Where Do We Go From Here: Pushing the Boundaries of Popular Art

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

During my drive home for the Thanksgiving holiday, I took the time to finally listen to the cast recording of The Book of Mormon I’ve had on my iPod for some time. I wasn’t going in completely blind, I’ve been a loyal South Park viewer for years, and I had already heard “Turn It Off” during the early buzz about the show.

So I went in expecting a very funny show that poked fun at everything in its path and included an absolutely no holds barred attitude towards language. Given that, I was actually still amazed by how entertaining the show was, and how far it was willing to push the limits of good taste. My favorite moment came during the show’s fourth tune, “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” which made me laugh so hard that I nearly wrecked my car and left me amazed that I haven’t heard more complaints and protests about the language used in the show.

I remember growing up during the olden days of the early 90s when people were horrified by the language used on The Simpsons and Married with Children. The shows from that time are tame when compared to what is on television today, and one can only assume that the producers of a musical that used profanity as freely as Trey Parker would have been run out of town by an angry mob of housewives carrying torches.

I’m not trying to criticize the language used in The Book of Mormon, because I personally find it hilarious. What I am impressed by is how far we have come in the last two decades in terms of the language and themes that can be used by popular art forms which are now celebrated rather than condemned. This does raise the question of how much further we can push the boundaries of public taste. Will it be possible to offend audiences twenty years from now, or will we have pushed the boundaries so far literally anything goes? Perhaps only time will tell.



The Singing Spider

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

The producers of the musical, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark don’t stop engaging actions to make profit in vain with one of the most expensive shows of the history of Broadway.

It is a secret for nobody – this play is a flop. According to the New York Times, it generates $1 million in expenses every week, because of its technical complexity, while tickets bring only 100 – 300 000 dollars. Debt-ridden, the play would need five additional years to mop them according to the calculations of the New York Times.

With 75 million dollars invested in the play, the producers do not hope to make any more profit but at least not to loose too much.

Then, rather than going into a tour, they decided to remain in New York, giving time for the play to reach its maturity.

Among others, new scenes will be added every year in the show to incite the public to return.

The producers also launched a radio campaign in 50 states with the opportunity of winning tickets. In exchange for their price, the happy winners will have to return to the radio to make a critique of the show – a way to put satisfied people in the front row.

Considered as one of the most expensive shows of the history of Broadway, confronted with a series of accidents on stage during the rehearsals, reviled by the critics even before the official launch ceaselessly delayed, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark accumulated problems. And I’m not even talking about the trial between the producers and the former director of the musical.

Qualified “disappointing” by Hollywood Reporter, even songs written by Bono and The Edge hardly found grace with the critics.

Nevertheless, the future is not so dark for the super-hero; the rumors aroused by its setbacks attract spectators. Last week, which included the fruitful weekend of Thanksgiving, Spider Man achieved near 2.1million dollars in receipts, a record at the moment.

Sometimes bad publicity can turn out to be a good advertisement…


Why not more NFP support for jazz?

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

There are hundreds of major non-for-profit organizations devoted to classical music, but there are not nearly as many organizations devoted to supporting jazz, a uniquely American art form which is just as deserving of support. Jazz at Lincoln Center, headed by Wynton Marsalis, has done an admirable job in advocating for jazz, and the Chicago Symphony runs an excellent jazz series at Symphony Center, but for the most part, jazz musicians have to fend for themselves, relying on jazz clubs (if they are fortunate enough to live in a city that has one) or other venues to perform their art. There are many smaller NFPs devoted to jazz, particularly in the realm of education, but few of them are able provide the resources needed to sustain high quality performances.

I would love to see more organizations like SF Jazz, a not-for-profit in San Francisco that has supported jazz performances for 30 years and is currently in the process of building a new concert hall specifically intended for jazz. There are many cities across the country that have good jazz scenes that struggle to find audiences, often due to for-profit venues that struggle to find a business model that will provide enough revenue to sustain their operations. Perhaps the development of more performance-focused jazz NFPs across the country might help focus and develop more widespread support for the art form. Of course, one would need to have a large enough base of passionate supporters to get started, but I think it is certainly an avenue worth exploring.


