Personal Authenticity in Entrepreneurial Activities

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hi Greg,
I am a member of a Scottish Music Society and we are hoping to help young classical artists of great get their name in front of those that can help them launch their career. It seems to me a very crowded and ultra competitive market and that "mere" talent is a commodity. It is in the "other stuff" that positive differentiation has its best chance. I am considering doing videos for them in the vein that you have pioneered. Any advice? regards,
  - Keir Smart

Hi Keir,

I always cringe a little when I read messages like this, as if I made the Ligeti video to help my career -- or the Piazzolla, Mozart, or Moonlight videos -- or any of the videos for that matter (...besides the blatantly promotional Anderson & Roe promo video, of course)! These videos were inspired by an inner necessity: in the case of the Ligeti video, my desire to to make the angular, dissonant music relatable to non-classical audiences; in the case of the Piazzolla videos, to highlight the charged chemistry, the physical friction, and that element of danger so inherent in Piazzolla's tangos; in the case of the Mozart video, to visually communicate the joyful dialogue between the two piano parts; in the case of the Moonlight video, to inspire YouTube users to watch music performances from an aesthetic point of view and NOT a critical point of view. And knowing these videos would be watched by an inattentive, distracted audience, we presented the material very differently than we would have for an audience in a quiet auditorium.

All of that said, the videos have been extremely helpful in enhancing my solo and duo careers -- but I think people respond to the videos because they came from an honest place. Likewise, audiences react differently to authentic, honest music making than they do to insincere, self-promoting music making.

If you are helping young musicians start their careers, I advise you to try a different approach. Instead of starting backwards ("the videos worked for Greg, so let's make similar videos"), start from the foundation -- from the artist himself or herself. Find what really makes a musician tick, and go from there. Perhaps a pianist really loves the most serious repertoire -- a YouTube music video of Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" sonata would be a terrible idea because it's not suited to the medium; likewise, a showy Brahms hungarian dance music video would be a terrible idea because it wouldn't represent the artist. Rather, consider new ways to energize both the artist and the music he or she loves: perhaps the "Hammerklavier" would benefit from a different mode of performance. The piece is epic, and to think it existed within the mind of a deaf genius! What if you developed a mode of performance that emphasized Beethoven's isolation from the world ... and at that point in his life, his closeness to God? An empty church seems to perfectly capture that twisted sense of isolation and spiritual intensity. You could charge $5,000 for a single ticket to the performance, a one-on-one experience with the "Hammerklavier" -- the pianist and the sole audience member in an otherwise empty church. That could be pretty powerful.

Try considering a "new-music" advocate on for size instead. Pretend your artist wants to present a piano piece by Wuorinen. To me, his music sounds so haphazard and jagged; I could envision a wild concert experience in which the audience was in a warehouse. Imagine each person taking a couple shots (yes, of alcohol) at the start of the event (is there any other way to listen to Wuorinen??). Now imagine each audience member being given a huge canvas and materials (crayons, buckets of paint, wet cement, or whatever!) and some instructions. When the pianist begins performing the piece, the audience completely lets loose and creates individual (or communal) works of art as dictated by the piece of music. My canvas would look like a no-holds-barred explosion. This experience would be tremendously exciting and memorable! I'd literally be "living" Wuorinen's music, and I'd never listen to his music the same again. The piece performed by the pianist would be indelibly etched in my mind. I think it would have the power to be a profoundly moving artistic experience.

These ideas could enhance the communicative potential of the music, *and* they would probably generate a bit of publicity, which seems to be your goal. Consider this "ground-up" method, and see what you can construct for your artists!!

- Greg (Oct. 23, 2009)