Music Industries worldwide have suffered from two COVID19 seasons with several lockdowns and many other restrictions. Rock and pop, smaller venues and clubs are not yet back to business. However, classical music business and audiences in central Europe, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are almost back as topic figures from July to September 2022 show: audience attendance at the Leipzig Wagner 22 Festival (indoor) reached 100 percent, Salzburg Festival 96 percent (indoor), Munich Opera Festival 95 percent (indoor) etc. This is good news.
Looking out for a bright future? Well, it is not that simple. The tricky point is how publicly funded orchestras, opera houses and concert venues can transform this trend into the upcoming winter season. A couple of institutions stopped selling subscriptons during COVID19. Which is a huge problem now, because they lost touch to the most comitted audience members and it will be hard to bring them back.
However, there are exemptions and positive examples: the Tonhalle Duesseldorf had some 5000 subscribers before COVID19, now they are almost back with 4700 for the season 2022/23. The Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Ludwigshafen has increased its subscriptions as of 51 (!) percent in 2022. A miracle? No. Hard marketing and outreach work during COVID19 times. Toolbox: successful instituions were very clever about keeping in touch with their audiences during the lockdowns and audience restrictions by performing chamber music in churches or 1to1 concerts at any other places. The Ludwigshafen orchestra developed an online “music pharmacy” where musiv lovers could vote for their favourite music pieces for special moods. Musicians and staff members where accessible in person on market places or they called subscribers and perfomed short pieces via phone. In Duisburg orchestra members rushed out in tuxedos on their bikes and delivered season brochures in person to the subscribers across the city. Building bridges and more sustainable personal relationships to audiences will be one of the most powerful instruments for orchestras in the next few years to stay relevant.
Another problem is the upcoming energy crisis and inflation in central Europe and the question whether concert venues and opera houses can be heated and illuminated properly during the whole winter time or if there will be any brownouts, which would cause another nightmare – not only for cultural industries, but for the whole public life – after COVID19.