At the international meeting of the International Music Council, We met Davide Grosso. He is the Project Manager for the Council, a very dedicated individual and artist to his work, who kindly agreed to share his experiences and advice with us.
Q: Hello Davide, we are delighted to have you here, and we thank you for accepting to provide us with this interview. To start, please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your career and projects.
A: Okay, so great. My name is Davina Grosso. I work for the International Music council as a project manager. I come from an academic background as I’ve studied music and especially ethnomusicology. I’ve been working on the field recording some ethnic music, especially in Southeast Asia. And then I’m an artist artist as well. I play electronic music mainly for theatre and they also have a solar project in like ambient drone Music A like lot modular synthesisers so I spent my free time between oscillators, cables, filters, LFOs and things like that.
Q: Well, when did you start this project this kind of work ?
A: This work came out actually by accident because at the end of the my academic path, since I work with a degree in natural Musicology, it was not easy as you can imagine to find a job but I’ve also been interested in this kind of electronic music. I kind of I combine I think I combined some academic skills so I had the sensibility towards music and music cultures that as well I knew how to work with a computer you know, basic still things but I can tell you even with interest that we are receiving every every year at the International Music Council is not something you take it for granted. So you take it for granted like that young people are very smart in using a computer or using social media which is true on one hand, but on the other hand, using them these tools professionally is not is something you learn so basically, I found an internship at the International Music Council and I arrived I was managing mainly the websites the graphic design even now even though I’m I’m I was more than now an ethnomusicologist but I think this is why I got the job because I had this background but at the same time telling me to build the newsletter wasn’t you know, like something completely far from what I could do. So, I started from there and then I learned a lot project management I really love to be a project management. I speak as specialised myself in project management especially in European grants such as Creative Europe. I really found myself being happy in doing this actually going from an idea to the writing of a project proposal to getting the money to getting the partners together. And then finally to see the project implemented. When you really see and touch the concrete results of what you with your work can do towards helping musicians and the music ecosystem as a wall to flourish. So I like that and I still doing this since 10 years.
Q: We heard about your projects and we think they are awesome. So, I wanna ask what are the challanges that Rostrum+ is focused on? And What is uniqueness of Rostrum+ in comparasion with other projects?
A: Okay. So to give you a little bit, the context, Rostrum+ comes from a previous project, which is still going on, which is one of the flagship projects of the International Music Council. And the project is called the International rostrum of composers. This project started in the 50s, where for red use for European radios came together, to promote and to find ways to promote contemporary classical music, which, as as we know, or if you don’t know, contemporary the development of contemporary classical music as a very much As a story that is very much linked to the radio, to the studio of the radio to new technologies that were at that certain point in history only available at national broadcasting companies. So since then, this project has grown as the most important platform for radio broadcasting companies from all over the world, that every year come together with the recent productions in terms of contemporary classical music. They listen together, which is something pretty unique. We sit for one week, and we listen to music, recorded music. And at the end, and we of course, there are also moments of this change and open mics to talk about different issues surrounding radios and contemporary music. And at the end, the delegates that Connery from some 30 countries from Argentina to Australia, they select two selected composers, one in a category called general category and one in a category called young composer under 30. And also they recommend some 10 works is like a short list of 10 works that they recommend to broadcast. What is special in all this and unique is that all the participating radios, the moment they register to participate at the rostrum, they engage themselves to broadcast at least once all the list of selected and recommended works, which means that the emerging composer from Argentina will be broadcast in Germany, Deutschland couture in France, ru France, in UK, BBC, in Australia, ABC giving an a huge platform of millions of listeners worldwide, which for a specific niche genre, such as contemporary music is really the thing that can make the difference in your career as a composer. This is the context. At one point, we decided that, given the fact that there is this programme, this European programme called Creative Europe. We could use this money to actually expand the rostrum as such and attach to the rostrum, a lot of different initiatives to support contemporary music in different ways. The first acts of this project was audience development, because we all know, at least in the sector, that contemporary music as a huge problem in attracting young audience audiences. And there is a lot of studies and also projects going on in how to attract young people to, to the concert hall. And there is also a lot of work done by concert hall in trying to modernise their repertoire because they usually, I mean, if you just check, whatever concert hall all around the world, you’re still composers played from centuries ago, which is great, but we have very little contemporary creation. So if there is no concert programmes, there is no audience. And if the audience is not exposed to this, there is very little chance for contemporary music to go out of the concert, all that actually also to start the process for which people will encounter this music. And then they will spend money to buy on the concert ticket, to go to festivals to listen to this music on streaming platform to buy albums and so to you know, to start the process, the economic process that is linked to music. This is one part of the restaurant plus project that was also another very important part in capacity building for composers. So what we did is that we created opportunities through a network of considerable tours, and concert halls to have young emerging composers being more in touch with the concert hall with radio professionals and also with the audience to develop their way of presenting their music and more importantly, to sell hold themselves as composers, because there is this kind of there is this kind of thinking in general in the art world. But I would say more special specifically, in the contemporary music world where you don’t talk about product, you don’t talk about money, you talk very little about marketing, all these words are kind of dirty words, because you are an artist and you are devoted to arts. So this is completely fine. This is completely fine. On the other hand, if you as a composer, or or as a student, studying composition, who are also instrument of course, playing an instrument, of course, you want to make a living out of that, then there are very little places where you can learn how to do that, except from major conservators in the world. Little conservatoires, when I say little, they say more peripheral conservatoires and music school, they don’t have specific training in things such as marketing, social media marketing, or even more basic things such as copyright management, I’ve, I’ve met plenty of young composer at the Conservatoire. And they once again, they know everything about music, they can write a symphony with closed eyes. But then when you ask them if they know how to sell their music, or how to get copyrights from their music, or how to enter, for example, the film industry or the video game industry, which are actually industries that are the one of the biggest employer for composers, they don’t have, they have no idea. So these projects kind of experimented ways on one end to develop audiences in a different in different ways. And on the other hand, was really trying to find new ways to train wannabe composers and musicians.
