Friday, July 01, 2005
Calling All Sociologists
Alex Ross's latest reinforces a point I've been making here and elsewhere for a while: Classical music -- especially new music -- is shifting from the mainstream into a subculture. In order to make the most of this transition, we need to do a better job of selling classical music to the people who are shopping for a subculture: teenagers.
I'm not sure how to go about doing that, but the thought leads me to question one of the other arguments that I've been making. We don't do a very good job of teaching classical music in schools, but when we do teach it the message is "you need to learn about this because it's good for you" rather than "hey, this is cool, check it out." Are people who are shopping for a subculture vulnerable to this sort of marketing, or does an "eat your veggies" approach actually undermine the objective of getting people to love the music rather than merely respect it? And if so, is it possible to develop a classical music curriculum that inspires true devotion to the art in the receptive population? Might our energy be better invested in an infiltration of the popular media rather than in the public education system? It seems quite possible that the strategies for engendering love are incompatible with the strategies for engendering respect, and what we need are true devotees.
Probably the first step to answering these questions is figuring out what conditions prime a person for receptivity to new music (and since "new music" is a pretty broad category, even better would be to break it down by sub-category), what outward signs correlate to those conditions, and then define the demographic. Then the marketing strategy can be optimized for the characteristics of the particular demographic.