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Borda to Curtis grads: My world will not be yours

May 16, 2017 by norman lebrecht

18 comments.


The incoming president of the New York Philharmonic told it as it is to the new crop of emerging musicians:

‘Orchestras can no longer rely on old-fashioned subscription models. Music education is not guaranteed in public schools, and in a positive sense the entire history of classical music can all be streamed online for free. So the world I knew, and have worked in, and will continue to work in will not be the one you move through in your careers.’

Read more here from Peter Dobrin.


Comments (18)

  1. Olassus says:

    There she goes again, showing her ignorance about subscriptions. They are not “old-fashioned.” They are essential, even if she has no clue how to sell them. Unless she wises up, she will fail to turn NYPhil around.

    Her candor with the grads is refreshing.

    1. M2N2K says:

      Before accusing someone else of “ignorance”, you should learn how to read: she did not say that subscriptions are old-fashioned, only that certain models are. Your comment shows that you are the one who has “no clue”: the financial results she has achieved for the LA Phil demonstrate clearly that she knows very well how to sell what needs to be sold.

      1. Olassus says:

        As you well know, M2N2K, she has a history of public remarks to the effect that subscriptions no longer work, are no longer viable. So, while I take your parsing of her exact words here, we both understand that she does not understand how to sell this way. Her qualities are her enthusiasm, her gift-of-gab, her raising of funds, and her flair for building confidence at board level. NYPhil, like the LAPhil she is leaving, the Met (especially), and some other large performing arts groups, needs a complete rebuild of its subscription base on pricing and engagement terms Deborah Borda could not even relate to, let alone implement.

        My opinion of her improved slightly this year, fwiw.

        1. M2N2K says:

          Your list of her best qualities may be rather fair, but in addition to that she does have an understanding of the future of symphonic subscription models in this country that in my opinion is realistic and wise.

          1. Olassus says:

            A subscription is a commitment, not a model.

          2. M2N2K says:

            Still can’t read, can you? Or just trying to demonstrate your ignorance of the subject one more time? No need – it is quite clear by now. There are different models of obtaining and securing such commitments – that is what she was talking about.

          3. Olassus says:

            It is the (final) sale of a seat on a series of dates. It allows the organization to move on in terms of its marketing dollars. Nothing to model.

          4. M2N2K says:

            There are plenty of various ways of doing that actually. If you don’t understand that, it doesn’t mean that such models don’t exist. For example, there are many different approaches that can be used in putting together these “series of dates” and many different ways of marketing them too.

  2. herrera says:

    Borda is pushing the Hollywood studio film release model.

    Disney films are for families, romantic comedies are for women, marvel comic films for young men, each requires a different marketing strategy.

    Every concert at the LA Phil is marketed as an “Event”. There is no subscriber base willing to subscribe to every event, rather, there is a different audience for each event, so one has to market each event separately to each audience.

    1. Ungeheuer says:

      A terrible subscription model, IMO. I find it condescending and offensive. If I were to purchase a subscription, I’d hate to be forced to select based on “lifestyle”. But I see the model has gained a foothold and is widespread. Pity.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        That seems to be a bit too negative. When society gets much more pluralist, offering classical music to a pluralist audience with a pluralist framework in mind seems to be meaningful. Also, the repertoire is so diverse, that programming can be as pluralist as one likes.

  3. bye bye says:

    The subscription model is really 19th century.

    Who in the 21st century has only a single source of entertainment or cultural activity? (Even a die hard classical music lover can choose between multiple concert offerings any given Friday night.)

    It used to be that “society” (define that as you will) all revolved around a single venue (the opera) to see and be seen. No more. If you’re stuck at the Met while the event of the season is actually at the other Met (museum), then you’re the loser.

    And yes, Borda is absolutely right, the young generations absolutely expect free content, streamed to their portable device of choice.

    1. Olassus says:

      No, it is much older.

    2. John Borstlap says:

      No audio device can compete with the sound of a real live orchestra, or with the experience of ‘the real thing’. The casualness of ipods etc. reduce the quality of the content, and of the experience. Marketing live orchestral concerts should focus on experiencing the real and the experience of interiority and self. Competing with artificial audio is meaningless because the audio has other priorities.

  4. Robert Holmén says:

    From a 2015 LA Times article, “Inside the L.A. Phil”:

    “How is the L.A. Phil doing so well when other orchestras in the nation are in such trouble? I’d say the Hollywood Bowl,” said former County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “The Bowl puts them in the black and gives them a cushion.”

    Maybe it’s not so much about hipster PR, but that they happen to have this very old thing that makes money for them even when they aren’t playing in it.

  5. mytwohundredmillioncents says:

    Does she mean they will not make $2,000,000 a year for running an orchestra?

    1. M2N2K says:

      If so, she is quite right – most of them will not.

  6. fred says:

    she’s only partially right, right now only a fraction is available for free, and that which is free is free in very bad sound conditions like the entire youtube output.
    She’s right about the lack of music in education these days etc.
    A world gone with the wind.


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