Zombie Topics: Mobile Phones In The Concert Hall

Of all the zombie topics people will be arguing about long after I’m dead and gone, I would put mobile phones in the concert hall at the top of that list.

At a recent concert, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the orchestra was encouraging patrons to use their phone to take no-flash pics, but only if they were sitting in the last five rows of the main floor or balcony.

No one threw a fit and I even saw one patron move to that part of the balcony. After the concert, it was fun to see pics of the concert show up with the orchestra and soloist tagged in.

At the same time, there’s no shortage of old school attitudes but it’s heartening to see some gentle pushback in the form of taking a more empathetic approach. Case in point, this recent Twitter exchange between @ruth_hartt and a core patron underscores the mountain of learned behavior it will take before substantive change takes root.

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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