from Monday, February15th of the year2010.
So, this morning, I packed up my apartment in London and am headed back to New York “” here is a list of the detritus accumulated during the month’s stay: 1 map of London, affix’t to the wall with blu-tak, 15 wine corks fallen behind the computer, £16 in loose change, 1 bottle of ginger wine (unopened), 1 bottle of Dubonnet (one last sip left, but at 9 in the morning I wasn’t about to fuck with it), a USB cable with the word “TONY?” scrawled on it, a promotional pamphlet for the Diva Cup, a tube of somebody’s tinted lip chap, an envelope that used to contain a phone number on it until Jónsi wrote all over it in marker, a toenail clipping (!), a note I wrote to myself on a picture of the Queen that says, “Warshing Upp Liquid,” and a piece of manuscript paper with four notes written on it (G, C, B and E, descending from the top of the staff to the bottom line.)
I am proud of this.
I am also proud that my opera is finally announced and organized; you can read about it in plain-speak here and in slightly plainer speak here. I got a slew of really nice emails and notes from people “” thank you! I also made the mistake of reading some really horrible comments about “me,” which I stopped reading about six in, but which Danny addressed here. I’m excited about new opera, anybody’s new opera! And so should we all be. Putting on an opera is an Herculean Feat and I stand in awe of any composer who has forded that particular river, from Corigliano to Floyd to Adams to Glass to Adamo to Monica to Erica to Rita to Tina.
Has everybody been reading John Adams’s blog? There’s something very wonderful about the design of it, I think, even though it reminds me a lot of Candyman?
And we’ve all been dealing with how the Philadelphia Orchestra, bless their hearts, launched this weird campaign online, called Unexpect Yourself? Read Amanda Ameer about it here. The whole thing breaks my heart, not just because it’s appalling to look at, but also because it just pongs so acutely of corporate groupthink. I much prefer a doomed campaign to have at least a human touch, rather than this, which is just so awful. I’m going to Philadelphia in a few days to see Tan Dun’s opera Tea, and I will investigate the physical reality of this campaign. The thing is this, and this relates to my opera haters, too. We’re all in this together. We all want the world to be a beautiful place, where music radiates out and touches the ears of the rich, the poor, the monarch and the slave, right? So when we criticize each other, let it be in the interests of this project, rather than just to spit bile. If I say something nasty about an arts organization, I’m not trying to booty shake on its grave. I’m also trying to do it publicly, and with my name on it, so that there is some kind of personal responsibility, which is precisely what the Philadelphia campaign lacks.
There is probably room here for a brief aside about the (necessary) corporate structures that support arts organizations versus the public faces of them; I think that in general, organizations that have somebody from the management with a name, publicly visible, are very smart, because you can feel a Curatorial Hand guiding you through your season there. The Wigmore Hall is like that; John Gilhooly sort of escorts one through the concerts. This applies to other brands, too; I think that Virgin are wise to have Richard Branson be so public “”Â this way, criticism can be directional. Instead of spending all that money on stock photos of white people, surely what Philly needs is any human being who can go to the world and be an advocate for what’s going on there. Perhaps that’s Allison Vulgamore? Questions, questions. I guess what I’m loosely getting at here is that I want everybody “” artists, people who hate their art, presenters, producers “” to be good advocates, griots, and ambassadors for their work & ideas.
I know it’s really considered rude to bite the hand that feeds, but a good example of a doomed campaign that at least has a human touch is the New York Philharmonic’s new logo, right? It’s shocking, and the thing is we all know it. Urrybody. It’s nobody who thinks this thing is alright. I showed it to my web designer and he looked like somebody hat opened the Arc of the Covenant. I mean, look at the M! Look at the W! This is really some entry-level Adobeâ„¢ Illustrator put-text-on-a-line shit right there. But what I like about it is that you can tell that somebody hunched over a desk really loving on that W. Somebody really cared for that H, and its busted twin. Somebody manipulated that raggedy-ass K by hand and somebody else walked by the desk and said, “good work, team!” It’s touching, in its way. But I would actually like to ask if there exists a sentient being somewhere who thinks that logo is even remotely okay, and if so, please announce yourself (by Name) to the concierge’s desk and tell me WHY. It’s by the same lady who did the Met’s logo, which is gorgeous! So it could be one of those things like how every composer has one fucked up piece that nobody likes, or that just takes a little more time to get used to. I would take a bullet for Steve Reich but for years I couldn’t bear to listen to that Anatevka-tastic slow movement of “You Are.” And eventually I came ’round when a singer told me, at (drunken) length, how much she loved it. I was convinced! Maybe I can be convinced of this logo! It just is gonna take a face, a smile, and a good argument.
What is actually amazing is the New York Phil’s iTunes season pass. Everybody should get this. It auto-downloads randomly, so it’ll be like four in the morning and all of a sudden, it’s the Sinfonia Concertante, with DohnaÌnyi, and Cynthia Phelpz sounding hot hot hot! I don’t know if it’s the same team that did the logo as does the accompanying PDF booklet, but the booklet is very well-designed, informative, and reads well as a PDF (as in, it’s designed well for the screen and you don’t have to esquint or reduce/enlarge, even on a laptop).
To summarize: Arts organizations, stop the corporate groupthink. We’re on2 u. Everybody buy the Philharmonic’s Seezin Pass. Invest in Blu-Tak; it truly is a versatile adhesive. Be an advocate for your ideas, even if they are criticisms.
I’m going to add this here at the bottom; it’s a comment from my very sage boyfriend, Ben, who writes:
I said this on Amanda’s blog and I’ll say it here, because people from arts organizations may read this and they should know, tactically, what is wrong with the Philadelphia Orchestra’s campaign.
The organization, and their firm, opted for a gimmick but clearly did not consider their audience. I lived in Philadelphia for (5) years, god help me, and the project reeks of something that is not audience appropriate.
They had a not-as-doomed-idea: People try all kinds of shit, so they should try the orchestra. So why not find some actual, living-breathing people who attended the orchestra and tell their story, instead of using weird stock photos of people who don’t look like anyone in their target audience? I’m sure there is someone who “¦ say “¦ went to see Mahler instead of an Eagles game on a whim (maybe it was a gift?) and is glad they did. Why not feature them?
The lesson here is simple: If you are an arts organization, and you hire a marketing firm, and they don’t ask you ““ directly ““ in the first 30 minutes who your audience is, what that audience wants and why would someone want to see your shit, don’t hire them.
The sub-lesson here is simple as well: Don’t use stock photos! Hire someone.
Want more direct advice. Here’s a great firm (that I used to work for, okay) that does all the marketing for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, 1812 Productions and others:
Also, any designer worth their salt in Philly knows that JJ Tizou is like, the best arts photographer in the area and would have taken something compelling, not some couple in a convertible: