In response to an article from 12/22/2009, a healthy comment exchange ensued about whether or not term “product” is appropriate to use in the context of describing live, performing art. I think the topic is important enough that it deserves its own article and I’m curious to know more about what readers think on this issue…
Boy, I hate where the outgoing president uses the phrase “passion for the product.” “Product” – such a commodified and anonymous way to talk about an orchestra.
I think orchestras would benefit from a little socioeconomic diversity on their boards, but do you see them appointing/electing anyone who can’t donate, say, six-figure amounts when called upon to do so? who doesn’t have connections who can donate five- and six-figure amounts? I would be an interesting person to have on a BOD, but no big orchestra or opera company is going to want me on the board, given my repertory interests and lack of wealth.
Although I’m certainly guilty of that particular transgression, I couldn’t agree with Lisa more when it comes to defining artistic product in the sense that it is a commodity.
I cannot see what is inherently negative in reframing artistic output as a product – this does not devalue art.
Just as a musician practicing his scales is not necessarily making creatively-inspired music; he is no less a musician.
Art that is objectively scrutinized for quality and profitability is still art, not less than art.
Although I didn’t see anything inherently wrong with Milena’s notion of “Art that is objectively scrutinized for quality and profitability” I didn’t go so far as to arrive at her connection between that definition and the term “product.”
…yet, associating the term “product” in the same context as what Lisa describes as commoditized, i.e. without qualitative differentiation, is not something I see as interchangeable.
The key phrase here is qualitative differentiation, or something that is ostensibly the same regardless of who or where it is produced. For instance, replacing the entire musician membership of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and replacing them with the very best of recent conservatory graduates would undoubtedly improve the organization’s bottom line and they would be able to produce just as many concerts of the same repertoire as before.
If live performing art were a commodity, that business model would make sense. Fortunately, that’s not the case, so what’s at issue here is perhaps how one defines and infers the use of the term “product.” In my work, especially with boards comprised of business and community leaders that rarely possess formal artistic training, substituting the word “product” with something that lessens the likelihood of perceiving art as a commodity can make the difference between conflict and harmony (no pun intended).
Anecdotally, I know a number of musicians that harbor a considerable amount of disdain for calling what they do a “product.” At the same time, I know a similar ratio of managers and board members that refer to live concerts as “product” simply because there isn’t a readily available term to use otherwise.
What do you think about all of this? Are we getting tied up in semantics are is this an issue that deserves some uniform treatment? Do you have any good alternatives to the term “product?”