Marketing Music: Where do we draw the line

Musicians need to be able to make a living and in order to do so we need to be able to sell tickets. Symphony orchestras are painfully aware of their success of failure dependent on how full their halls are during performances. While ticket sales do not make the lion share of their balance sheet, sponsors, patrons and angels are not likely to fund an orchestra that only half fills auditoriums. So, music is looking at new ways in which to market old music.

At Jeremy Eichler wrote an article about the Russian Composer, Gennady Rozhdestvensky (pictured left), who pulled out of conducting four concerts for the Boston Symphony Orchestra because he was not properly listed in the marketing material. 'Rozhdestvensky discovered that his name had been omitted altogether from a list of "Distinguished Conductors" in the BSO's season brochure. He was also upset that the week's cello soloist, Lynn Harrell, had been featured in a large photo and given top billing on a concert poster, while his name appeared only in the concert details.'

The article goes on in great detail about the problems in this particular case of trying to sell tickets using a name (Lynn Harrell pictured right) that the audience might know (at a glance) over someone who might be a greater figure in the world of music, but doesn't sell tickets. Part of the problem is not so much what the marketing department for the BSO did, but on the publicist for Rozhdestvensky.

Doing a quick scan in the press (not including the article I've already sited or others on the same topic), here is what Google News found:

    Gennady Rozhdestvensky
      Radio Prague, Czech Republic - Nov 14, 2008
      Independent, UK - Nov 12, 2008
      Worthing Today, UK - Nov 9, 2008, UK - Nov 8, 2008
    Lynn Harrell
      Daily News Tribune, MA - Nov 21, 2008
      The Patriot Ledger, MA - Nov 20, 2008
      MetroWest Daily News, MA - Nov 19, 2008
      Lincoln Journal, MA - Nov 14, 2008
      Santa Maria Times, CA - Nov 14, 2008
      Lompoc Record, CA - Nov 14, 2008
      KSEE, CA - Nov 13, 2008
      The Plain Dealer -, OH - Nov 11, 2008
      Alexandria Town Talk, LA - Nov 9, 2008

Call me crazy, but Mr Harrell has more than twice as many articles in the press and all of them in the US (many in Massachusetts) than Mr Rozhdestvensky. While I am not a fan of marketing types, I think they made the only 'business' decision they could. While I am not a fan of using flesh to sell records, I've posted a number of articles on how much the industry is doing that too... because at the end of the day, if you don't sell tickets (or records) you can't keep doing what we all want to do, that is - make music.

Perhaps the best thing Mr Rozhdestvensky could do for his image in the public eye was to walk out of the concerts. At least in doing so he garnered himself a dozen or so articles in the press. Perhaps it's not in the best light, but getting his face out there is better than being invisible. So, to help his cause, I have posted his picture and a bit about the situation. I don't think he was justified in walking out (I would love to have the opportunity to conduct the BSO - hint, hint). However, if marketing is all about getting your name in the press and his name wasn't getting in the press... he did the right thing - but then, so did the BSO marketing team.


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