Classical Orchestras Are Trying Out CwF+RtB Too
from the lisztomania dept
In a time where many in the recording industry are running for the hills as a result of the digital revolution, classical music seems to be embracing the new era. As a result of the access to the long tail afforded by the internet, classical labels have seen an increase in sales. Contemporary classical composers are experimenting with posting their scores online for free, recognizing that scores locked up behind copyright that nobody plays are far worse than freely available scores that musicians do play. Furthermore, considering that many scores by the great composers like Mozart and Beethoven are public domain and not covered by copyright, it provides additional incentive for modern day composers to participate in the sharing ecosystem. This entrepreneurial spirit of experimentation would greatly benefit the rest of the music industry.
Great orchestras around the world are also trying new things of their own, from running their own labels, to offering digital subscriptions of downloadable tracks, to online streaming of live concerts. Orchestras have a unique set of challenges as compared to a rock band. They tend to consist of many, many more members (around 100) and also have large fixed costs like concert halls to contend with. So, since touring is not really a viable option, most orchestras are limited to larger cities that have large enough populations to support them. The digital era brings with it the opportunity to engage with audiences that are far beyond the cities in which they play.
Fans of the Berlin Philharmonic, widely regarded as one of the best orchestras in the world, can now subscribe to live streaming concerts through its “digital concert hall.” For about $200, fans have access to live and archived performances for a year. Granted, the virtual experience probably does not come close to seeing a show at the concert hall, but the price is much lower than the cost of a ticket, which opens up the experience not only to fans who are limited by distance, but also fans who are limited by funds. However, as internet technology continues to converge upon living rooms, televisions equipped with internet access, connected to high fidelity home theater audio systems will undoubtedly start to become more commonplace, making the experience of watching a live concert from the comfort of your own home even better. Even so, it seems unlikely that home viewing would ever really compete with the live experience. Especially with orchestras the live sound fidelity just can’t be matched — and most people attend such performances for the social experience. After all, there’s no chance at all that you’d show up in the society pages if you’re watching the show from your couch.
Still, it will be worth watching to see how much revenue that these new products generate. Most orchestras, even the most successful ones, still rely upon charitable giving for a large portion of their revenues — but there’s no reason the focus needs to be on charitable giving. There’s no reason why orchestras can’t start coming up with valuable scarce reasons to buy beyond just the live shows (or even streaming access to shows). They could offer all sorts of special views or access. For example, for less experienced listeners, you could take part in a special “educational” stream, where an expert would alert you to things to listen for — and listeners could ask questions and discuss. Alternatively, they could provide access to the musicians in other manners, such as one-on-one discussions, music lessons or even solo performances. They could sell off old instruments, broken strings or used sheet music (perhaps signed?). There are lots of additional ways in which they can start to embrace the same sorts of business models that others in the wider music industry are using.