Sunday, September 19, 2010

How to make it happen (?)

In this week's New Yorker, there is an article about James Dyson, the inventor of the vacuum that bears his name, written by John Seabrook. In one section he talks about the initial US launch of the vacuum. When it came to the US in 2002, most retailers were selling cheap vacuums that sold for about $100, and here was the Dyson priced at $399. It seemed absurd. Who would spend that much on a vacuum?!?!? Yet, within the first months of it being on the market it sold 10 times the initial projections, and went from being carried in one chain store, to six. What was it that made it so successful? Dyson knew that by sticking to his guts and trusting the design and capability of the vacuum, people would come to realize just how much better his product was. Seabrook states that;

"Dyson had grasped what the companies trying to make hundred-dollar vacuum cleaners had forgotten: that a lot of people... are willing to pay a premium for a machine that will deliver an emotional experience."

Doesn't that just say it all. We, as musicians, don't need to change our product, we need to re-brand ourselves! We have a product that has been tested over hundreds of years and packs a strong "emotional experience", but we've put it in an old ratty box. We need to run away from the old ideology that makes classical music about being "intelligent" or not; "educated" or not; "cultured" or not. We need to remind people that art music is about life, about love, about loss, about grief and joy. We need to help people connect with the music we love, and have honest emotional experiences.


ericakyree said...

Love this! I almost think that we've packaged our product in too lavish and too expensive a box, though--and that's just as detrimental as packaging it in an old, ratty one. So how do we remind people that classical music really is about making those basic emotional connections? I recently attended a BSO concert with a friend who enjoyed the Brahms symphony but said that she didn't connect at all on an emotional level. "I felt lost; I didn't understand where the composer was coming from," she said. How can we help the American general public re-connect to the emotional qualities of classical music? Ideas, anyone?

Dave B. said...

This may not exactly be an answer, Erica, but there are a couple of things I've noticed that I think could and should be changed:

1. Has anyone else found that classical music stations play the same works over and over again? I almost never hear any of my favorite works on the radio, and my taste isn't really that obscure. (By the way, I think the same goes for rock radio as well).

2. Classical music is a big genre (we discussed this in class last time). There are many different styles of music within the umbrella term "classica." Maybe your friend just doesn't like Brahms, but I'd be willing to bet that there is something she would like. I've heard many people use this argument: "I don't really like classical music - it's boring," based on one or two pieces they heard.

In short, not only do we need to introduce classical music to people who don't ordinarily listen to it, but we need to expose a wider range of classical music to them. How do we do this? I don't know yet...