in: News & Features

September 1, 2011

BMInt’s Accomplishments Heartening

by

When Lee Eiseman, Bettina A. Norton, and I embarked on starting a classical music website in 2008, our enthusiasm was qualified by naiveté.  We were convinced that greater Boston needed and deserved better coverage of its musical events, but we were uncertain whether we had the abilities to provide a persuasive alternative.  How heartened we are that the perseverance and enthusiasm of the publisher, the executive editor, and the 70 able reviewers and writers have won a devoted following. On a busy day the site has registered 18,000 hits from 3,000 visitors. Given the narrow focus of the enterprise, these are spectacular results indeed.

As we begin the fourth year of this venture, we note with pleasure that our group of writers included eminent musicologists from the outset, and that they continue to provide such elucidating copy. This base has been augmented by numerous proficient musicologists and other music professionals, including performers—who run the gamut from retirees from eminent careers and established concert artists to those embarking on a life within the classical-music world.

The sheer volume of content is in itself cause for satisfaction as well — 1,200 reviews and 4,000 concerts listed in three years. The public forum in January 2009, and the 13 subsequent articles on the transformation of WGBH and WCRB garnered not only hundreds of comments, but seem to have induced the WGBH Foundation’s administration and the stations’ personnel to listen and adopt many of the suggestions of our writers and readers. In their interviews, our writers’ integrity and their reluctance to accept boilerplate responses from their subjects are truly admirable. This is brave and effective journalism.

BMInt has maintained an enviable record for reviewing performances by some of the smaller organizations, whose concerts tend to escape the notice of the major newspapers. This, in my view, provides a major contribution to the cultural scene, both by enriching the historic record and by raising the visibility of talented and deserving performers. Inevitably, some of our reviewers have sung hymns of praise, whereas others have found fault with details of what they have heard. It is heartening that for the most part they have avoided both the treacle of uncritical enthusiasm and the venom of personal prejudice.

The prevailing level of scholarship has been and is high. We are proud of the distinguished PhDs who write for BMInt and the intellectual level of their evaluations. In turn we accord them a well-read forum for views on subjects and aspects of the arts that their normal professional publications might not engender.

This is surely why concert presenters increasingly quote from our reviews in their publications and place our ads in their program books as a courtesy. It undoubtedly explains why Lloyd Schwartz, classical music critic of The Boston Phoenix, called us one of the 10 best events for classical music in Boston in 2010.

What lies ahead? For one thing, it is clear that we should expand the number and frequency of articles on upcoming performances, as well as on various subjects of musical interest. To this end, we solicit and welcome pre-qualified submissions from readers.

So far, we have worked on a shoestring. The generous $3,000 annual grant from Harvard Musical Association, used only for ancillary expenses, constitutes our entire income. Everyone involved with the endeavor is a volunteer, which makes our survival possible, at least for now. Almost every presenter provides two tickets to the reviewer per concert, which provides a viable basis for our operations. Neither the publisher nor executive editor receives any compensation. A vibrant future will depend on our finding a more sustainable model. We welcome suggestions from those skilled in financial matters on how the Intelligencer can be supported while remaining independent.

I close with the BMInt mantra: “If you hear something, write something.”

9 Comments

  1. I’m VERY grateful that this site exists. Several years ago, when the Boston Globe printed an insert then called “Calendar” that really did an excellent job of covering all the arts, it would take me an hour to pore over the entries of entities large and small. Now its successor ‘G’ is a pale shadow of the “Calendar” and its listings of music events is reduced to just the biggies: the BSO, BLO, Opera Boston, Celebrity Series, New England Conservatory, and little else. Already I’ve perused the whole month of September and found a few possibilities for concerts to attend!

    Comment by Laurence Glavin — September 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm

  2. It’s fun to read what people you know and perform with have to say about concerts you’ve sung or attended. It’s also divine to have articles like David Greisinger’s acoustical analysis of the new Rockport hall — something I probably wouldn’t have found or read anywhere else. Thanks for keeping BMInt going. It’s a terrific resource, especially given the declining column space for classical music in more conventional media.

