Most Canadian orchestras have tried at least one digital initiative since March 2020, with the main goal of staying connected to their audiences and providing work opportunities for their musicians, according to a new study conducted by Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada (OC).
“The pandemic, which has presented so many challenges to artists and arts organizations, has forced us all to digitize in a hurry.“, said Neil Middleton, VP Marketing & Sales at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) and board member at OC. “This was something that was in the VSO’s strategic plan, but the pandemic hyper-accelerated our creation of a digital content platform and video capture process.”
Fifty-seven orchestras from coast-to-coast responded to the survey in the fall of 2020. Among them was the Orchestre classique de Montréal (OCM), which pivoted to digital offerings early on in April 2020 and was one of Quebec’s first orchestras to do so. “From the start, it was clear that if the OCM was to remain relevant and continue growing its audience, we had to jump into this digital realm whether we knew exactly how to do it or not.“, commented Taras Kulish, Executive Director of the OCM. “We figured it out as we went, and in consequence, our audiences have grown exponentially, not just locally but internationally.”
Below are some key findings that emerged from the Digital Survey data:
1- 84% of survey respondents have tried one or more digital initiatives since March 2020. Those initiatives were housed on Social Media – on YouTube, Facebook Live and Instagram. Activities offered included performance capture/ live events, informal content such as behind the scenes, quizzes and watch parties. Recordings and performances were featured strongly, as did podcasts and archive material. Also, organizations hosted musicians performing short pieces from their homes.
2- Orchestras pivoted to digital mainly to stay connected with their audiences. Other motivations included providing performance opportunities for their musicians, increasing their brand visibility through a diversified and increased online presence, and fundraising.
3- Orchestras need support and resources to continue and strengthen their digital offerings. Survey respondents cited the need for better equipment (cameras and microphones), software and hardware, and access to technical expertise, including editing and audio-video production, as well as marketing support, building digital skills into existing staffing structures.
4- 74% of respondents intend to continue some or all of their digital activity post-pandemic. Their future plans include live streaming, accessing new platforms, performance capture, digitizing work, increasing connections and developing audiences, experimenting & learning, opening out digital performing spaces, expanding digital engagement (including talks & online activity).
Below is a survey analysis is provided by The Space, an independent Community Interest Company based in Birmingham, England.
“Orchestras Canada’s digital committee undertook this survey in the fall of 2020 to better understand Canadian orchestras’ digital activities in the age of COVID. We’d been informally monitoring this work since the start of the pandemic; even so, we were bowled over by the range of orchestras who have embraced digital content capture and sharing, their learnings, their honest expression of the challenges, their commitment to keeping artists working, and to maintaining lively and engaging contact with their communities. Learnings from the survey will certainly influence OC’s advocacy and learning efforts moving forward. But I think the survey’s greatest value could be its reflection back to respondents of the vitality and shared interests across the Canadian orchestral community.” – Katherine Carleton, Executive Director at Orchestras Canada.
“This survey shows that Canadian orchestras have done a remarkable job of reinventing themselves during COVID. The amount and quality of digital content produced are exceptional. It has not only kept orchestras closely connected to their public but also brought in new audiences. It is clear our sector must continue innovating to grow our impact. However, funding questions are already apparent and will only become more glaring when we start presenting live concert seasons again.” – Neil Middleton, VP Marketing & Sales at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and board member at OC.
“The fact that 84% of the Orchestras have tried one or more new digital initiatives since March 2020 is an exciting statistic. Many of us have been wanting to expand our digital offerings; however, the expertise, funding and fear held us back. This pandemic has opened that door for all of us, which is a wonderful opportunity.” – Taras Kulish, Executive Director at the Orchestre classique de Montréal.