Multimedia: Topic trends for Orchestras on the internet

Social media – apps, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and many more – are no longer virgin soil for many orchestras and opera houses; or if they are, they will need to adapt, and fast.


Orchestras on the internet

Orchestras on the internet


These media will be key to keep old audiences and reach new ones, develop revenue streams and create powerful marketing opportunities. Digital Concert Hall of the Berlin Phil has been one of the most successful developments in this field (more than 600.000 “likes” on Facebook). But other orchestras are stepping forward, too. For example the Detroit Symphony claims itself with free webcasts as the “most accessible orchestra” in the world. At the same time, however, social media do have their pitfalls and follow their own rules that differ from print media or even Web 1.0 media. While aiming to convey spontaneity, they nonetheless require careful planning, and, as dialogic instruments, must be more than a platform to hand out information.

One has to look specifically at some cases of video trailers, from musicians’ home stories to sneak previews that whet viewers’ appetites for more. But caution: to be successful, media presentations have to be of solid quality – or risk ending up being well-meant rather than well-done. Some orchestras, such as the London Symphony Orchestra or the South Carolina Philharmonic, seem to be ahead in the game: often more relaxed and humorous, their tweets and Instagram posts present the ensembles as accessible and fun, successfully connecting with the mainly young users and dispelling the stuffy image of classical music.

The internet has also transformed ticketing. Booking a ticket has become possible from virtually anywhere, and it often allows a quicker and more convenient selection of seats. Even so, some teething problems remain: print@home tickets require scanner technology not every theatre can afford and the use of ticketing services, in Europe such as CTS Eventim, can increase prices.

Another popular tool is YouTube (for example the London Philharmonic Orchetra amongst many others) in particular. Orchestras reach out to audiences with an attractive age profile (mostly 13 to 35 years), increase the possibilities of direct communication as well as quantitative and qualitative audience research. Yet in Germany and many other central Euopean states hardly any orchestra fully utilises the potential of YouTube, typically offering only a small number of videos and neglecting feedback on user comments.

Brazil: International Conference MultiOrchestra, April 28-30, 2014

There are many professional orchestras located in Latin America. However, international orchestra conferences in this part of the world are rare.  The “International Conference MultiOrchestra” with the surtitle: “Talent, Management and Impact” shall fill this gap from April 28-30, 2014. It will take place at Fundação Clovis Salgado – Palácio das Artes in the city of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Multiorchestra Confernce Brazil, April 2014, 28-30

Multiorchestra Conference Brazil, April 2014, 28-30

Questions to be tackled: Possible management models considering the diversity of artistic formations, the multiplicity of organizational artistic missions and the variety of audiences. Combining and assessing three variables that define success, longevity and social relevance. Assessing the role of orchestras in the development of audiences and in establishing unique bonds with communities. New parameters for artistic direction, educational programmes and participation. What can be expected from the musician in the 21st century? How can musicians occupy more central and formative roles in their communities? etc.

Full conference schedule

Topic orchestra landscape in France

French orchestra landscape has a long historical background from this history resulting structures and specific challenges today. Very much centralised and, originally, a matter of royal patronage, the provision of classical music is still largely regarded as a public service. While artists enjoy considerable (financial) privileges, it is arguable if the current state of affairs can be preserved. While the reforms of Marcel Landowski, the influential arts administrator from the 1960s to the 1990s, helped to “regionalise” classical musical life, it has remained highly dependent on political support.

Philharmonie de Paris: To be opened 2015

Philharmonie de Paris: To be opened 2015

As a result, ensembles’ facilities and reputation often vary greatly. Some, like Toulouse and Lyon, have become high-profile orchestras, but in general many do not receive the recognition they deserve. For self-employed musicians the situation in France appears comfortable, as the French welfare system guarantees a kind of basic income for artists (“intermittents du spectacle”). Yet the system also does have its drawbacks, as it makes touring abroad (too) expensive – a problem, especially as many French music festivals are struggling with financial difficulties.


The French musicians’ union SNAM highlights some of the central issues facing musical life in France. SNAM strongly advocates a commitment to public funding, regarding the provision of classical music as a public service. At the same time, the union is wary of new legislation giving local politicians even greater sway over regional orchestras. The way to a professional position is a tough one: the French system is highly selective and in general places a greater emphasis on the training of soloist rather than orchestra musicians. At the same time, teachers are often poorly paid, even at top schools like the Conservatoire de Paris. And as elsewhere, graduates face a difficult job market with far more applicants than open positions.


Coveted employers are the two federal broadcasting ensembles, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Orchestre National de France (ONF). Central pillars of the French classical music landscape and comfortably financed, the ONF cultivates symphonic music of the 19th century, often acting as national cultural ambassador, whereas the Orchestre Philharmonique puts greater emphasis on contemporary works.


Fortunately there are some new concert halls currently in progress, in Paris (Philharmonie de Paris) and Lyon. As the responsible executives point out, the new spaces face – and respond to – changing social, cultural and economic situations: they carry classical music to the suburbs, reaching out to new audiences, and try to create inviting leisure environments, beyond a narrow conception of concert-going.

Orchestras are part of the cultural heritage – International initiative to be started

The Oslo Call: Representatives from musicians’ unions and orchestra associations in more than 30 countries, meeting in Oslo for the 3rd International Orchestra Conference, on February 26, 2014, expressed  their deepest concern about the situation of symphony and opera orchestras around the world.

Internat. Orchestra Conference: THE OSLO CALL

Internat. Orchestra Conference: THE OSLO CALL

In Greece, The Netherlands, Germany, the US, a number of orchestras have been closed down, sometimes overnight. In many other countries, they are being threatened with reductions in funding and budgetary cuts.

