Sunday, November 29, 2009

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I wrote last year about the Boston Symphony's lame "video" podcasting ventures, and it seems nothing has changed. Having just heard the BSO last night in a terrific concert with Joshua Bell, I stopped by a few minutes ago and see they're proudly proclaiming: "NEW! Video Exclusive - interview with Joshua Bell - WATCH IT NOW." I'm not gonna break this down like I did last time, but suffice it to say, the "video" is mostly just publicity stills of Mr. Bell that zoom slowly in and out with little rhyme or reason. (For example, when Bell is talking about visiting the White House recently, are there photos of the White House? Uh, no.)

Oh wait, no, I just realized that, a few minutes in, they've inserted some actual video footage of Bell performing with the BSO (looks Tanglewood-y) which, quite frankly, is even more bizarre. We see him passionately playing with not even the slightest audio hint of what he's playing. (Actually, it's just occurred to me that it could make a fun "violin puzzler" game to figure out what he's playing; maybe later.) They use this video as a sort of wallpaper a couple of times in the "video" podcast, but it's basically a poorly enhanced audio interview. Yet they're desperately urging us not to listen, but to WATCH.

Here's my point: it's astounding to me that as we approach 2010, this is what passes for multimedia on a major orchestra's website. The interview is fine, if rather tepid, but the BSO is about music, not talking. I know there are all sorts of union issues involved, but it's ridiculous that an orchestra website isn't filled with audio and video of actual musical performances. As I type, I'm sitting and watching NFL football for free, and yet the NFL stadiums are packed and the league makes plenty of money.

I feel certain that if the BSO website was filled with musicmaking, visitors to the site would be much more likely to think about buying tickets. They don't need to put up complete performances if they're afraid of giving away the farm, but 30 seconds of watching Joshua Bell actually playing the Brahms concerto would certainly do more than 10 minutes of him talking. Could a union really not agree to that? (Actually, don't answer that.) Orchestras need to figure this out.

UPDATE: I just noticed that there is a "music player" option on the front of the BSO website, though the button is hardly featured. Actually, this little music player is nice, with quite a few listening options (though it doesn't seem to ID the performers clearly). I can't imagine why it's not more prominently featured, but maybe it's a start.

UPDATE 2 (12/2): I see (via BSO's Twitter account) that the Bell interview "video" is on YouTube as well. I noticed that there are some images of Bell playing in the White House, so either I was mistaken above or the video's been updated a little. I probably just missed them; they don't exactly scream "White House," but I apologize for suggesting no White House images were used.

See also: an MMmusing podcast that actually uses images to enhance what's being talked about in the interview.

No comments: