Making private space public

Eight years ago, I gave a paper on “house concerts for art music” to economists in love with music in Copenhagen. Today, Groupmuse is one of the grassroot initiatives that intermediates between artists and venue owners to realise such a concept. On Maui, I know of a clarinettist who produces these concerts from his home — always sold out. In and around Utrecht, I know of at least two. What are the issues that confront turning your private space into a concert venue for the public?

Continue reading “Making private space public”

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11,000 hits on concertblog

11,000 hits on concertblog but so what?

By the time I publish this blog entry, there would have been 11,000 visitors (not counting myself) to this site since 24 March 2009.

Anne Ku in Bennebroek, Netherlands
Anne Ku in Bennebroek, Netherlands

Why is this number significant?

Surely there are better indicators of the popularity of this blog. Economists would look at the rate of increase, per day, per week, per month, etc. Statisticians would look at the average growth, the top most-viewed pages, and other measures.

11,000 is a nice number. Not long ago, I saw it hit 10,000. I wonder when will it hit 12,000?

Does the euro blogger Edward Hugh track his blog traffic? He made headline news when the euro weakened. He had warned about this years ago but no one (seemingly) paid attention.

My warning is simple:
we need to pay attention to what’s going on in cultural economics, as professional artists, culture vultures, and anyone who wants to continue to produce, consume, and enjoy the arts.

Deciding which cultural economics session to attend

Economists spend a lot of time figuring out the factors that influence a decision. They determine which factors are more important than others and to what extent they contribute to the decision making process. The availability of information is key to informed decisions. Also important is awareness of one’s preferences and values. On the third day of this international conference on cultural economics (ACEI 2010 in Copenhagen), I had to choose one of 8 parallel sessions to attend

Economists spend a lot of time figuring out the factors that influence a decision. They determine which factors are more important than others and to what extent they contribute to the decision making process. The availability of information is key to informed decisions. Also important is awareness of one’s preferences and values.

On the third day of this international conference on cultural economics, I had to choose one of 8 parallel sessions to attend from 09:00 to 10:30 before a half-hour coffee break and one of 3 panel discussions from 11:00 to noon. The rooms were dispersed on the ground floor, first floor, and second floor of the impressive and spacious building of Copenhagen Business School.

As a musician, I am interested in the topics to do with music, performance, concert production, marketing, copyrights, and musicians’ careers. As an individual, I am also curious what I could learn from areas outside of music, especially topics I have absolutely no background, on the assumption that I might be surprised and learn something useful.

In short, I could find every topic interesting. The 8 parallel sessions were arranged by topic. Each session offered three to four papers. The titles, authors, and abstracts were available online weeks ago. A majority of the 185 papers submitted for presentation (which ranged from a few pages to 30 or 40 more) were available as PDF download from the ACEI 2010 website.

If only I could clone myself or send agents to the ones I did not attend, I would be quite happy.

In the end I used the process of elimination to eventually narrow down to two sessions. Can you guess which session I chose to attend?

Cultural tourism 1:
care of historical belongings, good practice in Europe, cultural heritage routes in South Africa

Creativity 3:
cultural clusters and the example in Copenhagen, sustainable town development example of a Japanese town, Italian viewpoint of culture-led local development

Copyrights 3:
license and rights distribution for copyright uses on the Web, intellectual property rights case of 19th century Italian operatic music, effects of early music copyrights on composers’ careers

Art market 2:
role of digital information sources in the art market prices, expert evaluations in the Low countries, investment in visual art

Media 1:
influence of funding by advertising on diversity of TV broadcast, how broadcasting quotas harm program diversity, control European TV in the digital age

Funding 3:
do policy reviews matter study of arts in Australia, sponsoring in times of economic crisis

Demand 2:
threatre participation through attendance, consumer choice of theatrical productions, democratisation in the gastronomic market

Museums 3:
who contributes to the British Museum, pay as you go for museum pricing, causes of variation in museum attendance rate in USA, museum demand function estimation

Hypothesis formation in cultural economics (Danish)

Efter keynote foredrag om økonomien i forbindelse med medier og kulturarvssteder, som anerkendte økonomer Gillian Doyle og Bruno S. Frey henholdsvis 250 konferencedeltagere indkaldes til en sandwich frokost. En time senere, vi alle spredt i flere parallelle sessioner for præsentationerne af det første sæt på 185 papers præsenteres i starten af ACEI 2010 konferencen.

