A heady mix of ignorance, arrogance and ambivalence

Maybe I had it coming. Maybe for all the pissing and moaning about this and that, international festivals being roundly crap, commissioning editors being inconsistent, or marketers saying annoying bollocks about being humble, proud, excited or just intent on giving us a ‘sneak peak’ about all and sundry, that I would eventually get a massive poisonous bite on the arse.

I did. Yesterday. At a job interview. For a digital marketing job. For an orchestra.

I was directed to sit at a desk in the basement. The hiring manager opened a window and found a desk fan whilst I set about planning out a digital campaign for the band’s forthcoming season.

“How did you get on?”

I commented on how 25 minutes wasn’t enough time for what really was an unrealistic exercise.

I asked him and the MD what the key messages were for the campaign; neither seemed to know nor especially care. “We just want to get bums on seats.”

I ended up feeling like I was the idiot for even asking. Presumably they want the orchestra to succeed even if they didn’t want me to? (Note: I thought this bit; I didn’t say it).

I commented on how their audience-facing narrative seemed a little confused. The MD said that the strategy wouldn’t change so I’d have to build a marketing strategy to accommodate that. I pointed out that the job description didn’t extend (as far I could see) to strategy. This was the moment I felt I’d lost the room.

I felt hurt by the experience. I’d put the effort in. Researched. Prepared. Engaged. The response seemed like a heady mix of ignorance, arrogance and ambivalence.

This is one part of the orchestral sector, convinced that merely appointing someone to ‘do digital’ will translate somehow into ticket sales, salaries and salvation. Happy to effectively lead an individual into thinking he doesn’t know what he’s talking about because you don’t like what he’s saying.

“If your freelance career is going so well why on did you consider applying for this job?”

That old chestnut.

I explained that I was open to possibilities and that I was prepared to pursue different avenues. “And what do you think now you’ve met us?” I said I’d reflect and consider whether I still wanted to pursue it later on.

They thanked me for my time and advised me they were seeing other people. I said ‘See ya!’, climbed the stairs alone (tripped up too – Schadenfreude) and let myself out of the building.

I didn’t assume I had the job in the bag. I went along because I thought it might be interesting. I made a mistake. I was shocked by their ineptitude and their apparent unwillingness to even consider an alternative perspective.

I withdrew my application by email 45 minutes later.

I’m a cheerleader for this sector. It feels like home. Orchestras have contributed to some of my most important experiences over the past twenty years. But if you’re a senior manager recruiting staff to market your brand (pun intended) you’re going to need to work harder at the recruitment process. Not only have you missed out on someone good, you’ve just trampled all over a passionate advocate. And as far as I can see, orchestras need their cheerleaders right now.

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