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Posted: May 02, 2014

Selling the music experience

Tough, but worth it

Kathy Aylsworth Brantigan

Over the past few years, an issue has been facing the music community on a national scale: traditional American music audiences are shrinking.

It’s an issue that is recognized nationwide, and one that The Denver Brass has felt, too.

We know some of the reasons behind this shift. For one thing, Americans are now accustomed to consuming music via technology; we listen to music from our iPhones, work with Pandora playing in the background and live-stream performances from the comfort of our couches. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, 71 percent of American adults access art — whether it’s music or other art forms — via electronic media. We’ve propagated a culture of convenience.

Season subscriptions, the longtime money-maker of the live performance world, are no longer a fit with today’s lifestyles. We’re busier than we were a decade ago, and we want to take in music on our own schedules. Instead of shaping our day around a 7 p.m. concert, many are choosing to live-stream or buy recordings of the performance to listen to at their own pace.

Another issue is the explosion of music genres. There used to be pop, jazz, classical, country, hip hop, rock and a few more. Today, there are countless subdivisions to each of these genres, and with them, comes higher competition for each listener, venue space, concert dates, not to mention, ticket and album sales.

Price perception is an additional problem. Those who download free or inexpensive recordings are shocked by the cost of live performances. It’s significantly less expensive to buy ten songs online and listen to them again and again than it is to pay for a ticket to a live performance that you’ll see and hear once.

But a live performance is surely a richer experience than hearing predictable music dribbling out of limited-dimension speakers and ear buds. A live performance should leave one with deep and lasting emotional impressions, further enhanced by our humanistic thirst for knowledge and social interaction.

Can we find a way to draw listeners to a world of heightened emotional impact, cultural education and social interaction? Can we create a live music environment that offers regeneration, satisfaction and discovery, unparalleled in everyday life?

At The Denver Brass, we’re striving to go beyond the standard concert format to not only meet the needs of a changing world, but to also leave audiences with long-lasting impact. Season “shows” feature strong themes, story lines, character hosts, audience interaction, theatrical lighting and staging, unique guest artists, and settings that invite social interaction among fans and musicians. Every aspect of the program is scrutinized to meet audience need at multiple levels, assuring a meaningful experience for more individuals.

Music creation, new works and arrangements for brass or brass with guest artists, drives the entire production. Music is shaped and arranged to create an impactful, fluid concert, ebbing and flowing and driving toward a finale that concludes and reinforces the overarching theme.

Creative lighting, staging, and multi-media techniques are incorporated to enhance the listening process. Hosts and storylines provide a framework, a lens through which the audience can experience each piece of music, whether they’re experienced listeners or first-timers.

We take extra measures to ensure that newly commissioned music is introduced and set-up in such a way as to make it accessible to listeners, captivating them in a way that pre-recorded music just can’t.

The Denver Brass has a unique challenge that has been with us since day one. Ours is a difficult genre to define, so audiences often peg us wrong or can’t peg us at all. We’ve used this to our advantage, creating our own style of music: “Brassical.”

The term speaks to the way we meld many styles of music to create new sounds that appeal to a diverse audience. Our high quality shows are family-friendly, but they’re also very much for the scrupulous music enthusiast.

Aside from contributing to a vibrant, creative, and cultured community, our shows also play an important role in the economy: last year, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts released data about the arts’ impact on the national economy. As it turns out, the arts industry is worth half a trillion dollars. Participating in art is important for individuals, and it’s highly important for the community and our economy.

So, how can you help? Take time to discover the thrill and depth of live music. Spread the word about arts organizations in Colorado, and if possible, support the arts individually and through your business.

Music and the arts are not disappearing, but quality, in-depth artistic experiences need to be cultivated and protected. There is value in owning music and listening to it repeatedly, discovering the intricacies of it. But without a doubt, there is nothing that matches witnessing the unpredictable delivery, the complexity, the passion and the thrill of live music.

Kathy Aylsworth Brantigan is Executive Director and, along with husband Chuck, co-founder of The Denver Brass. She is also Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music and Co-Chair of the Brass Department at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.

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Readers Respond

Yes, spot on! I hear ya and couldn't agree more! By Leslie Stevenson on 2014 05 29
Well said ... and even better heard! By Mark E Rodgers on 2014 05 07
Hear! Hear! Seriously. By Carla Wilson on 2014 05 02
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