Week after week, orchestra marketers and communications professionals try to get stories about their music director, guest conductor or guest artist in the media. Is this wise? Yes, of course. Guest musicians are news. They can talk about the music being performed. Yet we’re out of balance when we concentrate on using their star power to get space in the press. And as we all know, there aren’t many stars in classical music today.
We’re like the beggar who asks passersby for help who doesn’t realize he is sitting on a chest full of treasure. Our orchestras hold one hundred musicians who can tell their story, our orchestra’s story and the music’s story. I’ve written elsewhere how audiences desire to connect not only to music but also our musicians, first, and then conductors and guest artists. How wonderful if the local radio station interviews, say, our second oboe! Our audience will see the oboist most weekends for years to come, while a guest artist will come every second or third year at most. Only rarely can guests talk intelligibly about your orchestra. Plus you have no opportunity to coach them.
In Doha we have a wealth of press outlets: a half-dozen daily newspapers, over a dozen magazines, and not only local radio and television but also two international networks with Al Jazeera. In most markets opportunities are scarcer. And your experience may differ from mine: your press contacts may may not respond with interest to your musicians. Yet you can always use your own vehicles to market your musicians: your website, social media and mailings in addition to the commonly used program book.
I’ve found this approach not only productive but a lot more fun. What’s your experience?