Photo by Mitch Jenkins
The Emerson String Quartet is a very successful group, performing over 80 concerts a year and producing over 40 CD's of music. As a performer, the concerts aren't enough to pay the bills, so selling CD's is a necessary addition to helping the ends meet. With all the glamour and publicity the pop groups get, classical musicians have to find new and unique ways to get their music heard and their CD's sold. Slinky silk dresses works for some, but since the Emerson String Quartet is an all male group - putting them in slinky dresses probably wouldn't help sales much.
So, they've opted for other means. One such is to include a bonus track which is only available via iTunes (ah, the power of the download market). They have also leveraged YouTube with a number of videos available. Perhaps my favourite is the multi-video collect of the recording of the Mendelssohn Octet. The artistry in recording the eight parts with four musicians is fascinating, let along a wonderful recording of the work.
Yes, these are world class musicians, having earned 8 Grammy's and numerous other awards, they are at the top of their field. However, the "tricks" they're using can be used by other classical artists to get their music out to the public (and ultimately make a living). Perhaps if more quartets put tracks up on iTunes for download only, or more musicians linked their recordings with YouTube videos they'd find a wider audience. Classical music is far from dead; it's just buried under all the hype of pop music. Get through the hype and it's still going strong. Now we just need to hype it a bit to get it even stronger.