Who doesn’t like to feel like their opinion counts? One of the best things about the internet is the ability to share opinions on any number of things or services. It’s satisfying and empowering.

Using reviews from one of my favorite websites, Yelp.com, I have found my hair dresser, dry cleaner, and restaurants that would have otherwise been overlooked but are now some of my regular favorites. The reviews are not only helpful, but Yelp encourages interaction by allowing users to acknowledge the value of reviews by rating them “useful,” “funny,” or “cool.”

Last month I became curious to see whether or not Yelp included orchestra reviews and if so, what the respective reviewers thought. What I found was amusing and sobering but far more often than not,  extremely interesting. There is an amazing wealth of opinions from regular concertgoers that would have likely been unheard had it not been for Yelp.

Interestingly, many of the comments shared were not just about the orchestra’s performance, but the entire concert experience; from buying tickets to getting out of the parking garage.

Here are some of the most common topics from the reviews I read:

Ticket Fees

The following reviews are merely representative of what I found at a number of orchestra reviews; meaning there were multiple complaints not only in both of these orchestras but in many others as well.

SEATTLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/seattle-symphony-seattle-2#hrid:qAHAijY9de9WIkf4Atk0mg”]Samantha C.’s Review:[/ilink]  3/5/2011
Tiny Tots is a WONDERFUL program for kids birth to 5.  My only complaint is that tickets went from $10 to $12 which wouldn’t be a problem until you buy online and they charge you an $8 handling fee.  So your $12 ticket is now $20.  Too expensive for a 30 minute show- although I realize it is difficult for young ones to sit still for much longer.  They really need to do something about the ticketing.  I would recommend to go, but buy your ticket at their box office day of show. 

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/san-francisco-symphony-san-francisco-2#hrid:svFFpAokYS8jkUHkRb2o3A”]Laurence W.’s Review:[/ilink] 1/27/2011
A nice fat 5 stars for one of the finer American symphony orchestras.  I’m still going to poke them in the eye with a 3 star review for their Ticketmaster impersonation, charging you $9 above and beyond the hefty ticket prices to actually receive the tickets…..But damn if they don’t do some fine Mahler. 

Marketing Calls

Just like the ticket fees, these are just a sample. There were many complaints about this topic across the board and they were some of the most discouraging to read.

NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC 

[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/new-york-philharmonic-new-york#hrid:F793-HZmftPQgS4d9FSnXQ”]Tom K.’s Review:[/ilink]  2/25/2011
…But it’s not for the music that the rating suffers…it’s for the marketing calls. It’s as if you’ve seen Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major and afterward the experience becomes a major pain because of the incessant phone calls. Work, home, cell, you’ll get calls from them on any number you’ve given to the NYP. I recall once telling a secretary at work to tell them I wasn’t available. Guess what? They called until I was available. So source of ethereal serious music? No question. Source of pesky phone calls that won’t stop? Alas, unless this is some bizarre experiment in telephonic musical serialism…(I’m looking at you John Cage) 

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 

[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/chicago-symphony-orchestra-chicago-4#hrid:dS9MYk4NzJGqRp32vj8xdQ”]Colleen B.’s Review:[/ilink]  9/19/2008
The only reason I’m giving them 4 stars is because ever since my boyfriend bought a few tickets for a show they have bombarded us with phone calls and mailings.  Other than that, who doesn’t love the symphony?  Well, a lot of people… but they stink, anyway.  We went to see them play Peter and the Wolf, which was a children’s special, and it was a blast!  I never thought I would say this, but they had mimes, and they were actually entertaining.  We’ve been to a couple other shows, and we always have a great time.  Hiiiiiighly recommended. 

Acoustics

CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA 

[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-cleveland-orchestra-cleveland#hrid:ui_5uSvVZDdaSypKNmd7VA”]Annalise P.’s Review: [/ilink] 5/27/2011…
The orchestra has really flourished under the direction of Franz Welser Most. I’ve particularly enjoyed the Mahler and every germanic piece that they’ve put on for production. You don’t need to spend a fortune on tickets either, I could fit in the regular concert on my student budget, and since Severance Hall has amazing acoustics you’ll be pleased with no matter what seat you choose.

