How Musicians Can Leverage the Power of Technology: Advice from the Experts

This week, I had the privilege of moderating a panel at the Yale School of Music on the Role of Technology and its impact on the field of classical music. Our three speakers contributed their unique perspectives on the impact of technology on the dissemination and promotion of classical music:

Greg Anderson, a 2008 Yale School of Music graduate and one half of the technologically and musically innovative Anderson & Roe Piano Duo who were pioneers in using You Tube and other social media to connect with their growing fan base;

Anya Grundmann, Executive Producer of NPR Music who champions classical music on NPR’s internet radio platforms through a variety of innovative, award-winning programs; and

Jessica Lustig, Managing Director and Founding Partner of 21C Media Group, a leading PR, marketing and consulting group specializing in classical music and the performing arts  and the project architect of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra concert last March that attracted nearly 34 million viewers on-line and through mobile devices.

All three panelists felt strongly that live events are not going away and that technology is not a substitute for live events.  Indeed, by creating a compelling on-line experience, people will pay to see and hear music.  Moreover, they felt that the potential audience for classical music is huge and untapped.  The key is to engage audiences in the music and with the musicians.  And technology plays an important role in engaging audiences by getting them prepared for and excited about an event, connecting the audience members to musicians and having audiences participate in an event. 

So how can musicians leverage the power of technology?  Here is what our 3 experts had to say.

Lessons from the You Tube SymphonyBuild Your On-line Presence and Engage Your Audience

The You Tube Symphony Concert which brought together 101 musicians from 33 countries for a live performance in Sydney, Australia last March was a great example of how to leverage technology to democratize music, involve the public in the process and discover talent. The project made extensive use of social media and an on-line presence to publicize and present

•    The launch and call for auditions
•    The auditions, both traditional and alternative
•    Master classes
•    Public voting for the finalists
•    The live concert in the Sydney Opera House, another live event outside the opera house and live streaming of the performance.

The You Tube Symphony experience underscores the importance of having an on-line presence through social media.  Musicians need to build their own on-line communities and find the best path to interact with their fans , whether that is through blogging, posting videos, photos or written content and generally interacting with their followers.  You Tube relied on the 101 musicians to reach out to their own fan base and thus collaborated with artists who were already active and popular in the on-line world.  There were on-line video portraits of 12 exciting young musicians so that the public would get to know their individual stories. In addition, the members of the orchestra were encourage to blog, write, post videos and written content to their websites to share their experience with the process. 

Where is Radio Going?

Anya Grundmann, the brainchild behind the award-winning programs on NPR Music including Tiny Desk Concerts,  and Field Recordings is also focused on how to best to engage the public.  Radio—traditionally a passive vehicle that creates a powerful connection with the listener by sharing stories and presenting new and interesting talent and material–now has a new dimension through its on-line presence.   Grundmann explores new ways of connecting with audiences through multiple platforms by creating a musical discovery experience across genre lines that can be accessed on-line. 

On-line radio audiences for music are attracted both to the audio, written and visual content, but also for a chance to share their views, interact with others and feel part of a community, to experience the excitement of events and to be surprised.  When people go on-line for music, they need another dimension to the experience to make it worth their while.  NPR Music is accordingly creating new programs to enhance the audience experience.
Grundmann see the potential for growing the audience for classical music by creating a frame that people trust and become attached to and then to be open to listening to classical music.

How Musicians Can Use Technology to Promote Their Music

Greg Anderson and his partner Liz Roe of the Anderson Roe Piano Duo were “early adapters” social media and the internet, launching their sizzling tango video on You Tube 5 years ago.  For Greg, technology is a way to excite  audiences about music and prepare them for the live concerts.  The videos—most of which Greg and Liz made themselves on a very low budget—are “exciting, crazy and compelling” and help audiences to “see” and better understand the music.  Greg also has an interactive website where he engages his audiences through
a blog, together with other useful content so that people will want to return for more information and
a section called “Interact” which encourages his fans to pose questions, vote such as the recent call to his fans to vote for the name of the Duo’s more recent album and otherwise make their comments known. 

The result of these endeavors?

Sold-out concerts, purchases of scores and CD’s, educational opportunities and much more!

How Today’s Musicians Can Effectively Use Technology

Based on what our panelists are telling us, here are some of the reasons that you may want to harness the power of technology:

  • You can connect with people around the world and make it more likely that you and your music can be discovered.
  • The barriers to entry are low and the costs are minimal.
  • If you have a robust on-line presence, you are more attractive to presenters, managers and record companies who look at the size of your fan base, the # of views and how actively you engage with your fans.
  • You can contribute to building a worldwide audience for classical music.

Where do you start?

  1. Build a following and create your fan base;
  2. Be true to who you are and find your best path to interacting with your audience, whether that is through a blog, written content, frequent and meaningful interaction with fans, posting quality content and great videos;
  3. Tell a compelling story;
  4. Create something that is visually arresting and grabs people’s attention.

Thank you, Jessica, Anya and Greg, for your inspiring comments and for helping to grow the audience for classical music!