Music blow: Oil giant quits the Concertgebouw

Music blow: Oil giant quits the Concertgebouw


norman lebrecht

September 14, 2020

Following claims by climate activists that they have forced all cultural institutions in Amsterdam to cut ties with oil companies, Shell has issued a statement confirming that it has withdrawn from the Concertgebouw, but for its own internal reasons.

Shell said it reviewed all ‘social and cultural partnerships’ at the beginning of the year and decided not to continue with the country’s flagship concert hall. ‘The Concertgebouw no longer fitted in there,’ said the oil company of its sponsorship portfolio.

The hall also confirmed that, contrary to the activist claims, the withdrawal was Shell’s decision and, from its perspective, regrettable. The Concertgebouw called it a unilateral decision by Shell. Director Simon Reinink admitted it was hard to lose a sponsor in these times, ‘but sponsors are constantly rethinking their sponsorship policy.’

UPDATE: The activists’ boast is posted uncritically and unprofesionally on a classical music occasional news site.



  • Dennis says:

    The Concertgebouw “no longer fitted” their sponsorship profile (too white and highbrow, I assume), but Shell recently began sponsoring Hannah Nichole Jones and her racist “1619 Project.”

    Typical in these days of “woke capitalism.” I guess by sponsoring 1619 Project Shell hopes to win a reprieve from the Left of environmental and other issues. See how wonderfully woke and “anti-racist” we are!

  • John Rook says:

    How very courageous, to give in to that bunch.

  • sam says:

    Oh well, there’s always tobacco companies, or Nazi chocolatiers.

  • Werner says:

    How big % of classical musicians and people in the business vote/support for parties to the left? A big, big chunk, I’d guess. Well. This is what you get for supporting Greta and her “case”.

    • csm says:

      are you serious? should classical musicians support right-wingers just in order to win the oil companies’ support??

      • Leftists CONTRIBUTE to the Right daily says:

        ALL arts executives, managers, conductors, orchestras, singers, crew, etc are GUILTY of environmental genocide along with “protesters”!!!!

        Every single time you drive or are a passenger in a vehicle that burns gas and fly on a gas guzzling airplane…YES; YOU SUPPORT BIG OIL AND THE RIGHT!

        You’re putting money in their coffers and slaughtering the environment with YOUR carbon emissions.

        Also, you’re emitting greenhouse gasses when YOUR leftist friends go about setting all of those fires we can clearly see polluting the environment. That includes the harsh chemicals in spray paints used to deface private and public property not to mention the graffiti removal chemicals necessary for somebody else to clean up after you.

        Your willful lack of humanity and respect for the environment indeed is a problem you should be imprisoned for.
        -Mother Earth

      • Werner says:

        Classical musicians, like _everyone_ else, should say whatever they want. Although there is a saying: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Goes for all.

  • Entitled Lib says:

    FABULOUS NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Way to go at cutting off your major funding!


    Glad these all these people stopped driving about wasting petrol as well…errrr Well Libs only use petrol to go to protests after they get their benefits checks so THAT’S ok…grrr

    Why would they need money now anyway?? They should stay closed forever to appease the snowflakes like all the other halls and go broke.

  • Fortunatly the stage of a concert hall is not yet like a shirt of a soccer club, full of sponsors. For the moment I supose the RCO is not yet in very bad financial shape and they can give to us some free concerts on Youtube like the Gerwhwin program last week with Gilbert and Bollani. The Cuban overture is fantastic.

    • Alexy says:

      This is about sponsors of the concert hall not the orchestra. They are 2 different independent organisations

      • Dale Crosby says:

        Not when they’re taking BLOOD MONEY to exist they’re not.

        Social consciousness starts with every dollar you accept from an organization you deem objectionable. That’s what this is all about. Segregating the hall from performers makes this type of justification all the more insidious.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The opportunity costs are starting to be felt. Who’d have thought??!!!

