Food For Thought

Just a quick post today on the the topic of music journalism; specifically, some good articles about a recent discussion going on about whether or not the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s CSO Sounds & Stories website qualifies as what the CSO describes as a “dedicated music journalism site.”

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-081Chris Jones kicked off the heated discussion in an article in the 12/27/13 Chicago Tribune, Marty Ronish chimed in on 12/31/2013 via Scanning The Dial, and Barry Johnson rounds out the CSO specific topic with a post at Oregon Arts Watch from 1/8/2014.

The issue has certainly set off a series of strong attitudes as I’ve caught a number of threads via social media on the topic and none of them mince words. It will be interesting to see how all of this develops so stay tuned.

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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7 thoughts on “Food For Thought”

  1. I agree with Chris Jones’s take on this issue. although I think he may be using a howitzer to kill a gnat. There’s no shame in promotion, so why try to dress it up as “journalism”? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this line from Marty Ronish: “The CSO’s new site is doing the job journalists (meaning their corporate masters) have failed to do, which is to nurture a vibrant arts ecosystem where both the journalists and the artists thrive.” This is just one of many howlers in Ms. Ronish’s piece. No, it is not the job of journalists to “nurture” the arts, and journalism is not the same as “promotion” or “communicating.” How sad that some people in the arts community seem to have the same attitude toward journalism as Kim Kardashian!

  2. A couple years ago Denver became a one major newspaper city, and about the same time both papers terminated their classical music critics. At this time the most visible and important critic is a self-appointed critic running a blog. While this blog is well intentioned, it has nowhere near the critical element that the former newspaper critics had.

      • Hi Drew! There is no distinguishing between professional, college, and amateur groups by this critic, all are reviewed, and the reviews are 99% positive. I appreciate the positive and supportive effort of the critic, but part of being a critic is being truly critical, as in was it a good or bad performance and why, and critic has no concern in separating amateur, college, and professional groups, largely to the detriment of the professional groups in the Metro area who are struggling for press as it is. There is a lack of balance and transparency when it comes to amateur and college groups versus professionals. And my suspicions are that the critic writes nice reviews, gets free tickets, and positively reviewed groups use review for grant applications as proof of product and quality…also, being a self created blog, there is no salary for critic involved. Who vetted this critic for being qualified to be a critic? While many of us have had our problems with professional critics, they mostly come with some sort of credentials?

        Where this really leads me is what does the term “professional” mean today in the arts world in the USA? I fear the word has lost it’s meaning in the arts. While we expect lawyers, doctors, and many other careers to show proper credentials, we are not always as careful to seek these credentials in the arts. And BTW, I don’t mean academic credentials. I know many fine musicians who didn’t go to college etc. Although in classical music this is rare, but I’m suspicious of academia at this point, having been both student and faculty 🙂

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