Ahhh, Mad Men. My brother got me into the show over the summer of 2009. I don’t watch anything on actual live television (I don’t even remember how to switch our entertainment center over to live TV!), generally waiting until a season of a show has completed and then purchasing it on iTunes for enjoyment at my leisure.
As has been stated man times since the first season, Mad Men conjures up the sights, sounds, and situations (including those both charming and not-so-charming) of a bygone era, giving viewers a window into the testosterone-soaked world of post-World War II New York advertising culture. Great pains are taken in terms of stye of dress, collegial relationships, and the interactions of the sexes inside and out of the workplace.
This historical era also corresponds with the height of classical music on the cultural barometer and the early phase of the corporate-sponsored “orchestra as profession” era of which (in my humble opinion) we are witnessing the slow but inexorable demise (read my take on this phenomenon here…. or over here or over by there and back here and even here).
What happened to classical music? What could Don Draper do about it? And, more importantly, what would Don Draper do about it?
Here are some thoughts:
- Image is everything – In many respects, symphony orchestras would fit in well with the clients of Sterling Cooper, if not in terms of budget then certainly in terms of portraying their product (music, hotels, cigarettes.. it’s all the same in a certain light) as the natural extension of a desired lifestyle. If smoking a Lucky or staying at the Hilton could, with the right advertising, be billed as stylish and smart, then think about how something as inherently “classy” as a concert could have been effectively marketed.
- You can sell anything – Could the New York Philharmonic have been marketed as effectively as Hilton? Sure! Could the concert as an essential lifestyle accoutrement have been imprinted in people’s minds through the advertising trade? Certainly! Could the same happen today? I’d wager a great deal on it. Then why didn’t it happen, why isn’t it happening right now, and why will it never happen?
- It’s all about the money – Don works for a company with massive annual profits that specializes in selling images of Coke, Hilton, fashion, or whatever to the masses. His company is fantastically successful at doing this and is compensated accordingly. They employ the best in the business and fight for the best clients in the business, and like a top law firm or any other business-world entity, they demand compensation commensurate with their skills. But classical music does not play with the “big boys” in this arena. The budget of a classical music organization is nothing but a rounding error on the books of a company like those that Don Draper services. Coke, Hilton, and Don’s other clients walk the financial streets like kings, with classical music groups like a band of hobos fighting over scraps of lint tossed from the pockets of these fat cats.
The answers to my earlier questions are now quite clear:
What could Don Draper do about classical music perceptions, attendance, and sales?
He could take the music in any direction he wanted–if Don could make carbonated sugar syrup beverages appear essential to the day of every American, he could certainly make classical music seem like a critical part of the human existence.
What would Don Draper do about classical music perceptions, attendance, and sales?
Nothing–he’s not taking charity cases.