The Music Industry is Moving in a New Direction. How will Classical Music Follow Suit?
The power of social media is driving music in a new direction - people are choosing what they want, rather than being dictated to by major media
Over 1800 years ago a man wrote down his thoughts about his relationship with God. St Augustine is considered the first person to write about having a personal relationship with God. His writings eventually became the seeds for the reformation (almost a thousand years later). There were lots of reasons for the strife surrounding the Reformation, but a key element was the quest for people to have a direct communion with God, rather than have to seek it through an intermediary (or priest). People began seeing their relationship with God as personal, something they could determine what works for them as an individual.
The printing press also had a great deal to do with the explosion of ideas about the bible, as the wealthy could now read it for themselves. It's still the most popular book of all time. This innovative idea of printing also created a world where pamphlets and broadsheets became popular. Not only were more people able to read as the cost of books dropped dramatically, other's saw the vision of mass influence via propaganda in this new, cheap form of mass communication. People began thinking for themselves, or at least, making their minds up based on new information. In England, the struggle between the crown and the commonwealth was largely fueled (and won) by massive propaganda. It is the blending of an individuals quest for a personal identity and the ability for mass communication that set the stage for hundreds of years of war ravaging Europe.
These ideas didn't always reek havoc. The printing of music became a prime source of income for composers of Renaissance England. William Byrd saw the future and quickly grasped the crowns exclusive right to print music adding more to his coffers than any other of his other pursuits. Beethoven made a good portion of his living selling music, rather than performing it (or having a patron). Composers were finding freedom to compose what they wanted (as long as what they wrote was what people wanted to buy).
Closer to our own time, the advent of the radio drastically affected the behavior of people. Their access to news, music and entertainment of all sorts was broadened dramatically. Rather than printed music, record companies erupted with sales of records far surpassing their revenue from sheet music. Now composers weren't just selling music to musicians, but musicians were selling their music to everyone.
Even with the introduction of music videos, it was still the media companies driving the style of music they wanted people to listen to, to buy. The creation of numerous "studio" groups, brought together not for their musical qualities, but for the marketability (their looks), is a prime example as to how media companies drove the market in the directions they wanted to do.
With the internet, YouTube, massive numbers of download sites (legitimate or otherwise), the course of music is changing. People are no longer forced to just wait and hear what the media companies feed them. If they don't like what they hear, people can quickly find something else. Indy bands are more popular than ever as it is possible to become extremely popular over the internet without having major backing by a major label. What this really means for the consumer is a broader choice to find exactly what they want.
What this means for classical music is it is possible to find fans without having to rely on normal avenues of exposure. Rather than just playing at a concert hall, more and more orchestras are reaching out doing flash mobs, performing in unique spaces, striving to find a way to connect with their audience in new ways. Orchestras like TwtrSymphony are driving music onto the internet, rather than through live performances, so tens of thousands of people can enjoy the music, rather than just a few hundred.
Film and Game music are quickly becoming regular additions to concert seasons, filling concert halls with new fans. New music needed be limited to just film and game music. It's time for an indy orchestra - It's time for TwtrSymphony!
There is a hold over in the classical music world. The concert hall is still a place of reverence, a place where many feel you need to dress appropriately, know when to clap and how to behave. This arcane way of behaving is unlike any other performance medium out there. If the audience likes a solo at a jazz club, they applaud. If the music is moving at a rock concert, they get up and dance, even at opera performances the audience applauds when the soloist does something spectacular. It's only in the concert hall where people feel stifled, forced to conform. In an age of freedom of choice, why are orchestras still demanding this attitude? Don't they realize, the modern audience can pick and choose what they want. If we make it uncomfortable for new comers, they don't come back. Why should they. They can find thousands of other forms of musical entertainment without having to come to the concert hall.
There is still no replacement for live music. If you've ever been to a live performance, you understand the power transcends anything you can experience in recorded media. But, in a world filled with easy access to choices, it doesn't serve to drive away potential new fans. They will too quickly find somewhere else to go.