Classical on Social Media

Digital is driven by visuals. I say that without bitterness too. Words matter and, my view is that, ever-increasingly longer reads will eventually return to favour, the form resiliently finding its niche in the same way vinyl has slowed clawed its way part-way back into people’s consciousness.

Until words discover their digital advocates, images remain dominant. They’re there to grab attention. In a noisy environment like social media, impact is everything. Imagery not only has to tell a story in itself, but it also has to trigger a reaction, one which commits to the explicit call-to-action. If not that, an image needs to tap into a deeply held personal value.

Imagery then is a harder working asset in the digital sphere. It has to achieve more than words, in far less time. An MIT study in 2014 reported that the brain has the ability to process images as quickly as 13 milliseconds, down from the 100 milliseconds suggested by previous studies.

So, if you’ve got a message to convey, one that advocates a sector which struggles to cut-through, why wouldn’t you invest in making sure the image is doing that heavy lifting?,

Some arts organisations stick a photograph up of a rehearsal and think that will suffice. Others do it really well, straddling inventiveness and resourcefulness accidentally, or in some cases, deftly.

Here’s an in-exhaustive and personal selection. More next Monday.

1. Jugend Ensemble Berlin / Danse!

An image card to promote a youth orchestra concert. That’s all it is.

But it’s a fun, clean design, doing what more orchestras should be doing and leading on the anticipated experience of the audience member rather than composer’s names and works which may, to some, seem unfamiliar.

2. Aldeburgh Festival 2017 Retrospective


This video montage cut with music performed at the Festival this year, plays to Snape Maltings’ strength. A picturesque, restorative location illustrated in the simple beauty of the location, concert hall interior, and in the production of the video itself.

I also really like the way that the call to action is played down, meaning the transaction is sophisticated.

With the festival over, the video draws the eye and drives the user to BBC Radio 3’s on-demand content recorded at Snape. The end product raises awareness and reinforces the brand. It gives those of for whom continuity is important hope that Aldeburgh remains distinctive.

3. NPO announcement from Arts Council England

I was really impressed with the graphical elements that support ACE’s NPO announcement this week. This was helped no doubt by a strong message that permeated most of the write-ups in the arts media.

The engaging images (there was a suite of graphics designed to illustrate how ACE supports a wide range of cultural endeavours in the country) helped shape perception that ACE didn’t just support arts organisations, but was an cultural advocate that was itself creative. Professionalism underpinned the consistent visual identity.

The design was also supported by a clear commitment to open data (the UK searchable map was a bit of a treat) that created a rich user journey from social media to raw data, defying expectations and shattering assumptions.

4. Largest Orchestra Selfie / Gewandhaus Orchestra


What really appealed to me in this tweet was the simplicity of the idea. On a personal level I’m growing a little tired of images taken from the concert platform – its all looking a little too familiar now. So, if you’re going to tweet a picture from the stage, ensure there’s something distinctive about it.

This one tells a story – one of pride, enthusiasm, and scale. It has an unwitting message too – many thousands of people will happily sit and listen to an orchestra in the open air. Something to strive for. There’s also something infectious about those smiles.

5. OHPGiovanni / Company Photo

There’s a fine line between insightful backstage photos, and photographic backstage evidence of impenetrable self-absorbed cliques. Opera Holland Park are, thankfully, the correct side of that line.

This shot communicates enthusiasm, warmth, commitment, and excitement. There’s hunger and pride in everyone’s eyes. It is an uplifting sight and, though this may seem a little odd to say, makes me go all warm and fluffy about Opera Holland Park.

The picture humanises a brand. It makes me think they’d want me there as a punter.

6. Stefano Bollani / Concerto Azzurro


I include this tweet because I don’t think it works especially well. I tend to use social media without any headphones – in a quiet moment when I’m bored. I tend not to listen to sound – I’m grazing for content. I’m not inclined to hang around unless there’s something which is hooking me in where I need to see a conclusion.

This video works too slowly, doesn’t communicate very much, and what it does communicate is rather ponderous and pompous in style. It’s the equivalent of the X-Factor-esque titles put on competition shows underpinned with a bass-dominant soundtrack contriving a sense of overblown drama.

OK, that might be going a little too far where Bollani’s gig is concerned. But what I would like to have seen is 15 seconds of some detail of the musician playing, with all of the concert details conveyed in one stab.

Digital doesn’t have time for movie-style openings. If you’re going to use them, then the pay-off better be worth the investment. In all the noise in my feed, I want to feel like someone’s trying to seduce me.

7. St John’s Smith Square / LIACC


I have a soft spot for St John’s Smith Square already – the simplicity of the venue, its authenticity, and its energy all collide into an authentic no-frills concert-going experience that puts the music-making at the heart of its activity.

SJSS use their Instagram feed well, leading on imagery to preview and report on events.

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