A Glass of Chianti

Monday, April 24, 2006

The entertainment question

A post over at Patty's (home of the oboe) containing inter alia an opinion of orchestral Pops concerts raises an interesting point about programming. To often, a Pops concert seems to me to be a pretty miserable attempt at a Troy McClure impersonation.
"Hi, I'm Richard Wagner. You may remember me from such films as Apocalypse Now and Beetle Juice. You liked me then? You're going to love this medley of my greatest hits."

I don't have any problem with the Pops models per se. I do, however, think they present problems when an organization thinks that they are going to grow an audience for classical music by programming a pops concert or two. The Greatest Hits method doesn't work for that (as I think the subscription record for orchestras around the country with a regular Pops series has shown) and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth of orchestra administrators hoping to boost the attendance rolls of traditional concert series and audiences who (for the most part) don't want to be bothered with the serious music (they're there for fun! And they recognize the pieces!). There are good, entertaining ways to program a Pops concert; the "Greatest Hits" model isn't one of them.

Orchestras around the country concerned about subscription rates should take a page from the "institutes of higher learning" model of advertisement. Try selling membership in a club under the guise of education. That's where the money is and people will line up around the block for that.