There are many classical music forums on the web. Some are friendly and well-managed, others less so. When deciding to join a forum look for these factors: –
– Check the posting rules. Are they a mass of pettifogging dos and don'ts? If so, you may find a forum manager running round after you, telling you what to post.
– Are members allowed to attack each other, eg post foul-mouthed abuse, words designed to hurt and insult, breaches of privacy, sexist, racist or homophobic abuse? Some people enjoy the cut and thrust of such forums. Others find them upsetting. They're not suitable for children.
– Is there a snobby atmosphere – classical music has a reputation for elitism – with members name-dropping or point-scoring about whether they're a 'professional' a 'serious amateur' or a 'serious listener'. One forum makes members wear a badge on their profile to say where they fit in the hierarchy! Are non-musicians as welcome as musicians and treated with proper respect?
– Are you permitted to link to your website, Myspace page, Facebook account etc? Some forum managers are paranoid about links to other classical music sites and have rules outlawing them. They may 'discipline' a member for breaking their rules!
– Are the moderators ban-happy? Spammers have to be dealt with and the occasional abusive poster removed, but it's easy to go over the top and create a cult-like atmosphere with members 'sucking up' to the management for fear of being victimized.
– Do threads suddenly disappear or get locked? Again, it's sometimes necessary to censor a discussion – say for legal reasons – or terminate a heated exchange – to let people cool off – but it's easy to become over-controlling and to curtail legitimate debate.
– Can you post MP3s and scores?
– Can you upload photos to albums and hotlink to them?
– Are there general forums where you can chat about non-music subjects in a relaxed atmosphere?
– Does the site contain, or link to, adult content?
– Are the members friendly and welcoming to newcomers? Or is there a cliquish distrust of outsiders with new members ignored, patronized or insulted?
– Is the forum full of spam, ie are the moderators failing to do their job?
– Is the forum plastered with ads? A few unobtrusive ads are tolerable – to defray server costs and fund new features but some forums go over the top and members must fight their way through ads to get at the content.
– Is there a good community feel with people supporting each other? Or is the forum just a vehicle for the owner's ego?
– Is it lively with a respectable number of daily posts to keep it interesting?
Classical music forums can be entertaining, educational and useful for musicians at the start of their careers. Composing music can be a lonely business and it's good to stop and chat with like-minded people. The same applies to students who practice an instrument for hours each day. Most classical music forums are well-run by good people who graciously volunteer their time to serve an online community. But, like any group, an electronic forum can be dysfunctional, so pick your online music community with care.