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Stuff To Ponder: Snobby Opera Lovers Aren’t The Problem

A few years back I reported on an article by Bill Ivey and Steven Tepper in which they reported that surveys show classical music lovers are more likely to have omnivorous tastes and consume a wide range of non-elite forms of music than a lover of rock music.

But I don’t cite the article to make classical music lovers feel good about themselves, but rather to highlight their suggestion that it is technology which is creating a cultural divide between the haves and the have nots.

“A few decades ago, cultural consumption required a small number of pieces of equipment – a television set and antenna, an AM/FM radio, and a record turntable. Now cable television, high-speed Internet connections, DVD-rental services, satellite radio, and streaming-audio services all require hefty monthly fees. Even consumption that feels like a purchase, like an iTune download, is often really a rental…”

According to the authors the new cultural divide will be comprised of those who have the time, resources and knowledge to “navigate the sea of cultural choice” to inform, cultivate and share their cultural lives on one side. Those who lack these things will obviously be on the other side of the divide receiving their culture via tightly controlled media channels.

This was about six years ago and at the time I didn’t see that this divide would be any more or less destructive than the cultural divide out of which we might be transitioning, even though it may involve different segments of the population.

Looking back, I don’t know that a new cultural divide has manifested yet. I don’t doubt that the potential of a technology based divide exists, I just think that there is still a good mix of options for people. Once certain channels of delivery disappear because there is no longer a critical mass of support for them and choices are more limited, then I think we will see what the basis of the divide is.

On a related subject, I am also not quite sure if technology is segmenting or broadening audiences. While people have much greater control to choose only what they want to consume, it is also much easier to immediately explore new artists when your favorite performer says they were inspired by Etta James.

Thoughts on these ideas? Do you see a new cultural divide emerging? People’s tastes becoming more or less segmented?


2 Responses to Stuff To Ponder: Snobby Opera Lovers Aren’t The Problem

  1. Sarah July 21, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    I am a late-comer to opera but the last five years have been one awesome ride in introducing myself to it at all sorts of venues. My experiences started in 2007, the same year that the Met started broadcasting in theaters. After a few seasons, my local public TV station decided to broadcast these operas on the HD channel, which was in a much higher cable tier, and I wasn’t able to access them unless I paid more money to Comcast. I stopped donating to public TV as did many other people, and the following year the broadcasts were back on the “lower” channel. I also told the public TV person who called (probably to ask why I had quit donating) that it was elitist to assume that opera lovers had the money for HD TVs and bigger cable TV packages, and he admitted they dropped the ball on that one.

    So, yes, there is a digital divide in all sorts of ways, and too many assumptions are being made.

    • Joe Patti July 23, 2012 at 12:29 pm #


      Ah, interesting. I didn’t realize public television stations had started to remove the broadcasts from the non-HD channels. At least they seemed to acknowledge the mistake and rectify it

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