Respecting the Invisible Curtain: Marketing Artists in the Digital Age

By jacob on April 16, 2012

I believe it was conductor and pianist (and fabulous chamber musician) Christoph Eschenbach who coined the term "invisible curtain" - the idea that classical music had a divide between the audience and the musicians on stage, like an clear glass proscenium, that needed to be removed in order to help fully engage patrons in the music and the experience.

As a performer, this concept always enticed me. While less relevant in an intimate chamber music setting than a 2,500-seat concert hall, the idea of allowing modern audiences to engage more fully and easily in the music-making process is pretty cool (it should be remembered, that at one point, classical music audiences were a bit more like well-dressed rugby fans).

In the digital age, it seems that intimacy with artists is all too present outside of the concert hall. In addition to program book bios, we have regular features on blogs and websites, and outlets like Twitter (@esapekkasalonen), Facebook (Lang Lang has 37,000 likes),, personal blogs - even LinkedIn!

At PCMS, we've attempted to align our marketing more and more with the concept of ensuring that our audience members "know" the artists we are presenting. But is knowing what an artist ate for breakfast, or seeing a picture from their day off while on tour in Europe, really what they're looking for?  For me, the answer is a flat-out "no."

While some of it is pretty interesting stuff, and we're not against sharing it, our goal is to make sure that our audience members -- who are truly some of the most sophisticated chamber music listeners around -- are as enthralled as we are with the different approaches/sounds of various string quartets, or the lineage that informs Richard Goode's Chopin or Mitsuko Uchida's Mozart.

So How to Market Artists in the Digital Age?
When it comes to marketing, my instinct is to keep our efforts focused on the meat (the music, the musical perspective) and less about the potatoes (the human interest, the lifestyle, etc.). Some artists will certainly have more interest in sharing personal details with their fans than others. However, as a marketing manager, my goal is to find the most compelling and effective "hook" for deep engagement -- and as Christoph Eschenbach likely meant, it's less about a camera in a musician's face than about ripping back the cover on the music and making sure we're all having as rich an experience and conversation about that music as possible.

  1. Focus on Quality. What we're finding (and this is no small task) is that quality is paramount. A bad video of a great conversation with Marc-André Hamelin isn't all that exciting. That's why when we spoke with Marc the other day, we showed up with four cameras and two videographers.
  2. Content is king. The next most important aspect is relevant musical content. Our Artistic Administrator, Miles Cohen, does an excellent job of blending his unique relationships with our artists along with a deep understanding of the repertoire and the happenings in the world of chamber music. This results in a rich conversation that is relevant and engaging.
  3. Keep it informal. Spend a few minutes with this video of pianist Anton Kuerti, and you'll see why an informal, "behind the scenes" approach can be so powerful.