. Interchanging Idioms: February 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Not sure if this is an apology or just an awakening

I often rant about the need for more musicians to Tweet and Post about their involvement with the orchestras they play. I may be changing my tune

Post after post I have railed at the musicians who don't talk about what they're doing in terms of orchestra performance. I have gone on and on about how more musicians need to be vocal about classical music, because if we don't who will? And yet, looking back on my own tweets and Facebook posts over the past year I'm not sure I can honestly maintain that diatribe.

For nearly a year I have been the Music Director for TwtrSymphony. The organization was started because of my need for an orchestra and the wealth of musician friends on social media. However, managing an orchestra and the 60+ musicians we have 'on staff' is a great deal of work - so much so, it has impacted my ability to communicate over social media. I have not held conversations with a number of the friends I grew very accustomed to chatting with regularly over Twitter. Many of those people I had become fairly close to seem distant. I watch their streams now and feel out of the loop, out of contact and distant. It's not that I care for them any less, but because I am too busy with other activities that I seem to have fallen off the social media band wagon.

Having said that, I do still tweet and post. I am one of the people tweeting and posting as TwtrSymphony (thank heaven not the only one). I do post on my own timelines, but no where near as prolific as pre-TwtrSymphony. Those posts I do make often have some reference to TwtrSymphony. So, I guess in that regard I am practicing what I preach - spreading the word via social media about the ensemble to which I am affiliated.

Detroit Symphony
One of the precepts of TwtrSymphony is that the musicians are the major portion of the marketing/social media activity for our ensemble. It thrills me to say a large portion of them are very responsive when a call to promote a project come out. Perhaps the best, most recent example is the tweets about Garrett McQueen playing Bassoon with the Detroit Symphony's live broadcast of Beethoven's 9th last Sunday. Leading up to the broadcast I counted at least twelve TwtrSymphony musicians promoting the event. While we were not the only ones talking about it, I couldn't find any Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians who tweeted about the concert. I did catch tweets by Valerie Sobczak (@valerieclaires), Intern at Detroit Symphony, and Eric Woodhams (@ewoodhams) Digital Media Manager for Detroit Symphony, but couldn't identify any musicians from within the ensemble (other than our own Garrett McQueen who plays for both Detroit Symphony and TwtrSymphony). TwtrSymphony created enough chatter about the event, but prior to and during, it caught the attention of Eric Woodhams (and rightfully so - we can make a lot of noise).

My own reflection on my tweets makes me realize I need to go easier on the musicians working for full time orchestras. Their lives are busy, particularly when faced with an event like Beethoven's 9th. Social media isn't (and shouldn't be) the first thing on their mind. I also need to realize that even within my own organization there are some issues with the notion of musicians tweeting about events. We have over 60 musicians involved with TwtrSymphony and yet only a dozen were actively promoting one of their compatriots. Before I can rant again organizations that don't leverage their musicians for social media, TwtrSymphony needs to improve its own processes.

That said, twenty percent of our musicians tweeting about an event that has virtually nothing to do with TwtrSymphony is better than any other orchestra out there tweeting about its own events. So, while I am willing to step down from my soap box (for now), I do challenge orchestras to better engage their musicians via social media. They are the most passionate people you have in your organization. Get them to share that passion over the internet. The more passionate people tweet about classical music, the more that passion will infect other people, thus building our fan base.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

London Symphony Orchestra Celebrates Composing Talent with LSO Futures, Curated by François-Xavier Roth

LSO Futures celebrates composers at the cutting edge of music today through a week of events at the Barbican

LSO Futures and LSO St Luke’s including two concerts curated by François-Xavier Roth. The LSO has been nurturing the talent of young composers for several years through its Panufnik Young Composers Scheme (set up in memory of composer Andrzej Panufnik), the UBS Sound Adventures Scheme and the recent creation of LSO Soundhub, a laboratory for composers at LSO St Luke’s. LSO Futures throws the doors to these initiatives open, showcasing both the music of today? and the minds behind it. In the words of François-Xavier Roth, it’s a ‘homage to modernity, to new ways, and to creation’, a celebration of music in the 21st-century.

