A definition for purposes of discussion: anything that’s not “traditional” (print, terrestrial radio, TV) media.
So therefore: blogs, web pages, podcasts, YouTube and other streaming media, MySpace… you get the idea.
Our colleagues on the stage are a big part of the equation, for in order to dabble in these new areas, concensus must be reached on things like fair use and intellectual property.
It was called to our attention that a lot of the artist agreements that are permitting some new media projects to go forward are negotiated at the local (not the national) level. Increasingly, the performers themselves are joining with companies to recognize the importance of trying to find how the whole world of opera (and, by extension, our mutual participation in it) fits into all of these new opportunities.
A useful way of thinking about this: Acclimate and bring the artists and staff on board in the same way we think about the process of cultivating donors.
Bait and Switch
We’re spending a lot of time this week (and this is not new…) talking about attracting and keeping “younger” patrons. (In opera, that means anyone who doesn’t have an AARP card) To that end, immersion in the new media is an attractive proposition. Clearly, by finding me here, you know that Wolf Trap is already participating in this new chapter. Do I think it’s the answer to our marketing prayers? Well…
A cautionary tale that was mentioned this morning is worth repeating. If our hip cyber-efforts don’t bear any real relationship to the product, we won’t keep a single new recruit past the first performance. Even if we get the attention of a new patron, and s/he buys a ticket, if the experience doesn’t live up to the promise of the über-sexy marketing, we’ve won the battle but lost the war. This by no means makes any of the many kinds of satisfying opera experiences inferior. Just incongruous with some of the hype that's beginning to be generated. Sell opera for what it is, and neither apologize for nor mislead folks about what it isn't.
That said, I’m newly inspired to keep WTOC’s presence alive in the blogosphere and in podcasts (and, dare I say on YouTube?) this summer. After having surveyed the landscape and done some research, I believe we might be ready to jump in a little deeper. And I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think there were ways to accomplish it with the blessing (and participation) of artists, staff, and other colleagues.
The corollary problem of human resources hasn’t been solved, though. We all jump on this bandwagon because it’s “free.” As Milton Friedman reminded us, there is no free lunch. Somehow, you always pay. Someone has to develop the content, capture the images and sounds, edit the data, write the blog, design the pages. So the remaining few weeks before our production season begins in earnest will be spent furiously chipping away at all of the other chores (schedules, travel, supertitles, budgets, program copy) so that when the music starts, we’ll be able to do something creative with it.
Remind me of this in June.
By 6pm tonight, we had reached the OCSP (Opera Conference Saturation Point). Actually went over to South Beach, dipped our toes in the water and people-watched. (Shhh. Don't tell anyone at the office. They think we're talking opera around the clock down here.)
Heading back home tomorrow night. Big choral concert on Sunday. Back in the office Monday. Have a good weekend!
Friday, April 27, 2007