World’s best music PR

World’s best music PR


norman lebrecht

February 05, 2020

Not much change in this ranking down recent years:

1 Salzburg Festival
Smiles at you from miles off

2 La Scala Milan
The beatitudes of Saint Paolo

3 New York Philharmonic
Sharp, on the ball, share as much as they can

=3 LA Phil
Sophie’s got it covered

5 Berlin Phil
No-fuss, nice folk

6 Vienna Phil
Outsourced PR, very smart

7 Cleveland Orch
Pleasure to deal with.

= 7 Boston Symph
Getting better all the time

9 Grange Park Opera
Best of the UK countryhouse set

10 Chicago Symphony
Never sleeps



  • Meredith says:

    Lol. La Scala 2nd place. Must be a joke

  • Hermann the German says:

    Where has the Bavarian State Opera gone? It came third in 2014.

  • anon says:

    Regarding number 6, orchestras that exclude Asians need especially good PR representatives.

  • fflambeau says:

    My top 10 ranking (of PR not quality although the two can be intertwined) would be:

    1) the Metropolitan Opera; hugely expensive with a world-wide network. The new maestro might be even better than the old one. Top notch promoters. Great singers and orchestra all well promoted. It stands for quality.

    2) The BBC Proms; worldwide audience and appeals. Seems to get better and bigger every year.

    3) LA Philharmonic. The Dude. What more need be said. They are also the highest paid orchestra in the world and pretty much have their pick of new compositions to promote.

    4) The Salzburg Festival. Still the “gold standard” for festivals.

    5 ) Edinburgh Festival. Also good is Glyndebourne. Great music groups etc at both. Respected world-wide.

    6) The Vienna Orchestra’s New Year Concert. Everyone watches and who does it better than Riccardo?

    7) The Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Didn’t seem to lose a step despite a long labor strike. Can attract top talent from anywhere.

    8) The Minnesota Orchestra. Perhaps relative unknowns on the world-stage but recently appeared in the Proms and have made world tours. Their Finnish conductor is amazing. They also have lots of financial backing.

    9) Deutsche Grammophone. DG is the world’s most respected label. HUGELY popular.

    10) San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. They won the Esa Sweepstakes and will be a world force, moreso than ever. They too have boatloads of money.

    • Hal Hobbs says:

      You do realize his list was acknowledging the public relations staffers who respond back to his inquiries the quickest and not the quality of each organization artistically.

    • Larry L. Lash / Vienna, Austria says:

      The Vienna Orchestra?

      Which one?

      We have the Wiener Philharmonniker, which gives the annually televised New Year’s concert at Musikverein.

      We have the Wiener Symphoniker, which annually gives a couple performances of Beethoven’s Ninth on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at Konzerthaus.

      We have the brilliant ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien and, while technically located in Niederösterreich, the large state which surrounds the city-state of Wien, the Tonkünstler Niederösterreich, which maintains a high profile in Wien with its coveted Sunday matinee subscription series at Musikverein.

  • Nik says:

    Maybe so.
    But Salzburg this year managed to send out the festival programme books AFTER the booking deadline.
    Yes, it was available online beforehand, but what’s the point of then sending the glossy printed version when it’s already too late?

  • fflambeau says:

    La Scala’s budget (in 2012): Euro 230 million; about 1/3 paid for by the Italian government (which means they don’t have an unlimited amount of money). That’s about 65 million more Euros than La Scala’s.

    The Metropolitan Opera’s budget in 2012/13: $325 million. 43% of donations are from the public.

    The Met has its own radio network broadcasting 3 operas every week (24 hours a day); it can sell cinema tickets for prices and in numbers that other opera companies only dream of. Concerts are broadcast in HD to more than 700 locations in the USA, Australia, Europe and Asia. In 2007/8 almost a million people watched (and paid for) these broadcasts.

    PR is mostly a function of money.

  • Anon says:

    This is so interesting! Norman, thank you for sharing this aspect of professional music making which I had no idea existed!

  • sam says:

    Your ranking seems to be based entirely on how fast they get back to you personally, lol!

    PR ranking has to be quantified: how many hits, how many clicks, how much sales, etc. Otherwise, it’s “they’re really nice folks”

    • V.Lind says:

      When I was a young reporter, large music organisations all had press/media relations officers and marketing staff and the two were separate in function. Press was the PR end — their job was image building, getting good notices in advance of performances and getting reviews afterward. They dealt with journalists — feature writers and broadcasters, reviewers, editors — and they were armed with comps that they could use in a discretionary manner, though the regulars had their seats earmarked.

      We never had anything to do with the marketing staff, who dealt with advertisers, postering, etc.

      I was nervous when I met an advertising salesman in a press officer’s domain one day, having had the appointment before mine — it was the beginning of the end. At first the new job title was communications officer or something to that effect, but in the end the job postings — and there were many — were all for marketing officers. Yes, within that department, there was usually one person designated to deal with the press/media, but only as part of the overall emphasis of the section, which was sales.

      More and more of the press/media relations were taken over in a number of companies I have worked with by artistic staff.

      I don’t know what exactly the PRs in these lists do. But I daresay prompt replies to inquiries counts as good PR…

      While every single employee of an artistic endeavour is concerned about filling seats, there are separate skills involved in managing press and media relations and sales. People attracted to one were rarely drawn to the other. Turning people whose original jobs were more cerebral in style into salespersons was unfortunate to say the least and cost a lot of people their employment, either voluntarily or due to an inappropriate “skills set” — this was not what they had originally been hired for.

      Whether it has been good for companies is open to question. Of course it was driven by money and changing times — who nowadays believes that having a “good press” is important?

  • fflambeau says:

    My revised top 10 list with more grit. Remember, this is PR not quality and the two are not the same.

    1. Metropolitan Opera. Hugely expensive, an enormous artistic budget. Some 700 plus theatres showing DVD’s of its productions at prices that other opera houses charge for the real thing. It was assumed that after Levine this organization would go kaput. Instead, it is stronger than ever.

    2. Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Eve gala. It is broadcast around the world with a guest conductor whose first name is usually Riccardo. Schmaltz mit schlag but it seems to work. Seen by hundreds of millions who love those Gold and Silver things and couples whirling around.

    3. The City of Salzburg (not the festival) which has turned the great Mozart in a PR blitz into the world’s leading chocolate salesman. No wonder he hated the city and its inhabitants and moved away as quickly as possible. A disaster for art but a PR triumph: just think of all those cardboard cutouts showing he great composer holding up Mozartkugeln. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is PR and it don’t mean quality.

    4. “Mozart in the Jungle”This came out of the USA, but it is funny and spot on sometimes. You gotta love the Rodrigo character, obviously based on The Dude. Shows classic music obsessed wit sex and violence. If you contest that: read Arthur Rubinstein’s autobiography where he relates that he led a good, early life and paid his bills in Paris basically as a piano gigalo. Or read anything to do with Lenny.

    5. Deutsche Grammaphone and all those other record labels. They also are selling mostly sex on their covers (ever seen so many lovely damsels hoisting a violin or draped over a piano? Or bare-chested baritones? This is an industry built on PR.

    6. André Rieu, Europe’s answer to the USA. Mr. PR. He quickly realized he wasn’t the greatest violinist but did that matter? Nope. He sells everywhere. Puts together nice packages with boatloads of schmaltz and nostalgia. Is he Dutch or Viennese?

    7-10 See other list.