On 9 April at 8pm, composer Tansy Davies presents a UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica concert at LSO St Luke’s which recreates her acclaimed album Troubairitz, putting her own music, with its hints of funk, experimental rock, industrial techno, atonalism and electronica, centre stage. Tansy Davies was the first participant in the LSO’s UBS Sound Adventures scheme for emerging composers. Her work Tilting was given its world premiere by the LSO on the Barbican stage in 2005.

On 11 April at 11.30am, composer Colin Matthews, Composition Director of the Panufnik Young Composers, will take part in a Centre for Orchestra Artist Conversation at LSO St Luke’s, giving an insight into his career and musical inspirations. At 1.30pm at LSO St Luke’s there is a Panufnik Young Composers Workshop with conductor François-Xavier Roth and Colin Matthews, giving the opportunity for the audience to get a glimpse into the creative process and watch as this year’s composers develop their music with the LSO. The workshop features composers Patrick Brennan, Leo Chadburn, David Coonan, Bushra El-Turk, Ryan Latimer and Aaron Parker, plus a special commission from Matthew Kaner.

The first of two concerts masterminded by François-Xavier Roth takes place on 13 April at 5pm in the Barbican Hall. LSO Chamber Ensembles, conducted by Roth, are joined by composer and saxophonist Jason Yarde and pianist Andrew McCormack for a new work by Yarde – Modo Hit Blow for brass and percussion – an alumnus of the Panufnik and UBS Sound Adventures Schemes. The work is set against a backdrop of other 20th-century chamber classics that continue to inspire: Varèse’s Ionisation for Percussion, Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments and John Adams’ Chamber Symphony.

At 7.30pm on 13 April, the full London Symphony Orchestra is conducted by François-Xavier Roth in a second concert which has at its centre the world premiere of Panufnik Variations, a project that brings together graduates from across the Panufnik Scheme’s seven-year history. Its starting-point is a framework constructed by Colin Matthews around a theme from Andrzej Panufnik’s Universal Prayer, with each of the following variations a melting pot of the sounds and styles from nine Panufnik Scheme alumni – Max de Wardener, Evis Sammoutis, Christopher Mayo, Toby Young, Elizabeth Winters, Larry Goves, Raymond Yiu, Anjula Semmens and Edmund Finnis. Also performed will be Webern’s Passacaglia, Boulez’s Notations and Debussy’s La mer.

Before this concert, young composers aged 14-18 will take part in a composition day (10am–7pm, 13 April) inspired by the Colin Matthews & Panufnik Scheme alumni LSO commission – Panufnik Variations. In the morning they will attend the rehearsal for this new work and meet the composers involved in the commission. During the afternoon they will work with animateur Rachel Leach & LSO players to develop their own theme and variations, which will be performed in the Barbican foyer at 6.30pm, between the two evening concerts.

At 8.45pm on 13 April, DJ Richard Lannoy is joined by Soundhub composer-performers and LSO players for Aftershock, an event bringing a mixture of live music and DJ sets to the laid-back setting of the Barbican foyers. Aftershock is presented in association with NONCLASSICAL.

In May 2013, LSO Live releases an album of new works by ten emerging composers. The pieces – originally commissioned as part of the LSO Panufnik Scheme – were recorded at LSO St Luke’s and are now presented on disc, enabling the LSO to share and promote the composers’ music world-wide. François-Xavier Roth conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in Andrew McCormack Incentive; Christian Mason … from bursting suns escaping …; Charlie Piper Flēotan; Eloise Gynn Sakura; Edward Nesbit Parallels; Jason Yarde Rude Awakening!; Martin Suckling Fanfare for a Newborn Child; Christopher Mayo Therma; Elizabeth Winters Sudden Squall, Sudden Shadow; and Vlad Maistorovici Halo.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A new trick for Orchestras to Engage new audiences on Social Media

Honestly, this isn't a new trick. Several orchestras are already doing this. Other orchestras could learn to leverage this technique to build new audiences via social media

Both Facebook and Twitter are about engagement. However, what most orchestras currently do with their social media is to talk 'at' their audience and not with them. By changing the way they post and tweet, by devoting a bit more time for their social media campaigns, orchestras could find a wealth of new patrons for their concert halls. They will certainly expand their existing fan base. The key to this technique is re-posting/sharing what classical music fans are already posting.


