A Study of Arts Management in the Classical Music Genre
Performers of any form of art deal with the same issue of constrained availability, which has a problem exquisitely explained by this adage—“You are only as good as your last performance”. Performers face this unchangeable but amenable problem called constrained availability, where the physical presence of the performer from the audience’s point of view is constrained by particular geographic or seasonal/time boundaries. For example, if one wants to hear a performer live at an event, that admirer of the performer must 1) within physical proximity with the live event, or has the ability to physically get there 2) be available at that time for the live event. The live event might be in the next year, in which case, the admirer must prepare vigilantly to this live event a year in advance in order to ensure attendance for that event.
Assuming that the performer’s goal is to maintain constant contact with his/her fan-base, there is one additional problem—that is the inevitable uncertainty of outcome. The arts is wonderful for many reasons, one of which is various artistic possibilities, measured in level of uncertainty, in any live performances. A performer is not a machine—any product of a human being remains variable based on the situation. Some variables that may affect a performance include the time of performance, the location of the performance, the instrument used in the performance, the attitude of the audience, the acoustics of the hall…etc.
These innumerable differences are what makes each live event special; however, these differences can also instill doubt of consistent performance. The audience should not expect a performer to give a perfectly exact live performance all the time. Even the utmost admirer of the performer celebrity understand that live performances are spontaneous and can be inconsistent at times. This uncertain outcome is crucial when a potential ticket-purchaser is making his/her purchasing decisions.
Social media presence mitigate both of these problems at least in part. This essay comments on the marketing strategies of celebrity performers in the classical music genre. In addition to analyzing why classical musicians need social media presence, this essay will contemplate both the unintended and intended implications of arts marketing. The intent for classical musicians to have social media/ web presence is to maintain persistent availability as well as to alleviate any doubts of uncertainty in the quality of that performer’s future live performances. On the other hand, the unintended consequences of anticipating public opinions by offering public constant access to performances, through the use of uploaded albums and youtube videos, is in a way institutionalizing the standard of popular public taste and preferences. The media is an institution; media has influence over public opinion. I will discuss how by having a successful online presence, celebrities of classical music must first qualify for any generational gap in tastes, and confirm or custom-fit their performance interpretations to general uniformity and understanding. As a result, the community mutually defend these understandings, which results in cultural persistence.
Each classical music performer celebrity is his/her own brand. Arts marketers consider these musical personalities as a “difficult brand”, which has these two characteristics: constrained availability and uncertain outcome (Preece and Johnson 2011). Arts marketers understand that consumers have a very limited face-time/ contact with the performer celebrity. These consumers are oftentimes admirers of the performer celebrity, but also may include the critics of the celebrity. The best way for a brand to thrive is to establish an active brand community. Brand communities are defined as “specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relations between an admirer and a brand” (Muniz and O’Guinn 2001). The three traditional markers of a brand community are “shared consciousness, rituals and traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility (Muniz and O’Guinn 2001).
Classical music has a highly specialized audience base, but since music is wordless and can transcend any geo-political borders, building the performer celebrity as a successful brand name can easily translate into a world-wide phenomenon. Of the three characteristics, the one I want to focus on is the first, shared consciousness. Musical performance is a shared experience—viewing musical performance videos made available on social media can facilitate shared consciousness as the community members maintain dialogue with each other. Social media such as fan-pages on Facebook and twitter, personal websites, as well as sound cloud audio uploads and youtube video uploads create a sense of shared consciousness—each present functions for community members to comment on the performance.
While social media is currently a popular method for marketing companies to maintain persistent communication and constant contact with the consumer base, I hypothesize that social capital presented online is previously unseen method of marketing for classical music, and that creates problems with cultural persistence and the resistance to change. A core concept of marketing is to bring a product closer to the user. In a way, the term “arts marketing” suggests that the production of music, i.e. the performer celebrity, is not merely conscious of the consumer base, but rather producing renditions of the music that cater to the consumers. Arts marketing has always been very careful with not overstepping the artistic director’s bounds—to maintain the integrity of the music despite what the market indicates. However, so much of this is unmeasurable.
With the advent of social media and the easily measurable “friend/fan/follower count”, measuring the popularity of a performer celebrity is a simple process that any given consumer can use in crucial decision making evaluations, such as whether or not to purchase tickets, or purchase albums, or spend time to watch an online full concert etc. Since one would assume the more fans a celebrity has, the better he/she is at th, then the bigger that number is, then less risk is involved.
In Lynne Zucker’s article from 1977, she writes of the sociological affect of the role of institutionalization in cultural persistence. She found that “the greater the degree of institutionalization, the greater the generational uniformity, maintenance, and resistance to change of cultural understandings” (Zucker 1977). Since the media is a type of institutionalization, especially with the method of validating the celebrity with a “checkmark” in Twitterverse, one could argue that this type of social media marketing correlates with uniformity and resistance to change, and may be an unintentional affect of how arts marketing is shaping the classical music community’s tastes and preferences.
Albert M. Muniz, Jr. and Thomas C. O’Guinn, “Brand Community,” Journal of Consumer Research 27, No.4 (2001):412-432.
Lee, H. K., “When Arts Met Marketing: Arts Marketing Theory Embedded in Romanticism,” International Journal of Cultural Policy 11, no.3(2005):289-305.
Lynne G. Zucker, “The Role of Institutionalization in Cultural Persistence,”American Sociological Review 42, no.5 (1977): 726-743.
Omar Lizardo, “How Cultural Tastes Shape Personal Networks,” American Sociological Review 71, no.5 (2006): 778-807.
Stephen B. Preece and Jennifer Wiggins Johnson, “Web Strategies and the Performing Arts: A Solution to Difficult Brands,” International Journal of Arts Management 14, no.1 (2011):19-31.