Music In 2004 – Top 10 Disagreements

This is the time of year when most publications put out top ten lists. “The most glaring trend in these lists is the lack of agreement as to what constituted the best music of the past year, not only among critics but also – especially – between critics and popular tastes (as judged by album sales and radio airplay). Comparing the 10 best albums as ranked by the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and, one finds that exactly half of the albums mentioned appear only once among the lists. Only one record – Kanye West’s “The College Dropout” – appeared on all of the lists; no other album appeared more than twice.”

Oscar’s Documentary Problem

“In a year that was widely hailed (as was 2003) as the Year of the Documentary, with nonfiction films playing in record numbers of theaters and to record attendance, the Academy’s recently published list of the 12 semifinalists for 2004’s best-documentary statuette suggests that all is still not well in the house of Oscar.”

Shoulda Been An (Oscar) Contenda

Two-hundred-and-sixty-seven movies have qualified for this year’s Oscar race. “The number is within the average range of films that have been in contention during the past half-decade. Last year, 254 films were considered, down from 279 in 2002. The numbers were lower in 2001 and 2000, when 248 and 242 pics, respectively, were eligible. The recent numbers are down significantly from the highs of the 1940s and ’50s, when films considered annually numbered in the 400s.”

The Big Business Of Investing In Art

“With its yearly sales now reaching an estimated $10 billion in the United States alone, art has quite literally become big business. While money invested in the stock market’s S&P 500 Index — a conservative bet on Wall Street’s top 500 companies — has earned an annualized 11 percent return over the past decade, that same money sunk into the contemporary art market would have produced a whopping 29 percent return.”

Predicting What Tickets You’ll Buy

John Elliot is getting attention for his direct marketing analysis of arts audiences and how likely they are to buy tickets for a given show. He has “detailed computer analysis of consumers’ purchasing patterns and statistical models to track down the most likely ticket buyers for cultural district shows. His secret weapon? A database of 425,000 households based on 14 years’ worth of ticket sales.”

The Arts Audience: Last-Minute Buyers

The ticket-buying habits of arts groups are changing. “Across the board, concerts in general, everyone is waiting longer to buy tickets than five years ago. It used to be, you had a window that started six weeks out. Now, that’s shrunk to three or four weeks, and you see a lot of sales in the week before the concert occurs. The trend creates several problems for performing-arts groups…”

Intellectuals’ Rockin’ Eve

The Modern Language Association has been meeting in Philadelphia this week. “Founded in 1883, the association was little noticed until the 1980s, when teachers of trendy new disciplines – African American studies, women’s studies, queer theory – challenged traditional scholarship and brought the ‘culture war’ into the ivory tower. Ever since, the group has been criticized for pushing the envelope too far, for being too leftist, too socialist, too orthodox, for generating reams of scholarly papers with little practical application. There’s a reason it tilts progressive: Humanities professors tend to be liberal and to push at boundaries. Conservatives and libertarians are more likely to go into business administration, economics and the law.”

Helping Britain’s Abused Public Art

A new award is being launched in Britain for public sculpture. It’s intended to focus good will on the country’s public art – much of which has been vandalized or neglected. “The background is a dismal inventory, gradually being revealed as the association compiles a national register of all the public sculptures in the UK, of the ignored, abused or trashed works of art scattered across the country.”