Ten thoughts on live-tweeting and live-streaming concerts

I watched the RCM Symphony Orchestra concert last night on Medici. There’s a Twitter thread. A bit of a retro experience for me.

I remember in 2008/9 when people were experimenting with different ways to integrate social media with a live experience. At that point social media pioneers tried transposing the Question Time (#BBCQT) experience onto concerts.

It didn’t go down well, partly because it was implemented by people who didn’t especially care about the content. They were also people who started from the position that detail, knowledge and expertise risked alienating potential new audiences. It’s only now I realise the likely reason for that depressing stance was a defensive one on their part.

Live-tweeting (that’s what it is) is a difficult thing to pull-off. I’m not entirely sure whether I manage it especially well. My live-tweeting often descends into a near-stream of consciousness. Who the hell wants to read that? Who indeed. But in some ways it’s real-time note-taking – the documenting of attentive listening. That’s quite useful for me. I’m a hoarder, and a diarist, and a serial note-taker. Go figure.

Last night revealed some surprising insights for me about watching a live-streamed concert.

1. Watching live is a powerful communal experience – the connection between audience and performers in that communal experience creates something deliciously real.

2. Staying with a live broadcast is addictive – I originally planned on watching the Mozart Piano Concerto; I stayed for the entire concert.

3. No presenters makes it easier for audiences to engage with the broadcast. An unmediated event limits the perspective and helps the audience member focus on the primary purpose of the event – the performance.

4. Performers on stage tell stories – last night’s RCM concert was about seeing smiles, experiencing jeopardy and, eventually, fatigue and relief. That made it an authentic story. I felt more connected with the performers experience of the Alpine Symphony at the end because I could see the experience they were having, than I have watching a professional orchestral rattling off familiar repertory.

5. In contrast, television broadcasts a construct of a classical music performance. The grammar and lexicon of that construct is outdated. Unmediated, live streams aren’t creating television out of a classical music event; they’re just pointing a camera (or series of cameras) at it.

6. It was refreshing not seeing the conductor as the focus of the story. That was a consequence of the live-stream itself which I suspect is geared towards the musician – an opportunity for them to reflect on their own playing.

7. Seeing concerts in smaller settings normalises the concert experience. Grand interiors give an intimidating air.

8. The simple interval feature providing musicological insights about Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 (the autograph manuscript is owned by the Royal College) delighted me no end.

9. Tweeting during the live stream didn’t distract me from the performance. Some will disagree. I’d argue that the reason it didn’t feel like a distraction was because I was listening attentively, capturing thoughts as I went along. That says to me that I was engaged.

10. I want to watch a live concert every Friday night. Or every Saturday night. As much as I love the intensity of the Proms every summer with a concert every single day, the opportunity to have a live communal experience every week feels more valuable to me. We could do a lot to increase the visibility of this artform if it appeared regularly and on high-profile platforms. If for example Netflix have as much money to splash around on homegrown drama, one wonders whether they might spare a little for a live concert series.

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