Q: Okay, congratulation for this project, you anticipate my second and third question and you have talked about Public Prodcasters and the challenges of contemporary music today, as well as its role in audience development in the music field.
So, do you know any good practices or examples of efficient collaboration of artist and public radio broadcasts in terms of audience development strategies?
A: So one example that I can give you comes from the restaurant plus project, and it’s very specifically about audience development. It’s not an entirely new thing, but is about bringing the this music outside the concert hall, because the concert hall s such represent for the common people of the street, people that have no musical training, or they don’t really know about classical music, concert all represent something they don’t even consider that is for themself. So what we did, we partnered with the chef, a very famous Italian chef that participates in TV programmes such as Master Chef, that everybody’s crazy about, you know, in all kinds of television and online, all European countries that are this like, sometimes 24 hours a day. A famous VIP chef, doing crazy experimentation with with food. And we actually realise that this crazy experimentation are more or less the same that you can do as a contemporary composer. Still, food is something that is more close to people than contemporary music. So we partnered with this chef is called his name is Adam’s lamb is Italian from Austrian origin. And we asked him to create a chocolate by using some special special techniques and one of the techniques he was using his draping, which is the same that Jackson Pollock use for the famous painting, which can be also found in some contemporary music and we organised an event in a very central place in an Italian city, where we invited people with the excuse of giving of presenting them this chocolates done by this very famous composer, Chef. But the ideas that we were talking about this through the lens of contemporary music, so actually, people they came here to get the free chocolate, but they got a very small like it was half an hour, not more kind of presentation on how this chocolate was made, but talking about music and trying to inspire people to go home. And to check what is contemporary music about, I don’t have any data about how many of them of course, I’ve checked. But I think for us was a very interesting project. And there are plenty of projects that go in this direction. For example, playing contemporary music in venues that are not made for contemporary music, like live music club, blazes, public gardens, and parks. Now places because these music has been closed, also by composer themself into the concert hall. And for for developing an audience, we need to bring this music outside the Conservatory, we need to go to the people go to the audience because this audience will not proactively go on Spotify and put contemporary music in the search bar. So you have to go and look for them, especially in the very young age. Because as we all know, the more you are young, the more you’re open to new sounds and the more your mind is not culturally closed, I would say into a specific genre or know the specific aesthetic.
Q: Okay, you talk about MasterChef, a show based on the selection. So my next question is, how do you select the repertory as a project manager? The composer? You can give us three elements are metters in the selection?
A: First of all, so the Rostrum is a gathering from for radios. So we don’t choose the composer, we just invite the radios. But I know very well that within the radio, there are several ways of choosing the works to present. And this can be very different one from another because once again, in the rules that we set to participate at the rostrum, there is nothing about the selection criteria. And this is really an internal process of the radio. It’s a little bit like a revision. It’s actually many, many people know the rostrum as the Eurovision of contemporary music. So in some cases, there is the radio as a national contest, which as one of the price gives you the selection to the international rostrum of composers, so the radio partners more most of the time with a festival, for example, they do they do a call for new works. They set the timing, they set the the frame as they like but then the winner is like automatically presented by that radio at the International rostrum of composers. In other cases, the radio as a very strong partnership, and I think this is very important with the composer union. Or, to put it better is actually the composer union that push the national radio to participate at the rostrum. So in countries where a composer union is strong, me means and when the component where the composer union is interested to promoting their own composer, there is sort of collaboration between the composer union which actually select the composer internally and then present this to the radio because once again, only the radio can participate in the rostrum, not the composer themself. So these are two example on how you I mean, how the composer selected that the rostrum arrived there, and if I can give a suggestion to composers is actually my my suggestion would be to This is a suggestion really, for every person that wants to work in the music field, it’s really to make a network this is really crucial is really go to concerts, go to conferences, join the composer Union or the whatever you didn’t exist. If that union doesn’t exist in your country, check the organisation, there are plenty of international or European organisation that have done this on a European level, check how it’s done in other countries and tried to set up the same in your country. So to have done the wait to push for your music to go beyond the national border.