Selv om min primære interesse er musik, jeg indså snart, at jeg kan blive nødt til atttend sessioner IKKE på musik til at lære af lignende eksempler. En anden måde at vælge er ved berømmelse af højttaleren, i hvilket tilfælde jeg skal kigge efter Arjo Klamer, Ruth Towse, Hans Abbing, og David Throsby.

Note: I don’t know which button I accidentally pressed on this Danish keyboard, but it translated my English text into Danish. Luckily I retrieved the English version (next blog).

Efter keynote foredrag om økonomien i forbindelse med medier og kulturarvssteder, som anerkendte økonomer Gillian Doyle og Bruno S. Frey henholdsvis 250 konferencedeltagere indkaldes til en sandwich frokost.

Den 37 nationaliteter hurtigt splittet op i geografiske og alder klynger ved frokosttid. På et bord var ældre økonomer, hvis skelsættende papirer om ophavsret, kulturelle værdier, og andre vigtige bidrag til den kulturelle økonomi gjort dem kendte navne i denne relativt unge området, som nogle vil sige grænser på kanten af økonomi (ikke ulig miljøøkonomi som et belgisk professor hævdede på rådhuset døgnet aftenen før). På andre borde de yngre økonomer gravitated mod ph.d.-forskere, som allerede havde mødt hinanden den foregående dag. Jeg befandt mig klemt mellem sidstnævnte.

Der var andre klynger, som de tre nordmænd i slutningen af min frokost bordet og gruppen af japanske på et andet. En time senere, vi alle spredt i flere parallelle sessioner for præsentationerne af det første sæt på 185 papers præsenteres i starten af ACEI 2010 konference.

Konferencer som denne er en markedsplads for praktikere med problemer i deres søgen efter forskere med løsninger, og forhåbentlig vice versa. Jeg klagede til Professor Tyler Cowen går, at jeg ønskede nogle af resultaterne af den kulturelle økonomi ville nå praktiserende tidligere. I sandhed, jeg havde at grave ret svært at finde, læse og forstå konsekvenserne af offentliggjort forskning på dette område. Som en praktiserende læge, var det ikke altid indlysende, hvordan den videnskabelige artikler oversat til brugbar visdom. Cowen bemærkede, at der var masser af kulturelle økonomer og praktikere, men måske ikke folk, der var en blanding af både han så som kræves for at bygge bro (i kommunikation).

Kløften var meget tydelig. Den første parallel session jeg deltog var ene om musik og film piratkopiering, i vid udstrækning økonometriske undersøgelser, styrede drøftelserne om metode og data. Den anden session jeg valgte, var det modsatte – museum management, finansiering, oplevelse og digitalisering / dokumentation. Drøftelserne var baseret på praktisk erfaring, med højdepunktet er Tate Modern som et vellykket eksempel på privat finansiering.

Mens du de forskellige papirer til rådighed for download fra konferencens hjemmeside, Fandt jeg mig selv at formulere en ny hypotese om deltagelse i disse parallelle møder.

  1. Papers, der ikke er tilgængelige (dvs. ikke er knyttet fra hjemmesiden, ikke fremlagt eller ikke er tilgængelige for preview) kommandoen vis nysgerrighed. Flere mennesker kan deltage i disse møder på grund af manglende oplysninger, medmindre de abstracts slingre dem på anden måde.
  2. Papers, der er velskrevet kan ikke nødvendigvis trække på størrelse med publikum som forventet på grund af risikoen for alt for mange oplysninger, også fuldstændige oplysninger (for at gøre den delegerede beslutte ikke at deltage), eller den forkerte information (at føre uddelegere en forkert beslutning ikke at deltage).

