Now don't get me wrong. Everyone should play the music they like and buy the music they like. Let a hundred flowers bloom. Usually I would make an aesthetic critique, but I want to take a different perspective on it. It is often claimed that one of the benefits of crossover is that it leads more people to become classical music lovers. This is one of the arguments used to convince classical musicians to play crossover and for symphony orchestra to add pops programs to their season. This is what I will call the "gateway drug" theory. Crossover is a gateway drug that leads to people listening to actual classical music. The "gateway drug theory" has been around for a while:
Gateway drug theory (alternatively, stepping-stone theory, escalation hypothesis, or progression hypothesis) is a comprehensive catchphrase for the medical theory that the use of a psychoactive drug can be coupled to an increased probability of the use of further drugs.One day you are listening to Lang Lang and Lindsey Stirling hack their way through the Spiderman Theme:
and the next day you find yourself mysteriously attracted to performances of the Cavatina from the Beethoven Quartet op. 130:
I don't think that the gateway drug theory has much going for it either. I'm pretty sure that if you go and look at everyone's shelves next to Lang Lang crossover you won't find serious Beethoven. You will probably find Nora Jones (as we see on Amazon: "Frequently bought together").
In order to believe that crossover really brings people into classical music you have to presume a theory of aesthetic taste that says that the same people who like unchallenging, formulaic and maudlin music will equally like demanding and emotionally profound music. You know anyone like that? Me neither.
Of course just about everything we read in the mass media tells us different. Every single interview with a classical musician in the Guardian prompts them to tell us what they listen to when they are relaxing--and it is always some unlikely pop music. Sure, sometimes I'm in the mood for a little Led Zeppelin. About a minute and a half. Every ten or fifteen years.