This will be a very brief post, and I hope it generates some discussion.
One of the biggest mental hurdles I’ve overcome is overestimating my radio audience’s level of involvement in the world of classical music. When I began in radio, I felt a lot of pressure to speak the language of those who were “in the know.” I envisioned a typical listener as an being older, affluent, regular concertgoer who expected a high level of discourse about the music I was presenting. My presentation could be very much “insider speak” (and I still battle it a bit to this day), without much regard to those who may not have the foggiest idea of what I was talking about. I thought that if I could show how much I knew to other people who also knew a lot, that I was serving my audience in the best way possible.
Without a doubt, older, affluent, regular concertgoers are a part of the classical music radio audience. And they’re likely a very engaged part of the audience – the ones who email us or call us in the studio, and the ones who we see at concerts that we attend ourselves. But they’re just one part – and likely a small part – of a much larger group. If we focus too much on those listeners who already know a lot about music by tailoring our presentation to meet them at their level of knowledge, then we are doing a disservice to everyone else who may be curious about classical music, but are likely bewildered about some of the things we have to say.
I had a conversation with my host at WFIU recently about his choice of recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. He had chosen an old, early stereo era recording featuring Jascha Heifetz. I asked him to replace it with something more contemporary. We went back and forth a bit about it, and he said to me, “If I were to ask someone on the street if they’d rather hear Janine Jansen or Jascha Heifetz, of course they’d say Heifetz.” To which I replied, “Perhaps if you were asking people on the sidewalk outside the concert hall, but what about everyone else at any other time?” I certainly don’t disagree that Heifetz was an amazing musician and that his recordings deserve to be heard, even today. It’s the notion that so many of our listeners would have such a specific opinion about the recorded legacy of one piece of music that I was trying to dispel.
So that’s what I mean by “don’t overestimate your audience.” There will always be highly knowledgeable and highly opinionated listeners who won’t hesitate to point out if we make a factual error or if we play what they think is the “wrong” recording. But they are a tiny segment of our potential audience. Which leads me to my next thought: don’t UNDERESTIMATE your audience either – their ability to learn about music and acquire a taste for more and more complex music. More on that later. For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – it’s been on my mind since 4 o’clock this morning!
Subscribe Via Email
Enter your email address to subscribe to Scanning the Dial and receive notifications of new posts by email.