Just Leave Those Barriers Intact, Eh?

Well, I am actually happy to confess that upon review, there aren’t as many artists being promoted by trite phrases as I implied at the end of my post yesterday. I get 40-50 emails a week from agents and artists during the off-season and close to that a day during the conference season. Even if only 1% contain trite phrases, I am seeing them with enough frequency that it feels like an epidemic.

The general area of offense I had in mind when I mentioned it yesterday is of the “ground breaking, barrier shattering, break through” ilk. I found quite a few of this type in my review. It appeared in emails, two cold call resumes I received in the last month and at least one radio advertisement I have heard lately. The closest to the truth any of these people seemed to get was the label experimental. I see the claim made a lot in reference to dance, but theatre and music make their share.

If you do modern dance with ballet, hiphop or jazz influences, you really aren’t pushing the envelop. Employing Hopi Indian influences gets intriguing. Getting the women of al Qaida to do modern dance is breaking all sorts of barriers. As is a ballet company doing something other than Nutcracker for their Christmas show.

Performance art pieces doing strange things in strange costumes that may or may not be a reference to the alienation of the individual by some force may be entertaining and thought provoking, but the ground was broken and has been pounded back down by many who have come before.

Taking a classic rock tune that appears fairly often on soft and light rock stations, turning it into an easy listening tune and calling it a break through crossover hit is just plain evil.

I have harped on the annoying overuse of “what it means to human” before. I am happy to see that phrase has moved to the fringes. I did see it used two weeks ago, but there had been a very welcome gap in our encounters. (I do pray it isn’t experiencing a revival.) I am hoping that the barrier breakers either find some other ways to talk about themselves or become involved with some legitimately innovative activities.

Use of trite marketing language generally doesn’t have any relation to the value of the performance or audience enjoyment. It does form a first impression so it definitely impacts the likelihood of being considered as a performer.

I’ll be the first to admit that writing effective copy is tough and if I am not, I will be among the first to shout Amen! Staying away from the trite stuff makes it harder but you ain’t gonna get any better allowing yourself to default to those word choices.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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