MILWAUKEE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 

[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/milwaukee-symphony-orchestra-milwaukee#hrid:w7KsdBOvQenD4dmNGOOJ-w”]Chris T.’s Review:[/ilink]   7/1/2008
…The one gripe I have is that the cheap seats in the “Rear Loge” are absolutely terrible in terms of both sightlines and sound (many time these cheap seats may have a terrible view but the sound quality is excellent – not so here). I would strongly recommend that if you’re on a budget to sit in the “Front Orchestra” section – the sound balance is absolutely fine and assuming you can get a bit further back (row E) the sightlines are fine too. I know enough about classical music that I know a good group (and a bad group) when I hear one.  The MSO is a good one – do not hesitate, for a second, catching a concert.

Parking

SCHERMERHORN SYMPHONY CENTER (NASHVILLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA) 

[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/schermerhorn-symphony-center-nashville#hrid:peF2nHWefo3PzSGr_oHe0g”]Chloe M.’s Review:[/ilink]  5/23/2011
Ok, do not, I repeat, do NOT park in the parking garage across the street. After the performance, it took us 45 minutes to get out of the parking garage. I am not exaggerating. It took so long people were actually turning their cars off while waiting. The problem has to do with the traffic lights that are right outside the garage exit. It allows maybe one or two cars to exit per cycle. I still think the Symphony is worth 5 stars, but don’t park across the street in the garage under the office building. 

DETROIT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 

[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/detroit-symphony-orchestra-detroit#hrid:0siy9TTZ3091ksoZc6P9cw”]Samantha C.’s Review:[/ilink]  11/4/2011
…Parking was only $5 across the street next to the parking garage. Getting in was a bit of a pain because they only had one door open and one ticket taker and people do not know how to form a line themselves so it was one mass of people with no manners. But once inside the ushers are more than helpful taking you to your seats and offering any assistance… 

There are so many well thought out reviews and comments, I’ve barely scratched the surface. But you get the idea; the people who review their orchestras know what they like and are willing to share their knowledge and experiences with others. But besides fellow potential concert goers, is anyone listening within the organizations?

A fantastic feature that Yelp offers is the ability for companies or businesses to communicate with members by leaving responses to individual reviews. I did not look at every single orchestra in the country, but as of today, the only orchestra I found that took the time to respond to reviews and communicate with Yelp members was the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Whoever “Matt H. of Symphony Hall” is, he should be applauded for his diligence in responding to most Yelp members who took time to leave a review. In some instances he thanked people for reviewing, some he noted how funny their comments were, and in couple of reviews he offered advice on student tickets. What a positive and genuine way to interact with ticket buyers.

Should orchestras encourage people to review on Yelp? Yes, the more reviews (highest ratings plus most reviews), the higher the organization will appear on the Yelp category ranking. So the higher an orchestra is placed on those lists, the better chance they stand of attracting people to come and enjoy a concert.

A few final notes before I share some of my favorite comments and reviews. Not every big budget orchestra was listed on Yelp, such as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and a number of others had absolutely no reviews or comments. Groups like the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra had the most reviews which seemed to help generate some discussion between reviewers.

My Favorite Reviews (so far)!

Some of these are really long and have been excerpted, but the full review is available by clicking the respective link.

