Monday, March 20, 2006

LA Phil's iTunes debut

It seems strangely fitting that the Los Angeles Philharmonic will debut on iTunes with two programs entitled "Minimalist Jukebox". The more I think about it, though, the less strange it seems. Online downloads are the medium of choice for millions of listeners, and this music is perfectly suited to that medium, and those listeners.

I'll probably be one of them myself, when the concerts become available later this month. An LA Times article by Scott Timberg, "Making it easier to get your Phil", nicely summarizes these and other recent developments in classical music distribution. Check out this website for information on the "Minimalist Jukebox" concerts, featuring music by Reich, Andriessen, Pärt, and many others.

Timberg's article quotes one of my former teachers, LA Phil bassist David Moore, on taking part in meetings between orchestra members and management:
In planning its entrée into this world, the Philharmonic defused [union vs. management] tensions by forming a committee of musicians and management jointly interested in having an Internet presence.

"The meetings were just ironing out the business end of what everyone in the orchestra thinks is a great idea," says David Moore, a Philharmonic bassist and a member of the group's Local Internet Oversight Committee.
As his comment makes clear, orchestra musicians needn't be an impediment to the bright new digital future; in fact, many of the most technologically savvy and innovative thinkers I know are orchestral musicians. There does need to be a dialogue, though, so that musicians' interests and concerns can be addressed. As orchestras fine-tune their online business models, I'm sure committees like David Moore's will play an essential role.

The computer-illiterate musician is just as mythical as the classical music fan who won't go near the Web. Many orchestral musicians not only depend on the web for news and information, but use it to deliver their own content, sound files, and ideas. As more people turn to iTunes for orchestral music, this kind of content can play a vital part in drawing and engaging curious listeners.

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