Archive for December, 2009

2009 Festival Year in Review

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

To celebrate 2009, here’s a look at some highlights from the Year in Festivals:

The images are all from the festivals, artists, & audiences on KadmusArts.com. This year’s soundtrack is Do What I Want by Howard Fishman, who was featured in one of our 2008 podcasts.

In 2010 may you:

Have opportunities to travel the world of dance, music, and theatre festivals;
Discover new artists;
Connect to audiences and fans throughout the world; and,
Live a Festive Life!

From all of us at KadmusArts.com,
Happy New Year!

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A Phallus for Your Military, Art for Your Nation

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Photo by Lori Greig — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

The end of the year is a great time to look back — especially when one can look back at the best of times. Soon, KadmusArts will present the Year in Festivals. But before we go to our year end review, let’s go back farther when art and politics came together to create our festival heritage.

Understanding how ancient Greek festivals worked is the subject of a new book edited by Martin Revermann and Peter Wilson: Performance, Iconography, Reception: Studies in Honour of Oliver Taplin, published by Oxford University Press. The book celebrates the career of Taplin (professor at Oxford, Director of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, and teacher to so many in the festival field) by collecting essays from leading scholars on ancient Greek festival work, art, and life.

In one of the book’s remarkable essays, Wilson covers the practicalities of how ancient Greek festivals worked — specifically how they were funded. In “Costing the Dionysia,” Wilson, who is the William Ritchie Professor of Classics at the University of Sydney, does a cost analysis on the flow of state money for 5th century Athenian festivals.

There is, of course, a lot of guess work in pulling together various sources and projections, but Wilson’s conclusions ring true in terms of significance of the event, number of people involved, and the place the Dionysia held in the community.

According to Wilson, the Athenian government spent the equivalent of 5% of their military costs on the Dionysia festival. Imagine that kind of support for national cultural events today. For example, in the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts had a $155 million budget for 2009. Of that $155 million, $27 million was spent on the bureaucracy and $128 million was distributed through grants. If the United States used the percentage basis of the ancient Greeks, national culture would receive $35 billion. That’s right. Five percent of the US military budget for 2009 would have been $35 billion for the arts. $128 million v. $35 billion!

But wait, it gets better.

Wilson notes that the Greek allies and their conquered lands would have been expected to contribute to the festival in additional ways. Each was to supply a cow and a large phallus.

Just imagine: the event began with 172 tribute paying states parading their contributions of a giant phallus carried through the streets in the procession of phalloi. Isn’t this the most perfect and tangible representation of military might? Look how big we are!

Of course, the Dionysia festival, which consisted of three tragedies, one satyr play, and five comedies, was a competition. Surely we can make a further leap of imagination and assume that the phalloi created by the individual countries/regions would be judged, measured, and given points for attractiveness, strength, and that oh-so-special-”It”-quality.

As all festivals sell trinkets, maybe the first festival entrepreneur sold miniature copies for a take-away: ”Oh, did you get a Sparta this year?”

Yet again, the ancient Greeks provide us with festival — and political — inspiration. Five percent of a military budget, a phallus parade of the conquered, a take-home trinket, and great art. Even their sequence of events makes sense: from the money, to the phalloi parade, to the art itself. The festival performances began with the three tragedies, followed by the satyr play and ended with a final day of comedies.

The festival tradition is one of perfect transformations: military to art; individual to community; and, tragedy to comedy.

- Bill Reichblum

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Too Much Joy, Too Little Cash

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Photo by Derek K. Miller — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Knowledge is power. But money helps too.

When you listen to a band play, you know how hard it is to make music. Artists know how hard it is to make money from their music. The major music companies know how hard it is to make money — period.

In an art form that creates such a transparent connection between performer and audience, for most of the history of the music business, tracking the costs and sales figures has been almost completely opaque.

Digital music created a new opportunity. We live in a world where the bands and the companies can access the same information: number of downloads, number of streams, number of sales. Everyone is in perfect harmony, right? Wrong. Very wrong.

Or as Tim Quirk noted, when he read his accounting statement from Warner Music Group: “$62.47. What the fuck?”

Tim Quirk’s band, Too Much Joy, used to be produced and promoted by Warner. Today, Tim is a senior vice president at the online music site, Rhapsody. In other words, he knows the art of the music business from both ends. As posted this week in our daily News feed, from a story in Wired, Quirk has provided an amazingly clear breakdown not only of one band’s reported income, but the implications of what is missing.

In Quirk’s post, he shows the income figures as reported by his label, which run counter to the same kind of information he finds in the online world. What should be so easy and accessible — an accounting of sales for each copyright holder — becomes a lesson in futility for understanding a major label’s approach. Perhaps, the label is willfully ignorant of what a band is owed. More likely, they have no cost-benefit incentive to find out.

In Quirk’s example, he tracked $12,000 from sales through IODA (the Independent Online Distribution Alliance) but only that “wtf” number of $62.47 through Warner.

As he writes, “This figure wasn’t insulting because it was so small, it was insulting because it was so stupid.” After all, creating and tracking a database to account for all sales is “…not rocket science. Hell, it’s not even algebra! It’s just simple math.”

So why won’t the music industry do the math?

Simple math, but not a simple business.

- Bill Reichblum

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