Last month the CBC published the "30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2015 edition", a post which makes me shiver.
— CBC Music (@CBCMusic) August 5, 2015
Though I have no doubt that the performers mentioned in the click-through gallery are dedicated servants of their art, CBC Music's investment in celebritization ultimately does the art more harm than good.
The 'industry' in North America, as it were, is in a truly pitiful state (take a look at Norman Lebrecht's When The Music Stops, an outing of the business of classical music, finds its conclusion at the turn of the 21st century where the trend of corporate mergers and the swallowing up leftover independent firms was just beginning): a small handful of multi-national corporations manage the bulk of touring artists, conductors, and ensembles, as well as own and operate seemingly independent media. Private interests control the incredible salaries paid to stars by publicly-funded institutions and the argument which, surprisingly, has held this system in place has been the necessity of celebrity to secure institutional longevity.
In fact, if a performing artist is not directly or indirectly (through an ensemble) in contact with this celebrity system, they can very easily find themselves in a second tier: falling victim to labeling (referred to as 'local', or similar terminology), or making their income from other, non-performance based sources. It's the reality of the system in place, but should a national broadcaster be paying homage to it? (This isn't the first time I've tackled CBC Music's online coverage, and, as you can tell, my overall position hasn't changed.)
The media coverage at present surrounding a typical performance is almost entirely PR-driven. Newspapers 'sponsor' arts organizations, meaning that they guarantee coverage of that organization's activities (usually with an interview or promo piece) and, due to the thinning out of newspaper arts sections across Canada, it is getting harder and harder to get any coverage of non-institutionalized music-making at all.
So what's the alternative? Nurturing a culture of participation, encouraging the idea that live performance is categorically different from, and cannot be substituted by recorded media; cultivating the notion that the reward a live performance can grant you is worth taking the risk of attending. The most difficult pill to swallow for institutions in this scenario is the requirement to attack dwindling attendance culturally, not simply on a case by case basis (as is the norm). Performance art organizations would have to join together in encouraging a wholesale reinvestment in the culture of attendance - even if that means encouraging patrons to go elsewhere in the case of a conflict.
In order for any meaningful change to be made leadership from among the establishment is needed. It's about time, CBC, will you step up?