new classical recording business model?

Bill Stensrud, who writes the blog “Business of Classical Music”, has written a very cogent and convincing argument for the abandonment of the way that classical music has been recorded and marketed since the beginning of the recording age.

I would highly recommend it to any and all of my musician colleagues who still regard recording as anything but a purely marketing and prestige tool (i.e., they see it as something which must continue to be monetized in order to make sense for musicians).

He describes the monetized model like this:

There is a lot of denial in the classical music world. Performers still believe that a CD represents a badge of honor. They can’t let go of the obsolete recording business model. They cling to the fantasy that there is intrinsic value in recording and that they should be additionally compensated for the recording of a live event.

Stensrud describes himself thusly on his blog’s “about me” page:

I was a technology entrepreneur and investor but always had a passion for music. When I was very young I was a roadie for the Grateful Dead. I fell for a violist and that was my introduction to the classical repertoir [sic]. I now make private investments, work with InstantEncore.com and attend over 100 live classical performances each year.

I bring to your attention his affiliation with InstantEncore.com, whose business plan relies on the changes that Bill suggests.  Of course he’s writing in his own company’s interests, but I believe that this new model is also in the best interest of all musicians, not just media companies and ensemble managers.  My full disclosure is that I am a friend of Margo Tatgenhorst-Drakos, who is the CEO of InstantEncore.com and former principal cellist of the Oregon Symphony.

Here is the crux of Stensrud’s argument:

Technology has no ethics. It may be wrong to copy a recording and share it but you cannot base an industry on a presumption of moral behavior. Even if a significant number of industry participants follow the rules, a large percentage will not. The practical, social and economic difficulties of making the industry work are insurmountable when a large share of the revenue vanishes and the moral minority who play by the rules are constantly confronted by the reminder that others do not. Attempts to legislate or to litigate proper behavior have completely failed. There is no practical and/or scalable way to enforce the desired behavior. The 20th century recording industry is dead.

Here’s what he thinks the new media laws are/will be in the 21st century:

The 3 Laws of Classical Music in the 21st Century

  1. Money will be made by performing, by donations and sponsorship and, in some cases, by endorsements.
  2. Recorded music will have no commercial value other than promotion. It is not a tool for revenue generation – it is a tool for brand building and audience development.
  3. Every download and every stream of recorded music increases the promotional value of that music and increases the brand equity of the performer and presenter. It does not cannibalize recording revenue because there is no recording revenue! It does not cannibalize ticket sales – it enhances ticket sales by enhancing the brand equity and building audience demand!

And here’s what he recommends that orchestras/presenters should do to thrive under these new rules:

  • Recognize that the CD is dead. Recognize that there is no direct revenue to be made by recording. Act now!
  • Be an artist/entrepreneur! The 21st century artist, performer or presenter cannot focus on the art and let someone else worry about the economics. Promote yourself tirelessly and broadly.
  • Get your music recorded, put on the net and make it as widely available as possible! Stream it! Download it! Put it everywhere you can. The promotional value of recorded music will no longer rest on the prestige and promotional engine of the label. Instead the promotional value of music will lie in how broadly it is disseminated, where and by whom. Every time your music touches the public it will enhance your brand awareness and your economic value as a performer.

I’m going to chew on this overnight and present my thoughts in a somewhat more organized form (than they are in my head right this moment) on Thursday – if you’ve got immediate thoughts, by all means comment below and get the ball rolling!

lachrymae

There are instances where a topic sweeps across the blogosphere, sometimes it’s referred to as a “meme”. I hadn’t heard of this before, so I checked dictionary.com and found that a meme is described thusly:

a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of gene

In this instance, I found a post from a new blog to me: The Omniscient Mussel, who wrote a post based upon a post at Iron Tongue of Midnight about what pieces (or parts of pieces) of music make one cry. Since I’ve been all over the emotional map this month, and much of that territory was in the sad or worse region, this is a timely topic.

So, without further ado, a small selection of the pieces that, if they don’t make me cry they at least move me deeply.

