I Plead No Contest

There’s been much grumbling throughout the culture blogging community following Spring for Music’s announcement that they planned to launch a blogging competition to determine what they defined as the “Best Arts Blogger in America.” Granted, is seems as though they’ve toned down the PR speak a bit and are now calling it the “2012 Great Arts Blogger Challenge.”

But the real head scratcher in all of this is the American Idol style process, where the festival selects the topic for each round, means it isn’t really a blogging contest at all. It’s an old school essay contest.

Perhaps it is that sort of fast and loose approach that got under the skin of so many culture bloggers.

The arguable epicenter of ruffled feathers has been Iron Tongue of Midnight, where author Lisa Hirsch started off a volley of posts when she published a personal response to the fine folks at Spring for Music explaining why she didn’t plan to participate.

She followed up that contribution with a series of additional posts along with a compendium of disgruntlement which has been cataloging less than enthusiastic reactions throughout the culture webs.

Not long after that, one of the contest judges, Arts Journal founder Doug Mc Lennan, posted a general response to the blowback which one of my colleagues (and an institutional culture blogger) summed up by saying “it seems to have more thought than they put into the actual contest.”

If nothing else, all of this will hopefully demonstrate that although there’s not much rhyme, reason, or organization to what might be defined as the culture blogging community, it doesn’t have much trouble raising its collective hackles against top-down attempts to determine its value.

Just like most other culture bloggers, the folks at Spring for Music sent an open invitation my way, which I politely declined. I simply don’t have much interest in an essay contest billed as a blogging competition.

And since the initial topic doesn’t hold any interest for me, I don’t have plans to read any of the initial contributions. Consequently, if the subsequent topics are cut from the same cloth, I’ll likely continue in blissful ignorance.

But I am reading the posts that take issue with the contest. They all do a fine job at articulating one or more of my additional concerns but perhaps more importantly, they do a fine job at defining what makes a culture blog truly valuable:

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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0 thoughts on “I Plead No Contest”

    • Ugh. I didn’t go looking around very much so I must have missed that one. I hope they have plans to edit all of those instances. Since I believe they are using a WordPress platform, there are plenty of handy search & Replace plugins that can make that otherwise arduous task a piece of cake.

  1. Many thanks for the mention, Mr. McManus.

    I wonder if there will be any further comment from Spring for Music on the whole concept, besides what Doug Mc Lennan already posted. Of course, if there were, I’m guessing Lisa would’ve mentioned it already in her “Compendium of disgruntlement” (which is an awesome description for it).

    Regardless, as I said, I barely have time to follow the things I really care about — like the 30 Piano art installation “Play Me, I’m Yours” being sponsored by LA Chamber Orchestra, the Dodgers getting decent ownership again, and USC Spring Football. Plus I’ve got a review I’ve got to write for the blog and I’m behind on some research for another post.

    Better get back to it. The life of an “arts blogger” is ever busy . . .

    Again, thanks!


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