The Return Of Orchestra Radio

In his blog post from 4/14/2008, Scanning The Dial co-author, Mike Janssen, examined the idea of arts organizations owning a radio station, or more precisely the FM radio license. In particular, Mike recounted some recent work assisting the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra apply for such a license and his article reminded me that this topic prompted several articles here at Adaptistration back in 2004. As such, it’s high time to take a look at the topic once again…

Personally, I think it’s fantastic that the MSO has applied for an FM
license and although the group has no concrete plans as to what they would use it for (after
all, they’ve been busy with the surreptitious announcement of Music
Director Designate, Edo de Waart) it is important to remember that
they’ve been regularly broadcasting live concert concerts for decades
and have also been on the leading edge of online distribution. As such,
it will be interesting to see what they may do.

Back in 2004 I spent a good deal of time examining the
orchestra radio topic from the perspective of the orchestra running the
day-to-day operations and programming. But looking at the issue again
four years later, even though I think that’s still a direction a group
like the MSO could go there are so many other opportunities that are
equally appealing. For example, they could band together with some
other local performing arts groups to own a station similar to the way
King-FM works in Seattle.

I also think it would be fascinating if the group could begin
to craft a new digital distribution model though funders interested in
bolstering the radio project. If nothing else, that is one of the
biggest (and most disappointing) surprises out of the whole CBC Radio
Orchestra situation: that the powers-that-be within the CBC completely
failed to understand the value of the tools at their disposal to create
some sort of new distribution model that would expand classical music’s
reach while simultaneously compensating composers and performers
fairly.

Going back over one of the orchestra radio articles from 2004, I noticed one of the reader responses
was from Denise Ball, Producer/Manager for the CBC Radio Orchestra. We
had a few email exchanges following that and I recall her being so
enthusiastic about the group and their mission, she even took the time
to send me a press kit and their latest CD. I give her a lot of credit
for that simple gesture because at the time, blogs had no where the
reach they do today and Adaptistration was so new that it still had
that new-blog smell. Obviously, and unlike the powers-that-be at the
CBC, Denise had enough vision to see the value in reaching out to new
media and it’s heartbreaking to see the group in its current situation.

If you haven’t read Mike’s article
on orchestra radio you should, and while you’re there, check out all of
the good material Mike and his co-author, Marty Ronish, have published about the ongoing CBC situation. In the meantime, what do you think about the MSO’s decision to get involved with radio?

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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