|So here is the crux of my problem with Carnegie Hall: It worships the musicians at the expense of the music.|
I am on the list for Carnegie Hall because I’ve attended a couple of concerts there, but I rarely respond to emails or mailings and I haven’t been to the Hall in years. Why? Because I can’t read the marketing materials. I just can’t understand what I’m seeing. It makes no sense to me.
Let me explain. In mid 2010, Carnegie Hall sent out a pamphlet with a bland picture of an orchestra on the cover and a headline proclaiming “2010-2011 Season: Subscribe Now!” First, what is a season? Does it last a year? When does it start? We’re already well into 2010, so this is baffling. Is the “music year” like a school year (Sept to June)? I’m not familiar with this concept of a season. Already I feel like I’m being snubbed by people who assume I know the habits of their particular world.
When I open the brochure, it is not arranged by date or by musical subject matter but by weird designations that make no sense to me, the first of which is headlined “International Festival of Orchestras III.” Clearly, in every sense, this brochure is intended for some musical maven who has been to sessions I and II and knows the score (yuk yuk). The festival is international because it features orchestras from Vienna, Mariinsky (is that in Russia?), Saito Kinen (ummm…Japan?) and Toronto. So here is the crux of my problem with Carnegie Hall: It worships the musicians at the expense of the music. The management must assume that I’m interested in going to see musicians perform. I am, sure, but what I’m really interested in is hearing music! I’m going to make my selection based on the music first.
In every way, the brochure treats the music as secondary. The three main headings are International Festival of Orchestras III, Great American Orchestras I, Great Artists II, The Originals and The New York Pops.
What could they possibly be thinking? They’re thinking like mavens, for whom watching experts at work must be highly fulfilling regardless of what they perform. Some orchestras are doubtless far better than others, but I’m just someone who wants to listen to the music. I am paying Carnegie Hall (and isn’t this really the value they offer?) to provide me with world class music and to make these difficult decisions about whom should perform what. Again, my focus is the music.
Having selected to preference “terroir” over taste, Carnegie Hall then lists the musicians. Here, I understand better that some musicians are the famous athletes of their field, but are we still not putting the musician before the music? Well below the name of the conductor and the key performers, we finally get down to the heart of what will be presented. And the musical choices are provided with no explanations whatsoever!
The brochure contains one listing for an “All Berlioz Program” that involves an actor, a tenor, chorus and director. Well, what the heck is the actor for? Am I supposed to guess? No. I’m just supposed to know. If you don’t know, you aren’t part of the club. Could this be part of the reason that young people don’t go to Carnegie Hall? Would it make sense to highlight the music and not the musicians? To explain what the piece is about and why I should want to hear it? Carnegie Hall’s tactic is as useful as reading a wine label that talks only of the vineyard, its owner and his family, and tells you nothing about the grape, the wine and its flavors. To a newby, this information is not very compelling!
Finally, the pricing is nebulous. “Subscriptions start at $169″? For what?
Carnegie Hall should rethink its marketing approach. Here are some of the critical facts I like to know before I book an evening of music, none of which is addressed by the brochure I received:
- What type of music is it? Medieval or Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern?
- Is it going to be loud? Is it aggressive or calming? Will my date and I be ready for something mellow and then have to listen to 40 minutes of screeching modernistic drama?
- How long is it going to last? !!! Am I going to be stuck listening to choral music for 45 minutes or 2 hours?
With slight alternations, Carnegie Hall could get a lot more of my money. They just seem to be insular, star-focused, and clueless about how to bring in a less-experienced audience, but these problems are easily fixed.