Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why I go to church...

I can read the bible at home. I can download my priest's sermons the week after every Sunday. There is even a Yahoo group for the congregation. If I need anything, I know I can call the clergy and talk to them on the phone. So why do I go to church? It is for the collective experience. I like walking into my church and feeling like I am at home. I get to see friends. Share experiences. Find support. Sometimes get a cheap supper, not to mention the free wine at communion. I like to see my priest deliver his sermon, live and right in front of me. These are things that I couldn't get from a podcast. Or by reading the bible alone. Or by listening to a televangelist at 6am on a Sunday morning.

So why is everyone so concerned that the uses of new technology are going to drive audiences away from live performances? This has been on my mind lately as we discuss the concerns that arts organizations will face in the next five years as part of our environmental scan at Americans for the Arts. Then Andrew Taylor hit on the subject again in his blog entitled Time to Rethink the Professional Arts Conference. In his blog, he criticizes arts service organizations for not providing content from conferences for fear that releasing the content would deter actual attendance at the conference (rest assured that Americans for the Arts will offer videos of our keynote & plenary sessions for free on our website after our conference). He refers to the concept "that people pay their registration fee for the content of the event, rather than the context of smart people together in space and time" as "flawed." I tend to agree with Andrew, and this is why a live experience will never die.

Maybe we should ask Peter Gelb at the Metropolitan Opera if the ticket sales at the Met have fallen since they started to simulcast their operas to movie theaters across the nation. Or if they fell when they started to broadcast their operas on Sirius Satellite Radio. I haven't seen exact figures, but I have heard that ticket sales are doing better than ever, which is refreshing since it has been reported that prior to these efforts, ticket sales have fallen every year since 2001.

So even though on a beautiful Sunday morning, I might be secretly praying that my priest delivers a very short sermon so I can hit the golf course early, I will still be in my pew, because a podcast doesn't substitute for the experience.

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