Symphony magazine featured an interesting article about how digital technologies are impacting orchestras. Written by Andy Doe, a media and technology consultant who writes about music at his blog, properdiscord.com, “The Digital Orchestra” takes us from 1994, when the New Zealand Symphony’s principal bassist Dale Gold put up a simple website, to our world of ever-increasing mobile apps.
Using websites to sell tickets is certainly old-hat by now, but it’s interesting to note that a well-structured online box office has interactive possibilities that are impossible with more traditional marketing avenues. The Los Angeles Philharmonic offers Concert Master, an online tool to help novice concert-goers select a concert. According to Vince Ford, director of digital media for the New York Philharmonic, the NY Phil’s website and social media outreach attracts over 5 million people annually, more than the number of tickets sold in the past 10 years!
Online video is another growing technology in use by symphonies, whether it be working with a radio personality, as the LA Philharmonic’s “Inside the Music” does with Brian Lauritzeri, creating online videos featuring the music director, as the Dallas Symphony’s “Maestro’s Choice” does with Jaap van Zweden, or streaming concerts, as the Berlin Philharmonic’s “Digital Concert Hall” does. The Detroit Symphony has teamed up with their PBS station to produce “Live from Orchestra Hall,” and the Chicago Symphony has a live webcast of Verdi’s Requiem on their website.
Perhaps the most sweeping change in technology in recent years is the explosion of mobile devices and mobile apps, and orchestras are quickly adapting to take advantage of these new technological possibilities. Creating a responsive mobile site that adjusts automatically to the screen size of the user’s device is critical to attracting and engaging the younger generation; Doe cites the Boston Symphony’s mobile site as a successful example of what can be accomplished. Several orchestras, such as Detroit, Colorado and Austin, have incorporated InstantEncore into their mobile app offerings, while San Francisco offers an app by Cloudtix. Other orchestras use GPS to help concert goers find parking, locate area restaurants, and navigate complicated venues.
Social media also will play an increasingly important role in building awareness of the orchestra and making the orchestra “part of the conversation.” Personalized homepages, engaging interactive apps, and online tools will become essential. Doe ends with a quote from Vince Ford at the NY Philharmonic:
“Digital has the greatest potential of any of the Philharmonic’s activities to determine our success in the next 50 years. No other aspect of the organization has the distinct ability to define how we interact with customers, how far we reach around the globe, and how efficiently we run our business. The more comfortable people are with digital technologies, the more opportunities there will be for everyone.”