While thumbing throught the arts section of the New York Times this past weekend, I was surprised to find a full-page ad of Lang Lang. Seeing anything classical be advertised in such grandiose proportions was unexpected for me, but what was even more surprising was that it was not an ad for Lang Lang, but for Audi.
I am perhaps behind on this, but I was unaware of Lang Lang's official sponsorship by Audi. After a little investigation, I found that he is required by his contract to show up to all of his concerts (including his performance at the Olympics) in an Audi vehicle. Moreover, the (weak) connection they try to make is that their "virtues" are the same - dynamic performance, perfected execution, and so on.
This makes me wonder - could the future of classical music include sponsorship of artists that is akin to that of athletes? Corporate sponsoship of music is not a new concept. Festivals, concert series, and even music schools (Longy has actually thought of turning to corporate sponsorship to help ease its financial strains) have all had corporate sponsors in the past. However, I have never known an individual performer to be touted in this way.
It shocked me. I have never appreciated the amount of money that goes to organized sports in this country. And more importantly, where does a lot of that money come from? Corporate sponsorship. I have always lamented the fact that professional athletes make so much more than most professions (obviously not just musicians) and that people will prefer tenfold to see a baseball game over a Schubert concert.
However, with this ad, I felt confused. I'd always hoped that a classical musician could attract the attention and praise on a level that was equal to that of sports, but seeing this left a bad taste in my mouth. I realize that there aren't a lot of other options to bring attention to music at such a national level, but what could this lead to? Kissen signed by a multi-million dollar deal with an energy drink company trying to make a connection between their drink and his "energy" in his playing? Schiff coming on stage and unveiling a Steinway tattoo? (remember Tiger Smalls?)
I realize I am going off the deep end, but I do want to open this up to the class. I'm not sure how to feel about this. I feel hypocritical supporting corporate sponsors for programs and not individual musicians - and I don't think individual musicians aren't deserving of that kind of money, but somehow this wasn't what I envisioned. What do you all think?