Selv om min primære interesse er musik, jeg indså snart, at jeg kan blive nødt til atttend sessioner IKKE på musik til at lære af lignende eksempler. Der er mange paralleller mellem at danne en koncert og igangsætning af en udstilling, for eksempel.

En anden måde at vælge, hvilken session til at deltage er ved berømmelse af højttaleren, i hvilket tilfælde jeg skal kigge efter Arjo Klamer, Ruth Towse, Hans Abbing, og David Throsby.

Free concert at University of Copenhagen

Listed in the programme of the ACEI 2010 conference on cultural economics today at 19:00 is a free concert at the University of Copenhagen. As a delegate I was given no information in the conference pack except for an envelope containing two post-concert drink tickets.

Listed in the programme of the ACEI 2010 conference on cultural economics today at 19:00 is a free concert at the University of Copenhagen. Music aficionados with opportunity costs of doing something else for the evening would question,”What kind of concert? Who is playing?”

If it were a free concert, I would like to invite my Danish hosts to accompany me. As a delegate I was given no information in the conference pack except for an envelope containing two post-concert drink tickets.

I asked a man at the registration desk, “Where is the concert? Who is playing? Are there seats available to bring other people?”

I could not get a definite answer until I met a professor from the university who had organised the event.

“Nobody is playing,” the grey-haired Dane replied. “It’s a choir.”

“What kind of choir?”

He could not tell me what kind of choir or the name of the choir. I decided not to ask about the programme. “Where is it? Can I bring my friends?”

“It’s at the University. Norreport metro station. 4 minute walk. You can’t miss it. Everyone knows where the University of Copenhagen is.”

“Will there be food or should we have dinner first?”

“Have dinner after the concert at 20:00. But you’re on your own.”

This conversation just goes to show that concerts, like lectures by famous professors and international conferences on cultural economics, are not the main and only attraction. People go to meet other people. People go for community.

I wonder if any other of the 250 delegates bothered to find out the details of this evening concert. Surely as cultural economists they would be weighing the trade-offs of spending their time with other delegates versus some other meaningful activity, such as preparing for their presentations or discussing the intricacies of their research.

Or could I be mistaken by the lure of the two “free drink” tickets? They are incentives for networking, i.e. sit through the concert and stay afterwards to mingle and socialise. The concert serves as a mere gathering point. Who sings what or whatever isn’t imporant. It’s the occasion that counts. And the drinks, of course.

ACEI 2010: international conference on cultural economics in Copenhagen

This morning at Copenhagen Business School, I introduced myself as a full-time musician, giving up practising and concertising this week, to meet the cultural economists whose works I’ve read and helped explain the paradoxes in the music and arts world that I’m in. I came to the 4-day conference to understand that irrational addiction called music.

First thing that struck me when I landed at Copenhagen Airport yesterday evening was how clean and futuristic it felt. Everything in Denmark appeared to have been designed for efficiency.

After picking up my small suitcase from baggage claim, I inserted my euro credit card into the ticket machine and got a train ticket into the city. My Danish friends were already waiting to welcome me to their home with chilled white wine and a tasty home-cooked dinner.

This morning at Copenhagen Business School, I introduced myself as a full-time musician, giving up practising and concertising this week, to meet the cultural economists whose works I’ve read and helped explain the paradoxes in the music and arts world that I’m in. I came to the4-day conference to understand that irrational addiction called music.

“Expain what you mean by addiction,” asked Professor Tyler Cowen whose cultural economics blog, The Marginal Revolution, has made headline news and continues to lead a cult following of superstar status. He led one of the three doctoral research seminars on cultural economics prior to the official conference opening today.

“Making music is highly addictive,” I began. “You get into a flow, making something so beautiful to play and to listen to, whether by yourself, or even better, with others such as in chamber music, that you don’t want to stop. Whether you are practising at home, rehearsing with others, getting coached, or giving a concert, you can get the same kind of adrenalin rush or endorphin kick that athletes get. You want to get it again and again.”

