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Universal International CEO urges classical industry to become more accessible

By | Published on Friday 25 January 2013

Max Hole

Newly promoted to the role of Universal Music International’s CEO, Max Hole this week addressed the Association Of British Orchestras, telling the organisation’s members that his company is planning to “assert its classical music leadership as never before”.

He went on to say, according to The Telegraph, that the classical music industry was at risk of scaring off a new generation of fans due to “perceived elitism” and “unwritten etiquette”, urging performers to show more emotion, encourage applause, dress less formally and “get out of the concert hall and go direct to where people are who wouldn’t normally go to the concert hall”.

He added: “I am worried that the very traditions and institutions that seek to celebrate, promote and preserve classical music are in danger of causing the genre great harm and hindering its growth. Exclusion from classical music is not just about social and monetary boundaries: it is equally about the physical and the architectural. The very buildings in which you play are often seen as forbidding and not places many people think they’d be comfortable entering”.

Using a performance of Beethoven’s ninth symphony at last year’s BBC Proms as an example, Hole noted the staid atmosphere in the audience, saying: “For me, the second movement is as an uplifting piece of music as The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ or Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’. I wanted to jump on my feet and shout and yell, but even at the Proms, the most wonderful and friendly festival of classical music, there is silence. But actually, not even silence, there is a loud chorus of coughing and spluttering”.

Meanwhile, turning on the performers themselves, he said: “Musicians need to think about the way they dress, and to appear more excited and engaged with the audience. There’s more to it than just taking a couple of bows at the end of the concert”.