Crawling from under a stone to find a glass half full

Okay, where to begin? Well, I suppose I should start by bringing you up to date on what I have been doing for the past eighteen months.

In the spring of 2011 I came up with an idea for a TV series, Conducted Tours.  In each episode I would travel to an unexpected destination around the world to work with a symphony orchestra. What do I mean by unexpected? Well, for example, did you know that there are symphony orchestras in places as far afield as Ecuador, Ghana, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Iraq and Mongolia? Do you know about the Orchestra of Light and Hope in Cairo, in which all the musicians are blind women or the chamber orchestra in Calcutta that is made up of men who grew up in a single orphanage? Well until 2011 nor did I, but once I learned about all these orchestras I thought what a wonderful series it would make to go and visit them, collaborate with them and have members of the orchestras show me their cities, their lives, their hopes and aspirations.  

I believe that music has a moral imperative, that it is the language of emotion and that it echoes the very origins of human communication.  Music has the power to bring people together when words can too often force us apart. At a time when we are witnessing increasing sectarian violence and growing international suspicion and fear, I believe that Conducted Tours would be a perfect vehicle for promoting better understanding and respect between diverse cultures. I also know that the idea has all the potential to be rich, emotionally rewarding, dramatic entertainment.

So, I took this idea to Broadcasters. From the spring of 2011 to the summer of 2012 I met with the CBC, CBC BOLD, Travel and Escape,  Vision TV, High Fidelity, Discovery World, Bravo!, OLN,  OWN, and others. With most of these stations I got meetings. With some of them I had multiple meetings over a number of months. Almost all of the meetings resulted in a polite no. The reasons given were, ‘the idea is wonderful but we don’t think that it has broad enough appeal’; ‘the idea is original but not Canadian enough’ and ‘the idea is very imaginative but “too broad”. One broadcaster made a pre-license offer of $5,000 per episode. To put that offer into perspective the budget of an episode of Conducted Tours is in the region of $120,000 to $150,000. Even the bare bones pilot episode that we are looking to shoot will cost $50,000+.


So, in the summer of 2012 I had two options; give up or go independent. I decided to be what is rather charmingly referred to as a ‘disruptive entrepreneur’.  I really love that term, and fits me to a T. My idea was (is) to produce Conducted Tours as a web-based series in a way that the viewer can be involved in my journeys and experiences as they happen as well as experiencing a one-hour episode from each destination. But with no broadcast license, no tax credits or Telefilm top-ups I now had to find the money to shoot the pilot episode from private sources.

So off I go pounding the pavements once more, this time knocking on the doors of Banks and Business.  Again I was very successful getting meetings but not so successful closing sponsorship deals. This time my failure was due to my inability to guarantee a sufficient ROI (return on investment). A business considering sponsorship is looking for a deal that will have their brand be seen by as many people as possible.  There’s this thing called Cost per Thousand. What this refers to is the amount a company is willing to pay to reach a thousand people. If I want a company to sponsor me to the tune of $50,000 - and they were willing to pay $50 per thousand people - I would have to guarantee them a viewership of at least 1 million people.  If they agreed to $50,000 but at cost per thousand of $20 I would have to guarantee 2.5 million viewers! Are you wondering what sort of guarantee a company is looking for? Well that’s easy, track record. How many people are already watching Conducted Tours? And there, ladies and gentlemen, is my predicament when it comes to corporate sponsorship. I have a very good idea that companies are interested in but at this time I have zero viewers. The number of viewers I may have in the future does not factor into their equation.

I can understand their caution. I’m peddling a recipe I claim is for an absolutely delicious, but rather expensive pie, but what if the end result tastes like poo?!?! I know that it won’t, but they don’t and they are cautious people, advertising execs.

And that, my friends brings us to 2013. I am as convinced as ever that Conducted Tours has the potential to be a wonderful, life affirming series. I won’t lie; the lack of success over the past eighteen months has taken its strain at times. It was my intent to begin this journal on the first day of this year but I had a little fight with depression for the past week. I am generally a half glass full kinda guy, but when there is only a few drops of water left in the glass it’s hard to stay optimistic. However, I pulled myself together crawled out from under my stone and acknowledged that the glass is not yet empty. I’m more determined than ever to make Conducted Tours a reality this year.