Music on a Card

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

In the growing battle for digital music, France took a step further in the beginning of the year with the creation of the Music Card by the government. The crisis in the CD industry is no breaking news, but figures make it sharper. Local artists’ album releases have dropped from 60 percent between 2003 and 2009 and figures show that one-third of French Internet users illegally download music.

In response to that, the Music Card allows French residents between 12 and 25 to purchase a 50€ worth of credit for 25€ – the government paying the other half – in order to legally download music on the Internet through the main music platforms. The plan is supposed to last for two years with the possibility of buying one subsidized card per year. A year after it started, the Ministry of Culture however had to admit his disappointment. With only around 50,000 cards sold, we are far from the million expected.

Beyond the inner critics – there is no check for the age of the customer, not all music platforms are accessible – the issue obviously lies deeper than just practicality. It is clear to the creators of the project that there is a huge step in asking for people to pay for something they currently get for free. Unlike the Minister claims, I do not think most of us realize – especially among young people – the impact of illegal download on artistic creation. But maybe the attempts on making it clear are taking a wrong direction by using threats and fees? In that respect, the project does appear as a nice tentative but will need to be refined and improved to become a successful alternative to piracy.


WHAT? An opera company with record ticket sales?

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have to admit-in this age of doom and gloom, it’s so nice to read that an opera company is doing well.

According to the Sarasota Patch, ‘Madama Butterfly’ gave Sarasota Opera its highest ticket sales ever for a fall opera at the Sarasota Opera House. The opera company announced last week that its fall production of Giacomo Puccini’s wildly overperformed opera grossed about half a million dollars in ticket sales for the fall season, which set the bar for the highest selling show since 2008 when the venue started fall operas.

Additionally, the opera company noticed more returning subscribers and first-time subscribers in the fall. Ten percent of the audience at each performance were new to Sarasota Opera, and 290 new subscribers signed up for the winter season, and the company is $300,000 ahead of where it was last year. OH YEAH!

Even though it’s a touch sad that this success comes by producing one of the most constantly performed top five operas-ever, this great news is music to my ears! I’m also very, very glad for the company because I have a vested interest in their success having worked there for a spell (in Development). (It was one of my most rewarding administrative experiences to date, and Susan Danis is an insanely great Executive Director.)

Ah, there is hope.
People are still going to the opera!

David Walker

Participative is popular

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here is an article about one big trend in arts, which is also one of the biggest challenges of Art Administration according to me: http://www.artnews.com/2011/01/01/youre-engaged/

For example, we know that a person who practiced an instrument when he was young will be more likely to enjoy and attend to symphonies or other types of concerts. People who danced will be more likely to appreciate ballet. These kinds of facts get more and more obvious in cultural managers’ spirits, but may not be enough. One of the biggest issues of “high culture” artistic events is their lack of audience involvement. This article develops some examples of participatory programs that have been established mostly in museums. I find it very clever for it underlines how participative art is not only a way to access art, but is also a way to access your own creativity through art. Thus, we can say that participative art fulfills two fundamental missions of art administration organizations: it brings people to the art and it is educational.


The social revolution in Art

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here is an interesting article I found about a now famous phenomenon: the social revolution. It more precisely focuses on its impact on art: http://www.artnews.com/2011/06/01/the-social-revolution/

I always find it fascinating how many new opportunities for arts are invented on the web every day thanks to the bold initiative of some artists or organizations. To be perfectly honest, it also makes me a little dizzy. As democratic, and clever, and cheap as these solutions are, the whole social revolution looks like a gigantic “terra incognita” moving forward so fast that you do not have the time to invent a new solution and that this solution is already disappearing into a new one. How long was Myspace effective? How long will Facebook last? It feels like it is harder and harder for artists and art organizations to stay “in the trend,” which also means that it is harder to master communication and to build a name in a long-term view. Indeed, multiplicity can become chaotic, and it does even more when you add the speed factor to it. So it is a tricky time for artists: easy to become known and born, but easy to vanish quickly…