“People, this will get you laid”

Today’s title is a quote from singer-songwriter Ben Folds who was describing a live orchestra event. Originally published in the 4/9/2014 edition of the Riverfront Times, the article’s author, Allison Babka, interviewed Folds about an upcoming St. Louis Symphony Orchestra appearance.

“It’s the best place to take anyone on a date. It’s perfect,” Folds insists. “It’s not loud as shit, you’re not talking over each other, you’re seated and you can make a move under the program sheet.”

Adaptistration People 085Granted, the “sex sells” discussion is well worn and there’s certainly a point where artists can take that too far but Folds’ interview is entertaining as it is genuine. He doesn’t seem to be going for shock value and his comment above is a good example of marginalizing orchestral classical music stereotypes.

But I’m curious to know what you think; is this just another installment in an old discussion or does it offer a fresher outlook?

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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4 thoughts on ““People, this will get you laid””

  1. I don’t find it as marginalizing as many other presentations. Sure, it ignores the fact that music is happening; on the other hand, it might increase the young audience. 🙂 Popular music promotion is mostly selling sex, not music; a look at the most pervasively promoted pop stars will show you young, attractive “musicians”, winking and flirting with their audience, but who bring little if any uniqueness to the field of music. So, in a sense, this particular approach of Folds’ is no different from how popular music is sold.

    Compare this to a current car commercial featuring the Muppets (I don’t remember which car manufacturer is advertized, however). It starts with a couple driving in their car, listening to opera on the radio; they are abruptly interrupted by several Muppets shouting and singing “we don’t have room for boring”. That is far too often the way classical music (of any type) is presented: as stodgy, rigid, boring, unfun.

    Don’t get me wrong; I would rather the music be the focus of any promotion, whether classical or popular. In the long run, I would rather the “sex angle” not be the focus. But at least Folds is trying to gain an audience, rather than trying to turn people off from classical music.

  2. Hi there! I’m the author of the “Riverfront Times” article that’s becoming quite the lightning rod for discussion around the web. And that’s a wonderful thing! Orchestras are renowned for the powerful, traditional classical music that we’ve generally come to expect, but around the country and the world, these top-tier musicians also are getting attention for trying new things. Music — like language — evolves, and it’s exciting to see so many orchestras embracing change while still highlighting the beautiful things that have made them so culturally relevant for eons.

    Ben Folds was a joy to talk to, and he was very passionate about the orchestra’s ongoing role in society. I don’t believe Folds was saying anything for headlines — he wasn’t pushing an agenda, other than to highlight his appreciation for orchestras and their musicians. He simply is a tell-it-like-it-is person, and he’ll tell you things in a very colorful manner. My takeaway was that he’s inspired by the symphony, he’s passionate about quality music and he’s honored to perform with so many gifted musicians. We didn’t have print space for everything in my article, but one of the things Folds told me (paraphrasing) was that he wouldn’t perform with orchestras if it wasn’t a full collaboration that made sense. He didn’t want to be just another rock star with a gimmick, and he cited some examples of when rock + orchestra didn’t quite work. I think Folds has proven — both with his outspoken support for classical music and with his new concerto that he’s written with the whole orchestra in mind — that the right combination of pop and classical can appeal to many demographics and entice newer, younger audiences to give the orchestra a try (both in listening and performing). And *that* is sexier than anything Katy Perry or Beyonce might wear to get tongues wagging.

    If you haven’t seen Folds’ orchestra shows, I definitely encourage you to go. He’ll be performing with our world-class St. Louis Symphony two times this weekend. If these shows are anything like his 2011 stop here, we’re in for something memorable.

    Thanks for sharing the article and starting the discussion!

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