Is LA Just A Cultural Bubble?

The 10/9/2013 Los Angeles Times published a fascinating article by music critic Mark Swed juxtaposes the recent round of bad news against what he describes as a thriving Los Angeles classical music scene. The article isn’t some LA centric puff piece; instead, it asks tough questions about sustainability and whether LA is just a bubble waiting to burst to a chorus of “we told you so” naysayers amidst Chicken Little pundits.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-166On that point, it has been fascinating to witness some of the behind the scenes chatter going on about Swed’s piece, which falls into one of two basic perspectives: Pollyanna principle or sour grapes.

The latter group tends to look for reasons that define why success is an exception and more a stroke of luck that can’t possibly continue rather than the result of cultivation and leadership. The former group goes to the other extreme by using the success as rationale for assuming the results should be easy to universally replicate.

Where Swed’s article excels is focusing on the impact of not only solid long term planning but how a metropolitan area’s overall cultural environment contributes as much toward individual institutional success as any inter-organizational variables.

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 “Is LA Just A Cultural Bubble?

  1. Swed, despite a gratuitous criticism of Osmo Vanska, makes the useful point that the L.A. Phil has had the benefit of having Deborah Borda running the organization. Taking a wild guess, I am pretty sure that she is not taking any positive lessons from the MN Orchestra management. Swed also notes that there are emerging problems in L.A.–reduced sales and very high ticket prices–that will have to be addressed. There was clearly potential to be developed in L.A. when Borda arrived, but it took leadership, skill and and artistic vision. This is not a permanent victory, though–it never is.

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