 [ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/detroit-symphony-orchestra-detroit#hrid:g4KXgDhlOyMvsPf1kLHg_g”]dea a.’s Review on the Detroit Symphony Orchestra:[/ilink]  2/28/2009
…Alas, I only had one mini mental breakdown. You see, I didn’t realize I bought tickets to a music “unmasked” show. Where they STOP the performance after a few movements to talk about it. Holy shit, my head almost exploded. I was freaking out, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOOOING?! YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PIECE! AHHHHHHHHHHH! SHUT UP SHUT UP!” They only butchered the first piece by stopping multiple times… but after my initial freak out, I appreciated it the step in commentary. It was really nice actually hearing the conductor of the evening, Nicholas Kraemer, speak about the music and how he thought it should be played and why…
[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/san-francisco-symphony-san-francisco-2#hrid:4Ke0mBWh3w3GSDdUaV4XiQ”]Pete J.’s Review on the San Francisco Symphony: [/ilink]  6/14/2007
If you take a girl to the symphony, you’ll be dumped within a month. It happened to me & it happened to my best friend. One of our friends used to work at the SF Symphony, & got me free tickets. Thinking this was the PERFECT date, I scooped them up, took her out to dinner at a swanky little French Bistro, & then we went to the symphony. Bad idea. On second thought, everything’s worked out well for me since, so maybe if you’re looking to end an unsavory relationship, you might give this a try…
[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/meyerson-symphony-center-dallas#hrid:SYLh8dSIFkT2pbMbrtHctA”]Kristie A.’s Review of the Meyerson Symphony Center (Dallas Symphony Orchestra): [/ilink]  6/28/2010
…The venue is really kickass.  I didn’t even mind climbing the millions of stairs to get to the top level.  There weren’t really that many stairs, but my fat ass felt like there were.  We were on the first row of the top balcony and it was kind of scary walking to our seats.  I felt like one false move and I would be splattered on the floor below us.  I’m clumsy, what can I say.  Still very neat and we had a perfect view of the stage.  I could imagine there’s not going to be a bad seat in the house.  I thought the sound was awesome.  Then again it was Elvis Costello and I love his voice.  The orchestra was great as well…
[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/symphony-hall-boston#hrid:_XjeSZS_kQkk0v6XnU6IMw”]Josh G.’s Review of Symphony Hall (Boston Symphony Orchestra):[/ilink]  3/23/2009
If you are going to see orchestral music, the only place where it might sound better is in the composer’s head. And only if he has a big, sonorous noggin. Otherwise you’d still be better of at Symphony Hall. From the hard wooden seats to the statues in the recesses along the walls, everything in this room except your fat ass is designed to create the perfect acoustics for an orchestra to play in. This is why you don’t see many electrified groups play here aside from the odd “edgy” Pops concert. Skip the Pops and see a proper performance by the BSO. Barring a cool collaboration, the Pops is for the very young and the very old. Basically, if you have complete control of your bladder, you are not their demographic.
[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-philadelphia-orchestra-philadelphia#hrid:3r0EgYTSJwQql2frtx386A”]Hunter B.’s Review of the Philadelphia Orchestra[/ilink]  5/19/2011
Finally found something on Philly Yelp with less than 10 reviews — and it’s our orchestra. No wonder they’re in Chapter 11. It’s a real shame to see this local, national and international treasure wasting away. Among the handful of things that Philly can claim to do in a world-class fashion, our classical music scene is one of them. Regardless of the egos, battles between the players and conductors, union contract issues, ticket prices, the repertoire, the orchestra’s faulty website and a hundred other issues, the Philadelphia Orchestra is an incredibly talented group that shouldn’t be taken for granted or worse, ignored, by so many people….
[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/jacksonville-symphony-orchestra-jacksonville#hrid:Ok_Rub9c8SWYvKiuKSmOAQ”]Orrie H.’s Review of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra:[/ilink]  5/15/2010
I went to my first ever Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra concert tonight and had a wonderful time. As part of the Fidelity Masterworks Series, they performed Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.  The whole thing was just wonderful. My date and I came a little early and found that there were concessions in the lobby, including desserts and alcohol.  Sold!  The bar had a drink on special–a cherry limeade cocktail–which was $6 and contained rum, Sprite, grenadine, and something else.  I consider $6 a reasonable price for a cocktail, especially in an event setting like this.  It was delicious. …

NSFW warning: this is probably the funniest but most profane review I encountered:

[ilink url=”http://www.yelp.com/biz/chicago-symphony-orchestra-chicago-4#hrid:2KK1kX6cQpHnqb_NQpYfPw”]nikki c.’s Review of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:[/ilink]  6/3/2010
These motherfuckers fucking rock the fuck out of fucking music. what the fuck!!! from God’s thoughts to their fingers, the fucking music just ooozzes love and emotion. oooh fuck sakes. hours upon hours of motherfucking hours of practice and sacrifice come into the light here as they showcase the fucking dedication it takes to put on such a fucking awesome show. yes, this is awesome for fucking kids, and non fucking kids of all ages. bring them now. fucking eh!

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra and spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival where in addition to performing in the violin section, Holly volunteers as an active chamber musician. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.
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2 thoughts on “Yelp Me Out”

  1. This is GREAT Holly! I’d never heard of this site before. It’s hard to keep up with so many new services. But as far as feedback from tech-savvy customers is concerned, this is golden!

  2. Thank you, Holly for this informative (and entertaining) post. I’ll have to check out my own orchestra’s Yelps. It really gives you a different perspective on what’s going through the public’s mind. Based on the review above, they must not be playing enough Rachmaninoff in San Francisco!

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