Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why I Don't Belong to the Music Critics Association of North America Any More

I was a member of MCANA for a couple of years, and even participated on a panel at the 2011 meeting, which was held in San Francisco.

At the time that I joined, I heard that the group was trying to recruit bloggers. I heard about this from an MCANA member, and I never did hear of any kind of concerted effort to get bloggers into the group. It's easy to understand why: two years ago, MCANA had fewer than 100 members. There are more than 300 classical music bloggers, of varying degrees of quality, writing in English, with a large proportion of those based in North America. The folks getting paid regularly for their reviews would quickly be overrun by nonpros.

MCANA has never presented specific criteria for a blogger to join, and I think that perhaps the effort to recruit bloggers was short-lived. I was able to join because I had four or more published professional reviews in the previous year. At the time, MCANA didn't even have an online application, so I had to print out a selection of my online SFCV reviews to snail mail to the organization. I understand that this has changed, but what??

I quit for a few reasons.

1. For my $100/year, I could spend a lot of money traveling to the annual conference location, where I could get free tickets to whatever festival was close by. Not a huge benefit, because I can afford to pay for my own tickets. In 2011, there were also a couple of seminars of no particular interest to me, also at distant locations.

2. No mailing list. Seriously, it's the 21st century, and the "mailing list" is "copy this list of member email address and send them all email." So there is no archive and no encouragement of intramember communications and discussion. It takes ten minutes to set up a Yahoo mailing list or Google Group, or if you want to live dangerously, Listserv.

3. I got omitted from a mailing coming from the organization itself, presumably as a result of the above.

4. MCANA just launched a new web review magazine. Did you know that? I bet you didn't, because I found out about it 1) in email containing a link to Robert Commanday's Dolores Claiborne review 2) from Alex Ross's blog. Uh, emailing prominent bloggers and musical organizations might get you some publicity - and hits! But people don't read what they don't know about.

5. Terrible outreach. I don't understand why MCANA hasn't tried to get every SFCV writer to join, but evidently they haven't tried. (I was asked if I wanted to join the membership committee. No, I did not.)

6. The worst web site imaginable.

7. I run a technical writer organization at my workplace that has twice as many members as MCANA, and thus I know from personal experience that it's not so hard to do things better than MCANA has been doing things.


Dave MacD said...

Goodness that's an ugly site. That's Hall-of-Fame ugly.

They could pay me $50 and I'll spend ten minutes setting up WordPress or Squarespace for them or something. If only they knew enough to be embarrassed.

Lisa Hirsch said...

EXACTLY. Or Weebly.

Molly @WonderlandK said...

Serious question: Would a google group, et al., be useful? I have belonged to one for women rock critics for years and, though it has been less active in recent months, it's still great for when you need a pro hand on tracking down a PR lead or room to vent about that stupid/insulting VV post. Also a solid way to mentor up-and-comers and toss them job and internship leads, etc.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I suggested a real mailing list (Yahoo, Google Group, or Listserv) up there in point 2. The absence of this is a sign of MCANA's difficulties.

Chanterelle said...

I'm a member. I joined years ago under pressure from a friend, even though at the time I had barely published anything, and I stayed for the annual meetings, some of which have been pretty great. But the organization frustrates me for many of the same frustrations you enumerate.

They're trying, really they are (poor dears). But there's a mysterious technological barrier which can't be attributed entirely to the average age of the membership. Much of the politics at play has its origins from events that date back decades.

But here's the thing: beyond the networking benefits, the real reason to belong is the Institutes, aka junkets. That's how I got to go to Bayreuth last year. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

I didn't even know there was a Music Critics' Association of North America. They've certainly never solicited me, though I guess I'm eligible. I'd be open to something that shared news and tricks of the trade, but I'd have to be shown that's what it does.

Oh no, that's not the worst web site imaginable. The worst web site would have to begin by having lots of useless geegaws requiring it to be viewable only in the latest and greatest browser, despite having nothing necessary to the purpose forcing this to be so.

It is, however, one of the worst written, worst organized, and non-useful sites I've seen from a writers' group.

Lisa Hirsch said...

See? I put someone from the membership committee in touch with John Robinson back in 2011, and nothing happened. Amazing, because they could have added 20 or more writers to the roster.

I agree with useless geegaws and requiring late model browsers, but most web designers are aware that a shocking number of people are still on IE 6 and 7 even though they are full of security problems, even patched.

If something were flashing, or if there were four or five more fonts, that would be worse.

Chanterelle, yeah, the junkets could be worth it. I expect to go to Bayreuth via my local Wagner Society . Of course, will have to pay for that. :)