This Is How You Do It

Accessibility + innovation = accomplishment…

The day after my radio appearance on WNYC’s Soundcheck I received a nice note from one of their production employees thanking me for posting a notice about the show on Monday’s blog. She also notified me that instead of posting a traditional link to their digital archive I could actually embed the dedicated segment directly on my blog.

She described it as “It’s kind of like YouTube” (note the popular online service reference – smart) and then pointed me to a very detailed, but concise, page at the WNYC website which provided instructions on how to obtain and install the embedded audio clip.

Not only were the 263 word long instructions very easy to follow (it is a simple as cut & paste) but it required no special software to install, code to learn, or nearly any advanced grey matter effort at all. Here’s an example of how WNYC’s embedded audio player loaded with an individual radio segment functions (in particular, the clip from Monday’s show):

This is an ideal example of how accessibility combined with innovation produces some really worthwhile results. All it took for WNYC to take advantage of it was to make sure one of their guests knew it was available (I doubt it took the production employee more than two minutes to send me that email).

There is a big market classical music, orchestras in particular, haven’t tapped into yet: the online fan site niche. Once orchestras catch up, a tool such as the embedded audio player employed by WNYC will be precisely what they need to develop.

Postscript: how far behind are orchestras in the online fan site market? Do a Google search for “[my local symphony] fan site” and see what you turn up. I did one for “Chicago Symphony fan site” and the only promising result took me to a webpage previewing the “Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Historic Telecasts – Fritz Reiner / Paul Hindemith / Leopold Stokowski (1954-1963)” DVD. At the bottom of the page, rottentomatoes had their automated “create a fan site” tool they make available for every piece of media reviewed at their website ready to go. (a popular fan driven movie review website) has this technology worked out to such a degree it is effectively a “fire and forget” tool. I have yet to run across a similar such tool that is prominently displayed on an orchestra’s website (if you know of one out there, please point it out).

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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4 thoughts on “This Is How You Do It”

  1. Wouldn’t this be something that MySpace pages, utilized by many orchestras, would accomplish? I’ve not seen any exceptionally creative use of this tool, but many orchestras do use it – especially to connect their younger fans.

  2. Good point Sam; there certainly are some myspace sites that focus on individual orchestras. I don’t have enough familiarity with myspace to know how easily you can directly edit script to add components like the one from WNYC. I also know there are orchestras which maintain their own myspace account but I wouldn’t consider those fan sites since they are operated by the respective orchestra. As such, I don’t think they have the same level of impact.

    Most of the complex fan sites I’ve come across are blog or content management related. they usually contain a good bit of content provided directly from their idee fixe’s website (graphics, plug-ins, A/V content, etc.).

    I know video game developers pioneer this front by offering full blown, customizable websites that fans can upload to their own hosted website account. Given the concentrated enthusiasm among hard core patrons, it would seem to me that orchestras exploring these options and providing a similar amount of free, quality content would be in their best interests.

  3. Hi Drew: The Soundcheck link is brilliant bcause it is extremely user friendly and, by the way, the content was great. I hadn’t heard that piece about the NJ violins.

    I appreciate that the user can choose to open this site or not. I take exception to orchestra websites that automatically blast its broadcast as soon as their site is opened–in the office, one is not always in a place conducive to music, symphonic or not.

    Last spring ongwood Symphony created a DVD that explored our musical mission, medical personalities, and highlighted the 12 violins that artists created for our cancer auction. While we explore the idea of our own more extensive podcast, we have, in the interim, used YouTube to attach a DVD segment to the LSO’s website.

    While some orchestras have started doing this (and using MySpace, I suspect it will increase in popularity with the younger music crowd.

  4. Lisa: Thank you for bringing up a very good point about automated audio from orchestra websites. All too often I visit a website where the audio is more of a nuisance than anything else as I’m either on the phone, have other music playing already, or the audio file causes the browser to load the orchestra’s main page slowly

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