    Comment by jaylyn — September 1, 2011 at 7:28 pm

  3. Robert, what I think the BMI is lacking is a web membership service. Having email-centric membership would enable the site readers to op-in email notifications when new articles, new concerts by specific criteria, or new comments are posted in the different sections of BMI site. If traffic is something that you are interested in then the use of membership service would increase interaction between BMI site and visitors.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — September 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm

  4. What are some examples of sites with “web membership service?” Sounds like extra work for us.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — September 1, 2011 at 10:54 pm

  5. Lee, most of the today sites use email notifications for own members. As I understand the BMI uses WordPress. It has full registration and membership functionality right out of box. You can add all imaginable email notification service to your WordPress engine by applying many different plug-ins that are built specifically for WordPress:

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/

    If a BMI reader would like to register then s/he will be able to select type of notification they want. The rest will be handled by back-end of your system and it will be zero additional labor for you.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — September 2, 2011 at 2:10 am

  6. Is this some variant on the RSS feed?

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — September 2, 2011 at 8:08 am

  7. Nope, the RSS feed are totally different thing. The current BMI site has RSS feed. They are unfortunately article-specific but who cares, I do not think a lot of regular readers use RSS feeds nowadays.

    The email component of your site would allow you to deliver the content of the site, or the notifications about the change of content, right to the subscribers of the site. It might be as it takes place, dally, weekly or any configurable digest about the new content of the site. For instance I would like to subscribe a weekly report about new concerts posted in your calendar, the notifications if new articles posted (as it occur) in the entire site and notifications about the comments to the article of my own choosing. I do not even taking about the newsletter opportunities, the emergency notifications, performer watch notifications, alert notification, ability to use sponsors logos in emails opportunities and many other opportunities. It looks like those numerous plugging to the WordPress are free and it shall be very easy to configure. If you have a test environment for your site then I can help you with it. Feel free to use the polling future of the WordPress to collect your visitors interest in it.

    Next, Robert, Lee, Bettina I think the BMI is very much in position to set up some kind of Restaurant Zagat rating of Boston musical events. Nope, I am not talking about trivializing musical events into some kind tradable commodity but rather creating a highly intelligent algorithm according to which musical events might be post-factum and suggestively rated, multifaceted and with relatively high granularity. Parent 3-5 years from now the upcoming live concerts or even WCRB programs (!!!) have reputed and universally accepted BMI rating. Would it put BMI in very prominent position on the Boston musical landscape? Isn’t it what you guys are trying to accomplish?

    Another thing. The BMI has wonderful calendar of upcoming events. There are many services like this but BMI in unique position to be LOCAL. So what I VERY much would like to see is the opportunity for people to add comments to the upcoming events. Around each musical event there are promoters, organizers, musicians, and many other people of interests. I very much would like to give them an opportunity to drop a few words about upcoming concerts. Pay attention what WCRB does with their upcoming events – they butter up listeners with enthusiasm, in some cases with hype excitements about upcoming events. I think there is nothing wrong with it. We are all adults and we perfectly able to get the sense out of it and in most of the cases those preambles about upcoming event are informative.

    There are many other ideas that might help you guys to become indispensable hub for classical live in New England. I think BMI just got feet wet in what might be done. With good strategic management, and BMI dose have it, your publication might be taken much further.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — September 2, 2011 at 10:27 am

  8. Long Live BMInt!
    May you influence the lives and music of many!

    Comment by Aaron — September 2, 2011 at 5:20 pm

  9. What a find! Having learned top love music in Boston, from Leinsdorf to Craig Smith, Sarah Caldwell and Iva Dee Hiatt-to see such a marvelous journal devoted to performances “inside Rt. 128″ either helps of hurts my homesickness. I expect to be a regular visitor and I thank you for bringing me a bit closer to home.

    Comment by Christopher Purdy — September 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm

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