Saturday, July 14, 2007

Burgh Diaspora Business Model

The Wall Street Journal has an article about sustaining community symphony orchestras. A recent study investigated the efficacy of initiatives to maintain the fiscal health of these cultural treasures:

But civic boosterism itself isn't enough to sustain an orchestra. The delegates were told that the findings of a two-year study in St. Paul, Minn., and Pittsburgh suggests that orchestras' institutional health lies in the adoption of a new business model. Music managers typically think that their job is to present the highest level of musical performances possible and pay for them by selling seats and catching grants. It isn't. Sell all the seats to all your performances, market through every site on the Web and corral every foundation executive you can, and your orchestra will still face a deficit. Music executives' real business is developing communities of patrons. And educating their children.

The lesson for Pittsburgh concerning its Diaspora is that "civic boosterism" isn't sufficient to productively engage expatriates. Pittsburgh must cultivate a community, patrons who will help support the region.

Educating Burgh Diaspora children isn't a bad idea, either. I'm reminded of the introduction to Simon Schama's book, Landscape and Memory (great book, but I highly recommend his Embarrassment of Riches). Schama opens with a story from his days as a schoolboy in England and how the Jewish Diaspora community there helped him cultivate a sense of place in his ancestral homeland: Each child would sponsor the planting of a tree in Israel. Thus begins his treatise on the relationship between physical geography, national identity and artwork.

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