How selected #Orchestras integrate #digital tools

Orchestras around the globe are looking for pathways in the very fast changing digital environment. Only some orchestras can make money from media business, at least only, if they do it on their own behalf.

Home of Berlin Philharmonic and the DCH Ltd.

A good example is the Digital Concert Hall (DCH) of the Berlin Philharmonic. Find more information on this topic in this presentation, which has been hold at 4th International Orchestra Conference in Montreal on May 12, 2017:

Orchestras Integrating Digital Tools


Berlin Philharmonic: Another 5 years of Deutsche Bank Sponsorship

Deutsche Bank continues its strategic sponsoring partnership with Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for another five years. This was announced at the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden. The partnership started in 1989. With some 6 Mio. Euros annual support this is the biggest regular corporate funding for an orchestra in Germany.

BPhil CEO Michael Hoffmann, Sir Simon Rattle, DB Co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen (from the left)  (C) Monika Rittershaus

BPhil CEO Michael Hoffmann, Sir Simon Rattle, DB Co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen (from the left) (C) Monika Rittershaus

In the past Deutsche Bank money made many things possible: the education program Zukunft@BPhil, the outstanding Digital Concert Hall or the latest education project Vocal Heroes amongst others. Digital Concerthall has reached out to more than 550.000 people around the globe. Since 2002 more than 37.000 kids and young people participated in BPhil education projects.

Full press release (in German)

2015: Growing interest in classical music in Germany

For decades media announced the “death of classical music”, the overaging or even the extinction of the opera and concert audience. These prophecies have not been fulfilled, even not by constant repetition. On the contrary: Current audience figures and reports on attendance records show that opera and concert are more popular than ever.

Summer 2014: Berlin Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel at Festvial MV (C) Geert Maciejewski

Summer 2014: Berlin Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel at Festvial MV (C) Geert Maciejewski

Thus the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation for the year 2014 reported in the Great Hall a capacity utilization in the sold seats of 94%; overall utilization was 97%. In Chamber Music Hall there were 71% utilization in the sold seats, the overall utilization was 75%.

The Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin continues the upward trend for 2014: the average utilization of the events continued to rise, up 2.4% to 82.6%.

The Berlin State Opera achieved in 2014 a record load of 89% (2011: 82% 2012: 88% 2013: 88%). A total of 254,000 visitors came to the performances and concerts, of which 185,000 visitors to 332 events in Berlin, 27.000 visitors to the international guest concerts of the Staatskapelle Berlin, Barcelona, Dresden, Helsinki, Cologne, Madrid, Paris, Vienna, Wiesbaden and Yerevan and 42.000 visitors to the open-air concert by the Staatskapelle Berlin under the motto “State Opera for All” at Bebelplatz.

More than 80.000 people attended the 2014 some 150 events at the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and also benefitted from the festival a record year. The New Year concerts attracted over 700 visitors to Ulrichshusen Castle. The Spring Festival Rügen in March drew 4,400 fans to chamber music Germany’s largest island and thus registered a record attendance as well as the summer season. The 127 summer events were attended by more than 73.000 people. Around 2.500 visitors attended the 2014 musical finish at the pre-Christmas concerts in Ulrichshusen and Stolpe.

Germany’s ‘orchestral and theatrical landscape’ recognised by UNESCO as ‘intangible cultural heritage’

After years of campaigning by the German Orchestra Union (DOV), Germany’s ‘theatrical and orchestral landscape’ has been recognised by UNESCO as ‘intangible cultural heritage’. The move follows decades of mergers and closures throughout the country – since 1992, 37 of its 168 publicly financed concert, opera, chamber and radio orchestras have been either dissolved or amalgamated with others. A national one-day-strike-and-action-day on September 30, 2013 by more than 100 orchestras (in front line: the Berlin Philharmonic) increased public awareness of the issue and was the starting point for a new national campaign, Orchesterland-D: Einzigartig. Erhaltenswert (Orchestra country Germany: unique and worth preserving).

Part of cultural heritage: Staatskapelle Berlin

Part of cultural heritage: Staatskapelle Berlin

Quote: “The addition of German theatres and orchestras in the nationwide list of intangible cultural heritage is a great success for the cultural diversity in our country. After years of shrinking resources, this is a clear signal to all policy makers that the nation’s orchestral landscape deserves further investment as a cultural treasure.” – Professor Christian Hoeppner, Secretary General of the German Music Council


The proposal to UNESCO was put forward by the German Music Council in cooperation with the German Orchestra Union and German Theatre Association.

Breaking: Berlin Philharmonic & Sir Simon Rattle support Berlin Radio Chor strike

Today the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and their principal conductor Sir Simon Rattle have shown solidarity in front of the Philharmonie with the Berlin Radio Choir (Photo: Peter Adamik). Together they rehearse the resumption of the highly acclaimed stage performance of “St. Matthew Passion” by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Radio Choir Berlin (in strike jackets), Sir Simon Rattle, Simon Halsey (front)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Radio Choir Berlin (in strike jackets), Sir Simon Rattle, Simon Halsey (front)

Shortly before the summer break, the choir members were on strike. This has now been temporarily suspended to allow the concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic not have to be canceled. The Berlin Radio Choir has been working for 21 years without a valid collective agreement. Ten years ago, the last salary adjustment was made. For over two years led the German Orchestra Association (DOV) and the German Theatre Association contract negotiations, which culminated in a collective agreement ready for signature. Surprisingly, the signature has been denied by the City of Berlin and the Federal Republic of Germany, who are two major shareholders.

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.

Conductors contracts – check the issues

To find a good conductor for a symphony orchestra is sometimes like a lottery. In these days the worldwide most observed job search is taking place at the Berlin Philharmonic. Since Simon Rattle has announced his retirement in Berlin a couple of months earlier, many rumors on successor candidates occurred. In 2014 the orchestra will have to make its wise vote for a new artistic chief as of the 2018/19 season.

Catching the right guy as band leader is of course important, but only one point. Bargaining and signing a good contract is the second. There are many tricky agents and lawyers representing conductors. Orchestra managers, board members, administrators who bargain contracts for the orchestral organizations are often in a weaker position. Once the new conductors name has been dropped in public, almost there is no way back.

What are the essentials? The number of concerts, operas, projects he or she has to produce with the orchestra, the fee per project and almost an additional lump sum fee, travel and housing allowances, health insurance etc.

The most important point is the question how many weeks or months the conductor really is in town. How long and intense is the working time together with the orchestra? Is the conductor available for board members, sponsors, donors and media? Is he or she open minded for networking? Is he or she doing chamber music or master classes in town? Finally: Will he or she accept these issues in a written contract?

Orchestra managements and board members should have a very clear idea and a detailed check list on what type of conductor they’re really looking for in advance.