Blogging and Concert Reviews — Full-Time Jobs…
A Personal Note
2019-11-10 — Original posting
2020-11-11 — Addendum
Bloggen und Konzertberichte als Vollzeitjob? — Zusammenfassung
Seit dem Start dieses Blogs 2011 hat der Arbeitsaufwand stetig zugenommen. Was beinahe als reiner Zeitvertreib angedacht war, wuchs rasch in gewichtigere Dimensionen—nicht nur durch das Ende meiner Berufstätigkeit (2013), sondern genauso durch die Anfrage, für Bachtrack Konzertrezensionen zu schreiben. Diese haben mittlerweile die ursprüngliche Stoßrichtung des Blogs, das Beschreiben und Vergleichen von CD-Aufnahmen, beinahe vollständig verdrängt.
Die Trennung von Bachtrack im Herbst 2018 hat wider Erwarten nicht zu einer Abnahme der Konzertbesuche und der begleitenden Rezensionen geführt. Es war erstaunlich und erfreulich, zu erfahren, dass mehrere Konzertagenturen und -Organisatoren weiterhin willens sind, mir Pressetickets zu offerieren, auch wenn die Kritiken jetzt nur noch in meinem privaten Blog erscheinen. Darüber hinaus werden meine ausführlichen Rezensionen (selbst kritische) von MusikerInnen und Ensembles sehr geschätzt—was weitere Konzerteinladungen zur Folge hat.
Insgesamt haben die Konzertbesuche “nach Bachtrack” sogar eher zugenommen—CD-Besprechungen liegen mittlerweile kaum mehr drin (was Agenturen und MusikerInnen nicht davon abhält, mir weiterhin Aufnahmen zwecks Besprechung im Blog zuzuschicken).
Der angewachsene Zeitaufwand für Rezensionen / Besprechungen und den Unterhalt des Blogs führen mich dazu, gewisse Teile meiner Konzertberichte zu straffen. So entfallen in Zukunft Beschreibungen von Konzertlokalen weitgehend, Künstlerbiografien und Werkbeschreibungen werden im Text auf ein Minimum reduziert. Die Information wird jedoch weiterhin über Links (Websites, Wikipedia) und Querverweise verfügbar bleiben. Diese Einschränkungen betreffen vor allem etablierte MusikerInnen und Standardrepertoire: unbekannte / zeitgenössische Werke, sowie angehende Talente auf dem Podium sind davon nicht oder kaum tangiert.
Selbstverständlich werde ich mich weiterhin gewissenhaft auf Konzerte vorbereiten, genau hinhören, wo möglich gleichzeitig fotografieren und die Partitur auf dem iPad mitverfolgen, sowie im Dunkeln hektisch Notizen kritzeln. Die resultierenden Besprechungen werden insgesamt kaum wesentlich kürzer ausfallen.
- The Intensification of Blogging over Time
- Conclusions / Consequences
I have in the past written extended blog posts on my activities as blogger and (lay) music reviewer:
- Writing and Reading About Music (2012-11-17)
- Lay Concert Critics — A Personal Note (2017-03-31)
- Reflections on the Role of Concert / Music Critique (2018-10-27)
This post, is not about what I do in my blog, but rather, how I do it, and how I expect this to change over the near future.
The Intensification of Blogging over Time
Back in 2011, blogging to me started of as no more than a casual hobby. The intent was to express my thoughts and impressions on classical music. The initial focus was almost entirely on music that I have in my digital collection (I haven’t listened to any of my LPs for well over a decade!). As my previous job and working life suddenly ended around the end of 2013, I had enough time at hand to be productive in my blogging. Things were tightening up over time, as my CD reviews got more and more elaborate. I also switched to a new blogging platform. This meant that I was reworking every single blog post for the new environment. And I was definitely wrong in assuming that this would be the final revision!!
Moving into Concert Reviewing
Things took an unexpected turn when Bachtrack.com asked me whether I would be willing to review concerts (in German) for their site. I did give it a try and indeed was reviewing 159 concerts for Bachtrack between 2014 and 2018. I also kept publishing extended reviews in English in my blog, in parallel to the ones for Bachtrack. Gradually, this new activity turned more intense and more time-consuming.
Doing “Private” Concert Reviews Only?
