Don’t You Believe It!

Among the list of items for why classical music is dying is the ever expanding number of options people have to be entertained at home and the mac daddy heavy-weight in this arena is cable/satellite/fiber optics. I have to admit to being a bit of a cable Luddite as our household has been rock-bottom-basement-analog-subscription plan cable subscriber for decades. But we keep hearing about how great it is and who would want to go to a live event (cultural notwithstanding) with all this great entertainment right at home…

Well, progress finally cornered us into switching to digital cable (albeit not by choice) and even with a hundred plus channels, I still think the majority of home entertainment is nothing more than the entertainment equivalent of processed foods. Granted, I’ve never seen an episode of The Sopranos, or any other premium cable series hit for that matter but I have plenty of programs I love just like most folks. Yet, after living with digital cable for a week, I can’t say there’s anything there to keep me plastered to the couch any more than before.

Nonetheless, I keep hearing about how this gorilla is going to knock live event oriented institutions down for the count. If anything, the latest advancements are going to make it easier than ever before for people to get out of the house and reconnect with everything that makes live events so wonderful. Perhaps the biggest improvement to support this is the abundance of on-demand programming and digital recorders; all of which make sure you don’t miss your granules of gold among tons of silt that is television programming.

And now that I have the ability to watch the programs I do enjoy without as much worry, I honestly don’t care about them as much. It’s as if they don’t have as much value because they aren’t as rare and it’s so darned easy to watch it after the fact. I’ll still watch them, but I’m going to enjoy even more freedom in my schedule to do all of the other things I enjoy.

Consequently, I think the expanded offerings of home entertainment options actually raise the value of live cultural events. Not only does it comparatively highlight the value of a unique and truly singular experience but it provides a new outlet to deliver material in a way that maintains connections with current patrons and reaches those who would otherwise be inaccessible.

So the next time someone purports that digital home entertainment is going to kill live cultural events, don’t you believe it!

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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2 thoughts on “Don’t You Believe It!

  1. I’m a firm believer that little popular entertainment is fit for the mind. You make a great point, though- technology such as cable, satellite, and fiber optics makes an even larger argument for cultural experiences and the performing arts. Ha! I enjoyed this Drew.

  2. Y’know, I was having a similar conversation a couple weeks ago with a friend who works in lighting design at some of the big concert venues in San Francisco. His take on it, which makes sense to me, is that the technology improvements in home entertainment (i.e., not only digital cable but electronics like flat-screen TVs as well) really only impact activities you do at home. In other words, live music performances fall into a different category, that of activities you do when you go out. In short, my friend and I agree with you!

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