Philadelphia classical music events, discussion, and directory
The future of music and musicians is front and center in many listener's minds these days with the public struggles of the Philadelphia Orchestra and other world renowned organizations. Curious about other opinions on the matter, I attended a presentation last week hosted by Tayyib Smith as part of Philly Tech Week. He facilitated a running dialog with hip-hop musician and producer, Ramble John Krohn, aka RJD2. Even if you do not know the name, chances are that you've heard his work, as it has appeared in several commercials and the theme song to the cable TV hit, Mad Men.
RJD2 stressed the importance of self reliance and promotion. His "show", as he calls his concerts, is usually performed as a solo act, but he travels for part of the year as inexpensively as possible with a small group of other musicians plus 1 or 2 support folks. The members of this group act in multiple capacities, wearing different hats to accomplish the tasks required by the tour. Regardless of the difference in music and audiences, his very practical and frugal approach would apply well to many classical music ensembles.
As for recordings, RJD2 said that the days of working to find a major label to sign an artist are all but over. Only a few extremely popular groups can hope to kick back while the resources of the label take care of their administrative, promotional, development, and production needs. Even revenue on the music, whether MP3s or CDs is negligible. What money there is to be made is in live performances and advertising. The fans that used to cry "sell out!" when artists sold their work to advertising agents have not only stopped criticizing artists but have actually started praising them.
Another observation he shared, which struck me as funny yet sad at the same time was that he said that he observed some girls buying vinyl record versions of his work and they remarked that they did not have a record player. Many hip-hop groups release their works on vinyl, and while the volume is low, he viewed it as an important marketing tool. It's certainly obvious from this story that the purchase was entirely based on packaging, rather than the music. He also said that vinyl was much more popular in Europe, where record stores are still thriving. As music deliveries in the US move closer towards 100% online digital distribution, there is still an appeal with a physical connection. Perhaps along the lines of a souvenir or keepsake.
While there are obvious differences between hip-hop and classical music markets, it's clear that professionals in both genres need to be more creative than ever in their delivery. Professional classical musicians must also be prepared to treat their careers as their own business. Even those in large organizations, such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, would benefit from assuring that they cover the basics for an online presence. In my efforts to create this web site, I observed an astounding number of web sites that were severely out of date or failed to present information in a meaningful way. This topic will be covered in a future blog.
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