I just returned from the PRPD conference of radio program directors in Portland, OR and still have a bad taste in my mouth from the one classical music seminar I attended. A coalition of influential program directors, led by American Public Media, hired outside consultants to do research among classical music listeners and other radio listeners to find out what we can do to retain listeners and attract new ones.
The survey appears to have been conducted in an entirely rational way and the conclusions that were drawn from the survey were equally rational but I personally found the results to be distasteful in the extreme and even chilling.
Most people surveyed said that classical music relaxed them which I don’t have a problem with. I also find some classical music relaxing and certainly classical music radio, lacking the amped up, aging frat boy energy of a classic rock station, is much more relaxing than most places on the radio dial. But when you draw the inevitable conclusion from this, as they did, that classical music radio stations should aggressively market themselves as playing music for relaxation, well I find that highly disturbing.
It’s disturbing to me for several reasons:
1) Art should not have to justify its existence. I don’t like defending the existence of art, and arts organizations, in terms of jobs created, happiness produced, young brains made smarter, etc. Humans will always make art and that’s the only justification that’s needed, creating and appreciating art is part of our DNA.
2) You don’t see other art forms marketing themselves as a tool for relaxation despite the fact that people probably do find them relaxing. I’m one of I’m sure many people who finds it very relaxing to go to the museum but can you imagine the Metropolitan Museum of Art marketing themselves as a place to come to solely to relax? No, because that would be a disservice to the art and to the artists who created it.
3) I understand that most classical music stations are on primarily in doctor’s offices and all kinds of bland waiting rooms across the country and that’s fine and we should cater somewhat to that listener. But marketing ourselves specifically as music to relax, background music for a waiting room or elevator, well that’s just perpetuating a very hurtful stereotype about classical music in my view. If people relax to the music that’s great but we simply cannot go around telling them that the main benefit classical music has given to society is relaxation.
4) I know that program directors have an uphill battle attracting listeners to classical music but I also believe that the obsession with ratings is a very bad thing. Now we hear from these consultants that we should market classical music as relaxation and the idea is that we don’t change our playlists, we simply talk about them differently but it’s a slippery slope. How long until PD’s are second guessing the listener and only playing music they think the listener will find relaxing? I believe that this idea is death to innovation which in turn is death to, well pretty much anything. If an organization doesn’t innovate it dies.
5) We have a responsibility to hundreds of years of composers who gave their lives to the pursuit of their art. If we aren’t going to honor that and are going to instead mindlessly pursue ratings, then just turn the station into a traffic and weather station, that’s where the ratings are. If you can’t uphold standards and be respectful to some of the greatest music humans have every produced then please get out of the business because you’re doing more harm than good and people would be better off discovering the music on Spotify.
- Written by: Seth Boustead
- On: September 15, 2014
Leave a Reply
‘Of Leaks and Mirrors’ to be Performed 5/19/2017 in Washington DC
My three movement piece for flute and percussion, Of Leaks and Mirrors, will be performed by the Iktus Duo on [...]5/19/20177:00 PMFree
‘The Heart of the World’ Performance in Brooklyn
My score to Guy Maddin’s film Heart of the World is getting performed on Friday, May 12 at National Sawdust [...]May 12, 201710:00 PM$25
‘The Heart of the World’ Performance in Mexico City
ACM is bringing our Sound of Silent Film Festival to Mexico City and I’m thrilled that the score I wrote [...]4/28/2017 and 4/29/2017
Sound of Silent Film Festival in Chicago April 22nd
How quickly twelve years go by. Hard to believe but on April 22nd we’ll give our twelfth annual Sound of [...]April 22, 20177:30 PM$20
Late Night at National Sawdust: Chaos Theory on April 21
I am very proud of this new series, a quarterly concert series showcasing the globality and diversity of today’s classical [...]4/21/20179:30 PM$34
My Piano Concerto “Satori” to be Premiered March 9!
The fabulous Marta Aznavoorian will join the Chicago Composers Orchestra as soloist in the World Premiere of my new piano [...]3/9/20177:30$20
Playing with Jenny Lin February 12
I’m sharing a bill with the fabulous pianist Jenny Lin. She’ll play a piece of mine and new music by [...]2/12/20178:30 PM$10
‘Veil’ to be Performed January 20 at National Sawdust
The second movement of my string quartet, Veil, will be performed on Friday, January 20th at National Sawdust in Brooklyn [...]
‘Half State’ to be Performed December 14
My solo flute piece Half State will be performed on Wednesday, December 14 at the studio of Ensemble Mise-en in [...]
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- September 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013