Dear Tiffany, dear haters.

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Dear Tiffany, dear haters.

Dear Tiffany,

a few days ago, with the help of much white wine, I sat through most of a 24 hour internet streaming event which featured small living room concerts from all over the world. Jan Vogler, the artistic director of the Dresden Music Festival, had invited you to join – meaning that some time into the stream, he broadcasted a recording you had done at your piano at home. By not revealing which time the clips were broadcasted, Jan’s team tried to keep up the audience’s attention through the night, and maybe also let the interest for big names rub off a little on some of the lesser known whose talents nevertheless deserved every bit of attention.

This strategy produced – mixed results, let’s call it that. More precisely, for hours and hours, the live chat was dominated by your loving (and impatient) fans. „have I missed Tiffany poon?“ (Sinja Ja) „Did tiffany poon finished playing?“ (raff raph) „yea Tiffany..“ (Oriza Praba Albani) „We want Tiffany“ (Patricia Henriette) TIFFANY TIFFANY TIFFANY <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Hundreds of messages. Thousands of heart emojis. For music lovers, including the musicians who played during the stream, this basically felt like a chicken run on the wrong kind of pheromones. Soon, the over-excited fans were told off, reprimanded and ridiculed. Suddenly, this whole thing was not about the music anymore. It was a battlefield. I closed the chat.

After all, you had done what you were expected to: playing the piano at a live-stream event and bringing along a young, dedicated, new media-affiliated audience. Your fans did what they were expected to do: actively engaging in the event, interacting via live-chat, sharing the event further down into their respective networks, creating a wide range of attention and coverage. And, eventually, the critics also did what they were paid for: reviewing your musical performance, measuring your artistic achievement against that of others. But by mixing different interest spheres, expectations were missed on all sides. And a disappointingly flat aftertaste remained (also regarding my choice of white wine, I have to say).

Anyway. At some point (maybe during that live streaming, maybe even before) you must have realised that over those last years, you actually have created a monster. You had to come to terms with what we, the „conservative“ audience, had witnessed first hand that day: namely, that a part of your fanbase was rather interested in seeing you, TIFFANY, appear than in what you, the pianist, or any of the other artists of the event were performing. Maybe some of them were not even interested in music in general?

Alle Screenshots: https://www.instagram.com/tiffanypianist/

So today, you tried to do damage control – by uploading a video on your instagram account, and asking everyone to „be kind“. Your main argument: fanatical fandom can very easily backfire, your „career depended on these critics in the classical music industry“, and „please don’t be mean, otherwise other people will be mean to me“.

„You probably don’t realise: (…) these kinds of reviews from critics of the professional world don’t really understand so much of our relationship here. They probably just think I am some influencer who kinda plays the piano and can’t really play Chopin…“

Your instagram video mentions a certain critic’s „mean line targeted at me“, sparking new furor among that very fanbase. Immediately, that critic (who happens to also work for »Musik in Dresden«) was scorned and ridiculed by your followers – in the comments of that very video about „being kind“ to other people. He was accused of being „tasteless“, suspected to be a failed performer himself, he „may have continued [his] career by studying ‚musicology'“, „a dinosaur unable to understand the present day, if not a downright racist“. The link to his review was shared; and sure enough, Tiffany fans began to write respective comments under that article, too, questioning his professionalism and accusing him of unfair critique.

„Be kind.“

For me, that whole matter appears to be a curious case of reverse victim blaming. Let’s try to analyse the case: You are exploring new career opportunities in a very conservative work environment, combining your musical abilities with actively building a strong, dedicated fanbase – which actually might be a model for many future artists. It does not degrade your musical abilities when I state that your social media work might be the very reason why you are hired as a pianist. More and more organisers assume that – there I say it – influencers are able to unlock a whole new aim group with huge potentials.

That, by the way, might be the reason why Alexander called you an „influencer-pianist“ : not as a snarky remark, but as a rightful categorisation of a person who has built a large online followership by posting personal messages, vlogs etc. These videos show you not as a pianist, but as a private person. They show you struggling with work, musing about the first snow of the season. Chatting about a special breakfast or about food in general, featuring funny pig-faced dumplings and cute rolly-eyes sesame burgers. They witness you opening your fan mail. Revealing your favourite living pianist, your new year’s resolutions, and mainly, of course, about you, playing the piano. Doing so, you seem to hit the right notes (pardon): a year ago, your youtube channel surpassed 100.000 followers. They love you, Tiffany. And you feed them. That’s the deal. And the reasons why people like you are an interesting marketing partner for companies like Steinway.

A big question remains. Who are these people who leave their comments, smiles, emojis and declarations of love under your videos? Are they a significant aim group as a future classical audience? Are they potential CD buyers, potential concertgoers, potential buyers of Steinway pianos? Are they „worth“ the effort of building up and maintaining that customer relationship? After all that we have experienced during that live stream, their customer loyalty seems to be strong. But what is their commercial impact beyond your personal patreon page, and beyond your #Covid19 fundraising efforts? (Kudos to you by the way. Raising already over 6.000 Dollars among your Youtube followers is impressive, honestly. I salute you.) Are they really the concert audience of tomorrow, or will their loyalty fade away again after a certain age, with new trends and crazes, with „the next big thing“? Nobody has sufficient answers to these questions yet. Marketing strategists will rule out nothing, and are certainly happy to let some test balloons fly. Little is known about the mechanisms of the new classical music market yet. Can we apply rules and strategies from other, more profane branches like the beauty culture? Are brands / protagonists like Lang Lang or Valentina Lisitsa influential enough to have a sustainable market impact in general?

Let’s talk about looks.

And while talking about beauty. Yes, what about looks? In the ideal world of classical music, looks should be irrelevant. We could leave it at that – but then we would ignore the obvious. As in every other part of society, looks a r e relevant in the world of classical music. All kinds of discrimination, favouritism, and sexual misconduct take place, everywhere, and every day; in the offices of musical directors, behind and sometimes openly on stage, online and offline. Selling numbers are pushed with salacious PR photos, careers are built (and also destroyed) by and through inappropriate behaviour. Some of the most prominent #metoo exposures and revelations were related to classical musicians.

Even so, talking about looks in the classical music world is a demeaning thing in itself. „You imply that with my artistic abilities alone, I would have never made it that far. That’s sexist. You are a sexist!“ No. I try not to be sexist. Sexism in the music world has to be red-flagged, pointed out, taken to court, and stopped. We all have to recognise that we are not immune to it. We should actively work towards a musical world of equal rights and opportunities. We should not exploit weaknesses and generally try to be fair and honest.

You, Tiffany, could be a new role model in that movement. You could point out and condemn obviously sexist comments in your social media channels. You could help working towards a kinder online world by helping others to recognize their carelessness and ignorance regarding the matter. Please, by any means, also point out discriminatory remarks in music reviews. There are plenty. However, please do not confuse kindness with fairness. Critics, unlike social media followers, are not there to „be kind“. They should be allowed to point out unpleasant truths, fair and square.

After all, I thought your Chopin was a little shallow.

22.05.2020Allgemein, Rezensionen