Making art the focus

I’m sure we’d all say that, if we’re musicians, or producing musical performances, that art is the focus. The music is what matters. Everything else — marketing, how the ushers behave, how we dress for our performances — all that is secondary.

But is it? Here’s a recording of a presentation I gave a month ago, in which I argued just the opposite. I suggested that your art should infuse all aspects of performance, to deepen the experience, to help you brand yourself, and (quite important) so promotion for your event makes people feel, at least a little, how the art is going to be.

This was part of Marketing Chamber Music: A Savvy Strategy for Success, a day-long workshop offered a day before the Chamber Music America national conference. I blogged about it in advance.

What I said

My presentation — as were all the others at the event — was just 14 minutes long. You’ll hear me talking fast, to get everything in. You’ll hear David Cutler introduce me, he being one of the key people in classical music entrepreneurship, and the magician behind the Savvy Musician brand. You’ll hear me working out some details of the presentation slides, which you don’t need to follow what I’m saying.

Here’s the crux of it. And thanks, David — you came up with the concept, and I just fleshed it out. If you’re marketing a performance, you want the core of your art visible everywhere, on your website, in any flyers you put up, in your elevator pitch (and you’d better have one, in case you have just 20 seconds to tell someone what you’re doing to do). And of course in everything your audience encounters when they come to your event.

How can you do that? I gave many examples. One came from a branding workshop that I led, where one participant ran a concert series in South Africa. He had a problem. The series was fun and lively, with music of many genres. But people thought of it as classical.

How to change that image? One idea was to change the concert hall, to have the ushers dress in festive clothes, and talk happily with everyone who came.

Or, to lead up to your event, you could send out email, in which musicians talk in lively ways about what they’re doing at the performace. Or did in past performanes of yorus. This was done wonderfully by a consulting client of mine, Ensemble Offspring, a new music group in Australia. They sent email leading up to their 20th anniversary, in which musicians said things like:

I remember my mum and several audience members were seriously freaked out by how full on and scary I was.

And, about a concert involving both musicians and dancers,

Nothing was off-limits…musicians and dancers got their bodies well and truly tangled, fusing movement and music as one.

How could anyone resist that?

How to promote Beethoven

My final example was a concert I imagined, featuring a Beethoven quartet. This, I said, would be the hardest kind of concert to promote, because everyone plays Beethoven. How will yours be different?

I started with something one of my Juilliard students said, some years ago. The class was doing presentations, in which each student talked about a piece they love.

This student, a violist, picked Beethoven’s Op. 74 quartet. She’d played it at Tanglewood, she said, and the musicians in the group didn’t get along. But then they started working on the slow movement, and its beauty brought them together.

True story! We all got goosebumps hearing it.

If your music is nurturing

I then asked how — when the quartet performed — their transformative experience could be shown to the world, so that people would want to come to the performance. We thought of graphics. What image might convey what happened?

baby blogThe student suggested a photo of someone cradling a baby, because the music had been nurturing.

Not a bad idea, and in my presentation I went with it, even showing a slide of a baby. Your concert is nurturing, let’s say. How do you convey that?

Here are things you could think about:

What other music do you play? What other pieces might be nurturying — or, at the other extreme, might be violent, making people long for nurturing?

What do you call the concert? Can you find a title that suggests nurturing?

What imagery can you use? (Doesn’t have to be a baby.)

What will you do with the performance space? How will it be lit? Would you want plants or flowers onstage?

How will you dress for the performance? Maybe in clothes that seem soft and comfortable?

How will the members of your group relate on stage? How can you show that you care for each other, that you nurture each other?

How will you relate to your audience? Can you nurture them? Talk to them? Not just from the stage, but before and after the concert. Can you offer food and drink? Could people from the audience sit with you on stage? Could you — and I think this would be wonderful — program a piece the audience can participate in? (These exist. there are some wonderful ones, for instance, by Pauline Oliveros.)

Of course, these are only my ideas. If you really did this, you’d have some of your own, ideas that caem from your heart, not mine. Someone should try it!

This shows some of what I like to do as a consultant. See my new consulting page*, with testimonials from people I’ve worked with, or who otherwise value what I do*.

Original Source: Making art the focus

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