  • TubaMinimum says:

    Makes sense. Corporate sponsorship is about buying good PR and advertising. If there is public discourse around oil money in the arts, that equation has changed and your sponsorship is probably buying more bad PR than good, even if the Concertgebouw wanted to keep you as a sponsor.

  • John Borstlap says:

    This shows how wrong it is to have an important cultural institution be dependent upon sponsoring. Culture is part of the common good, and the state should garantee the existence of concert halls, opera theatres, orchestras, etc. etc. Sponsoring should be for extras, like special projects, and not structural. But of course this is thinking of an ideal world.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      “Culture is part of the common good, and the state should guarantee the existence of concert halls, opera theatres, orchestras, etc. etc”……….I am sure that all the engineers, steel workers, miners, manufacturing industry workers, car workers, retail sector workers (to name just a few) who have lost their jobs in the last 25 years or so would like to have been deemed to be doing work for the “common good.” But I keep forgetting that Mr Borstlap thinks that classical musicians and their ilk are special and need state protection………well! welcome to the real world that roughly 98% of the population inhabit and have no guarantee of any state protection whatsoever. Working in the “arts” is no different than any other sector of work, other than they think they are “special”. They arn’t!

      • John Borstlap says:

        A typical comment from under the rocks of populism. All be equal! And measured against the most common standard, which has produced so many great cultural works. Where? O well, you can see and hear them as long as you forget what has survived the ages.

        And that on a website destined for lovers of classical music.

        • Ellingtonia says:

          Let me try and explain, I am talking about “equality of treatment”. As regards great cultural works / performers outside the “classical genre”, let me suggest:-
          Duke Ellington and his compositions (and band leading)
          Charlie Parker
          Art Tatum
          Oscar Peterson
          Muddy Waters
          Otis Redding
          Nusrat fateh ali Khan (a voice to rival ANY opera singer)
          Lennon & McCartney
          Joni Mitchell
          Ella Fitzgerald
          – their music is a major contributor to “culture” and will still be being played when many of the so called classical composers works have faded into history.
          Finally, I feel sorry that you are so constrained by your “classical elitism” that you are unable to enjoy the significant contributions to musical enjoyment that all of the above have given me and millions of others.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Sorry to have to inform you that you are, again, wrong. And jumping to conclusions very prematurely.

            I love jazz, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (of which I have quite a number of great recordings). But these genres have nothing to do with Western classical music which is a genre of high art, the others are not. Comparing Indian/Pakistan traditional guzzles or Charlie Parker with Western classical music is ignoring the cultural reception framework of either, which serves to have the right perspective for the listening experience. It is diminishing the value of either genre and expecting too much or too little from them. In practice it is merely getting everything down to the simplest common factor, which is an obstacle to any real understanding of ANY music.

            Throwing every type of music in one big cauldron and claiming equality of means, of meaning, of quality – etc., is reflecting the egalitarian world view in which everything is grey and meaningless. Surely Oscar Peterson, Lennon and McCartney, and Ella Fitzgerald did NOT live in such world.

          • Ellingtonia says:

            My goodness you do dress things up as intellectual tripe at times. As for the comment “but these genres have nothing to do with Western classical music which is a genre of high art, the others are not” is just sheer snobbish arrogance. Have you ever heard the phrase “equal but different”.

          • Iain says:

            “and will still be being played when many of the so called classical composers works have faded into history.”

            Opinion only. Classical composers have done pretty well so far. Their DNA can be found in many “modern” musical genres.

            In my experience younger people, who are responsible for carrying the “culture” forward, are admittedly not hugely interested in classical (film and video game music is bringing about a small improvement), but their familiarity with most of the names you mention is nonexistent. And Paul McCartney, the main exception, is no more “relevant” to them than Henry Purcell. And you’re overlooking the not inconsiderable interest in classical from SE Asia.

