Popularity Contests - are Classical Musicians not interested?

Shorty Awards are given for excellence in Social Media. However, Classical Music seems to be glaringly absent in the #music category

Shorty Awards are for "Honoring the Best in Social Media" - at least according to their website. If you look at the list of people 'nominated' for awards in the music category, you'll see all your favorite pop and 'talent TV' stars prominently listed. What you won't see are classical music artists.

You can 'search' for artists by putting their Twitter name after the opening URL:
but you'll be hard pressed to find anyone with any votes. There are a couple:

TwtrSymphony ranks 55th and Versailees_P_Q ranks 62nd.
Where are the rest of them???

As of writing this post Demetria Lovato has 1,700 votes, Miley Ray Cyrus has 1,697 and Justin Bieber has 719 (shock, he hasn't even broke the 1,000 mark yet). Jonas Brothers has 633 votes in #music but 2281 in #band. Justin Bieber has 2454 votes in #celebrity and #1101 votes in singer. So, obviously these artists are being nominated in more than one category.

Where are the classical music artists?

Even more than that, where is the classical music support??? As Music Director of TwtrSymphony, the moment I heard we were in the running (long shot) for a Shorty Award, I started to notify a number of my colleges about the 'voting.' While we have done well to get to number 55, I'm noticing that many of the people I thought might want to support the quest of TwtrSymphony are oddly absent.

While no other orchestra (that I could find) is listed in the ranking, no other orchestra (other than Pacific Symphony) has offered their support. Few artists have jumped on the band wagon and offered their support either. Going through some of their feeds, the big name artists aren't even voting.

Yes, the Shorty Awards are in part a popularity contest and classical music doesn't fair very well in terms of popularity. But, is that partly because we don't even participate? If everyone who follows TwtrSymphony were to vote for TwtrSymphony They would be way out in the lead. Of course, you could say, if all the fans of the NYPhil would do the same, TwtrSymphony wouldn't even be in the running.

The fans of NYPhil aren't voting. Some of the fans of TwtrSymphony are, but not enough — not enough to get into the top 10 (or even the top 20. If we who love classical music would show some solidarity, we might find we can show the world we do matter. We are important and a voice to be heard. However, if we continue to avoid public forums like this, classical music will continue to drift into obscurity.


Jess Albertine said…
I think the most essential answer is to your post's title: no. They aren't.

This is just my view, but I think to a certain extent, classical musicians don't want to be involved in that sort of thing in general. Maybe it goes back to early experiences, being ostracized or outright bullied for being smart or hard working or just different. For example, I was once told by a classmate that my entire high school band was happy when I was gone for a week because I wasn't there to intimidate everyone else and make them look bad in comparison... to say nothing of the rest of the bullying I was always subject to until I went to music school. Why would I be interested in trying to make those people, with whom I've always had a mutual dislike going on, like me? Those of us that are successful often had to commit to classical music early (how many other disciplines expect 16 year olds to commit their lives to a profession?) and work very hard for it, forgoing things like popularity. Maybe they were never interested in popularity contests to begin with, since they were too busy doing music.

We're generally pretty isolated, in practice rooms and lessons. It's a pretty insular community. Maybe we're just so used to it that the idea of breaking those boundaries is both frightening and repulsive, resulting in outward apathy toward seeking something like social media awards. Or maybe it's seen as being beneath us, since we're Artists. Twitter is designed for people like Justin Bieber, and what classical musician wants to be compared with him?

Also, you can't vote if you don't have a twitter account of your own. If that were possible, I bet you'd have more votes. Nobody's going to make an account just to vote, even if they do support what you're doing and hope you win. Classical music is underrepresented on twitter in the first place, so you don't have the potential voters to begin with.

I ran this idea by a friend who's a fan of classical music just now, and her response was, "Because twitter is dumb. People only like it because other people already like it. I'll like what I want to like because of its own merit, thanks."

So maybe we're just hipsters and don't want to like popular things. :P
Chip Michael said…
Jess -

Interesting points.

I don't think it's necessary for people to create a twitter account just to vote. That WOULD be silly. As for Twitter, being silly, well, yes, when the Television first appeared a large segment of society thought it would be mindless entertainment (never catch on). Ok, it is pretty mindless entertainment, but it DID catch on. Television has the largest share of advertising income of any media -although the internet is quickly gaining. To say Twitter is dumb may be true (although I'm not sure I agree) but to think it has no value, or to ignore it's potential is foolish (IMHO).

Social Media is gaining in it's reach. More and more social attitudes are changing the way decisions are made. The whole point of the Shorty Awards is to recognize those people have made an impact via Social Media. John Green (@realjohngreen) is an author with a massive fan appeal - not because he's cool - quite the opposite. He's a nerd. He and his brother created the NerdFighters and they have time and time again shown the impact by collective pressure.

Although, yes, I would like people to vote for TwtrSymphony in the Shorty Awards, that's not the point of the article. The point is there are no other classical music artists or entities even in the running. If we don't want classical music to just fade away, then we have to make our voices heard - and we have to do so in the very realms that people are paying attention to. Shorty Awards are a pretty big deal. Social Media is a HUGE deal. If classical music doesn't start effectively competing in this world, then public opinion will be to say it has no value.

We are moving to a society where public opinion shapes what succeeds and what doesn't. While I am NOT a fan of popularity contests (never fared very well), it's the direction the world of media is moving. Classical music can be popular. Lots of people would vote for it, do like it. But, if those who are really passionate about classical music thing voting or contributing or participating is 'dumb' then there's no reason for the rest of society to care about its demise.

- In terms of voting, there are LOTS of classical music artists and ensembles on Twitter. They aren't voting either - for themselves or for TwtrSymphony.

Jess Albertine said…
I really don't have answers to or evidence for the various points I made. The ideas you're bringing up are interesting and worth brainstorming about. I agree with you that social media already has a tremendous societal impact, it's only increasing, and it's one of the areas in which classical music is getting left behind. So, what now?

I'm not sure why classical artists already on twitter aren't voting, but I have a couple ideas. Age disparity compared to other genres, tendency to stick to habits, interest in traditions, dislike of the reputations of people who promote social media, tendency to be vocal about things they don't like rather than things they do like. Those are all things I've noticed within the classical community.

Maybe they feel silly doing things the cool young kids are doing. In which case, I'd like to put enormous animal-shaped balloon hats on them and then see how they feel about online contests.

Your point about television reminds me of a quote by Max Planck, a theoretical physicist around 1900. "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." I don't necessarily agree with that in all cases, but it's interesting (and frustrating) to think about.

It may be that next generation's classical fans will be game changers, having grown up with social media. I'm interested to see how they'll handle it. As it stands now, I'm not convinced we'll see much change in the promotion and reception of classical music until then. That doesn't mean we shouldn't encourage it and try to change things now, but I've seen very little evidence that the old guard is going to let major, widespread changes take place. Then again, I have been known to have trust issues with authority figures. Perhaps I could use a balloon hat too.

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