Pour Voir

29 Jan

C’était le lancement, hier 28 janvier 2016, du premier numéro du magazine Voir, qui était auparavant comme chacun sait publié sous forme de journal et qui l’a été chaque semaine depuis près de 30 ans (avec une courte période de publication aux deux semaines tout récemment). En ce qui me concerne, je suis assez fier d’y collaborer régulièrement depuis 2001.

Lors de son allocution hier soir, celui qui est au cœur de la relance, l’actionnaire Alexandre Taillefert, invitait les organismes culturels montréalais à investir dans ce nouveau magazine en y achetant de la publicité. On peut espérer en effet, aussi bien en tant que lecteur qu’en tant que collaborateur, que cet appel sera entendu. Il est beau ce nouveau magazine et il est évidemment perfectible, mais pour lui permettre de s’améliorer, il faudra lui donner du temps.

Voir

J’ai déjà lancé ce même « appel à l’investissement », à Winnipeg, lors d’un forum organisé par le Regroupement canadien pour les musiques nouvelles (qui, par ailleurs, célèbre ses 10 ans cette année). C’était en 2007 et force est de constater que mes paroles n’ont guère été entendues… Alors, pourquoi pas, les revoici. Comme le forum auquel je participais était tenu à Winnipeg, le texte est en anglais… Mais le propos, je crois, est universel et, surtout, très local. Le texte, je l’ai dit, date de 2007; je ne participe plus que sporadiquement au magazine La Scena Musicale, je ne suis plus membre du comité éditorial de la revue Circuit, et MTM Radio (pour Musique des temps modernes/Modern Times Music) est disparue depuis longtemps…


Participation à la table ronde «Re-présenter les musiques nouvelles», présentée dans le cadre du forum organisé par le Réseau canadien pour les musiques nouvelles à Winnipeg en février 2007 sous le thème «Musiques nouvelles et médias : se faire comprendre».

Altough my primary langage is French, I have prepared this little lecture in English. I just hope that I won’t offend anybody, but I must warn you that I learned English mostly by listening to Frank Zappa…

I’ve been invited here because I’m a journalist who, quite often, writes about contemporary music, and, contrary to most of my colleagues, I don’t usually write to say how bad it is… I just simply like new musics. For me, the weird thing is to prefer Palestrina over Stockhausen, or Mozart over Brady – which seems to make me, strangely enough, some kind of rare breed.

There was a time when they were writing about contemporary music in every morning papers. There was a time when they were talking about it on the radio and halls were full.

Yes, indeed, contemporary music already had its « fifteen minutes of fame », and it was in the sixties… These things don’t tend to come back.

So, to Re-Present new musics, I guess we need some tools, and these tools – which could help us in an effort to reach the general public – are called medias.

But then, when we look closely, we can see that these tools, these medias, already exist.

What’s wrong then ?

Well, I’m no « media expert », but then I write in this journal (Voir – a weekly cultural paper), this monthly magazine (La Scena Musicale – entirely devoted to concert music) and I’m a member of the editorial team of this revue (Circuit – entirely devoted to new music). I’m also involved with an Internet radio project that celebrated its first anniversary last November and which is entirely devoted to contemporary musics. So you might say that I know the medias, as Alice Cooper would put it, from the inside.

I want to share with you, first, a little story about this Internet radio. Its founder, Stéphane Gauthier, is just a simple music lover. He was already making a living by maintaining a totally different website, and though he could use his Internet skills to invent the media of his dreams, that would play all kinds of new musics all day long.

He though it would be great and that people would love it, especially since the public radio in Canada doesn’t give a damn about these musics.

So he invested a lot, alone, and started it. And then he began to meet all the beautiful peoples of the « milieu » as he started going to their concerts, because before he was really just a home listener.

