Making The Case For Playback Bars During Live Performances

Last week while having dinner with a friend and colleague, we started talking about the new listener concert experience. My friend, a music director, mentioned that one of the most disheartening aspects from his perspective is when he sees patrons leave a longer work toward the end, right before the payoff when everything comes together to deliver the highest emotional impact.

It was a real lightbulb moment.

Regardless how entertaining and informative a music director’s remarks from the stage, there’s no way to really convey where listeners are in the overall timeline.

At minimum, having a way to visually mark the beginning of each movement would be nice, but why not take it to the logical next step and provide a type of orchestra surtitle in the form of a playback bar.

It’s a format with a high degree of recognition and having a visual benchmark for listeners would provide greater context and certainly help newbies past the musical payoff threshold.

From an implementation perspective, it’s straightforward:

  • Reliable methods for tracking real time performance audio during live performances already exist (think EnCue).
  • You can go old school and track manually (just like the way most opera surtitles function).

I’m not aware of any orchestras currently doing this, but if so, I’d love to know about it (thanks in advance for reaching out with info).

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.

Related Posts