and we're all still finding out places and our methods. Orchestras find themselves in a double bind, exacerbated by a disconnect between an aging subscriber base and potential new, younger, subscribers baffled by the old model. Options exist now that really didn't even ten years ago -- the possibility of crowd-funding things through pre-sales, the instantaneous distribution of digital recordings, the ease at which transactions can be made on line (why can't I pay for my tickets with paypal for example? Why do I need a physical ticket at all, why can't i use my phone? And little things that suggest there was no coordinated effort, like why is the name of the website PhilOrch and the Twitter name is PhilaOrchestra?). All these things can be helping a symbiotic relationship between orchestra & audience member, someone's just got to do it.

And why is the roof garden always closed?

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