A Rose By Any Other Name…

A recent article in MusicalAmerica.com by Susan Elliott reports that the American Symphony Orchestra League has had enough with being the butt end of jokes about their organization’s acronym, ASOL*…

And LAmO is better?
The timing couldn’t have worked against them any worse as Michael Moore’s new movie, Sicko, which opened to critical acclaim and strong box office sales on Friday, June 29th.

Due to the popularity and subsequent media attention, surrounding Moore’s movie my mind immediately interpreted the LAO acronym as LAmO, which the Urban Dictionary defines as “someone possessing the quality of lameness” or “an idiot who doesn’t think straight.” Given that this business is populated heavily by those who are, shall we say, of the liberal persuasion, it shouldn’t be surprising if a number of them are open to the same sort of suggestion, all of which will lead them to interpret the League of American Orchestras’ new acronym as LAmO.

Another unfortunate shortcoming of the name is associated with the opening phrase “League of”. It reminds me of that awful movie The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, the smashing box office failure starring Sean Connery, or worse yet, another monumental historical failure, the League of Nations.

Then there’s the issue Susan Elliott mentioned in her Musical America article (registration may be required) about the League of American Orchestras’ new acronym being suspiciously similar to an existing performing arts organization, The Los Angeles Opera:

Among the criteria for the new moniker – achieved with the help of a branding consultant — was that it “avoid confusion with similarly-named orchestras.” Organizers apparently felt secure that the Los Angeles Opera orchestra would never be among the ranks of its 1,000 members.

Given Susan’s observant point and those mentioned above, it would be prudent if the League of American Orchestras offered their members and the general public some additional details on the process they followed to arrive at the new name.

Finally, even though the Musical America article reports that the League of American Orchestras plans to roll out a new website in the fall the organization must not be concerned with the fact that the domain names lao.com, lao.org, and lao.net have all been registered by other parties for more than a year. As such, it will be interesting to see how much emphasis the organization places on the new acronym as doing so may inadvertently direct interested parties to websites owned by entities other than the League of American Orchestras.

In the end, LAmO may be slightly less uncouth compared to ASshOLe but it continues to project a less than desirable image. Whether or not “The League” will fully extricate itself from the quagmire of being associated with unfortunate acronyms is suspect. Nevertheless, the name change will incur real costs in the here-and-now and whether or not those costs will result in money well spent for the benefit of the organization’s members or simply good money following bad solely for the benefit of the organization is something only time will tell.

*Just in case you haven’t wrapped your mind around it yet: ASshOLe

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 “A Rose By Any Other Name…”

  1. First, that’s MusicalAmerica.com (no final N). Second, the current ASOL URL is symphony.org, so there’s already a URL mismatch and a new name does not make that worse. Your comments about the URL are pointless. Third, you overstate the concern about the pronunciation of ASOL. This is simply not a reason for the name change, and Susan Elliot’s piece did not imply that. You’re making what you think is a huge joke, but your blog entry is just, well, lame.

    Hi Gary, thanks for the comment and noticing the typo in MA’s URL, that should now be corrected. However, I have to disagree with you over the essence of Susan Elliott’s piece. For example, just look at the opening sentences, which were also featured in the Arts Journal Music News headline – “The American Symphony Orchestra League has for years struggled with its unfortunate acronym. And while in recent times its administrators have valiantly tried have it be known as, simply, ‘the League,’ rather than ‘ASOL,’ the latter has never left parlance within the industry. Yesterday, a long overdue change was unveiled, effective in the fall, to the ‘League of American Orchestras….’ “.

    I’m curious to know how you interpreted the phrase “struggled with its unfortunate acronym” and why would Ms. Elliott have written that “its administrators have valiantly tried have it be known as, simply, ‘the League,’ rather than ‘ASOL’ “?

    Nevertheless, the URL issue isn’t as trivial as you suggest. In an age where a growing number of individuals rely on the internet as their primary reference source, the value of domain names only increases. As such, in a business where a predominant number of the ASOL’s current membership rely on identifying their name in the form of an acronym, it makes good business sense to assume many of the individuals searching for the ASOL-turned-LAO will attempt to find the organization via a URL based on the LAO acronym. As such, if you’re going to go to the expense and trouble of changing the name of an organization, why not maximize exposure by finding a name with an acronym based URL that isn’t already reserved?

    I don’t disagree that symphony.org isn’t a great domain name but that doesn’t mean the organization should not place an increased level of importance on maximizing its online presence. Then there’s the cost issue mentioned at the end of the article. I’m not entirely certain how the new name projects an image which is significantly different than the previous name. Are the costs associated with this a worthwhile use of the organization’s resources?

    I certainly don’t see how any of that could be interpreted as a joke. At the same time, a number of readers have been quite amused by the article and the situation in general. I refrained from publishing several comments (although I did publish yours even though there is no verifiable email address or last name) but if you’re looking for something amusing then try this link (which was sent to me via email by a retired executive orchestra manager – so apparently, even managers are aware of the humor in this issue at some level).

    Regardless, I’m curious to know more about why you think the organization changed its name, how do you think it will help it accomplish its mission and is it worth the expense? You’re always welcome to poke as many holes as you like at what I write, you can even make jokes (I would have suggested you work the phrase “lame duck” in toward the end of your comment) but perhaps it would be more constructive to offer some of your viewpoints regarding the above questions, such as you did with the URL point. ~ Drew McManus

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