Symphony orchestra uses AI image in spectacular marketing fail

Feb 26, 2024

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

Symphony orchestra uses AI image in spectacular marketing fail

Feb 26, 2024

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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Symphony orchestra uses AI image in spectacular marketing fail

Welcome back to another episode of ‘What Horrors Can We Make With AI?’… Today, we will be talking about marketing departments that seem to have no real concept of what it is they are meant to be marketing and why they perhaps should still be using real-life photographers.

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra management has managed to completely annoy all their members and audience members in one swift AI-generated image. It’s a visual car crash and too funny not to share.

According to Slipped Disc, the image in question was part of the Brisbane-based orchestra’s marketing campaign for their 2024 season. The image was accompanied by the slogan “Experience the Orchestra”. The image, however, depicts an orchestral experience that I’ve certainly never had, at any rate. Even after working with professional orchestras for 20-odd years.

Symphony orchestra uses AI image in spectacular marketing fail
Prompt: two people having a date at an indoor classical music romantic concert

Too many hands

The image shows a young couple apparently on a romantic date at the symphony orchestra. The longer you look at the image, the more horrific it gets. The woman’s left arm looks like a mannequin’s, and there are altogether far too many hands and fingers involved. The man seems to have part of the woman’s dress detached and lying across his lap. There is an odd black box in front of them.

And now my favourite part: the couple is surrounded by the orchestra who are seated around them in the stalls. I think most people would expect the orchestra to be on the stage and not clustered around the auditorium. And then there are the weird cloned faces of the musicians, and let’s not even get started on how they are holding the instruments.

The concert hall doesn’t even remotely resemble that of the Queensland Orchestra’s actual home.

Contempt for artists

In short, it’s a hot mess, and according to Slipped Disc, the musicians were furious. When they raised concerns about the image to their Marketing Director they were allegedly told to ‘stay in their lane’ and it’s ‘no one else’s job to market’.

One of the patrons of the orchestra posted, ‘What is this disgusting AI image that you are using to advertise? Do you not support actual artists?’

Which is an incredibly good question. Arts organisations, particularly those that use public funds to keep going, should support all people working in the arts, including those who work on their marketing campaigns. They should not be cutting corners by using AI-generated images, and sloppy ones at that.

If budgets are small, I can still guarantee that they could find a photographer willing to do the shoot and do a far better job than this marketing department has done. It’s simply lazy arrogance.

Creatives need to stand together on this if we are to survive the coming AI-onslaught. As a videographer, I am not going to use an AI-generated piece of music to accompany my videos. If I must, I will license a track from a music library similar to a stock photo library. I hope that theatre and musical operations will also do the right thing and continue to hire photographers and videographers when they need them.

Now I think it’s time we give the Marketing Manager of the Queensland Orchestra a sarcastic slow round of applause…with all three of our hands.

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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15 responses to “Symphony orchestra uses AI image in spectacular marketing fail”

  1. Andrei Zdetoveţchi Avatar
    Andrei Zdetoveţchi

    lol, noob AI user 🤣

  2. Hayley Roberts Avatar
    Hayley Roberts

    Worse than this AI atrocity is that I’m trying to fact check this article and finding not one verifiable fact to prove this actually happened. “Slippedisc” appears to be a hack website “written” by some dude with a cross to bear. Time to find a new journalist perhaps?

    1. Jos Riv Avatar
      Jos Riv

      Hayley Roberts gj fact checking. thank u

    2. Charles Brooks Avatar
      Charles Brooks

      Hayley Roberts slippeddisc is probably the most widely read classical music website on earth.

    3. Kris Anderson Avatar
      Kris Anderson

      Hayley Roberts Charles Brooks I find it very hard to believe the qso would suddenly pivot from their existing 2024 season material (which involved commissioning actual photographers, stylists, MUAs) for this. I follow qso social
      media closely and didn’t see this graphic or anything similar go by. I wonder if it is a case of mistaken identity.

    4. Hayley Roberts Avatar
      Hayley Roberts

      Charles Brooks Hard to understand why. I skimmed several articles that were mostly dot points with stabs at the government and even the author’s wiki page accuses him of sensationalism and inaccuracies.

    5. Hayley Roberts Avatar
      Hayley Roberts

      Kris Anderson I’m glad you saw this. I figured you would know.

    6. B Avatar
      B

      From a Reply on the Slipped Disc website
      “DisgruntledQSOmusician:
      This was a sponsored ad – they don’t show up on our Facebook page and was only running for about 24 hours before our Mahler performance. Real news.”

      If that was true, you would probably have to have a screen grab from a social feed to prove it.

  3. Duncan Dimanche Avatar
    Duncan Dimanche

    let’s face it… it would cost a lot to recreate a photo like this one so if they are tight knit a budget then I would say that this is better than nothing ?

    and I liked that she has so many more fingers than normal haha

  4. Alan Avatar
    Alan

    Simply people are so shallow as to not realize what this picture represents. A beautiful place to bring people, to create the atmosphere of love. It feels like the orchestra is all around you. Nobody can decern beauty anymore. They can’t see the tree amongst the weeds. I hope for the new generation that can see past their nose. Stop nitpicking over unimportant things.

  5. Rusty Moore Avatar
    Rusty Moore

    Only two returns from a web look-up of this image or the purported furor over it: Slippedisc and DIYPhotography.

  6. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    Nothing to see here people, please keep moving…

  7. Lance Lewin Avatar
    Lance Lewin

    It is refreshing every time I see an article pointing out the dangers of using AI generated photographic imagery: here, Alex Baker brings attention to a specific group of people getting insulted in virtue of the orchestra’s marketing department bypassing “real” people for instead, horrific manifestations we can call, humanoids, replacing what suppose to be identifying local musicians with the masses! I am currently writing a piece I am presenting at the 2024 International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA) – this article is a fine example of some of thinking behind my talk later this year.

    Lance A. Lewin – Fine Art Photographer/Lecturer
    IVSA North America-Canada Think Tank
    visualizingart@gmail.com

    1. Alex Baker Avatar
      Alex Baker

      Thanks, refreshing also to see that someone isn’t trashing my point of view for a change ;) I believe we are headed towards a ‘post-job world’ rather rapidly, at least in the creative industries, if not more. We need to stop drawing lines in the sand between different artistic disciplines and work together better. This would not have been a difficult or costly job to recreate in real life by a photographer, particularly when you already have the orchestra plus concert hall on hand. Literally, a half-decent photographer, assistant (possibly), lights and a couple of models. I’ve pulled off far more complex shoots than this in less than an hour by myself.

  8. Hello Avatar
    Hello

    Poor marketing choice, compounded by the use of outdated AI technology that couldn’t rectify the glaring flaws, resulting in a cartoonishly bad effect. Even if executed flawlessly, the underlying concept is fundamentally flawed. This highlights a common pitfall among arts companies: insufficient investment in effective marketing and inadequate compensation to attract top-tier marketers or retain skilled staff. While it’s not fair to single out individuals, the internal dynamics contributing to such oversights can become a tangled mess. It’s baffling how such oversights occur and this actually made it into the real world. Hopefully, this serves as a learning opportunity, prompting a shift towards investing in good conceptual creative and marketing.