It is possible to post on other people's timeline as a person, but not as a page. When someone posts something to an orchestra's page, it doesn't show up in the main feed unless the administrator(s) actually shares the post. If orchestras would encourage their fans and musicians to start posting on their page, anything they find of interest - share what's happening in the community, what's happening with other organizations, or just anything they think the orchestra should be interested in - this will do two things.

1.   Give the orchestra an idea as to what their fans are talking about beyond what the orchestra is already posting.

2.   Give administrators the chance to post this on their own feed.

Not only will this increase the amount of posts an orchestra is putting on Facebook, it will be more inter-active with their fans. Their fans will get excited about the prospect of being involved with the orchestra. Fans that get their posts shared, will go further by spreading the new and other posts orchestras do even more. Other fans will be encouraged to share as they will feel there is a dialog happening. Fans will feel empowers and part of the orchestra. Fans that are part of the orchestra will not only spread the word, they will be more likely to purchase tickets when the time comes.

If orchestras can get their musicians to post their thoughts on the orchestra page, sharing these thoughts, share who the musicians are as people. Again, fans will feel a greater sense of connection. The more connected the fans, the more likely they are to attend concerts.


The same basic process is true with Twitter, but you come about it in a different way. With Twitter, orchestra administrators need to seek out interesting people to re-tweet. Orchestras should re-tweet more orchestra news, not just their own. Find local business you can support by re-tweeting what they're talking about. The flip side is they will be more likely to support your tweets and your concerts in the end. Get your fans talking and mentioning you in their tweets. When they do, re-tweet them. Their tweets may not be directly related to your orchestra, but if orchestras show they are more than just flogging tweets about their performances, followers will more likely engage with what you're doing in all aspects.


This does require orchestras to devote more time to social media than they are currently doing. It does mean they will need to have one person managing both Facebook and Twitter, to ensure the message on both platforms is consistent, so fans on one can be converted to followers on the other. It will also be important to filter what comes in so the orchestra doesn't just became a spam machine. Yes, this takes time, and at a time when orchestras are tightening their belts it's a hard pill to swallow - particularly considering their is no direct correlation between social media and ticket sales. However, as the current audience dwindles, orchestras need to find new audiences. Social media is a perfect medium for this.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Is Social Media Important to Classical Music? The discussion continues

Jo Johnson, Digital Marketing Manager for the London Symphony Orchestra, replied to my previous post:

Classical Music continues to lag behind in social media

My reply was too lengthy to put into a comment field.

Jo -
Thank you for you Excellent Reply!

The London Symphony Orchestra, Nashville Symphony and San Francisco Symphony are some of the shinning examples of organizations that are succeeding with out-reach into Social Media. You really are out there engaging.

Yes, orchestra musicians may not be as engaged in social media as their 'pop' counter parts. But we live in a world where people question the value of the arts. Here in the US, orchestras are finding an attitude of "why should we support classical music, when pop music doesn't?" I am not trying to argue the value of classical music (I am very much a member of that choir). However, if those of us involved do not beat our own drum, how can we honestly expect other's to do it for us? A struggling pop band will devote countless hours pushing their music onto anyone who will listen, in the hopes that someday someone of note will notice and give them the break they need.

Traditional music has always been slow to adapt. We mark the shift from Baroque to Classical era music, yet we also know there is a nebulous period when the 'old' music was still in vogue, while the new music was gaining in popularity. We mark Beethoven's "Eroica" as the start of the Romantic era, but it was a much slower process than just the presentation of one piece of music.

We are in the internet age now - an age where styles, attitudes and trends can shift day to day. Anything truly worthwhile will stand the test of time - classical music has proven its value. But currency of a hundred years ago doesn't spend the same today. While we will always have art music, the form that music is in 50 years from now may well depend on how devoted we, who want to see orchestra music thrive, are to its survival. People, like yourself, need to be willing to adapt, to change, to stay ahead, to keep classical music in the forefront. The orchestras I mentioned were not random chance, rather because they are the ones making the changes that need to be made in the media market of today. I applaud you!

