Welcome to Summer! Not exactly officially, but who wants to rush back to the days getting shorter?
First and foremost, I need to say thank you again to everyone who has taken time to look at this blog and read what’s here. Last month’s reader totals were excitingly high. I will keep working to improve the blog and make your stop a pleasant experience. Let’s go for another record breaker! If you like what you read, email the link to a friend!
Now onto the news!
As the heat around here has continued to climb up, similarly In the last couple of days, some serious power players across the artist spectrum have come across either a potential or imminent shift in position that will better their careers. Soloist, Orchestra and mainstream pop-star. I speak of violinist Joshua Bell, Lady Gaga, and the New York Philharmonic.
Many violinists and classical music aficionados alike will tell you they are familiar with the London based chamber ensemble, Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields. Founded in 1959 by Sir Neville Marriner, (who is also a violinist) the group has never once rotated in a new director/conductor in its 52 year existence. …until now. Joshua “Josh” Bell has been handed the reigns by Marriner, who will end his run in September of this year.
There is something endearing about the change, despite the fact that Bell is not a UK native. Being a frequent guest soloist of theirs, he first teamed up with the Academy at 18, saying, “I made my very first concerto recording with them under the baton of Sir Neville Marriner. …the orchestra has come to feel like family to me.” At the same time, I stop to wonder how Bell will fill Marriner’s shoes. Functioning as a world-class performer is one thing. Putting on the hat of “Director” and making the kinds of ultimate decisions that come along with that hat requires a different type of thinking process and focus. Granted, Bell is going to be “Music Director” and music is his thing.
Still, at least in my opinion of how I’ve come to perceive him over the years, Joshua Bell’s level of musical prowess has him so entwined in continued proficiency that as I had more chances to see him in media and performing live, I started to notice his ‘roughness’ per se, when interacting with everyday people. Call it artist persona, personal prerogative or whatever else, the point is that he stopped being that immaculate ray of warm sunshine I initially saw him as when I was younger. Dealing comfortably with musical choices or not, there is still an inherent responsibility of a director to uphold a certain decorum and line of perception among patrons and fans. The logistics of appointing Bell might be sound, but how his individual self comes through as a long term figure head is my main source of intrigue.
As if Lincoln Center weren’t in the news enough lately, more pages are turning in the story of the New York City Opera saga.
The New York Philharmonic is looking perhaps take advantage of NYCO’s departure from the David A. Koch Theater. The NY Phil’s current home being the famous Avery Fisher Hall, despite the building’s reputation, the orchestra is hoping to get the space revamped in lieu of continuing question of the acoustics. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Koch Theater is one venue that “tops the list” in terms of temporary places the orchestra could settle if and when Avery Fisher is unavailable from renovations.
The main problem that kind of stops the whole dream of an endeavor before it even starts, is the cost factor in renovating. This project was not part of the first stage of renovations done at Lincoln Center, which capped out at 1.2 billion. Fixing up Fisher would add another “400 million” and that kind of money prompts serious donor recognition. Unfortunately, the latter is something that cannot be used as an outlet for gaining funding because (again cit. the WSJ) “the Fisher family has previously threatened legal action when faced with the prospect of the hall being renamed.” As NYCO keeps eyeing various places to temporarily survive, the NY Phil is looking to keep itself close to home while it promotes self improvement. NYCOs loss may be the NY Phil’s gain. Not moving off the plaza could make it so that patrons don’t miss a beat when it comes to attending/supporting the group during what would be a two year repair period. Just look across the way and it’s there!
Last but definitely not, well, dead last, is Lady Gaga and her grabbing of the top spotlight in album sales. The New York Times cited data from Nielsen Soundscan that puts her newest release “Born This Way” at 1.108 million copies sold in the U.S. A number of that magnitude hasn’t been seen, or anything like it since 2005 with 50 Cent moving 1.141 million units of his (coincidentally also) second album, “The Massacre.” Now, there aren’t many Lady Gagas out there. And by that I mean musicians with her kind of proven profiting power. What’s interesting is that if we’re just talking in terms of volume, the number speaks for itself. Of course, take into account that Amazon pulled a fast one on iTunes during the release and put the album on sale for 99 cents.
So there was loss of what could have been a lot more profit, had all those same customers bought the album at full price through iTunes. Even more important to note though, is the blatant visibility of a weakness in the digital cloud movement that has been on the rise with digital service providers lately. Stories of Amazon being stalled and unavailable for extended periods, flooded Amazon mp3’s Twitter, which led to this message. Not the best take of action of damage control. On the bright side though, this album release has tested the waters of many angles for future albums and other artists to help discover an ideal way to click with your customers in finding the perfect deal. Balance between purchasing medium, price, exposure outlet and marketing strategy. Not an easy line to walk, but optimizing the combination is only a matter of fine tuning and time. Just like finding the right levels in a mix down. The person who can nail that down will definitely change the industry’s methods, whether you prefer old school or new school business tactics. At the end of the day, keeping the industry alive is the most important matter.