The audience is dead. Long live the audience.

The audience is dead. Long live the audience.

: I was listening to Studio 360 this weekend as Kurt Andersen and music blogger and critic Greg Sandow (the music critic I hired at Entertainment Weekly and a blogging colleague of Terry Teachout’s) talked about the iffy present and future of orchestras in America. Various orchestras are trying new programs and new buildings and others are sighing a lot.

And as I ran along (listening on my iPod), I thought that orchestras need to learn the lessons of community from online. Orchestras and others.

Why shouldn’t orchestras go to MeetUp and arrange get-togethers of fans with other like-minded fans (this community of interest can act like a community). Why not friends’ cocktail parties before the concert at the concert hall. And why shouldn’t orchestras start blogs and forums to let the audience know the performers and watch them particularly (Sandow said that one major symphony until not long ago had contracts requiring performers not to smile.

It’s just an extension of the Cluetrain. If markets are conversations, if news is a conversation, if companies should be conversations, if politics is finally starting to be a conversation, why shouldn’t the arts be conversations? If we in media are trying not to call the audience the audience, shouldn’t orchestras also find a new relationship with their audiences? That’s not to say that we can all be violinists. Of course, we can’t. Art — and talent — are a clearer separation than business or journalism or politics. Still, if orchestras want to reinvigorate themselves, perhaps they should start not with themselves but with their audiences.

Just a thought while running.