Another Take On Orchestral Microsites

As an interesting continuation to the topic of orchestral microsites a reader sent along a link to the Berlin Philharmonic Cello Challenge, a microsite of the Berlin Philharmonic website. The microsite is designed entirely in Flash and although it is apparent that they spent a great deal of time on the microsite’s aesthetic quality, it is ultimately one of the thousands of simple, repetitive flash based games available across the internet…

After spending a few seconds playing with the game, it is
easy to lose interest as there’s nothing really transferable for the user via what
it feels like to coordinate bow movement as a cellist. I found myself thinking
about the question which promoted the first article
on this topic to examine the value of educational material that gets the user
involved in the subject material.

As a standalone game, Cello
is cute but I don’t know if it is worth the amount of resources
it cost to produce the game and all the bandwidth a flash heavy site like that
ultimately consumes. The Berlin Philharmonic certainly gets an “A” for effort
but it would have been really fascinating to see what they could have come up
with if they directed the same resources toward a product more like the Ford microsite.

I had an interesting telephone conversation about Cello Challenge with a colleague who
works as a marketing VP at an ICSOM orchestra and after going back and forth on
the merits of the microsite a bit I asked her if she thought enough of Cello Challenge to pay the Berlin
Philharmonic for a license o use it on her orchestra website, what was the most
she would be willing to pay. After a few seconds of silence she answered “nothing.”
What do you think? Send in a comment or email.

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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3 thoughts on “Another Take On Orchestral Microsites”

  1. Wow, that’s unutterably lame. And I would give them a D for effort, not an A. They escape F only because at least they had good intentions. There’s no musicality, just hand-eye coordination. It doesn’t teach you anything about playing the cello, because they don’t give you any way to judge in advance based on the music how the bowings will go, you just follow the moving circle. The only thing good about it is the graphic design, which is attractive. Otherwise, a great example of what not to do.

    I must be getting soft as I get older becasue the earlier version of this article that Vista decided to do away with was actually much more harsh than the version above and made some of the same points you just made, especially the hand-eye-coordination aspect (which is what most flash games are all about anyway). But after taking the extra time I decided to go with the softer approach.

    It all came down to a comment a friend made once after visiting several orchestra education sites – “As someone who doesn’t know much about classical music to begin with, I don’t come away from educational pages feeling like I learned anything.” Ultimately, the Cello Challenge doesn’t do much to change that impact. ~ Drew McManus

  2. That’s a pretty devastating and funny quote 🙂 Although actually I don’t know that these sorts of microsites necessarily need to be educational in focus. This seemed like a very weak attempt at a sort of Guitar Hero for Cello game, which if done right could be fun and worthwhile even if it’s just fun and has no educational aspect. But Guitar Hero works because you have a “score” of sorts to follow, and you end up feeling like you’re creating the music when you succeed in following the score. In this game you don’t feel like you’re creating anything when you succeed, you just feel like you’re breaking the music when you fail. The relationship between the player’s actions and the output aren’t satisfying or particularly meaningful.

    Oh my, I don’t even want to think about getting into a what does and does not constitute being “educational.” In general, I think the best “educational” websites are those which don’t come across as though that’s what they are trying to do.

    I still haven’t played Guitar Hero although I might go for picking up a Sousaphone Hero kit soon. ~ Drew McManus

  3. I can’t help wondering if the $0 offer doesn’t have something to do with the marketing value of so many of these microsites, or more precisely the lack thereof. Part of the problem, which we’re grappling with right now at the museum where I work, is that all too often the marketing team is left out in the cold on the development of these sites until the sponsoring department starts saying, a few weeks into launch, “How come no one’s visiting?” Rather than integrating the site into a marketing plan, as was undoubtedly the case with the Ford example, it is built as a lone initiative, often the result of a grant or an individual’s good, but underdeveloped, idea. If the goal is to draw people in, the site has to be developed in a way that’s more focused on user experience and completely integrated with the organization’s overall marketing goals. Then the value starts to get above…well…nothing.

    It sounds like what you’re describing is classic stovepiping, where an organization fails to establish an inherent level of communication capable of making sure good ideas don’t fail becasue of poor planning. for a number of nonprofit arts groups, it seems they get wrapped up in technology tools rather than how those tools fit into the bigger picture, which is what I think was nicely articulated in your comment. ~ Drew McManus

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