I am going to keep a daily journal of my struggle to produce Conducted Tours. To be honest I’m not really sure why. I think it’s partly that I want to share my challenges, frustrations and successes with other people.  Perhaps you can help keep me sane. But, I also want to blog about the making of Conducted Tours because I do believe that the journey itself is the destination. It’s too easy to forget this when you’re focused on a very specific outcome like the pilot for a show. Hopefully keeping this journal will make even the worst days that little bit more meaningful – if only in hindsight.

Thanks for sticking with this rather long, 1,086 words, entry.  I promise they won’t all be this long and that there will be plenty of variety.

If you’d like to know more about Conducted Tours please visit



The First Round's on Greg

Great news for those of you who will be attending Classical Socials.

Greg Garson, the owner of Fionn MacCool's who is already generously allowing us to host Classical Socials at his pub for free has extended his generosity to include a drinks card for all those who play at a Social.

On the night that you participate you'll receive a card that will entitle you to one free drink plus up to four pints of beer or four glasses of wine at reduced prices; a pint of draught beer for $5.50 or a 5oz glass of house wine for $5.

Thank you Greg for all of your support!

If you haven't already, please LIKE the Classical Social Page at

If you want to sign up to play at a social CLICK HERE


Who gets to play?

I received a question about how it will be decided who plays at a Classical Social. Here's the scoop.

I'm presently asking for volunteers so that we can program the January 20th "Playlist" - each Social will have a prearranged playlist.

For those musicians who drop by a Social we'll have a "Free for All" period each week.

And, at each Social we'll plan the playlist for forthcoming Socials. We'll ask those present to place their names into the 'sorting hat' so that we can create "Pick and Mix" ensembles for the following week/s.

I'm sure that the process will need some refinement but I think that these ideas will get us going and involve lots of players and keep variety and fun the flavour of each gathering.

If you haven't already, please LIKE the Classical Social page at


Live from Carnegie Hall

Here is another exciting development in the world of streamed classical concerts. The latest of the world's great venues to provide online access to their concerts is Carnegie Hall in New York. I only discoverd this today, so I have not had time to explore their site properly but so far I have found live performances by the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.

It appears that Carnegie Hall will be broadcasting 12 concerts a year. The next live broadcast will be Yannick Nézet-Séguin with the Philadelphia Orchestra on January 17th.

The broadcasts are produced byWQXR and the you'll find past concerts archived at!/programs/carnegie/



I just received a newsletter from Greg Sandow containing his Four Keys for the Future (of classical music). In these four short precepts he has brilliantly summed up what many of us have been saying for years: Classical music is just one form amongst many - we have to stop isolating it from the other kids on the block as if PSY, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are going to have a bad influence on Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler!; You’re not going to find new audiences in concert halls, so get out into the world and add to the smorgasbord of music that all ready enriches people’s lives; let your personality and love of the music you play shine through your performance, it is YOU playing Beethoven that people have come to experience. Be imaginative, be visual, be genuine and never, never, never pander to anyone!!!

So thank you, Greg for your Four Keys. I hope performers everywhere will take them to heart.


1. Understand and respect the culture outside classical music.

 Your new audience will come from the world outside classical music. Where else could it come from? And to reach these new people, you of course have to know them. Who are they? What kind of culture do they already have? You have to respect them, because if you don’t, they won’t respect you.

2. Work actively to find your audience.

The people you want to reach may not yet care about classical music. So they won’t respond to conventional PR and marketing. They won’t come to you on their own. And so you have to actively go out and find them. You have to talk to them where they live, where they work, and where they go for entertainment and for inspiration. You have to inhabit their world.

3. Be yourself.

Your urgency, your joy, and your passion will draw people to you. But you can’t be joyful if you don’t love the music that you perform. So never pander. Never struggle to be relevant. Perform music that makes your heart sing. Trust your new audience. Trust it to be smart, to be curious, and to respond with joy when it sees how joyful you are.

4. Make music vividly.

The people you reach will want to love the music you bring them. But can you meet them halfway? Are you bringing them something they really can love? Your performances should be entirely yours, performances nobody else could give. Your music should breathe. Contrasts should feel like they’re contrasts. Climaxes should feel like climaxes. Are you doing everything you can to bring your music alive?

Click here for Greg Sandow's blog entry "Four Keys to the Future"