Last night I finished Seth Godin's latest book, The Icarus Deception. It was awesome.
For those of you that don't know his work (if you're a regular reader you'll probably notice I often mention him) he is very much in to the idea of breaking out of the status quo and doing things differently. So naturally, the entire time I was reading this I was thinking about how it relates to the music biz.
Many of the examples he gives throughout his writings often share tremendous similarities with how the classical music biz seems to be progressing.
This past week I spent some time reading through the Minnesota Orchestra strategic plan for the next few years. Maybe I was missing something, but to me there was little to no change at all in the works for the organization moving forward. There is lots of talk about fundraising, capitalizing on renovations to their hall (which by the way cost about $50 million), new revenue streams, record cycles of Sibelius and Beethoven Piano concertos, and all kinds of other goodies. All of this seems great, but to me it doesn't really seem all that different from what every other orchestra is already doing(and what they were probably doing already). Everyone wants to increase fundraising, have nicer facilities, and make an international presence through tours and recordings, but to me that just doesn't seem like it is going to make the organization stronger.
The one part of the plan I did really like was the part where they talk about getting a broader and comprehensive community engagement strategy. There are mentions of partnering with school districts and other local organizations to collaborate with. This is great, but something I think would be great for more organizations to explore would be explore a larger variety of venues as a community engagement strategy. Perhaps there wouldn't be as much income from doing performances in different parts of the city and surrounding communities, but surely they could find a variety of places to do performances that would be either free or much less expensive than their regular hall. This isn't specific to Minnesota, but all orchestras and other performing arts organizations.
This is where I think organizations could take a little bit of a leap off the beaten path. Maintain a regular presence in their normal concert venues, but also get outside of the box a little bit and directly engage other parts of the communities by bringing their art to them. It would save a fortune on venue costs if you didn't have to rent the hall out as much and I think it would successfully reach a much wider audience.
I know a lot of you may point out that many organization (most, I hope) already do this in some way shape or form, but I'm proposing that organizations incorporate this more in to their programming moving forward. I think the strength of an organization can be reflected by the community that supports it. Many of these organizations already have a tremendous following within their own communities, but I hope to see that support not only grow for all arts organizations, but really become a priority as well.