What's Old Is Old Again

There’s nothing quite like an old media vs. new media discussion; you can always count on it producing a few worthwhile bang-your-head-against-the-wall moments but the potential entertainment value doubles when the discussion panel is comprised of music critics. Case in point, there’s a fantastic blog post at sfciviccenter.blogspot.com that provides a firsthand account of a discussion panel from the 2011 Music Critics Association of North America annual meeting.

The new/old media panel was comprised of New York Times classical music critic Anthony Tommasini, freelance writer Chloe Veltman, Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette, cultural blogging ninja Lisa Hirsch, San Francisco Classical Voice Executive Director John Robinson, and world-wide multi-genera culture critic John Rockwell. If Vegas was taking bets on which panelist knew the subject matter best, I would guess that the smart money was on Hirsch.

What’s particularly compelling about this account is how the author was struck by how little most panelists seemed to understand about new media to begin with.

It was fun seeing a number of famous faces…but with a few exceptions the panel was remarkably ignorant about “new” media.

I don’t want to spoil the fun but if you’re pressed for time, here’s the short attention span summary:

  • Tommasini’s frustration stems from his failure to understand his readership and the new media platform.
  • Veltman might have something to contribute once she stops thinking about herself.
  • Midgette might realize the difference between print and online writing but you can’t know that yet because it’s embargoed.
  • Hirsch is the Keymaster and Gatekeeper rolled into one when it comes to new media know-how.
  • Who is John Robinson and why was he on the panel?
  • Rockwell may get it and he didn’t beat around the bush but he didn’t have any answers either.

As someone who enjoys image enhanced blog posts, I appreciated the author’s inclusion of what I assume are his personal digital pics of each speaker during his/her respective presentation. To that end, it was tough to miss out on how the author noticed Veltman pining for foundation support and expressing frustration over having to pay “a mere pittance” to one of her radio show staffers while simultaneously sporting a pair of Dolce&Gabana sunglasses atop her head during the presentation.

There’s a situational irony punch line there somewhere. Until we find it, check out the full blog post.

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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