The Taco Bell Chamber Orchestra, Presented by Sears

The Taco Bell Chamber Orchestra, Presented by Sears

How low will you stoop to finance new music? I’m not suggesting armed robbery or anything, but would you consider corporate signage? Advertising partnerships are increasingly visible in professional athletics both here and abroad; it strikes me that arrangements with local businesses could be turned to similarly mutual advantage by new music ensembles.

If I ever find myself at the helm of such an ensemble, my first act will be to christen the group with the name of our largest corporate sponsor. I will sell advertising space on our concert attire (the conductor’s back will be prime real estate). I will cover every visible inch of the performance space with entreaties from our commercial partners. As long as they keep their hands out of our programming and management, I will kowtow at every opportunity to the appropriate monied parties.

Of course, it may not be a question of pride, entirely; I imagine sponsorship is more difficult to secure for new music than it might be for NASCAR. I guess I’d also have to run my ideas by the performers, who may not share my mercenary mentality. Maybe new music groups are already exploring these avenues—if so, I hope their representatives will speak up and let the rest of us know. Conversely, is anyone from the private sector reading this? If so, can we work something out?

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17 thoughts on “The Taco Bell Chamber Orchestra, Presented by Sears

  1. jgoforth

    I was just musing about how we could make private lesson scholarships available to the members of our youth orchestra. Sponsorships as you describe would be one way to get the funds. Many would find it distasteful, but not the students receiving the lessons. Why should it be acceptable for sports and not for fine arts?

  2. Vanessa Lann

    big M
    A decade ago, a vegetarian harpist friend of mine got a position in an orchestra (outside the USA) with sponsorship from a very well-known fast food (hamburgers, etc) multinational corporation whose logo is a big M (yes, that one). Anyway, she had to have “sponsored by _______ ” in every program book, and she even had to wear a big M on her clothing during an outdoor concert on more than one occasion. I think she was a bit uncomfortable with that. It was quite ironic, considering she was completely revolted by meat, etc.

  3. lawrence

    Corporations aren’t evil as a rule, only as a choice. I know a number of people working within megacorps who really like to feel as if they are doing something more valuable than increasing profits (although they don’t tend to want to do anything that will decrease profits, either). The people who work in the philanthropic ends of these companies tend to be at least somewhat altruistic by nature. But the bottom line will rule: how many people will applaud their sponsorship? So if you are looking for money to produce experimental concerts for your friends, don’t bother seeking corporate support. If, however, your ensemble is getting into elementary schools and teaching kids the value of creativity, then you can sit back and watch the sponsors line up to help you out.

  4. jbunch

    I can see it now:

    Dinosaur Annex and McDonald’s corporation proudly present György Ligeti’s breathtaking

    “Hamburg(ler) Concerto.”

  5. philmusic

    I’ve been trying to sell out for years! No one makes me an offer!

    I’m available at partial day rates.

    Sorry, cash only.

    Operators are standing by 24/7. Do today!

    Phil Fried

  6. trebodni

    Is this just a rant or is your entry sparked by certain ensembles? I haven’t heard of any such new music ensembles that are sponsored by corporations, but maybe I’m out of the loop…

  7. philmusic

    I believe that a Vodka company had an ensemble for some time, perhaps it still does. Anyway, it didn’t perform 12 tone or serial music. Perhaps I’m wrong.


  8. trebodni

    I did though attend an ICE concert at the Americas Society on Madison Ave. in NYC that was sponsored by Chivas whiskey (ICE was not responsible for the sponsorship). It was ritualistic. You waited in the elaborately decorated foyer, the ushers or Chivas sponsors then lead you upstairs to a reception room with big Chivas signs. This lovely Hispanic woman, quiet and seductive, pinned a Chivas pin on your shirt or coat and then you were given Chivas on the rocks by chic model-esque bartenders. Soon, we were told to drink up as we could not take the Chivas with us to the performance area. Imagine, prepping an audience with Chivas right before a concert of contemporary Mexican flute music. It was genius! We were all relaxed and even older ladies were shouting out exclamations. This audience was great, they were a very receptive one, people who usually attend Americas Society events (lectures, poetry readings, classical music concerts, etc.) that had no idea what they were in store for. Inquisitive, excited, intrigued, all from Chivas?! Maybe it could be a good thing to have a whiskey sponsorship…

  9. JKG

    Corporate sponsorship
    Since many in the corporate world could not hum their way out of a wet paper bag, I think it would be just PERFECT for those ‘composers’ with little or no talent to have their ‘work’ exposed to the public via coporate venues. Then, EVERYONE can hear what a perfect waste of time some pathetic pieces of music really are! On the other hand, there are in fact REAL composers who have their works performed when and where they choose, regardless of who foots the bill – the ones who whine the most about sponsorship are the ones more interested in appearance rather than substance, thus the current state of MUCH contemporary music effort. But hey – it doesn’t matter any more whose music is truly communicative, right? After all, EVERYONE’s effort is equally valid and equally beautiful (or non-beautiful, as the case may be). Thank you, untalented professor so-and-so – now that standards have all gone to hell, no one will ever know what a phoney poseur you really were *grin*.

  10. philmusic

    Now a word from our sponsors..
    Actually I am unaware of any new music performing group that is not sponsored by someone or by some institution public or private. Whether said performing groups “owe” their allegiance to their respective sponsors, is another question.

  11. jbunch


    We “missed” you and you constant “diatribes” about the “hack” “composers” “of” “academia.” “I” “was” “starting” “to” “get” “worried” “that” “no one” “was” “going” “to ” “comment” “on” “the” “downfall” “of” ” “proper” ” “taste” and “good” “‘ole” “down-home” “communcative” “integrity” “(” “w””h””i””c””h” ” “o””f”” ” “course””can””only””be””done””in””one””idiom”” “””””””-“””””””””””””””””” “t” “h” “””””e”””””””””t””””””””o””””””””n””””””””a”””””””l”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””on


  12. pgblu

    Good luck
    So you wanna sell out? Despite JKG’s assertion, you are not writing to suit the tastes of the corporations themselves.

    Rather, you are not going to get corporate sponsorships unless the corporations in question think you will get the butts of their prospective clients into the seats. So no music that might offend the upwardly mobile middle class — unfortunately, those people seem to be offended by a lot of things. On the plus side, it’s extremely easy to please them, at least programming-wise. Any music that carries an air of sentimentality or righteousness, even if just in the title, gets you points. On the other hand, music by professed communists or anarchists such as Cardew or Cage can only be presented in jbunchian quotes.

  13. jbunch

    Has anyone ever tried doing a new music concert in a coffee house, or other public venue featuring local performers that typically sing Vertical Horizon, John Mayer, and other swill?

    Maybe we could do a concert were there are a couple of really good pop/art-rock/whatever songs interpsersed with a couple new music performances (also performance art / readings / etc) Maybe something exploring a specific idea from multiple artistic perspectives? I bet it would not be hard to find a welcoming venue.

    Imagine this program:

    Radiohead: Idioteque
    Paul Lansky: Mild und Leise
    A recomposition of the Prelude from Tristan und Isolde by some really weird grad student somewhere
    A reading from the Medieval story of Tristan or a presentation by some Medieval studies type
    Dashboard Confessional: Several Ways to Die Trying

    Maybe it’s a little silly or naive – but if anyone has done anything like this – what were your experiences?


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