The San Diego Symphony is embarking on a partnership with Instant Encore. According to the article, Instant Encore hopes to be the YouTube of classical music. The San Diego Symphony will be offering at least 30 programs online by the end of the year.
While the approach is certainly laudable, its hardly new. Milwaukee has been offering downloads of concert performances for some time now, Philadelphia started not too long ago, and iTunes, in collaboration with Decca and DG have a series of concerts available for download. Not to mention the recordings done by the London Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and others.
I understand the attraction of recorded live performances. When I was still new to music, I remember hearing the Eroica Trio perform the 2nd Trio of Shostakovich. The performance seared itself into my brain and I haven't been able to find a recording that conjures the same feeling. Wouldn't it be great to be able to download concerts that left an impression?
Nonetheless, I can't help but be bothered by the article. Instant Encore is framed in a way that makes them sound visionary. My problem, is that they are a little late and their idea/endeavor is nothing new - even for classical music.
We are embedded in a web 2.0 world with myspace, facebook, youtube, iTunes, etc. dominating the Internet and our culture. Yet, while other industries are looking at ways to capitalize on this new technological terrain, classical music and orchestras seem to just now be coming to grips with the fact computers and the Internet are here to stay.
Orchestras lament shrinking and graying audiences, but seem oblivious to the most obvious way to reach out to new patrons - technology, the Internet, etc. Undoubtedly, orchestra management has to balance the desire to cultivate a future audience with preferences of current patrons, but can't they do both? Do we really think fancy soirees, black tie galas, and an inherent distance in the way classical music performances are communicated to the audience are going to work for a generation that eschews formality and prefers a hands-on experience instead? Why do orchestras seem to only consider the future when things are at their bleakest? I could go on.
If Instant Encore wants to truly be something revolutionary, the You Tube of classical music, put the music out there for free. Get people listening again - even if it is on an iPod - and ticket sales for orchestras become a lot easier.
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