I talked with him last december and he was a bit depressed, because there is one thing with Internet radio : you can know at every moment how many people are listening… And so he was depressed to find out that you can work almost non stop for three days to put together a wonderful show about Gyorgy Ligeti, and present it to the listeners only 5 days after the death of the great composer, and verify that your wonderful radio show is attracting only two listeners on this planet…

He was also depressed because he had been to a concert the night before. The concert was celebrating the 40th anniversary of SMCQ. He told me that he knew almost everybody in the hall and that, as far as he could know, they were all composers or musicians.

So, he told me, no wonder the contemporary music public doesn’t listen to MTM Radio, because this public, it seems, may simply not exist. He was wondering if composers and musicians are aware of that fact, or if, maybe, they just don’t give a damn as long as the government continues to send in the checks…

I must add here, to be honest, that he wouldn’t have said the same thing about the public of the most recent concert of SMCQ, which presented music of Steve Reich. The club in which the concert was held was full of young – never seen before in that kind of concert – public. This might lead us in a discussion on the genreal quality of contemporary music, but lets keep that for later.

So from that Internet Radio story, we learn three things :

1-   medias dedicated to the various forms of concert music, and to that alone, do exist.

2-   there is a public for contemporary music. It doesn’t matter if the guy who is in the hall today, listening, will be on stage tomorrow, playing, it exists anyway.

3-   this public goes to concerts to get informed about what their friends do and to support them.

So, I hear you asking, why aren’t they subscribing (for a cheap 20$ a year) to that wonderful radio ? Well, most probably because they didn’t even knew it existed.

Because if they knew that a radio station playing their music, their albums, existed, they wouldn’t want it to close, would they ?

Now, back to me and my personnal crusade to get the information to the public. To Re-Present New Music.

I write in this magazine, called La Scena Musicale. If you live in Montreal, you can get it for free in some places. A year ago, we had to put a price on it and begin distribution in some places where you can buy it. We did that in order to be able to try to, at least, get some money from the governments (who would not help a free publication). To this day, our little strategy hasn’t worked, but we’re not done yet.

Yes, you heard right : the 10 years old La Scena Musicale, the only magazine devoted to concert music in Québec, and the best of its categorie in Canada (and the only bilingual one), receives no money from the governments.

I also write every week in Voir, which is, also, free.

For most people, this is some kind of magic : Free magazine ? Free journal ? How do they do that ?

Well, the answer is simple my friends, its by selling ads.

Now, La Scena musicale is entirely devoted to concert music : that is classical music, contemporary music, new music, world music and jazz.

Yes, its wonderful. But it is also, every month, a struggle to get a pay check from the magazine (for those who are not volonteers).

Simply because it doesn’t sell enough ads to musical organizations.

So we have to drop stories every month, because every month we have less pages than the number we optimistically figured we’d get.

So, in order to try to sell more publicity, we have to diversify, and so, the thing ends up being that to talk about what insterests us, we have to talk about something else… Which makes even less space to do what we wanted to do in the first place.

In Voir, the space devoted to any subject is more or less proportional with the space sold to advertise events connected to that subject, which seems fair to me.

So you will find in Voir one article a week on concert music (but there are two or three pages of dance, theatre, cinema and litterature).

Well, I hear you say, « Of course, dance and theatre companies, cinema and book distributors have more money, so they advertise more ! ». Well, I’m no financial councellor, but would I be one, I would ask myself how do THEY do that…

Maybe we should push further that « more ads / more space » idea. If the space devoted to one subject can be linked with the number of ads advertising that same subject, maybe the lack of public in the halls can be linked with the lack of advertising of the concerts…

All of which brings us to one rule, simple and old : if you talk about it, people will know about it.

But to do that, you need to keep your channels alive, and this really is an important matter, of which you should all be aware of.

Communication is the key, and in the media age, you are never more healthy than the media that talks about you…

So, in the end, the only things I can say are these :

Get involved !

Support the medias who talk about you !

Buy ads !

Subscribe !

Thank you

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