business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

The times, they are a'changing.  Just like always.

And just like always, the challenge to business is to find ways to remain relevant, finding solutions to new problems.

Yesterday’s MNB featured a number of articles about how changes in demographics and consumer habits are buffeting the industry and promise even more challenge and change.  

I recently found a good example of how to dance with - rather than around - change at the ballet.

Go figure.

Let me be clear.  I do not understand ballet at all. As I’ve written before, despite having a son and daughter-in-law who are classical musicians, I am mostly lost in their art form. But I’m trying, especially by volunteering as an usher at a regional performing arts center.

Just before Christmas, my last ushering assignment in 2023 was for "The Nutcracker Suite," a standard season ballet that frankly I’ve never fully understood even if I enjoy the music by Tchaikovsky. 

But this "Nutcracker" was something entire different. It’s called "The Hip-Hop Nutcracker" and features a lot of breakdancing instead of ballet and the traditional music is both enhanced and altered by the world of rap and hip-hop.

In other words, with a nod to Chuck Berry, roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news.

Truth be told, I still didn’t really understand the story but I did understand this: the theater was absolutely rocking. It was filled to its capacity of 2,000 seats with many of the audience clearly experiencing the great hall for the first time. I’d estimate that 20 percent of the crowd was made up of children and the demographic mix of attendees was unlike any other concert for which I have ushered.

For any business or art form, that's a good thing.

Classical music and even standards like "The Nutcracker" are incredibly challenged as businesses. The audiences for such events are usually overwhelmingly white and old (even older than me), hardly the predictor of long-term success. But marrying a newer music form such as hip-hop to classic ballet changes the equation.

I have to believe that a large number of those patrons for this event, including many of those children, will want to return to the venue for other concerts that might interest them. Just maybe they will become even infrequent patrons of a place that they might never have noticed before and just maybe they will learn to appreciate and support the classical arts, even if in a new way.

I have no doubt that there are classical music fans who are clutching their pearls at the thought of "The Hip Hop Nutcracker."  (You might recall a few months ago I wrote about my son and daughter-in-law performing classical concerts to the music of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. So clearly the classical world is coming to grips with the need to appeal to the musical tastes of different generations.)

The obvious lesson is that you need to do the same. Traditional strengths only remain strengths if they are valued by today’s consumers.  The "way we’ve always done things” only matters if that way is still current and important.

Otherwise, we inevitably will find ourselves dancing off the stage.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

For information about hiring Michael to speak at your next meeting or conference, click here.