More on Orchestra Radio

It’s truly a small business. Just last week I wrote a blog about orchestras owning radio stations, in turn a reader pointed me in the direction of KING-fm classical radio in Seattle . After getting in touch with the radio station for information, I was contacted by Bob Goldfarb the KING-fm program director, and another ArtsJournal blogger…

aside from the thoroughly entertaining circle of events, I did have a
good conversation with Bob about the relationship between KING-fm and a
few of the Seattle based cultural institution. Here are the  facts:

  • KING-fm classical music radio is owned by the Seattle Symphony, the Seattle Opera, and The Seattle Arts Fund
  • King-fm is a commercial station, not a non-profit

So we can say yes, there is a classical music radio station out there owned (in part) by a symphony orchestra. As
my discussion with Bob continued, I learned that although the station
certainly airs live broadcasts of opera and symphony concerts, the
controlling companies keep an arms length relationship regarding
station programming. In addition, the station does not share any
operational resources with any of the controlling companies. In general Bob believes that the effect ownership is slight compared to what the listeners actually hear.

our conversation progressed I learned that the conventional wisdom in
the classical radio industry discourages direct involvement with
listener call in shows or more "talk" oriented programming. And given Bob’s vast experience he certainly knows what he’s talking about. However,
my usual tendency (or foolishness depending on who you you’re talking
to) is to avoid conventional wisdom at nearly every turn. I think about some of my favorite classical radio station programming and one program comes instantly to mind:
Adventures in Good Music with Karl Haas.

Here’s a program that I suppose falls under the category of talk radio, but it’s Karl talking about what makes music engaging. In addition to the talk, Karl plays music excerpts that help demonstrate his topic of the day. The
wonderful thing about the program is it has something to offer for
everyone, from music professionals right down to the classical music

Using Adventures in Good Music as a guide, I still think there is a great deal of room for non music oriented programming on classical music stations. I
don’t know if it should replace music during prime drive times, but it
still offers a good venue for listeners and patrons alike to become
further acquainted with their orchestra, its musicians, and the world
of classical music. Granted, no one wants to
listen to a program where the orchestra development director prattles
on about their latest fund raiser (except perhaps the development
director), but I still believe that there’s more room for an increased
orchestra – radio station relationship than currently exists.

With so many orchestras and performing arts consortiums building multi million dollar performing arts centers (Detroit, Philadelphia,  Nashville,  the Kennedy Center, and Miami it would be nice to see them allocate some
of that money toward owning a radio station. At the very least, they
can sell it off if it fails and blame it all on me.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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