Interview with Jonathan Menkis, Chair of BSO Players’ Committee
The Boston Symphony Orchestra management feels the loss of the Friday afternoon broadcasts represents a significant rupture with a loyal subscriber base.
Further, both the BSO management and the players committee agree that it is very important for the BSO to have broadcast exposure. They feel that as media exposure has been drying up, it has become harder for the BSO to maintain its position on the world stage. And what the BSO gains from those broadcasts is immense.
Likewise, the prestige of offering live performances of a world-class symphony orchestra that happens to live “down the street” is a huge positive for the radio station that broadcasts it.
The live, local radio broadcasts of the BSO have always been uncompensated. The players are donating their services, (though for years the BSO Transcription Trust distributed concert recordings to national and international broadcasters for a fee which was shared with the players).
So the management and players are considering newer ways of disseminating BSO concerts. For instance, Tanglewood concerts are broadcast by the WAMC (Albany) consortium which reaches Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, and Canada; and those concerts are streamed over the internet. WGBH also streams BSO Saturday night concerts. So why shouldn’t BSO do the streaming itself? In order to be most effective as artistic dissemination as well as institutional promotion, the concerts must truly reach local, national, and international audiences.
The Friday afternoon audiences at Symphony Hall are perhaps the oldest subscribers. As they become incapable of attending in person, many maintain their connections with the BSO through the Friday broadcasts. This is a very generous group of contributors which the BSO does not wish to disappoint, and are likely to show their appreciation with similar generosity to the radio station that allows them to retain BSO audience participation as listeners from home.
The official comment from Mark Volpe, managing director of the BSO:
We know that there are many people who are understandably disappointed about the fact that WGBH’s all-classical station, 99.5, will no longer be broadcasting the BSO’s Friday afternoon concerts. Though it is always difficult to lose such a long-standing and much beloved tradition, we are pleased that WGBH will maintain the many activities that were previously carried on WCRB. We look forward to working closely with WGBH to present the very best of the Boston Symphony to a wide listening audience.
Note: WGBH Public Relations director, Lucy Sholley has maintained to BMInt that the figure of $25,000 to $30,000 is the marginal cost for live broadcast of the Friday BSO concerts for one year. We apologize for the our misunderstanding of John Voci’s earlier confusing and/or obfuscatory email. Ms. Sholley declined to elaborate on a breakdown of the costs.