Far from giving up, I am calling musicians to stand up and take notice. Calling more musicians to become active, to make their voices heard. You say "Pop is always going to beat classical at the numbers game," but I disagree. Film and game music are one of the fastest growing markets in digital downloads. These are not the pop scores, but orchestral music driving this market. The young(er) generation is interested in a richer music experience, and far more diverse in their tastes than one radio station would lead you to believe. Downloadable music, YouTube and the internet in general gives people the ability to be more discerning, rather than less. They no longer need to just settle for what's playing at the concert hall.

In survey's of recognizable tunes, a far greater percentage of people will recognize a melody by Beethoven or Mozart than any pop artist of the last 100 years. It may not be their first choice of music, but they are more familiar with it than any other type of music. I believe classical music can be more popular than it is - even give pop music a run for its money (literally speaking). But this isn't going to happen if we just sit and play in our concert hall.

Do you remember May 12th, 2012 and the BMW Open Air Concert in Trafalgar Square? There were so many people they had to post barricades to do crowd control. LSO showed (once again) the power of classical music is far more popular than current market statistics lead us to believe.

The LSO has 102k people following on Twitter, 58k following on Facebook. Is that just because London is more cultural than American cities with similar populations? No, it's because YOU engage your audience on social media.

Am I faulting the musicians for a lack of engagement? Yes and no. While I understand why many of them are not engaged, I believe more of them could be. More musicians have Facebook and Twitter accounts than actively participate on their orchestras pages. Some musicians will never make the transition, but others are already using Facebook and Twitter, but surprisingly silent when it comes to their orchestra (at least it's surprising to me).

Hardly a week goes by where some news article reports the fiscal troubles of this orchestra or that. If orchestras really are struggling financially, then it is in the musicians best interests to get involved, to start beating their drums on street corners and on the internet.

The article you replied to, Classical Music continues to lag behind in social media, has been extremely popular. Musicians from all over re-tweeted, shared and reposted the story. This is a GOOD thing. Musicians all over are saying they want to be involved. Continue to say that. Tell your fellow musicians to be involved.

I am a rabid classical music fan. I didn't post the original 'rant' to complain about the LSO's lack of effort, to say how disappointed I am at their lack of concern. You are a shinning example of what's right. More orchestras need to follow your lead. More musicians need to step and get involved. More people need to express how they feel about classical music - to share their thoughts and impression with their friends on the internet. It's not enough to just go to the concert hall. Tell your Facebook friends you're going. Check in with Foursquare and tweet about your experience when you're done.

Minnesota Orchestra Cancels Concerts Through April 7

Four programs are cancelled and four are rescheduled as negotiations continue

The Minnesota Orchestral Association announced today that it has cancelled or rescheduled its concert performances through Sunday, April 7, 2013, due to the current labor dispute. All ticketholders of affected concerts are being contacted and offered a variety of options including the opportunity to exchange tickets for a future concert or receive a full refund. A complete list of impacted concerts is available on page 2.

In the ongoing contract talks with the Musicians’ Union, the Orchestra Board agreed on
January 2 to conduct the joint financial analysis musicians have sought in order to verify the organization’s financial position. Last week, the Board suggested that the terms of this analysis should focus on testing the accuracy of the organization’s Fiscal 2012 results and the forward-looking financial assumptions upon which the organization’s strategic plan is based. Discussions between the Board and Union are ongoing to agree to terms for the analysis.

“We very much hope that following the independent analysis the musicians will put forward a counterproposal, and we can begin the two-way negotiations that will lead to a settlement and the resumption of concerts,” said Minnesota Orchestra Board Chair Jon Campbell. “Realistically, we are all aware that it will take some time to complete this review, so we regrettably need to cancel further programs in consideration of the needs of our audiences, guest artists and partnering venues. If we are able to come to an agreement within a timeframe that allows us to reinstate some of these concerts, we will make every effort to do so.”

Contract talks between the Orchestral Association and its musicians, who are members of the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union (Local 30-73), began on April 12, 2012 and are currently overseen by a federal mediator. The Orchestral Association’s proposal offers a total package averaging $119,000 per musician, including an average salary of $89,000 with $30,000 in benefits per musician. The proposal also includes 10 weeks of paid vacation and up to 26 weeks of paid sick leave. In December, the Orchestral Association posted an operating deficit of $6 million for Fiscal 2012, the largest in its history.