            I find your invocation of the “Horny-Handed Sons of Toil” routine highly amusing. Many of those you mention demanded and got massive amounts of public cash a few decades ago on the basis that they were “special”. I have to confess that my paternal grandfather was one of the entitled rabble-rousers who helped put an end to large scale shipbuilding on the Clyde in the 1960s. Suicide of an industry.

          • V. Lind says:

            Heard in a record shop, c. 1960: (one teenage girl to another): “Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?”

          • Marfisa says:

            Wings formed in 1971!

          • Allen says:

            McCartney? Isn’t he the “composer” who needed Carl Davis to do all the difficult bits?

          • Helen says:

            I have little interest in Jazz, so I generally stay away from Jazz sites because I have nothing positive to contribute. I certainly don’t go there simply to pick away at opinions I dislike, or have a go at people who think that Jazz is the best – and they certainly exist. I’m sure I could find lots of things to carp about if I really wanted to, but what’s the point?

            You never seem to have anything positive to say, so why not just stay away?

      • Henry williams says:

        In the uk classical music is not a way of life as opposed to germany or austria.
        80% of people i have known at work or family have never been to a

        • John Borstlap says:

          …. concert.

          It is a cultural thing: nations like France, Austria and Germany count culture, their own culture specifically, as an important element of their national identity, and try to keep it alive.

          The Anglo-Saxon sphere has a very different history in which culture did not play such role.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Yet another signal virtue signaling achievement, or:
    How to shoot yourself in the foot in your mouth.

  • Sharon says:

    I am not an expert in the economy of the Netherlands. However I understand that Shell Oil in that country is a major economic player and provides a lot of the tax revenue which is used in the Netherlands to help support the arts.

    In general boycotts are counter productive. This is especially true if they are not boycotts on the purchase of a product but instead a boycott of all the organization’s activity as a way of denying the organization legitimacy, which this boycott apparently is.

    I believe that especially in this particular case the environmentalists are truly shooting themselves in the foot. Shell is not going to go away but by shutting them out of their charity and community work it will just reinforce attitudes among Shell executives, and those in government who believe that fossil fuels are necessary, that the environmentalists are “crazies” who do not need to be taken seriously.

    “The more things change the more they remain the same”. This means that the more suddenly things change the more things will revert to how things were previously eventually, and will frequently revert to the old ways within a short amount of time.

    Any student of history knows that all permanent lasting change in the economic, political and cultural spheres is incremental. Even if it appears that a change appears revolutionary, if it is to be long lasting, then there was an incremental buildup to it.

    If environmentalists want to move to sustainable energy they would be wise to keep Shell executives engaged in activities where they can speak to environmentalists in non threatening forums, like arts organizations.

    Environmentalists are deceiving themselves if they believe
    that they can eliminate fossil fuels tomorrow. It is organizations like Shell that have to take us there.

    Rather than getting Shell’s executives, employees and stock holders defensive by accusing them of “greenwashing” or denying them legitimacy through boycotts which do nothing hurt except innocent cultural organizations and charities, by engaging with the fossil fuel industry we can incrementally get there, and stay there.

    Note: Greenwashing is when companies say the are doing things that are ecologically beneficial but in reality are actually are doing very little that effectively helps the environment.

    • Easy come, Easy go says:

      Just give back all of the evil money (offending any Leftist) if you’re truly that principled.

      Waiting to see how strong lefties are when it comes to the money they covet over all else…

  • Player says:

    Yuck. All these snide, reactionary comments. SD is for the patrons, not the musicians, I guess.

    • John Rook says:

      Er, how are musicians to be paid if not by funding? Do you want to play for free in the future?

      • John Borstlap says:

        Any money spent on funding the arts, that is: real arts and not the fake nonsense, is an investment in something that is not part of ‘the marketplace’ but is a value in itself.

      • Player2 says:

        Or, to put it another way, don’t bite the hand that feeds you, eh, Mr Rook?

  • Brettermeier says: