The difference between an orchestra and robot spam

Like every other blog on the internet, I get a fair amount of robot spam popping up on this site. Most of it gets caught in the spam filter and I never even read it, but today (after an extended blog absence-- sorry!) I logged on to my admin panel to find this comment awaiting moderation: Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 9.15.55 PM [Text: I see a lot of interesting posts on your blog. You have to spend a lot of time writing, i know how to save you a lot of time, there is a tool that creates unique, SEO-friendly articles in couple of seconds, just type in google – k2 unlimited content]

I usually wouldn't waste my time reading spam comments on my little-used blog, but-- wait, what? This was a spam robot commenting (ironically, on my post about David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) complimenting my "interesting articles" and... proposing that I use a an automated tool to write blog posts for me? Even better-- "unlimited content"! And best of all, it's "SEO-friendly"; optimized for being found by search engines. It must be every lazy blogger's dream!

To gain more recognition and reward for less effort and output-- that's the idea that whoever thought this bit of spam was a good idea assumed I-- or at least someone-- would buy into. Don't bother writing your own content, and use search engine optimization to become a star and rake in the dough! If only orchestras could apply the same concept to... oh wait...

Yesterday, the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra were locked out by their management. In 2012, after a short lockout, the musicians agreed to a 14% pay cut, a reduction in forces and reduction in the length of the season, with a promise that the pay cut was a one-time-only affair meant to balance the budget once and for all. It didn't work. Now negotiations are back, and the management are out for blood, it seems. The ASO is trying to seize the right to change, at any time, any aspect of the musician's health care plan or even the orchestra itself. As in, if they decide that the orchestra should consist of a string quartet, amplified chainsaw and electric banjo, then the orchestra is a string quartet, amplified chainsaw and electric banjo. (And them chainsaw players aren't even in in the union!) No, but in all seriousness, this would be dangerous news for an orchestra during a time in which the buzzword is "new model."

Q: Use the buzzword "new model" correctly in a sentence. A: "Our organization plans on thriving in a new model in which we pay an insufficient number of musicians an insufficient amount of money to play an ever-shrinking number of concerts, more and more of which should have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual symphonic repertoire."

Or, in the words of the ASO president: "While we value the art and the artists of the ASO enormously, we believe we must develop a new model that will allow us to balance our artistic and financial needs. Clearly, that is not the model we have today."

Is it not? Why not? The ASO management seemed to think that the "new model" would take shape after the 2012 cuts. The players did as they asked, and trusted them to hold up their end of the bargain. Why should anyone believe it this time?

As Scott Chamberlain says on his blog : "No business thrives by diluting and diminishing their core product. And since the musicians are your core product, I would advise changing your frame of reference to reflect that."

The core, if humble, "product" of this here blog--such as it is-- is words written, or arranged and commented upon, by me. Thus, it is clearly nonsensical for my robotic spammer to suggest that the blog would thrive more by containing fewer words written by me, less often. In the same way, it is nonsensical to suggest that the Atlanta Symphony, or any orchestra, will become more successful by having fewer musicians, having them play fewer and smaller concerts, and paying them less for it. You cannot SEO-optimize* music.

Orchestra managements-- stop using the techniques of crude internet spammers to try to run your organizations.

(And everybody else-- please see Rob Knopper's post on the Met Orchestra Musician's blog about what all of us can do to help the musicians of the ASO!)

*I am aware that "SEO-optimize" is redundant, but it sounds dumb to say "you cannot SEO music." But, for the record, you also can't do that.