Ring Around The Revenue

The Nokia Conversation blog published an article on 11/9/2012 profiling one of their recent projects centered on using a live symphonic orchestra to record bespoke classical music ring tones. The project was created after Nokia conducted a preference study which determined classical music ring tones were the second most popular offering. As a result, the company decided to compose a series of ring tones and hire a symphonic orchestra to record them.

SmartphoneThey posted several of the selections in the blog post and although each one is quite nice, it seemed that some were better suited to be ring tones in that they would stand out as something to indicate an incoming call or message as opposed to some nice music playing on your smartphone.

Granted, creating classical music ring tones by chopping up existing orchestral recordings isn’t a new thing (the ring tone my wife assigned for my calls is a closely guarded state secret), but Nokia’s approach is intriguing in that it brings together what some in the field might consider traditionally unprofitable activities, i.e. new music plus studio recording, to produce something ; revenue positive.

It makes me think what might happen if the Chicago Symphony put Composer-in-Residence Mason Bates on the case; not to mention what composers like Higdon, Theofanidis, (Alex) Shapiro, Daugherty, and the host of other composers out there might come up when paired with the right ensemble (my advance apologies for not naming everyone).

Ultimately, it’s more than simply getting nifty bespoke orchestra ring tones; it’s about finding the right mix of purpose, musicians, conductor, and composer that produces a winning combination. And in this application, winning means something that garners overwhelmingly positive critical review and turns a profit.

And although the field tends to spurn the notion of competition as though it were a rabid dog, this sort of endeavor is ideally suited for meaningful quantitative evaluation. As previously mentioned, in addition to critical review, there’s cold hard sales numbers to consider

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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