I visited the Brussels Museum of Musical Instruments last month. It's brilliant. They give you wireless headphones which spring to life when you approach the display cases: you get a blast of a Mozart wind quintet on period instruments, or some stonking Hurdy Gurdy dance music, or a bit of steaming Hammond B3. It just brings those wonderful old instruments to life. And, of course - this is a state museum in the capital of Eurobureau - it is very fully documented, with discographies and notes. But: did they ever miss a trick... a big one too...
That Mozart piece blew me away. I love Mozart, and this, played on warm and subtly toned period instruments, was just gorgeous. I had to have it. So I visited the museum shop, where a deeply cool and painfully crucial guy with a wicked 'do cooly and politely informed me that, no, there were no CDs available with any of the museum's music samples - just what they had on the shelves... there might be a bit of Mozart wind stuff over there....
I was tempted to ask him if he had trained in retail in the UK, but I passed. He wouldn't have understood.
In all seriousness, this represents a completely wasted opportunity. Here is a museum which attracts music lovers. During their visits, these music lovers are exposed to a tantalising range of fantastic music - hundreds and hundreds of samples, effortlessly brought to life in a charming and accessible way. I would probably have come away with several CDs had they been available for purchase. Of course, there are bound to be copyright issues, but I don't see that these couldn't have been overcome. If I ran a record company, I would happily have made appropriate samples available to the museum, in exchange for their shop stocking the source CDs. It just makes simple business sense, and, provided the curatorial goals of the museum drive the process, there is no reason that the profit motive should override things.
However, since this is a Radio and Local Music booster blog, you may well be asking by now why I am spending so much time banging on about wasted business opportunities in Brussels.
Well, I've got two reasons, the most important of which is this: every time you go on the air, or play a gig, or get your song on the radio, you get a chance to sell yourself. And you never know who might be listening. Don't ever be content to put something lovely together, like the fabulous Brussels MIM, and then skip a chance to press home your advantage. It may just be a dumb tourist, like me in the Museum, asking the questions. But it could be a listener. Or someone who wants to buy your stuff.
This all connects up. Really, it does. There's been much talk lately - see my previous post, and a new post up today on the Infinite Dial blog - about the creative areas, where new radio practitioners are bypassing the old-school network operators, to go straight to their audiences. New ideas and new approaches are being born every minute, and I welcome them. Podcast and community radio audiences might be tiny right now, but you can bet that in among these audiences, there are movers and shakers, future bosses and future decision makers. They're listening right now, because they too are looking to find new inspiration.
Second reason - I just got friended on Facebook by a local muso, Mick Howson... who plays the Hurdy Gurdy... which reminded me about the Brussels MIM. See? It all does connect up.