“The King Is Dead. Long Live The King!”

The Partial Observer published an article of mine today that examines some of the recent changes dealing with the orchestral recording business. Regardless of whether you think recordings are dead or thriving, the article will get you thinking. Take me to the article.

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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1 thought on ““The King Is Dead. Long Live The King!”

  1. That was a very interesting and well written piece, Drew. Towards the second half, you mentioned at least one instance of orchestras releasing live recordings; I wasn’t sure if the ensuing examples were also referring to live recordings or not, but it sounded like it. Could this not be a big part of the solution? If the ensemble is performing anyway, you might as well record it, and orchestras almost always will be giving multiple performaces of a piece they have worked up, which at least increases the chances of getting a usable take. I say “usable” rather than “good” because editing has gotten so precise that musicians (myself included) tend to get hung up on trying to appear perfect, and I’m sure that’s why this is something of an uphill battle. Even modern jazz recordings are often heavily edited, despite the inherent (often heavily) improvisatory nature of the music. I’m not saying we ought to accept any old take of any old piece, but I’d like to think attitudes might change a little bit on this issue over time. Let’s not forget that live recordings have their own distinct qualities as well, the occasional clam not withstanding.

    The stats about free versus paid downloads are funny, but also kind of disgusting. On one hand, you could conclude that my generation is a bunch of lazy spoiled brats; or you could say that it bodes well for art that so many people are not only engaged by it but actually feel entitled to it. Probably a bit of both, and perhaps also a bit of a reaction to decades of deplorable behavior by big record companies, as well as one consequence of a sluggish economy.

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