Special post 1: a round-up of the academic festivals literature

Today I present a poston the academic literature of arts festivals, focussing on a number of key papers in the field.

This Report has been prompted by my commission to write an essay for Meanjin Quarterly on arts festivals in Australia, but can be expected to have broader relevance to arts policy and management professionals working in the field. Continue reading


How do US college students find out about new music in the digital age?

From Crooked Timber‘s Eszter Hargittai and Steven Tepper from Princeton’s Centre for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies comes a fascinating paper in Poetics: “Pathways to music exploration in a digital age” (Poetics 37 (2009): 227–249).

This paper is several things in one: a lively introduction to the literature on this topic (particularly the sociology of taste), a presentation of novel data, and a stylishly-written discussion of an important topic which contains many minor gems (my favourite was the description of The Wire magazine as “an expensive British magazine for eclectic rock aficionados.”

Continue reading

Chard Orzell on the NEA’s sampling bias

By way of the Science Blogs email, what do I find but  a post from Chad Orzell of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Survey of Public Participation in the Arts?

The report, which Orzell describes with cutting precision as “hand-wringing”, describes a steep decline in US attendance figures for a range of NEA-supported artforms such as ballet, classical music, opera and jazz. In this, it merely confirms a number of other studies in the field internationally for these particular artforms.

Orzell points out what many in the industry have long understood:

I have a number of problems with the study, but the biggest one is that this seems like an awfully narrow definition of what counts as “art.” And if you’re going to define “art” that narrowly, it’s not surprising that attendance is on the decline.

Conspicuously absent from their lists is pretty much any art form that is currently active. Jazz and classical music are on the decline, but rock/pop type music is not considered at all. Which means that there’s no tracking of the main musical form that has been widely popular in the last fifty-odd years.

Perhaps because I share Chad’s background in the natural sciences, I too find this “decline” unsurprising. Measuring artforms that are demonstrably less popular than they used to be is likely to find that they are … less popular than they used to be.

Orzell has put his finger on an endemic problem in cultural research: the tendency of public arts funding agencies to define “the arts” as the things that they have historically funded.

Takeshi Matsui’s paper on the diffusion of manga in the US

From the Princeton Unviersity Centre for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies comes an intriguing working paper from Takeshi Matsui, “The Diffusion of Foreign Cultural Products: The Case Analysis of Japanese Comics (Manga) Market in the US.”

Manga represents 56% of the US graphic novel market, a statistic that surprised me given the appeal of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and the likes; further, as Matsui argues, manga even exerts an element of “soft power” as an influence on American college students taking up Japanese as a second language.

Altbough there are numerous accounts from industry players, fans, librarians and journalists, Matsui’s paper is apparently the first overtly academic treatment of the rise of manga in the US market. His paper stresses two broad themes: path dependency of market growth, and stigma management of the negative image of comics in the US market: Continue reading

Challenging the insitutions: “Nonclassical” music from Gabriel Prokofie

Greg Sandow in the Wall Street Journal has a fantastic article about a composer breaking down the walls bewteen classical and pop audiences in New York.

His name is Prokofiev and yes he is related.  

As Sandow writes,

Earlier this year I heard Messiaen’s austere “Quartet for the End of Time” on a bill with two ambient electronic pop acts. The crowd — many of whom wouldn’t even have known who Messiaen was — sat in rapt silence, and roared their approval at the end.

Sandow goes on to ask:

What about it, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic? Don’t you care about this new young audience? Lincoln Center, to be fair, has presented some of the alternative classical music I’m describing here, but it hasn’t attracted the alternative classical crowd. Why not?

Why not indeed? It’s something the orchestras and performign arts centres of Australia might also ask (though to be fair to the Sydney Opera House, its Studio venue has been presenting cross-over music of this kind for many years.)

Big challenges ahead for the major performing arts companies

The Australia Council has released its latest consultancy about the MPO’s. It’s a slightly shallow report full of catch-phrases from internaionally renowned consultancy AEA Consulting (home of some heavy-hitters in the British sector) entitled “Anticipating Change in the Major Performing Arts.”

It’s certainly good that the MPOs are anticipating change in their future – but I’m not sure how prepared they are. Indeed, some sections of the report reveal that some of the organisations are far from the kind of financial health that the Nugent Inquiry was meant to “secure.”

Interestingly, the report contains a sprinkling of statistics on new works, which may be useful for my thesis. It also confirms, anecdotally at least, the operation of Baumol’s cost disease in this sector of the Australian performing arts.

The fuil report is available here.