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.

ABO conference: Classical music has to promote potentials better

It has been a very interesting opening of the annual conference of the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) in the Grand Theatre Leeds (UK) on January 23, 2013.

Richard Mantle, GD of Opera North, adressing the ABO conference

Richard Mantle, GD of Opera North, adressing the ABO conference

Get some fresh impressions and good ideas:

Dan Jarvis (MP), shadow minister of culture from the Labour Party in his keynote complained about the government cuts in the arts sector from 2012. Arts councils have lost some 30 percent of their money. Cultural and music education in schools is still shrinking.  The importance of cultural education for the economy and society is underestimated by most politicians. This has to be changed. The development of culture institutions have been the key to city-center-refurbishment in many UK cities during the past 20 years. The importance cultural issues have to be put more into the common discussion, Jarvis pointed out.

Max Hole, chairman and CEO of the Universal Music Group Int., talked on the issue “How I learned to love classical music but fear for its future”. He highlighted that the massive losses of vinyl, cassette and CD sales during the last 20 years have not been compensated by digital sales, streaming and downloads yet. But the development of digital media and of the internet offers great opportunities for the industry. Spotify as a legal platform has got some 18 million users, of whom one third pay for downloads. The count of users has doubled in only one year. For example the recording market in Sweden has grown about 14 percent in 2012, Hole argued. This development shows the huge potential of the market. The record companies will stay relevant for the whole industry, the artists and the audiences with diverse and special services. The quality of services at least does fight internet piracy by quality, too.

The way of listening to music is changing drastically due to the boom of mobile devices. But the music industry is not yet making the best of it. There are many best practice examples how to build better links to the audience. Especially the social web gives the unique opportunity to bring listeners and fans of an artist and the different products (recordings, performances, ticket sales, “likes” and recommendations to friends) together. Industry tries to develop this potential with new platforms as http://www.sinfini.com, which is an online magazine as well as a shop. In this context the use of new Apps get important, too.

Hole continued to say that the word “classical” still scares potential audiences. Great performance on stage is of course essential, but not enough any longer. In many cases there is to much “protocol” – when to clap, when not, the stiff dress code, no drinks in the hall, starting promptly etc. Hole remembered that Mozart in a letter to his father had been enthusiastic about the audience clapping within the movement. Why is this banned in classical music today, but not in jazz? There should be much more different concert formats for different target groups in future. Hole saw many potentials to be developed such as connecting with audiences, video answers from the artist on questions from the audience, re-performances of commissioned music.