Concert Detail:
All ticketholders to concerts through April 7 will be contacted directly by the Orchestra to outline ticketing options.

Cancelled Concerts:
• Beethoven’s Eroica, February 27 and 28, March 1 and 2
• The Gershwins’ Here to Stay, March 9 and 10
• Strauss: Four Last Songs, March 14-16
• Josefowicz Plays Stravinsky, March 21-23

Rescheduled Concerts (These programs will be presented during the 2013-14 season.)
• YP: Supersonic Sounds, March 7 and 8 | rescheduled to February 25 and 27, 2014
• Common Chords: Bemidji, April 1-6 | rescheduled to week of September 15, 2014
• Trey McIntyre/Preservation Hall, April 5| rescheduled date to be announced

Concert with a new presenter
• Max Raabe and Palast Orchester, April 7, 2013—This performance will now be presented by the Dakota at its own venue, the Dakota Bar and Grill, on the originally scheduled date. Current ticketholders will receive a full refund and will be notified directly with additional details on how to purchase tickets at the new presenting venue.

The Minnesota Orchestra Box Office will be directly in touch with concertgoers to share the following:

• Ticketholders may keep their tickets until a new contract is in place and performances resume. The Orchestra will bank the value of these tickets in the ticketholder’s account and keep in touch by mail. When a settlement is reached, the Orchestra will contact ticketholders to reactivate the value of their tickets for another concert this season.

• Ticketholders may exchange their cancelled tickets now to a future concert this season. All related fees will be waived.

• Ticketholders may apply the value of their unused tickets toward a gift certificate.

• Ticketholders may consider the full face value of their unused tickets a tax-deductible contribution to the Minnesota Orchestral Association.

• Ticketholders may request a refund for the full value of their tickets including related fees.

• For Rescheduled Concerts -- Ticketholders to rescheduled concerts may choose any of the above options, or they may attend the rescheduled concert presented as part of the Orchestra’s 2013-14 season. Patrons will be seated in the same price section and will not incur price increases or pay additional fees. This option will be honored through the date of the cancelled concert. Patrons with pending reschedule dates will be contacted when a new date is secured.

Minnesota Orchestral Association Ticket Services Representatives will be available to assist with cancelled/rescheduled ticket accommodations via phone at 612-371-5656. To save time, ticketholders are encouraged to conduct ticketing activity online at minnesotaorchestra.org/change.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why does Classical Music Festival of "Modern Music" call any music written in the last 50 years NOW music?

Music of Now Marathon Begins Composers Now Series is HARDLY music on NOW.

The above article by Steven Smith starts out, "No concert, however epic in duration, could encompass the entirety of the contemporary classical world, which has grown too broad and variegated to sample in one sitting." Ok, I agree. But then the article goes on to highlight some of the pieces performed

Libby Larsen’s 1991 string quartet “Schoenberg, Schenker, Schillinger”

Bernard Rands "Memo 5" written in 1975

Looking through the rest of the program on composers-now.org, there are pieces from the 70's, 80's, 90's and even a few from the early 21st century. This seems incredibly odd to me for a festival to be promoting itself as music now, when only a small percentage of the pieces are from the last decade.

Composers go through periods of music. Beethoven has his early, middle and later period of music. The style of music he wrote in each one is fairly different from the other periods. Modern composers do the same. Elliott Carter's music pre-2000 is very different from what he wrote in the last 10 years. John Adams music of 20 years ago is remarkably different than what he's writing now. The same can be said for Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Jennifer Higdon - all Pulitzer Prize winners. While there are ways to see and/or hear the connection from one period to the next, the music itself is very different.

If a pop radio station played Michael Jackson's Thriller (1982), or TLC's "Baby Baby Baby" (1992) none of their listeners would consider this 'music of today.' Yes, there are radio stations that play these songs, but their not calling saying they are playing current hits. Playing pieces 20+ years ago and suggesting to the audience they are music of today only suggests to the audience classical music is stagnant. There is already a perception classical music is stuffy and out of touch. Festival's like this only further this attitude. While I'm happy these composers found a place to get their music performed, it's unfortunate the festival couldn't find music more contemporary music to play.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Classical Music continues to lag behind in social media

While more and more orchestras and classical music artists venture into the social media space, they lag behind other industry artists in leveraging their fan base. This has less to do with use and more with how their fans respond.

