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A Marketing Lesson From Modern Classical Music

Kyle Sacks

Let’s talk about classical music. Now stay with me on this one: I swear it’ll circle back around. Classical music is about as “high culture” as one can get, especially in the musical realm. It’s timeless and self-important. But the classical scene is facing an issue. Modern classical music has abandoned the melody that made pieces by the old greats like Beethoven and Mozart so lasting. Modern classical is a car crash sounding cacophony of dissonant, a-tonal noise and, (surprise, surprise) no one wants to listen to it. People hate it, asking questions like, “Why do we have to listen to music that sounds like buses crashing?” The classical-managerial class (read: snobby rich guys that commission new classical composers) keeps funding it regardless. For the last century they’ve funded new composers who write this car crash music and, when no one wants to listen to it, they blame the audience. “The audience doesn’t get it,” the elites cry! “The audience just wants to be coddled by the old greats instead of learning to appreciate the new,” they bellow! That could be true, or maybe they just don’t like the music?

You already see the marketing lesson coming don’t you? Well, it’s fascinating to watch how even a market as high-brow as classical music is still not safe from Marketing 101: if The Consumer doesn’t like your product, they’re not going to buy it. In the case of modernist classical music, The Consumer has spoken. They don’t like modern classical and they’re not going to pay to listen to it. Sorry guys, game over. Blaming the audiences taste and telling them to grow up is not going to change anything. Sadly, the classical elites aren’t catching the hint. Robert Blumen, writing for Ludwig von Mises Institute economics blog, sums it up well:

Why does the classical-managerial class after a century of its failed agenda not admit that they were wrong and start trying to fund music that people might like? In what other industry would entrepreneurs continue to pour funding into a failed business model?

What a good reminder that marketing and business always come back to The Consumer. You might think your product is great or that your ad is clever as hell or that you “know” better, but if The Consumer doesn’t agree, it’s time to change.

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