A bit of an update on ‘difficult words, narrow audiences, and a reality check’

This is unusual for me. I don’t normally publish an update to a blog post on the same day. Either I’ve made a massive mistake, got too much time on my hands, or I’ve got too sucked into diary-writing. All three could be applicable.

My last post talked about a perceived narrow audience (both for consumers of classical music and those interested in reading around the subject). The basic message (and the root of my thinking for most of the day) was, if the audience is narrow, do I need to think more carefully about the amount of time and effort I put into writing a blog about the subject?

Two things have ended up changing my perspective in a relatively short space of time.

First was the process of my present work-related task: having a rifle through my Twitter followers. This task seemed like a no-brainer to me. Who are the people following me on Twitter and why do they follow me?

The information I gleaned surprised me: there were far more classical music related people than I ever realised. I must be doing something right (is the simplified conclusion on that point).

But the other discovery was perhaps the most powerful and comes as a result of recognising that I really need to start using lists again on Twitter. 

Seven hours again the good chap Michael Morreale from across the water tweeted this. That single piece of news – that Google is working on a ‘product’ that will put podcasts on a level with images and web pages took me by surprise. Why? Because it means that tech platforms like Google recognise the need to improve findability for content like Thoroughly Good.

And what that means is that it’s incredibly important to look beyond the confines of traditional print-based audience metrics, towards audience potential. 

Yes. I know. That’s all terribly dry and cold and a bit dull (probably). But believe me, it’s as important to me as it is to you if, like me, you have something to sell. 

The Halle’s pay-as-much-as-you-like concert feat. a 360 degree view of Beethoven 5

The Hallé recorded part of their concert on Sunday 6 September at the Bridgewater Hall this week on a 360 degree camera. The results are interesting – controlling the camera using the arrows top left offers an interesting audience viewpoint on a well-known work. I particularly like the shot of the conductor combined with the ambient sound. (Bear in mind the video works best in Chrome.)

The concert – entitled ‘Priceless Classics‘ – included “ten short pieces from 300 years of music, each introduced on screen”. The concert was advertised as “pay what you like” with attendees encouraged to pay after the event via a Just Giving Page. As of 2.00pm on Thursday 10 September, the orchestra had raised £2,985.16 from 110 donations – an average of just over £27 per donation. The figure on Just Giving may not take into account additional donations received over the phone. If they do it again, I’d suggest they should change the storyboard for the promo video – the Priceless Classics promo was a little cheesy.

I am really interested in seeing how this approach works and hope the Halle sticks to its mettle and reveals the total donated. The possibility of transparency bodes well, given that the band retweeted this audience member’s footage captured from the auditorium. Most venues prohibit video during concerts, enabling their ushers to nip it in the bud the moment they see it. Good to see some of the rules relaxed a bit – just don’t do it near me during a performance of Brahms 1.

More money for the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

I blogged about the New York Philharmonic’s digital archive in March 2013. As I recall, I’d discovered it by accident. It was made available publicly in March 2011.

Earlier this week, the New York Phil newsroom announced that the project had secured a further $2.4 million from the Leon Levy Foundation. The money will complete the digitisation project, documenting the orchestra’s complete history from 1842 to the present-day. The total cost of the project – the total funding – amounts to $5 million.

The New York Phil's first edition score of Beethoven's 5 Symphony. It's official. I've died and gone to heaven.
The New York Phil’s first edition score of Beethoven’s 5 Symphony. I’ve died and gone to heaven.

It’s an incredibly exciting thing. It’s a free resource, beautifully designed with a user experience geared towards researchers but considerate to nostalgia lovers and buffs like me.The Phil have made their inaugural season available online already including management documents, the first orchestra list, programmes, music and the first edition score of Beethoven 5 used in the inaugural concert (the work was first performed in 1808).

Future releases include all of the printed programmes from 1842 through to the present-day (expected by the end of 2014), plus scores of Bruckner 4 and Beethoven 7 used by Mahler and Toscanini. There’s also going to be correspondence between Berlioz, Brahms and Mendelssohn to feast your eyes on to.

The project is an incredibly bold one. It’s also a refreshingly unapologetic statement about the importance of the orchestra, its heritage and classical music in the US. That in itself may appear at odds with a general downturn in the fortunes of many American orchestras at the moment. Or it might only serve to remind us what the cost is of unlocking your heritage to the wider world and who in the US foots the bill for the arts.


Video: Ayşe Erkmen’s Intervals, Bostridge & the Barbican’s 2013-14 Trail

The Barbican have nailed their videography with a video short published yesterday and blogged about today. I rarely visit their YouTube channel, although I shall do so more in future. Theirs is lovely work.

Their latest video showcases Turkish artist Ayşe Erkmen’s visual art dedicated to the much-overlooked stage backdrop, an installation entitled Intervals. The video juxtaposes stately visuals with charmingly simply contributions from Ayşe Erkmen. It is a thing of beauty. I actually want the video to go on longer than it does. But maybe that’s the point. The Barbican want you to visit it.

My next port of call was the Barbican new season trailer for 2013/14. A beautiful piece of direction, elegantly shot and deftly coloured and mixed. The venue is pitching itself as something of an Aladdin’s Cave – something entirely different from the open plan, airy riverside Southbank. I like that.

My only quibble is with the hamfisted disclaimer on the end-board. Did they really think that potential new customers would really assume that all the music contained in the trail would feature in the season?

And finally on to Ian Bostridge endearing preview of the Barbican’s Britten weekend with a semi-staging of the Suffolk composer’s Albert Herring, Curlew River and a choreographed Curlew River.

Sure, it’s a piece of shiny marketing, but it’s putting the greatest living exponent and most highly regarded of Britten’s vocal music in front of the camera and selling this important moment in UK musical history. Bostridge comes across as genuine. Heartfelt. Sincere. Lovely work.

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra unveil a shiny new website and a new pal

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with boss man Kiril Karabits

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra have put their brand new website live – the responsive design events portal makes finding and booking tickets for a concert one of the most straightforward of online experiences I’ve seen in a long time. Well done them. I especially like the green. A classy affair.

And speaking of affairs (boom tish, etc), the BSO are also introducing a new broadcast partnership with Classic FM today. The station will support a series of concerts throughout the 2013/14 season, the first broadcast live from 7pm on Saturday 26 October. The programme includes Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Sibelius’ Karelia Suite.

Global Radio‘s Classic FM also supports the RLPO, RSNO, Opera North Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Philharmonia and the LSO.