In the context of the global recession, it is self-evident that orchestras suffer as well as other sectors of the economy. But destroying orchestras does not just impact musicians’ jobs. It also impedes, in territories where these orchestras pursue and develop their activities, the citizens’ ability to access great works and repertoire that cannot be provided by the commercial sector. Support for symphony and opera music, which are a precious and fragile part of our cultural heritage, is a prime responsibility of national, regional and local governments.

The FIM International Orchestra Conference calls on political decision makers to honor this responsibility, by providing orchestras with the means that are necessary to pursue their missions and thus contribute to, and enhance artistic, social and economic life. In the forthcoming months, a broad international initiative will be proposed by FIM (International Federation of Musicians), Paris, so as to make this call heard and more fully understood.

Re-auditions: A wrong tool for orchestras

From time to time the re-audition virus breaks out in the professional orchestra world. The latest cases were those at the Symphony Orchestra of Brazil, the Malaysian Philharmonic  Orchestra and the Korean Broadcasting System Symphony Orchestra in 2012.

Internat. Orchestra Conference in Oslo, Febr. 2014: No re-auditions!

Internat. Orchestra Conference in Oslo, Febr. 2014: No re-auditions!

But there were earlier examples: Back in the early 1970s the Rotterdam Philharmonic management and its chief conductor decided to improve the orchestra’s quality through re-auditions. When in the 1980s three Dutch orchestras merged in the Netherlands Philharmonic, re-auditions also took place.

In Germany, shortly after the peaceful reunification in the early 1990s, some conductors in the new federal states started to try selecting a couple of musicians by re-auditions. But these attempts failed due to legal restrictions: In German law and in our national or single collective bargaining agreements an audition may only take place before the musician is employed for the first time, before he or she enters the orchestra. The issue of a re-audition is not regulated in any collective bargaining agreement for orchestras in Germany. Therefore no musician could be forced to take part in a re-audition. And even if he would participate in a re-audition process, there would be no negative consequences. A poor re-audition performance could never be a reason for dismissal.

If you analyze the re-audition cases of the past you will always find the argument from the management or the conductor to improve the orchestra’s quality. This means in concrete: at least dismissals or pink slips for musicians who don’t meet artistic standards, which are only in the brain of the orchestra manager or conductor. And this means too: despotism and unfair methods to kick musicians out of their jobs.

On the other hand: which are the most successful orchestras in the world? Everybody could name ten or more famous national and international widely recognized orchestras. And one can bet: none of these orchestras do have a re-audition system.

The truth is: every rehearsal, every concert, every recording session with the orchestra is a “re-audition” itself for every musician who has to perform on top-level. However, many musicians say that you don’t perform for the audience, but you perform for the orchestra colleagues. There is no stronger artistic control and social pressure as in the orchestra sections themselves.

To sum up: whenever the management or the conductor of a professional symphony orchestra tries to promote the re-audition issue, this may be an evidence for the inadequate leadership skills of these people and not an evidence for a poor artistic performance of musicians. Re-audition remains to be a wrong tool.

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig on tour to China and Japan with live webcasts between March 10 to 23, 2014

On March 10,  2014 the German Leipzig Gewandhausorchester will embark on its 21st tour of Japan. It will be the Orchestra’s third tour of the country under the direction of Riccardo Chailly since 2009. The tour to the Far East will be preceded by an appearance in Frankfurt and Shanghai.

On tour: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (C) Gert Mothes)

On tour: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (C) Gert Mothes)

Thanks to the support of DHL tour concerts of the orchestra will be webcasted live online for the first time:  14th and 15th March from Shanghai via and, 12:30 p.m. (CET).

The Gewandhausorchester has been a regular guest in the major concert halls of Japan even longer than it has in those of the USA. The Orchestra’s first appearance in Tokyo was in 1961 with Franz Konwitschny, performing a complete cycle of all nine symphonies of Beethoven – the first orchestra to do so in Japan. The Orchestra’s second tour of Japan took place ten years later, in 1971, under the direction of Konwitschny’s successor as Gewandhauskapellmeister, Kurt Masur. Masur was to conduct the Orchestra in 114 concerts in Japan until 1995.

Further metropolises have since featured on the Gewandhausorchester’s tours to the Far East, some so regularly that each visit has become something of a homecoming. The Orchestra made its first appearance in Shanghai under Riccardo Chailly in 2009; Kawasaki has, similarly, hosted the Orchestra only once to date, in 1971. Osaka, on the other hand, has seen 29 guest appearances of the Gewandhausorchester since the first visit in 1961. Kyoto has hosted the Orchestra on seven occasions, most recently with Riccardo Chailly in 2009. Tokyo is one of the cities that the Gewandhausorchester has visited most frequently on its tours of the world – a total of 77 appearances have been made in the Japanese capital, including 15 together with the St. Thomas Boys Choir.

International Orchestra Conference discuss decision making in orchestras

“As orchestra manager you should never talk with the orchestra how it should dress” (Paul Hughes, CEO BBC Symphony Orchestra, London).

Panel debate in Oslo

Panel debate in Oslo

The 2nd panel of the Int. Orchestra Conference discussed the decision making in orchestras. Catch some of the main findings:

Every orchestra has to develop its own internal communication structure between musicians and management. Communication needs trust of both sides. Trust must be build be on mutual understanding. Understanding of the needs of musicians as well of the management.

To nurture this understanding vocational training on communication, leadership, education etc. is necessary. To involve musicians in management and artistic decisions means that they have to take over responsibility. This may affect the whole performance of the orchestra, from the artistic point of view as well as from the economical one.

BBC Symphony Orchestra has developed a very good informal cooperation between management and musicians within the past 15 years. Unfortunately it is not fixed in a paper but it works.