When does chasing become harrassment?

Posted on April 20, 2010


There’s nothing like ‘acts of God’ to threaten any kind of carefully thought out plan. It’s a deeply frustrating thing. Be sure to read Kevin Marsh’s account of his trip back from Vegas selling the BBC’s College of Journalism website to the Americans. It’s more amusing than the diary entry learning post which follows.

‘Acts of God’ are uppermost in mind as I listen to Petroc Trelawney from BBC Radio 3’s In Tune highlighting the resilience of musicians and conductors to live up to the old adage ‘the show must go on’ as they find all sorts of ingenious ways to overcome the challenges presented by the Icelandic volcano and the resulting shutting down of European airspace. Petroc marvels at how resilient musicians and conductors to make it to their destination or raise money to get alternative transport home.

At the same time, I get one response from two chaser emails I’ve sent to a couple of the BBC orchestras during the afternoon. (Two orchestras I’d thought were confirmed for one of the BBC Proms website videos but which – OH DEAR GOD ALMIGHTY – aren’t.)

Orchestras – or more precisely the orchestral managers who have the toughest jobs of all in the band – have far more important things to consider during times like this than a small promotional video. Their focus is understandably on getting players and conductors to rehearsals, and making sure the same people make it to the concert venue. It is a thankless task. It is only for those with a thick skin.

Even so. Producing stuff doesn’t mean one has to wait in an orderly queue for a response. This is like low-level journalism. It’s a rough world out there. One has to be reasonably forceful about things whilst maintaining a thin veneer of charm.

I read the email response. One email response points to one member of staff being stranded on the other side of the world unable to return from holiday. Without that person’s agreement, the orchestra’s involvement can’t be confirmed. I make a mental note of how exciting it is that something I’m working on has been impacted by a natural occurence.

The other orchestra doesn’t appear to have responded yet. It’s now the second time I’ve followed up in an email, a full two weeks after I pitched the idea to them. I scan the original email thread and discover I had even followed up last week. I certainly appear to have done my bit to seek confirmation.

The inevitable dark cloud descends. One very potent image occupies my mind.

What was once a picturesque lake in the height of summer around which woodland creatures ran about chasing insects to the waters edge is now a far chillier sight. The leaves are stripped off the trees, the animals are hibernating and the water is frozen over. And I’m stood looking on the scene fighting off a wind chill of -20 degrees centigrade.

This is perhaps a little melodramatic, but it is understandable. I know I have to be patient for the response I need. At the same time I know I may have to prod people. But what exactly is the point when it’s not worth pursuing someone? When does chasing a contributor appear like hassling a contributor?

It’s then the mental housekeeping phase kicks in. That’s when I imagine the worst case scenario.

What if the original plan can’t be met? What do I do when I’m faced with a situation like not being able to feature everyone I’d hoped could be featured? What does that do to the original idea (in this case featuring all the BBC’s performing groups)? Should I include other musicians outside of the BBC and, if so, does the original premise have to change?

And come to think of it, what was the core proposition anyway? A video mashup of singers? Why is getting BBC musicians so very important? The Proms *isn’t* just about BBC musicians after all. It’s about all sorts of different orchestras and other groups. Shouldn’t it include people outside of the BBC as a matter of course?

These are the inevitable musings which emerge from email communications sent at a time when a project heads into a planning phase at the same time as the effects of an act of God impacts all sorts of different people in different ways.

It’s not a bad thing necessarily. In fact, cast aside the potential impact on your heart rate it can often lead to something a far more robust idea and a more satisfying end product. At least, that’s the theory.

More news as it happens.

Posted in: Audio & Music