If you follow classical music artists on Twitter and Facebook, you'll get the feeling they are keeping up with the times. Numerous orchestras posts daily on Facebook and several times a day on Twitter. Compare that with how often Justin Bieber or Miley Cirus post on either and you'll see classical music artists are far more active. So, why aren't classical music artists getting the millions of fans of their pop counterparts?

It has to do with fan leveraging. Pop music fans tend to share posts, re-tweet and are far more fanatical about spreading the word for their idols. Miley has only three posts on Facebook this past week. But, each post was shared by her fans a minimum of 64 times. One post was shared over 648 times. Justin Bieber is a bit more active on Facebook. His post just an hour ago already has over 500 people who've shared it.

Compare this to the London Symphony Orchestra, which has a very respectable 50k+ fans, posted three times yesterday. Only one post was shared and that one only by two people. San Francisco Symphony has just over 23k fans, three posts in the past week and wound up getting shared a combined 285 times - but they were all referencing the SF 49ers heading to the Superbowl. The Symphony is far more popular on Facebook than the sports teams, but it was the sports posts that got shared. Nashville Symphony has one of the most active social media campaigns of any orchestra I've seen, and they only have 11.5k fans on Facebook. They have posted 15 times in the past week, shared 16 times by only 9 people.

iTunes just published the top 30 classical music charts. Sales of classical music downloads are up and has been steadily climbing for the past four years. Evidence suggests classical music fans, they just aren't vocal about their appreciation. Even musicians are conspicuously absent from comments and shares on orchestra websites. The other day I nominated eight different orchestras for a Shorty Award in classical music. There was no way classical music was going to compete with the thousands of votes pop artists were getting, so I opted to start a new category. Each of these orchestras were notified of their nomination (they were mentioned in a tweet). And yet, not a single one has attempted to leverage their fans. Only one even mentioned it in a tweet (no surprise, Nashville). Each of these orchestras have 80+ musicians. If only half of those musicians were to nominate the orchestra they play in, the chatter about classical music would incredible. None of these orchestras posted anything on Facebook. So, while they have thousands of fans who could potentially vote for them, the orchestras have decided to stay silent.

Why would classical music care about the Shorty Awards? Well, these awards are for outstanding presence in social media. Ostensibly, these are awards for being engaged with the public. While classical music might not win the award for #music, classical music artists ought to care about engaging with the public. If our fans aren't willing to share what we do, how can we expect people who aren't our fans to become our fans? If those of us who are making the music don't engage with the organizations we play with/for, they how can we expect anyone else to engage with these organizations?

Classical music fans are amazingly lack luster in their engagement on social media. Classical music organizations provide more content and yet capture less passion. For a music that prides itself on being "deeper music," there is a surprising lack of depth and emotion by those who follow it on social media. Perhaps classical music fans aren't into the hype of social media. But, as we wonder where our audiences are going (why they aren't coming to the concert hall like they used to), as we read of more and more orchestras struggling to balance their budgets (because both donations and ticket sales are down), perhaps it's time we started to get hyped about classical music. Perhaps it's time we ask our fans on Facebook and Twitter to GET INVOLVED. We asked our musicians to GET INVOLVED.

Getting involved isn't just liking our Facebook page, or following our tweets - but engaging with those posts and tweets. Imagine if EVERY musicians in an orchestra were to share one page a week from something their orchestra posted. That's 80 five to six time more shares than they have now. PLUS, those shares broaden the visibility of those posts exponentially. Beyond all the numbers, if musicians were to show their passion for the music, fans would be encouraged to show their passion. It wouldn't just be 80 more shares, but could result in hundreds more shares each week.

Statistics show a Twitter account with 10k followers has an expected reach of 2-5k people for each tweet. But, if that tweet is re-tweeted just once the expected reach doubles, twice quadrupled. If an orchestra could get 20 musicians re-tweeting every other day, orchestras wouldn't reach hundreds of thousands of people. This isn't rocket science, it's social science. The more people talking about you, the more people will hear about you. It's time classical music started talking about itself more.