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Norm at CNMN Forum #4


Saturday in Calgary was very interesting. As often happens at these things, some of the addresses missed the mark (for me) and the most interesting discussions happened at the bar or on a break! Luckily I anticipated this, and searched out the people I knew would be relevant and made them eat and drink with me!

The day started with a short session on “Making a living in New Music”. There was some discussion around a living stipend for artists. An intriguing idea that some people took exception to, surprisingly! (It certainly would take some thought as to how to such a thing could be juried, if at all, how long you’d get it, and whether it would be better to just give EVERYONE a living stipend (please search up the Dauphin Project…..the socialist in me swells with pride, thanks Dad!)

The talk quickly devolved to an even more interesting tack of changes to Canada Council funding that are approaching, and how smaller companies are laden with the same administration of funding as organizations 10 or 100 times larger. (More on that later.)

David Pay from Music on Main in Vancouver was leading this session, and he impressed me with his fearlessness on the topic of fundraising: he talked about the fetishization of poverty, which I loved: we are programmed to be poor!

We as Canadians perhaps, get freaked out by money. We think it’s rude to talk about it or ask for it, but it’s just money! There’s lots of it! He said to never stop asking our communities for money. If they say no, ask again next time.

I’m learning

He described donating to charity as the donor expressing his/her values. Who doesn’t want to do that?

I do recognize that David is programming music to sell tickets, he programs many concerts per year, he has a staff and an office, and he lives in Vancouver where the streets are paved with gold. But he does express an attitude that might be empowering.

He quoted the three toxic myths of fundraising: there’s not enough, more is better, that's just the way it is. I like those, because it’s true.

Lots of food for thought for sure.

Next we went into a demonstration by Carmen Braden, a young composer from Yellowknife who is studying at U of C. I met her when she was an undergrad at Acadia U, and was impressed then by her openness and excitement about composition and all music. She talked about her work in combining northern story telling traditions with electroacoustic media. She performed a short piece built on a myth she created, and it was really quite original, a beautiful hybrid of south and north, tech and ancient tradition, and I hung on every word and sound.

It was nice to hear music and not just talk about it too!

There were more presentations, “project versus operating funding” ….. a new music ensemble from Central Michigan U. that brings together Canadian and American composers creating social and personally interactive community, all on zero dollars……

Finally “Public Interaction: engaging in dialogue, opening the doors”. This sounded really interesting!

Here are some of my notes:

  • Do we want people to understand us or do we want them to value us? (good one)

  • Music on Main calls each new patron after every concert to see how they like their experience! (nice to have staff…)

  • Who do we look to for inspiration in outreach?

  • We are helping curious people learn more, and expand their horizons. (interesting)

  • There is a musical moment at each board meeting. He works the board. (it sounds like he treats his board well)

  • Target market is anyone that wants to interact with them

  • The core goal: music for social lubrication. (Booze in involved!)

Pay attention - be inspired - talk about it -- Mary Oliver

  • Music Gallery not just classical or new music – there are four streams of programming, with no hierarchy between forms. With 4 audiences they spread the word and switch genres. (a really interesting model, building your audience by attracting several different audiences and combining them)

  • Curation – young people curate and bring their people in. They do panel discussions and dialogues and bring different conversations together.

  • Fits about ownership, city building. (I think Music Gallery is getting close to something here…)

  • Audience development is about the whole package, the totality of the experience.

  • How do you get them in the door? The message is important. Too much jargon and assumptions are made I press releases. Imagine who you are speaking to, and write to them. Video is a good way to communicate. (I know, I know)

  • Then it is about the night. Are people well taken care of?

  • Question: How does an org reach audiences that aren’t already interested?

  • Answers: Do we need to?

  • Start with the young.

  • Go to where the people are: pop up concerts.

  • Partnerships promo and presentation. Local music. Support local musical ideas

  • Public engagement is a bad term. Why? Sounds like bureaucratic. Teaching.

  • What about audience generated practices? What does our audience want to get from us? Perhaps we need to think of intake not outreach?

  • What is role of the performer? Encourage public participation, pitch ideas.

  • What are the new ways of capturing people?

  • If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.

  • People can ask questions. If they use specialized words you’re succeeding.

  • Now I’m frustrated.

I was getting frustrated, we were talking about issues that small companies know about but just can’t get to because they’re busy book keeping, or filling out CRA reports! The organizations at the table were billed as the small (ish) ones, but the panel wasn’t considering the microscopic organizations like suddenlyLISTEN that need to do the same work, but without staff to do it!

There was another conversation to be had.

Then there was the keynote panel offered by representatives from The London Sinfonietta, The Berlin Philharmonic, Sound Streams, the Miller Theatre at Columbia U, and a festival in Dijon, France. Here I listen with interest, but without relating. They talked of issues that relate to million dollars and up organizations. Certainly, The London Sinfonietta has commissioned hundreds of work, presented important concerts and tours, and built audience through really risky, interesting programming. As representative of SNS, I listened with interest and wished we could take the artistic leaps that TLS has taken. We can all learn from that, but as AD of suddenlyLISTEN, I felt like there was an elephant in the room.

Finally Marie from Weird Canada (who I feel has been one of the most interesting people here) stood up and asked about how young people relate to all this. (aha!) The panelists tried to answer, but I felt like they could only do so in relation to the models they knew, and Marie was talking about a different model! Her people come not from the establishment, or academia, they come from sex, drugs and rock and roll! And they are a good part of the future.

Later when I’m sitting at the airport, I’ll write more on this.

It was a good day, I felt like things were becoming clear.


Jan 26, 2014 at 12:34

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