2014-07-11

Authors

Benedikt Stampa
as its artistic director led the Konzerthaus Dortmund to the top of Europe within a very short time. He developed pioneering classical formats which introduce a new audience to classical music. From the 2019/20 season on he will be artistic director of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Germany.
New marketing approaches

What classical music can learn from soccer

Three-quarters of the audience in a football stadium does not understand the moves. And still, they all attend. An essay about the idea that classical music could also be suitable for the masses, as the problem is not because of musics complexity but through its elitist status.
I am a great fan of classical music, and that since my youth. Depending on which stage of life I was in I was magically drawn to the poetry of music, later by its structure, and at some point by the sound and the subtle differences of each interpretation. Later, I also became interested in the uniqueness of the venue where a symphony of Gustav Mahler, or a recital of Frédéric Chopins music, was performed. And, to be honest, I always found the stars and interpreters, those who stood between the work and me, as important. Over time Ive become acquainted with the great interpreters and like any fan I know a lot about them and how they play.

Listening to classical music was and is a part of my life just as soccer is the eternal obsession of a true soccer fan. A fan cant live without his match. He grows up with it; perhaps he plays himself, but at the very least he is an observer on the sidelines. And a person who, at some point during his or her youth, held a ticket for the south tribune of the BVB stadium in Dortmund will always be a part of the club and its matches.

The fan as the cornerstone

This is the point where the football-marketing machine comes in. The marketing of football is naturally made up of the entire package. Football is known the entire world over, a game where almost everyone can actively or passively contribute something to it. But the game as such would have never become a global brand or have made its mark on the global market, or have experienced this huge boost, if each club didnt have its emotional fan base standing behind it. They guarantee the economic cornerstone and the commercial potential for expansion. Theres already a broad corporate consensus to talk about the "love affair" for football. The market uses that to its advantage, and its players are wide-awake.

However, without an appropriate mechanism for marketing, without the commercial globalization of the individual emotions, the game wouldnt have achieved its dominant position. The success has been well planned and executed.

Now, it is not the case that every football fan is an expert in the matter. In his book Samstags um Halb Vier Die Geschichte der Fußballbundesliga (Saturday at Half Past Four - the History of the German Football League") the author and historian Nils Havemann documents the rapid rise of the Bundesliga from its early beginnings up to the current era of the Champions League. Back then hardly anyone could have imagined the extent of how football would develop with business. In fact, there was widespread opposition to the formation of a uniform league with professional clubs. People were worried about the spirit of the sport and the soul of the game. An amateur was regarded as the guardian of good football. Public subsidies were gladly accepted. They guaranteed the league its nonprofit status. Football was also viewed from the point of view of the early endorsers as a "sacred cultural heritage, which should be protected. Commercialization could only damage it. Even today there are still some clubs that are unable to grow and develop because they arent able to successfully merge the market together with subsidies.

The formation of the Bundesliga in 1963 was a first step towards the commercialization and corporatization of football, but it was only through the foundation of the DFL (German Football League) in 2001 that marketing was able to take off properly. From then on the product "Bundesliga" would be centrally marketed. It was able to assimilate resources and develop common strategies. The marketing pillars were the sale of national and international broadcasting rights and merchandising. The DFL created the common platform upon which the joint selling arrangement of rights found its proper place. The big game could begin.

In the time that followed a lot of money was earned and more was spent. A lot was also happening at the European level. The UEFA launched the Champions League in 1992. Initially seen by fans as nothing more than a commercial money machine, today it is a worldwide spectacle that brings millions of viewers together in both the stadiums and on television and has a turnover of billions of Euros. Today, the players from Real Madrid are almost as familiar to German fans as the members of their local home team. The expansion seems, despite numerous crises, limitless.

Commercialization creates interest

It should be noted that, through the commercialization of football over the past years, entire societies have become interested in the subject. Today, its impossible not to have football as a part of the general public discourse; it has, according to Nils Havemann, taken its place alongside culture.

The strange thing is that most fans dont "understand" football at all. 75% of the people go to the stadiums for the experience, rather than for the moves, explains Havemann. They want to see their team; they want to feel the emotional rush of the moment. But who really wants to read the game like a trainer? Thats something for experts. In short, the fan knows a lot about football, the players, the statistics, and the background, and yet, grossly exaggerated, they dont understand the game.

And this is where "classical music" comes into the game. 3% of all households actively take part in concert life. Thats not much, at least when viewed from the market share of football. But 88% of all Germans are interested in concerts, reports a current FORSA survey. This already sounds different.

But what prevents these people from listening to a live concert of classical music, or, in other words, what must I do so that those 88% who are interested become future concertgoers? Put bluntly, we must learn how to make fans out of those who are potentially interested. Tomorrows visitors should be emotionally targeted today. Because of this, classical music should be putting more emphasis in creating public awareness. In other words, away with the defensive attitude that classical music is a niche product.

Complicated but not elitist

Of course, a symphony of Bruckner is complicated, and a symphony of Shostakovich is strenuous. We shouldnt make our "product" easier than it is. We should rise to the challenge of classical music. We shouldnt degrade ourselves, but instead we should think in broader terms. Holger Noltze adamantly points out this phenomenon in his book "Die Leichtigkeitsluge" (The Lie of Simplicity). "Understanding" a complex piece of music in terms of intellectual penetration of is not something that happens immediately. It takes years. One can first have an emotional response to music and then learn how to understand it over time. In other words, classical music is complicated, but not elitist. This apparent contradiction can be resolved if we go into the (common) marketing campaign without betraying that our "product" is classical music.

A football fan doesnt need to understand the game to get excited about it. He achieves satisfaction from the moment, from the unfolding story, the exchanges, as well as the communication before and after the game. His devotion even survives the occasional bad game.

I think there are many parallels between these contrasting worlds. We have only scratched the surface of how we could potentially market classical music. With this digression into the world of football I want to give a nod to how these developments, when placed at the forefront, can be accelerated.

If we understand the mechanics of marketing, if we understand that successful clubs have not sold out football, but instead in the best cases have maintained the brand promise of "true love" (the slogan of BVB Dortmund), we can learn a lot from football. I am a classical music fan and want to share my passion with as many people as possible. 3% is simply too little.
 
This article first appeared on our German website Kultur Management Network and was transled by Erik Dorset.
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