The future of classical music lies not in taking it out of concert halls but bringing youth audiences into those venues, violinist and broadcaster Daniel Hope said in a wide-ranging and challenging keynote speech at the opening of the second Classical:NEXT industry forum.
Welcoming delegates to ‘my hometown’ of Vienna, Mr Hope insisted he would counter the ‘doom and gloom’ so often shrouding predictions about classical music. ‘The crisis is not the music, the crisis is how we have disregarded the music over the last decades,’ he told the audience in Vienna’s MAK museum of applied arts. While taking classical music into club-type venues ‒ as he had done ‒ could be ‘rewarding and exciting’ for performers who felt comfortable in that ambience, it was not a long-term solution.
‘We have at our disposal some of the greatest concert halls imaginable. That is certainly where people should be experiencing music ‒ we have got to get people back into the concert halls.’ Some venues were doing that by putting on morning concerts with free child care and concerts for babies, and the Philadelphia Orchestra offers students a $25 annual pass.
Turning to performers, he said many young musicians complain how tough it is to make a career. ‘I tell them it has always been that way.’ Early in his career he sent out 2,000 letters and demo tapes to UK music clubs and received six engagements at £50 a time. ‘That paid for the postage and the demo tapes.’ He also recalled sneaking through the artists’ entrance of the Royal Festival Hall with orchestra members so he could leave tapes in the conductors’ dressing room. He did not get one offer from that ploy, but was banned from the venue. ‘You can imagine my glee when a few years later I made my debut at the Festival Hall.’
Today he gives about 150 concerts a year and runs two festivals. The one in Savannah, Georgia, attracts 41% of its audience from more than 200 miles away, receives a public subsidy of $125,000 towards its $4.5m budget but generates $1.1m of local spending and fills 11,000 hotel beds. However, he challenged star artists who are used to commanding huge fees to be mindful of the economic problems countries such as Spain ‒ once a lucrative concert market ‒ are facing and tailor their fees accordingly.
To younger artists in particular, he pointed at the internet as the platform for starting a music career. ‘Get your music recorded and put it on the net and make it as widely available as possible.’ Music could even be recorded on a smartphone and uploaded. There are, he said, record company executives complaining that they cannot find promising young artists.
Turning to physical recordings, he said: ‘Where can you sell CDs? At every one of your concerts.’ He cited the Camerata Salzburg, which recorded a recent concert in Vienna and offered the result to the audience as they departed. ‘It sold over 400 CDs ‒ more than some classical recordings ever sell.’
On the concert front, the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Centre and Carnegie Hall were providing practical coaching for students by inviting them not just to put on a recital but to market it and supervise ticket sales.
But, he concluded, the value of culture goes beyond economics and needs educated listeners as well as performers. In a less upbeat vein, he warned that erosion of music education in schools had to be reversed.