Monday, March 20, 2006

Cool it...

Anyone interested in ways of making classical music 'cool' could do worse than have a look at this programme tonight on BBC3, the BBC TV digital channel that is aimed at people younger than I am. It's about the power of marketing to influence kids and the way those kids then pester their parents to buy them X, Y and Z. Saw a trailer for it this morning...

They stage a trick: they market a classical string quartet to a primary school of multiethnic kids as the latest rap sensation, Wolf Gang. They bring one band member, a beautiful, glamorous black girl, to visit the school. There's merchandise - stickers, t-shirts, you name it - which the kids lap up; and she rolls up in a stretch limo, exquisitely dressed, to be met with shouts and screams and many small hands reaching out to beg for autographs. The children think it's the coolest thing ever.

A little later, the kids are told what music this band actually plays. Have they heard it? No, of course not. They just fell for the marketing.

Lessons there, classical comrades. Should we make graffiti-style I heart THE LPO t-shirts, sold at as high a price as possible so that people think they're valuable? Should we have stickers bearing pictures of... um...OK, Helene Grimaud, on sale at designer outlets? Should we drive her, or Julia Fischer, or Lisa Batiashvili, or Gabriela Montero, or whoever, to visit a primary school in a stretch limo - not to play music and make kids listen, but to wave, smile and preen, getting the message across that this is a beautiful superstar whose autograph it's worth having? Would it really help? What do you think?

UPDATE, 7.15pm: I've had a stroke of inspiration. It's often said that classical musicians need to 'ditch the penguin suits'. Various orchestras have tried other uniforms: black trousers and shirts (looks like they're not actually there), bright shirts & jeans (looks naff) etc etc. What they need is this: designer wear. It doesn't much matter which label, as long as it's famous. Let's try dressing the LPO from top to toe in identical Armani outfits & see what happens.

Unfortunately, nobody in the LPO can currently afford an Armani suit, so the company would have to be prevailed upon to hand 'em over free, or much reduced, as sponsorship.