Once I “got the flavor of it”, I also started attending and reviewing concerts that Bachtrack were not interested in. This further increased the workload. As things intensified, I dismissed my reviewing for Bachtrack a little over a year ago. At first, this freed up some capacity for my blogging. I even thought I might have time to resume CD reviewing again. An illusion, as it turned out—for several reasons:
- The freedom to choose concerts for reviewing just increased the “appetite” …
- I told agencies and concert organizers that I would no longer be reviewing for Bachtrack, and that I might restrict myself to more affordable, possibly smaller scale & chamber music events. To my amazement, however, several agencies are willing to offer me press tickets—even just for reviews in my blog.
- Some of this may be because many newspapers are cutting back on the feuilleton pages. Several times, I have heard rumors indicating that the concert coverage is getting thin. There aren’t enough critics left to cover the large number of concerts and festivals.
- My reviews are different, typically much more detailed, often also more in-depth than standard reviews in newspapers. To my delight, artists (and agencies) appear to like my reviews. This has led to a fair number of close and friendly contacts, all of which I thoroughly enjoy. This again leads to additional concert invites, and I try my best to honor these offerings and invites. I estimate that currently, 2/3 of my concert visits are invitations and offerings by agencies / organizers, artists, and ensembles.
On top of the above, agencies and artists keep sending me CDs / recordings for reviewing. Even though I tell them that the time I can allocate to media reviews is minimal, and that I expect delays of 6 – 12 months or more. Still, the CDs keep piling up on my desk. I rarely buy CDs for myself, these days, and over the past 12 months I struggled to review a mere 2 – 3 CDs. Gradually, the alarm bells started ringing.
Blog Maintenance on Top
Without visitors to the blog site, my reviews would of course rapidly be forgotten about. They would “retract into the Internet oblivion”. So, in parallel to adding new posts, I keep spending a fair amount of time in maintaining the blog archive and the associated databases. Periodically, I need to adjust my blog to changes in the WordPress platform. And, as “Web fashion” evolves, from time to time, my blog site is undergoing facelifting. As it does right now. Also, I try making blog posts more readable by adding post outlines at the top. And I’m adding German summaries for my German-speaking readers.
Conclusions / Consequences
With all of the above, I’m not complaining, and this is not a cry for help. Quite to the contrary: I intend to continue my blogging activities, covering approximately the same number of concerts as in the recent past. And I do hope that I’ll manage to squeeze in a few CD reviews that artists and agencies are so eagerly waiting for.
However, this requires a few changes in my concert reviews. These hopefully will not be detrimental to my reviewing. To the contrary: they may even make my epic reviews more readable, without loss of information / content. Namely:
- I will eliminate or cut back text referring to the venue. As I’m still providing hyperlinks, the information is still readily available, though. Simply select the associated links in the text.
- Producing elaborate excerpts from artist’s biographies inevitably leads to incomplete descriptions. So, I rather will usually limit artists’ information to links to personal Websites and / or Wikipedia entries.
- Similarly, information on compositions in the standard repertoire will be limited to an absolute minimum. This used to be very fragmentary & incomplete anyway. I will continue to post links for Wikipedia entries for composers biographies, as well as to the compositions. The information in these links will be more complete and more up-to-date than a blog excerpt.
I Don’t Want the Quality to Suffer!
Some things will not change, however:
- I will keep the overall structure of my blog posts.
- I continue to prepare myself for concerts, to listen carefully (whenever possible while taking photos and following the score on my iPad). And I will take my usual, scribbled notes. And the resulting comments in my reviews are unlikely to get much shorter, if at all.
- Where I’m allowed to take photos, pictures will be added to the same degree as in the recent past. Where I don’t have permission to take photos, I’m happy to add official press photos, where available.
- The above restrictions in artists’ biographies will not (or to a lesser degree) affect young, emerging talents & artists that are not known yet to general audiences.
- Similarly, I hope to keep bios and descriptions for contemporary composers and their works. Especially if these works are new and / or cannot be looked up on the Internet just yet.
Overall, this hopefully allows me to retain all of the relevant information (actual critique / concert review, etc.). And it may even make my blog posts more readable—and possibly a tad shorter. 😉
Addendum — 2020-11-11
In an attempt to funnel incoming requests / invitations for concert (and media) reviews, I have added a longer document “Concert Critiques: A Note to Organizers, Agencies, & Artists” (also available in German). This complements the information above and is meant to mitigate overshooting expectations about reviews in my blog.