They’re Back! But Not Because They Waited For The Audiences To Return

Apparently the pandemic was good for classical music stations. In a story on the Current site, the general manager WDAV in Charlotte, NC had a hard time believing his station had achieved number one market share for the first time ever.

WDAV wasn’t alone, a number of other stations had similar successes. But before you assume that the value of classical music suddenly became apparent to people in a “if you play it, they will come” sort of way, it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Stations have been working to frame the music for their communities.

But by emphasizing long-held values of classical radio — to be soothing, to clear the mind, to remind people of aesthetic beauty — stations rose to the occasion to provide refuge from a world that felt scary and uncertain. That has translated into ratings records, strong fundraising and a reminder of the value of classical stations to local arts organizations.

“We heard from a significant number of listeners thanking us for being a place that was normal for them,” said Brenda Barnes, CEO of KING FM in Seattle. WDAV’s Dominguez and leaders at WXXI in Rochester, N.Y., and the USC Radio Group, which consists of KUSC in Los Angeles and KDFC in San Francisco, all said they heard the same from their listeners.

WDAV also got out into the community with their Small Batch music series where they had classical musicians perform at a local microbrewery. Will Keible, the station’s director of marketing and corporate support cited the intimidating environment of a formal concert hall and not wanting to passively wait for people to find them on the radio dial as drivers for their partnership with the brewery.

Other stations cultivated stronger relationships with the artists in their areas. The article also talks about how WXXI had reached out to ensembles and chamber groups in New York’s Finger Lakes region during the pandemic requesting recent performance recordings which they broadcast as part of a 10 week series. Many stations like WXXI have recognized the need to provide programming by musicians and composers of color and that has also helped to broaden their appeal.

“We are changing our library and our rotation cycles so that … you’re hearing representation from all different composers and performers all the time,” said WXXI’s Ruth Phinney. The station also profiles classical musicians of African descent on its website. “We’ve actually had classical musicians contact us and say, ‘I’m a classical musician, I’m not on your site yet. Can you put me on there?’”

Becoming One Of The Unseen Creative Artists

Yesterday we had David Grindle, Executive Director of USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) , speak at my theater about “The Unseen Arts Economy.”

If you aren’t familiar with it, USITT was founded “to promote dialogue, research, and learning among practitioners of theatre design and technology.”  They basically are plugged into knowing what technology the smallest theaters and bars through to Disney, Cirque d’ Soelil and movie productions are using.  USITT is also invested in promoting safety and training in all the crafts and technologies practiced and utilized in these places.

If you weren’t previously aware of USITT, then Grindle’s talk was for you. While I thought it would have a slightly different focus, Grindle did a really good job of talking discussing all the unseen labor and laborers that contribute to events and productions.  I have seen other people talk about all the opportunities for non-performing artists that exist, but never did they make such a compelling case as Grindle. He smoothly wove anecdotes together with “if you are a person who enjoys X, then there are these jobs…” in a manner that made his talk relevant to the listeners and didn’t feel like a recitation.

In his view, it isn’t just the lack of arts in schools that is an issue, it is the disappearance of home ec/family and consumer sciences that is also problematic. He said the lack of people with fundamental skills in sewing and other crafting skills has become cause for concern.

Most of the audience was comprised of college students with perhaps a few high school students thrown in. Initially, when he asked if there were any questions and no one came forward, I was worried that he was talking to people who were primarily interested in performing on stage. But after a few questions, things started opening up. Some people definitely were interested in working behind the scenes when they walked in. There were others for whom Grindle’s talk had revealed some options they hadn’t been aware of.

While I am sure Grindle is a busy person individually, if anyone has an interest in having someone speak on similar topics, I am sure the folks at USITT can point you to some members who can do a credible job of it.

Where Is Your Favorite Podcast Getting Its Material?

h/t to Isaac Butler who retweeted a somewhat horrifying thread written by author Brendan Koerner recounting how one of his Atlantic articles, two of his books and a WIRED piece he authored have been ripped off by podcasters.

Koerner recounts how the person who created a podcast based on his Atlantic article blatantly told him he was going to rip it off.

A couple people Koerner confronts do give some cursory acknowledgements. He feels it is insufficient, but doesn’t have the energy to fight all these battles.

Given the ever broadening proliferation of podcasts, this is going to be something to which to pay attention. People want to jump on the wave but if they don’t have original material to share, apparently they don’t have many scruples about stealing it.

I suspect we are going to see people getting paid speaking engagements or interest in developing expanded work based on their podcasts only to find there are credible claims of plagiarism and theft.

But even if it goes no further than podcast episodes, as Koerner points out, people are creating ad revenue supported episodes that compete with his books and spoil the plot twists in his writing.

Can Annotated Press Releases Be A Good Communication Tool?

Last week Aubrey Bergauer made the following post calling the attention of arts organizations to an annotated press release put out by the financial company Ellevest announcing their success in raising $53 million.

While there were some silly annotations like calling Bankrate “smarties” for naming Ellevest “the #1 mission-driven investment offering,” on the whole the annotations were used to provide deeper perspective on the effort that went into raising those funds and telling Ellevest’s story.

For example, the annotation stating Ellevest is funded by 360 women and underrepresented investors revealed:

“I get the game on these raise announcements. I know what the narrative is “supposed” to be: that institutions were throwing money at us to invest in Ellevest.

What really happened: As we began our raise, we had dozens and dozens (and dozens) of meetings with potential investors, and they were going … fine. Fine to good, in fact.

And then … the women showed up.

Caroline Lewis, of Rogue Ventures, heard about our raise and contacted us. … Then, so did Jesse Draper at Halogen Ventures. And so did Jenny Abramson at Rethink Impact. And so did a number of others.

This opened up our funding round to these underrepresented investors — for them to support us (by funding the company), and, we hope, for us to support them (by working hard to deliver a strong return and build their track records). …

The annotation quoting Caroline Lewis saying there is a need for financial products that serve women stated:

“Like, actually serve women. Not just market to women. And not just be a pinkwashed version of your father’s financial advisor…”

The annotated format serves multiple purposes. For those that just want something formatted for publication to quickly copy and paste, there is the surface text. For those that want the deeper story about the challenges and process, the annotations provide threads to follow. The format opens up all sorts of possibilities.

A release about a milestone anniversary of your organization may list all the people who performed for you over the years, but an annotation on some of those artists might note that the trumpet player in the band met his wife at a performance, settled down in the community and now their daughter is the executive director.

You may send out a release acknowledging that dozens of people worked thousands of hours over the course of a year and a half to implement your equity and diversity policy and practices. You may not be able to list everyone in the press release, but you can include them in an annotation.

Obviously, the biggest issue is that an annotated press release is only available on a web format. You can’t squeeze all that into a PDF or Word document emailed to a media outlet. On the other hand, people are getting their information from traditional media outlets less and less frequently so there is a good chance to get eyeballs on your press release by linking to it via social media posts.

People are able to consume as much or as little additional information as they may like. That way you can keep the details short and sweet for people with passing interest or short attention spans, but let those who are really invested and interested in your organization feel like they are in the know by digging into the tidbits in every annotation.

If I recall correctly, it is relatively easy to include annotations on a number of web and blog platforms like WordPress. I thought my blog had that option so I could illustrate, but since I didn’t use it much I suspect it disappeared during an update years ago.