Friday, July 30, 2010

Selling Symphonies with Sex

NPR Music posted a story this week about an issue that's been ongoing for the past 20-plus years in classical music (and indeed, in all forms of music). That is, does being good-looking help album sales? Is it appropriate to exploit that aspect of a performer in the name of building a fan base? The responses from the musicians in the story are pretty typical, but I found the NPR users' public comments interesting.

Annie writes: I work in a music store, and the classical section is often difficult for non-listeners to browse. Regardless of how the record sounds, most covers look non-descript. People will pick up whatever catches their eye, and these covers do. Artists have to distinguish themselves to both their fans and the non-listening public, and I’m glad these women can do it though self-expression. Go get 'em ladies!

HW writes: Look, the music is a hundred years old or more, played and recorded by countless others. Yet, it endures just like and old story that one never tires of hearing. At least I don't. So what if they put on a new dust jacket. Is that so bad? Easy on the eyes, lovely on the ears. They are both emotive - as it should be.

Erin writes: In a lot of these photos [at the NPR site], the women are wearing nothing less (or more) than women throughout the centuries have worn in concert settings. And I know plenty of men who complain about not being able to wear less in a concert setting--those tuxes are hot!

What are your thoughts? And in the meantime, I'll go back to gazing at Anne-Sophie Mutter whilst listening to her recordings.

--Nathan Cone

1 comment:

Jack Fishman said...

Classical music isn't immune to the general society. Don't you think part of Joshua Bell's appeal is his youthful looks and great hair?

At least we are living in an era when women can perform in public! This is relatively new. Men used to sing the high voice parts.

In orchestras, with the introduction of the blind audition (by insistence of the AFM in the 60s) women now make up 50% of most professional orchestras. Just look back to your old album covers and you'll only find female harpists not so long ago.

So, given the history and our society's obsession with youth, I'd say we are doing okay.