Growing Trust And Confidence In Times Of Decline

Seth Godin recently made a post citing a Brookings Institution survey series that showed a decline in confidence in multiple institutions and companies since 2018.   Godin notes that some of the decline may be due to news and propaganda eroding the general perception of institutions with which people don’t regularly directly interact. But he suggests that by and large, the diminished confidence is due to companies trading trust for short term profit.

Amazon and many other companies went from investing heavily in being reliable, trustworthy and fair to taking persistent steps to trade these valuable assets for quarterly results. It’s worth being clear about this–they did this intentionally. They decided that the confidence consumers had placed in them wasn’t worth as much as the shortcuts they could take to increase profits instead.

Near the end of his entry, he writes:

This is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for–to become the one that earns the benefit of the doubt.

As I was reading his post, I was thinking along the same lines. Surveys have shown that arts organizations, and particularly exhibit based experiences like museums, parks and zoos have been enjoying an increased level of trust since Covid restrictions have ended. The ability to control spacing between oneself and others in exhibit based experiences gave them a slight advantage over performance based entities, but both types of spaces have earned a greater measure of trust over the last couple years.

There is an opportunity to retain and grow that trust by examining interactions with experience participants to ensure you aren’t undermining that trust with anything that appears to be trading it for easy gain. There will always likely be some negative interactions people will have with your organization, but those interactions won’t necessarily significantly diminish the level of trust people have if it is handled well.

After all, we have probably all had interactions where we got what we wanted, but still had a sense that we were held in low regard by the company and organization. Air travel immediately comes to mind. Many people can probably remember two-three instances where they were on equally crowded travel conditions, but you felt more attentiveness and care being paid in one instance versus the others.

Think about how you can continue to exhibit trustworthiness and care, and potentially grow that in contrast to people’s experiences elsewhere.

Who Will Make Classical Music The Next Old Spice?

So hattip to Ruth Hartt who linked to a piece by David Taylor who argues that we shouldn’t be linking the lack of music education in schools to diminishing audiences for classical music. He points to the fact that other musical genres enjoy a fairly good level of support despite not being included in a formal curriculum.

….classical music education continues to be invested in significantly higher than other music genres. If you drive past a school, you will see students carrying violins, tubas, flutes, cellos, and all manner of classical instruments. But you won’t see some poor kid dragging along a set of turntables to school. I don’t think there is a person alive who has said “I’m not really into Electronic Dance Music, and that’s probably because I didn’t have access to DJ lessons as a child”.

EDM, Dubstep, Grime, and Hip-Hop have all thrived over the years despite there being no formalised music education. The significant majority of people who enjoy pop and rock music won’t have come to enjoy it through music education.

[…]

It is counterproductive, elitist, and dangerous for us to keep shouting about how we need music education to save classical music audiences as it reinforces the idea that you need to be educated in it to enjoy it, and if you are not then classical music is not for you.

He goes on to cite a number of studies which have been published over the last five years that find that younger generations (under 35) actually listen to classical music more frequently than their parents. From a quick scan of some of the studies, this listening seems to be happening outside of concert halls.

But they are listening and their numbers are growing, Taylor notes. What needs to happen is to give these audiences a reason to enter the concert hall, if that is where organizations want them to be.  He cites brands with uncool images like Old Spice which have worked to re-position themselves. (I would add Stanley cups to this). He points to Marvel which expanded their audience from consumers of print media to movies and television.

It certainly isn’t fast or easy to accomplish this sort of shift. It took Marvel awhile to hit their stride. I remember a number of misses and flubs before the first Iron Man and Avengers movies came out.

There is a fear that any changes that are implemented may alienate current audiences who provide admittedly dwindling support. But younger generations may have different ideas about how and where they want to experience classical music. The most effective approach may not typically put both groups in the same spaces as each other.

Intricate Historic Valentines

I happened across an Aeon article earlier this month featuring a video by the Victoria and Albert Museum displaying and discussing Valentine’s Day. I thought folks might enjoy learning about this today.

Some of these cards are sweet, others are appropriately labeled “vinegar valentines” for their tart and sometimes nasty tone.

That said, the craftsmanship and intricacies of cuts that went into hand making these cards is entrancing. In one case the curator, Zorian Clayton, notes that they don’t use gloves when opening some of the cards because they are so fragile, you need the sensitivity of bare hands to be delicate enough.  He also shows off valentines made of ceramic.

At the 11:00 mark, Clayton discusses the secret meanings of flowers were attributed during the Victorian period.

Secret Lonely Lives Of Arts Loving Kids

Artsjournal.com linked to a Hudson Review piece by poet and former NEA Chair, Dana Gioia, talking about how he became entranced by opera and classical music as a child, but realized it was not an interest shared by adults and peers in his life. Granted, his younger brother Ted is  a noted jazz critic and music historian, but their shared adult affinity for arts and culture probably was not apparent when Dana was in elementary school.

Gioia’s piece evokes the bittersweet feeling shared by so many who fall in love with forms of creative expression but perceive themselves alone in these passions unshared by those around them. This is not to say that his family didn’t have an appreciation of such things. He talks about his mother reciting poetry when they did housework. He also admits to being a snob and turning his nose up at the popular music of his youth. But he did see record collections of deceased a uncle sold off with only a couple classical music albums saved. Likewise, he managed to assemble a collection of opera records before his mother cancelled their subscription to a record club after two months.

Gioia discusses his furtive attempts to grab fixes of classical music after school when the apartment was empty and on other occasions with such evocative language, I am afraid the excerpting I am about to do is going to ruin its impact.

At the same time, I feel I may have pasted too much text below to hold some readers’ attention.  But I feel like so many of us have experienced these dismal, lonely feelings about experiences that enliven and energize us, that cutting much more would deny readers the realization of a more broadly shared experience than they might have recognized.

My conniving continued and worsened. When I was eleven, my school was given four free tickets for a Los Angeles Symphony youth concert featuring selections from the Ring. I had already gone the year before—… but I asked the sister who taught me piano if I could go again. She was appalled. She told me I was impossibly greedy and advised me to confess the sin. I knew she was right. My desire was selfish and disgraceful. I left her office embarrassed. On Saturday morning two hours before the concert, she called me. One of the chosen kids had decided not to go. While the other kids and parents sat bored beside me, I had the most thrilling musical experience of my young life….

In the car home, I wanted to talk about the concert, but I knew it would be a mistake. Everyone else had already forgotten it. It was best to hide my enthusiasm. I had already been exposed as greedy. Why add weak and weird to the list? Many children lead secret lives. Mine was simply more elaborate than most….

Keeping my mouth shut in the back seat of the car was an important moment. I knew the practical people were right. To treat art as anything but a brief diversion was dangerous. It made everyday living more difficult. Beauty had an effect on me I didn’t understand, but I recognized it made me cultivate a vulnerability that everyone else suppressed. There was no one to ask for advice. I could only wait and watch….