A Portuguese doctoral student observed, “It’s interesting that you are referring to addiction from the production perspective. I’m sure most people think of addiction from the consumption side. There is a book about how our brains are wired to enjoy music.”

I had not thought of that at all.

Cowen added, “I doubt producing music is as addictive as you say, otherwise there would be more people making music instead of the small percentage of the population.”

I added another hypothesis, “For musicians, the utility of making music is so high that everything else seems boring and tedious.”  The addiction and the high utility might explain why musicians are willing to perform for free.

I touched briefly on the paper I am presenting later in the week,  “House concerts for art music: multiple stakeholders, audience development, and sustainability.” The 14-page PDF document and other papers are available for free download from the ACEI website.

“Has it ever occurred to you that people go to concerts not just for the music?” Cowen highlighted. “They go for affiliation —- to be part of the community.”

I hadn’t thought of this before. But I have tried to use all sorts of “pulls” to get people to come to our concerts: free entry, good wine, exotic cuisine, interesting repertoire, etc. Sadly many musicians, like myself, still prefer to believe it’s our music or our musicianship that attracts people to come to our concerts.

How many other cultural practitioners are here to learn and have their beliefs challenged? I can’t wait for the conference to begin!

The economics of producing house concerts

I am trying to finish a paper called “House concerts for art music:
multiple stakeholders, audience development, and sustainability” for presentation at the international cultural economics conference next week in Copenhagen. I have interviewed several house concert producers in the Netherlands and the USA who were willing to participate in my short survey. I have to write from my gut, that the transaction costs of producing a concert are so high that it only makes sense if economies of scale and scope are exploited.

On a beautiful sunny day in the Netherlands, I notice that this blog is not being read. Most people are sitting outside enjoying the weather. I am stuck indoors trying to finish a paper called “House concerts for art music:
multiple stakeholders, audience development, and sustainability
” for presentation at the international cultural economics conference next week in Copenhagen.

I have interviewed several house concert producers in the Netherlands and the USA who were willing to participate in my short survey. The ones that did reply did so with great enthusiasm. I would have liked to conduct a more extensive survey or interview, for the results were surprising. [How to get funding for this research?]

I call this writing from the gut because I am pulling out everything I know and feel to be true about house concerts from the past ten years of attending, giving, and producing concerts set in private homes. In these past 10 years, I have searched for articles about this topic — plenty on the Americana singer/songwriter variety but quite negligible on the salon concerts of Fanny Mendelssohn, a person I wholly admire.

Why bother writing about the economics and raison d’etre of house concerts when no one is paying me to do so? When I’ve waited most of the year for such perfect lovely weather to embrace me?

Monument House Concert Series, Utrecht Netherlands
Monument House Concert Series, Utrecht Netherlands

Perhaps it’s my attempt to rationalise an irrational addiction to an expensive hobby.

House concerts are viral. Once you’ve been to one, you will go to another one. It changes your experience of live classical music. Once you’ve performed in one, you know what an attentive and appreciative audience can do for the level of your playing. Once you’ve hosted and produced a house concert, you feel connected with the universe.

House concerts can be extremely profitable. My mailing list grows with each concert. Audience development gets easier, i.e. concerts get sold out more quickly. Collaborators and sponsors compete for opportunity for attention. Entry prices keep climbing. Musicians queue for an opportunity to perform. Local and national governments recognise the powerful vehicle that house concerts serve to build and develop new communities. House concerts become the best kept secret of sticky networking.

As long as these ideas dwell in my imagination, as a recent article argue to be the most pleasurable activity, I will forever stay unconvinced in that Taoist state where a lump of clay has infinite potential (before it gets molded into anything useful). I have to write from my gut, that the transaction costs of producing a concert are so high that it only makes sense if economies of scale and scope are exploited.

I will have to change my assumptions, if I were to continue producing the Monument House Concert Series.