Strength In Numbers

Lisa Hirsch over at The Iron Tongue Of Midnight posted an intriguing article on 7/4/2008 which examines a curious piece by music critic Martin Bernheimer which appeared in the 7/5/2008 edition of the Financial Times. In his article, Bernheimer blames the decline of regularly employed traditional music critics on the proliferation of bloggers. I call Bernheimer’s article curious because this discussion has been chewed over so many times, there’s simply no more flavor so it is a mystery why he decided to engage these issues, especially after the positive outlook on blogging at several of June’s NPAC sessions. Furthermore, Bernheimer is a well respected and established journalist and to read some of the unsupported accusations against bloggers makes him appear like the stereotypical cranky old man standing on his front lawn yelling at the kids to stay off his lawn. Fortunately, out of the dozens of professional music critics I know and respect, I can count on one hand, including Bernheimer, the numbers who share his views. Folks old and new to the blogosphere have come to realize the common knowledge that culture blogging doesn’t hurt traditional music criticism, it enhances it…

Lisa’s article does a fine job at poking holes in a few of the flaws
from Bernheimer’s article, mainly that when it comes to bloggers,
credentials don’t count (think of all the time I could have saved if I
knew the About
page I composed was meaningless). Nevertheless, the main point is that
the rise of cultural blogging simply reinforces the value of the
blogging platform. More to the point, only a small percentage of the
blogging platform’s potential has been explored. Throughout that small
plot of settled territory in the new world, a wide range of individuals
have successfully demonstrated the value of culture blogging and that
there is strength in numbers; imagine the impact on attracting and
retaining a new audience if performing arts organizations began
exploring blogging in earnest. As I wrote back on 6/17/2008, the time for performing arts organizations to move forward on institutional blogging is now. Every season an organization puts off establishing an institutional blog, the longer they’ll miss out on the returns.

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 “Strength In Numbers”

  1. Thank you for the shout out!

    I’d characterize Bernheimer’s article differently. He blames the Internet for the decline of print journalism and therefore the decline of criticism – the bit about bloggers and their supposed lack of credentials is an aside, not the main thrust of the article.

    Good points Lisa; in fact, now that you mention it I did come away from his article with a sense that I wasn’t certain what his point was since it moved form the decline of print criticism to focusing on how critics are often disliked or under appreciated. I still tend to walk away from the article with the sense that his main stab was at bloggers and blogging in general followed by insider style material designed to supported that point. Nevertheless, I think it would have been a better article if he cut out most of the first few paragraphs and focused more on communicating what it is to be a good critic. Granted, that is likely a well worn topic for a veteran like Bernheimer, but perhaps he could have projected his desire to affirm the value of trained music critic.

    It reminds me of the very same issues the orchestra business faces with regard to feeling under appreciated in today’s society. Many managers and musicians I know tend to lash out at outside influences (pop culture, digital television, education, etc.) instead of focusing on what it is they do best and finding ways to better connect with their potential audience. Granted, we all like to bitch about our problems to some degree but Bernheimer actually degrades the point of reaffirming the value of a trained music critic by doing so under the framework of pointing and accusing finger at blogging. ~ Drew McManus

  2. As always, a terrific discussion. I’d like to reiterate a really important point in Lisa’s piece regarding consolidation being a primary force behind so many problems in the news media, both in print and on television. Consolidation leads to homogeneous and (often) vapid content, which sends inquiring minds to the internet. Thus begins the vicious cycle of decreased subscriptions and readership, leading to an increase of a corporate bottom-line mentality.

    My local paper (Sarasota Herald-Tribune) is owned by the New York Times. There are many examples of recycled NYT stories besides those from a news service such as AP that end up both in print and on the H-T website. Some of these end up in the local Arts section, despite having no real relevance to the local arts scene. (In all fairness, a notable exception was an article on a local Paul Rudolph building planned for demolition. Both papers had different articles on the subject and the H-T provided ample and vigorous local coverage.) This season, all of the critic’s reviews of local concerts in the print edition were published next to the Obituaries. Ouch. I’m sure Drew, Lisa, or anyone who regularly reads these blogs could go to town on that one.

    Bloggers have decidedly enriched the way we, whether artists or patrons, communicate with each other. However, it’s true that if I were a professional critic and my articles were being published next to the obits, I’d curse the darkness as well, the internet being a convenient all-encompassing fiend.

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