Thursday, September 30, 2010

Under the Hood

Bridge over the Platte River. Photo by Nathan Cone.
Classical stations convene in Denver for annual PRPD Conference.

In September 2010, I attended the annual PRPD (Public Radio Program Directors) conference, held in Denver. Nearly 500 attendees from all over the country convened to discuss public radio’s future. The big topics at the conference included fostering an atmosphere of openness and inclusiveness within the public radio system to encourage diversity, and mobile technology’s role in the way people access public radio content.

Program Directors from several classical music stations gathered in a special session pre-conference, and one of the many breakout sessions at PRPD was about re-imagining the role of music services in public media.

Below are some of my notes and observations from the classical session:

Anya Grundmann of NPR Music noted the popularity of the still new NPR spinoff website. There were 70,000 page views last week. Chatting online during live performances has been a successful experiment. Similar to, stations can partner with NPR Music through an API that will feed music content to their own sites, something KPAC hopes to be able to do in the not-too-distant future with our own web redesign. NPR Music is also interested in partnering with member stations for content creation, from performance audio/video to themed music streams, curated and hosted by member stations.

Frank Dominguez (WDAV) presented the “Concierto” service, a bilingual music program and stream similar to KPAC’s own Itinerarios program. KPBS picked it up for broadcast. Emphasis has been placed on conductors like Gustavo Dudamel, composers like Chavez or Ponce, and the fact that classical music isn’t just European or Anglo music, it’s your [=Latino audience’s] music. Dominguez says presenting bilingually for that brief program on WDAV represents an open door to the world of classical music for non-English speakers.
Also of interest to reaching a Latino audience, Classical South Florida has posted a lot of outdoor advertising—in Spanish—to reach Latino listeners. Their area is 50-50 Latino, and their audience registers 49% Latino, tracking similar to our own (46% of KPAC’s audience is Hispanic/Latino).

American Public Media debuted their “Classical Live” series of concerts. The idea is to look for the most interesting concerts happening in a particular month, and tell the story behind the concerts as well as hear the music. For example, Classical Live will broadcast Gustavo Dudamel’s opening concert with the LA Philharmonic on October 7 at 9pm Central; in January, the Nashville Symphony makes its post-flood return to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center; and also in January, the New World Symphony Hall in Miami is christened with the New World Symphony debut there. KPAC is excited to broadcast this live concert series.

There continued to be more discussion of ways classical stations can better engage their audiences and interact. Some stations have an Educational Outreach position on staff; other stations have dabbled with continuing education courses for adults in music appreciation. Young listeners enjoyed getting free station-branded hoodies or other swag from their public radio stations.

On the mobile tech front, some stations are beginning to develop station-branded apps for smart phones that do more than just play your station. WBUR allows listeners to suggest story ideas, donate through their phone, or access podcasts and more through their phone. What about for classical stations? Perhaps a mobile concert calendar with locations mapped out on your smart phone? All of these mobile apps and tech ideas take time to develop, and yes, money.

All in all, there was plenty of food for thought in Denver. But we’d like to know what *you* think. Comment on this blog post, or send your thoughts to me through email.

--Nathan Cone, Director of Classical Programming

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