Q: So do consider it’s a challenge to attract new audiences to the classical or contemporary music?
A: Yes, and no. And I explained, you know, because of what I said previously, because we know that contemporary music is, is seen as something too relativistic or too difficult or too technical for which if you don’t have the code, so if you have, if you don’t have a classical music training, you won’t understand it. But this is always been like that, since the beginning of contemporary music or classical music as such. On the other hand, we shouldn’t forget that, for example, classical music at the very beginning was a very popular thing. Of course, it was for the elite, but it was also very popular. I’m reading and I’m hearing a lot of professionals, especially also young composers, very enterpreneur young composers nowadays, they are starting to work with new new music festival, new concerts all and they say they have all the seasons sold out and all the season is sold out by young people. So of course, we cannot generalise. It really depends on the national, cultural socio economic context. There are countries that have done things more in the past. So now we are a little bit more advanced. But it doesn’t mean that country that haven’t done things before, are too much late right now, also, because it means that you can actually experiment, a lot of things. So I know that there’s not a specific answer as yes or no, I think that there is a lot of interest. And, but I think that this music needs to be mediated by someone. And for example, one of the other thing that we did at the rostrum plus was to invite students to actually present in public, their own music, by by with a speech, we because most of the time actually composers, young composers, once again, they just need training in public speaking, for example, because they cannot explain or if they do explain, they explain things that are so far from the reality of the people, that the people, they once again, they found too much for them. And this creates this fracture between this music and the audience. And once again, this is fine. If you tell me that you are a great artist, you only think about music and you only talk in philosophical terms, I’m fine with that. But it’s important that you as an aspiring musician, composer, know where the challenge is. So in case then you can do something to be closer and to you know, reach as many people as as you could with your music.
Q: So how do you see this audience development in classical music, modern music, contemporary music, and why not in the recent project in the long and medium term? How do you think this work in the future?
A: I think that we should all especially organisation like the International Music Council, I mean, all the actors of the ecosystem they should keep in working. One thing I can tell you is that what we have from as a feedback from the red news, is that the space Now that programmes of contemporary modern, experimental music have in the radio is shrinking every day, in every country, even in the country that have big tradition in classical music, this is going down. And then so we we have, on the one end, we have to push on a policy level for national broadcast broadcasting company to do what they have been created for. So to give to the public, not only what the public wants, but to give them a choice, and to give them diversity or to expose them to a diversity of aesthetics. That’s the difference between public and private television radio, right? This is one thing, the other thing is to keep in imagining, and designing and implementing projects. For, for this music to be to be listened to, we recently participated in a big project where the Slovenian national television, the area research about contemporary music for like three to nine year months olds, newborn babies, and they developed and also commissioned to new music works to the local composers to be played in rooms that I’ve really doesn’t look like the, you know, the New York Philharmonic or the Philharmonie Dubai, where they invited parents with their very young children, to listen to this music and also to have a discussion about the music. And once again, I think I come back to the word mediation, I think this is very important for for advancing that. I am pretty much optimistic. So I think that that in the long, I think we already can see also at the European at the European level audience development as been one of the core pillar of have project grants. So this has also, you know, created and developed this process for which we have done rostrum plus but many others have done any kind of experimentation with audience development strategies. So I’m pretty optimistic. And of course, the the key objective is not to bring 10,000 or more than 10,000 people to listen to a concert of contemporary music as it was for Pink Floyd or as it can be for radio ads today, this is not possible. And this is not even the objective, the objective is to F to more diverse offer. Because we know and we should also keep saying and keep teaching that diversity, it’s equals to richness. So the more diversified is the culture offers, the better is the society at the very end.
Q: Okay, do you have a message for younger artists, for the public maybe.
A: So for young artist would be to really go out I mean, even if it’s a sentence that we use a lot to go out of your comfort zone, but really, check, study and build a network this is essential in actually in any any kind of job. The professional network is the key for the success on audience level, I would say be curious and even though this can be once again, this also can sound as a stereotype. But especially for new parents are, I would say, teach to your children to be curious and expose them to as many diverse cultural products as possible, then they will decide but this is where you can make the difference between someone growing up only listening to death metal. Were somebody that has listened to death metal to Eric Satie to RadioHeads, Trap music, Rihanna or whatever you name it.