Marketing, the Masses, the Money and the Mazer

As we prepare for our performances of Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana next week, a friend came across this ad:

A very smart colleague pointed out that it is rather odd that marketing giants use opera to market to the masses, but that the masses don’t come out to the opera.  It is a very interesting point, and one that I never really thought of.  Seems as though every other TV commercial exploits the Lakme duet, or Vesti la Giubba…so there must be some mass appeal, right?

So where is the break in the chain?  Is it our industry that is failing to bring people in?  Is it lack of government funding?  Is it lack of education in the schools?

My feeling, is that it is probably a little bit of everything…but frankly, we in the opera industry are the only ones who seem to care…so we must shoulder the responsibility.  Yes, we would have an easier road ahead if music and art were viewed as an important part of education.  Yes, we would have an easier road if government funding for the arts and education was more readily available.  We can choose to champion these causes, and I applaud those who do.  However, when I look at where I can have the most immediate impact, it is in the arena of going out there and FINDING new audiences for opera.  One person, and one misconception at a time.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not think that I have all the answers.  Every day that passes in this wonderful world of trying to run an arts organization, I realize that I have fewer answers than I originally thought.  I do know, however, that we have succeeded in bringing opera to a new audience…and some of them have come back!  I know that I am much more engaged than ever in promoting this art form that I for so long took for granted.  I know that empowering five hundred fans to take a vested interest in the survival of opera is a lot easier, than trying to do it all yourself.

If you are an opera fan, I urge you to be an active opera fan.  Do not assume that someone else is going to do all the work.  If you are passionate about opera, bring a friend who has never been…try to get them interested.  Share your ideas with your local opera companies regarding ways that they may reach out to the public, volunteer, support.

I hope that we start to get more funding for art in schools.  I know that regardless of whether or not we do, my son will have a well rounded diet of music and art in his curriculum…if not at school, then at home.  I THINK that we can inspire other people to place value on the importance, and spark them into action.

Back to marketing…perhaps we as an industry just leave marketing opera in the wrong hands?  I had an idea several months back regarding promoting Cav/Pag next week…I asked the cast (those who have webcams) to send us a little shout-out that we can post on our website, letting us know where they are, what they are up to, and why they are looking forward to coming to Baltimore.  Admittedly, only one person took me up on it.  I was expecting a cheezy, webcam shout-out…what I got, was better than any recent version of SVU…in a sort of Ladies Man meets Blair Witch kinda way…  This makes me think, perhaps we need to empower the most creative people we know to take a stab at breaking down the barriers…our artists!  A huge THANK YOU to Michael Mayes, who obviously has a little too much free time on his hands in Shreveport right now!

You can follow more of Michael’s antics on LONESTAR OPERA and of course, you can catch him in the flesh at BCO next week!

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