An IAMA interview with Marcus Felsner
Your curriculum vitae has a skill set and training that is different to the average manager in the classical music world. What made you change your career path from practicing law to artist management in the classical music industry?
I had a vocal training and had regularly performed as a teenager and young adult but then became a business lawyer and eventually the managing partner of a global professional service firm and some sort of business diplomat. Still, all my friends continued to be musicians, I wrote essays and books about music etc. It may sound lofty but I felt that, having reached a certain age and a level of despair in light of the ramping intolerance and ignorance in our societies, art was the only thing that could save us from falling back into barbarism. What artists do, matters in that struggle; what bankers and business lawyers do, does not.
What do you think classical music managers can adapt from other sectors to improve their business?
We operate in an extremely conservative environment and tend to ignore the fact that our total market volume is stagnant at best. Like all service providers we are additionally faced with business risks coming from both changing service needs among artists and the increasing scarcity of qualified people willing to work under the conditions which the industry currently offers. In profit-oriented industries, management and staff are used to constant critical reviews of mission statements, strategies, and business processes. That is an attitude I find extremely useful also for us.
Do you have a personal vision you can share about the business of classical music?
As a business person I will say this: Classical music is not a business. The steps that make its performance, broadcast, recording etc possible, may be a business, but this is a small part of relatively minor importance, also in terms of the financial stakes compared to real business sectors. I do not preach the ivory tower when I say that what matters is that the performance of true art, worthy to be remembered ideally by generations to come, is being made possible thanks to a professional environment that helps exceptionally gifted artists meet sufficiently receptive audiences.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Only recently did I realize that not everybody in our field genuinely enjoys going to concerts and performances for the simple joy of discovering something new, without having any second thought about the business. I cherish my childlike curiosity and feel protective about it - other than that, I read, I write.
Interview by Marlena Radaschitz, Manager IAMA Membership Services