  1. Adams – On the Transmigration of Souls. I really didn’t expect that this piece would get to me, especially as a performer. There’s a lot to do in this piece, and it’s easy to get lost, so there isn’t a ton of time to devote to getting emotionally involved. However, the street sounds and voices of relatives that bookend the work immediately got right to the core of me from the first moment of the first rehearsal. There’s such a sense of time and place, of empathy for those people who were there at Ground Zero, or were just going about their lives, not realizing that they or their loved ones were being irrevocably tied to history.
  2. Mahler – Ninth Symphony, mvt. IV – Adagio. I played this piece in conservatory orchestra, as principal viola, and it was a life changing experience. This last movement of a composition that is essentially a farewell to the world, and a premonition of death, is one of the great valedictory statements in music. Such sweep and intimate grandeur (if that can be made to make sense) – and the entry of the woodwinds after nearly 15 minutes of incredibly moving string passages just makes my heart break every time I hear it.
  3. Puccini – Nessun dorma, from Turandot. This always made me weepy, especially the Pavarotti version. It’s pure emotion for the sake of emotion, and that is something that I’m a bit ashamed to love, but I do.
  4. Bach – Goldberg Variations. It’s such a journey, through the whole range of keyboard possibilities and the final return of the opening Aria is always a moment that brings such relief and feelings of an epic journey brought to a satisfying conclusion.
  5. Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 21, Kv. 467Elvira Madigan” – I hate these nicknames derived from films, but you use this one and everyone knows the concerto you’re talking about, so there you go. The Andante from this movement is just so absolutely sublime, it did actually bring me to tears the first time I played it. It was during my first season with the OSO, and Yoël Levi was conducting. I don’t even remember who was playing the piano, but they were terrific whoever they were. We got to the Andante and to the section where the pizzicato accompaniment by the strings doubles in tempo – it’s such a great spot, just absolute perfection – you cannot imagine anyone else writing something this perfect. Man, Wolfie knew how to write a good chart.
  6. Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, mvt. 3 – Andante. The stumbling, ruminative, despairing piano solo passage that precedes the return of the opening cello solo in the slow movement of this concerto never fails to move me. I remember the first time I ever heard this piece, it was a recording of Leon Fleisher with the Cleveland Orchestra under Georg Szell, and I knew that Brahms would have pride of place in my musical heart forever.
  7. Beethoven – String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130 – mvt. 5 – Cavatina. Anyone who loves listening to or performing string quartets must claim this piece, and this movement of this piece as being near the top of their personal best list. For me, the unbelievable passage where the world is shut out and we find ourselves at the very core of Beethoven’s experience is the pinnacle of the art of the quartet. If you haven’t heard the Guarneri Quartet‘s performance of this movement in their second cycle of the quartets, then you really owe it to yourself to get hold of the recording and prepare to shed a few tears.
  8. Bach – Partita No. 2 in d minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1004Ciaconna. Truly one of the towering works for any solo instrument, or for any instrumental combination for that matter. Mahler liked to describe the symphony as a container which could hold an entire world in its confines. Bach beat him to it by a couple hundred years, and with a single instrument. The maggiore section is one of my favorite places in this piece, a place near the emotional nadir of the work, and then there is the miraculous return to the opening minor sequence, with the violin clawing its way back up from the edge of the abyss only to triumph. Amazing.

There are many more, but this is a good top of the list for me. Have your own nominations? Send a comment along.

a stark reminder

ghostBikeBurnside-1.jpg, originally uploaded by BikePortland.org.

In the bicycling community, there is a special way to remember cyclists who are killed while riding, and to remind motorists and cyclists alike to ride/drive defensively. It’s called a “ghost bike”. Painted white, often installed late at night, it is an eloquent reminder of the high cost of not being aware of your surroundings as a driver or rider.

You can find information from the BikePortland.org about the latest bicycling fatality collision which occurred at West Burnside and 14th Thursday afternoon. A 19 year old design student, Tracey Sparling, was crushed under a cement truck as it made a right hand turn.