Last Friday, I had the pleasure of representing IDAGIO on stage at a conference for the first time since joining as Product Director one month ago. It was my first time attending a conference dedicated to classical, and since I haven’t written much about that part of the music business yet, I want to highlight some of the innovations I was introduced to at Classical:NEXT.
The classical music world has a set of specific challenges. Most discussed is how to address new audiences and how to win them as fans of orchestras, ensembles, and soloists, and get them into venues for live performances.
It’s a challenge, because you don’t want to sacrifice traditions which often go back hundreds of years. But you’re also dealing with shorter attention spans, and an enormous amount of choice when it comes to experiencing live music: classical, or not.
Another issue is the sheer number of people and instruments required to perform particular works. Or that music streaming services are designed for pop music (performer, album, song), and are not structured around all the data you get with classical (composer, work, performer, recording, instrumentation, era, soloists, etc).
I’ll be writing about these topics more in the future, because I think the wider music business has a lot to learn from classical music. For now, I want to focus on some of the innovative projects and products I met with (or shared a stage with) at Classical:NEXT.
One of the most popular MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE articles ever, was about how the music business can become more sustainable. I mentioned developments in VR might make it easier for musicians to collaborate or practice over distance, without having to leave the home.
LOLA is a piece of to let performers practice with each other digitally, audio visually. For this, latency must be reduced as much as possible, to less than 30ms. For comparison, Skype has about 500ms latency.
So far, LOLA, short for low latency, has been able to get musicians and dancers from institutions around the world to practice, as well as perform with each other.
A demo of LOLA (starts at 3:50):
The on-demand economy is starting to have a real impact on the music business. There are numerous platforms that let you book bands and musicians, each with their own twist. Most are kind of like an Airbnb for music: you browse the catalogue of musicians, compare prices, and book whichever suits you best.
What separates Gigle, which hails from Helsinki, Finland, is that they’re mobile-first. They’re trying to lower the barrier to booking music: instead of getting the same old boring flowers and wine for someone’s birthday, why not get a violinist in?
The excuse for focusing on the desktop browser experience is often that you want people to be able to think things over calmly, keep an overview, and then make a decision. If your goal is to remove barriers, focusing on mobile is the right way to go: if you can’t do it on mobile, then you need to go back to the drawing board. Gigle’s right to emphasise the mobile experience.
At this point, the mobile phone is the personal computer we most often access. Maybe we don’t spend less time on it than on our desktop computers or laptops (although for many it’s the other way around already), but even for those of us that are chained to our computers, the amount of times per day we access our mobile phones far exceeds that of any other computer.
Australian Discovery Orchestra
Perhaps one of Australia’s youngest orchestras, the ADO has an interesting digital strategy. Besides livestreaming their concerts, they turn some of their recordings into virtual experiences. People get placed into game-like environments, and then have to complete certain objectives to move through the composition.
This is an interesting way of adding another layer of experience to the music, which hopefully resonates with new audiences. I think the problem for classical music is not that young audiences think classical is terrible: they don’t. They’re just indifferent, have little understanding of it, feel overwhelmed because they don’t know where to begin, or feel that the genre has a stuffy image.
So give them something they can understand. Give them something with objectives. Something that encourages them to explore, to be curious. Something that is designed for a lack of understanding and knowledge as a starting point. That’s the powerful thing about these virtual experiences.
Concocted as a way to get musicians more gigs and opportunities, TrueLinked also provides a way for people in classical music to organise the process of performing and recording music.
If you thought the logistics around casting for a band were hard, imagine a full-size orchestra with anywhere between 50 and a 100 members.
The platform has ways of categorising musicians by level, understanding of repertoire, collaborators, and other factors, so that the demand-side of the marketplace can easily figure out how to prioritize the people they contact. This provides artists with a great way to market themselves within their niche.
I’m sure there were lots of other innovative ideas & apps presented at the conference. I only had the one day there, and didn’t have much time to look around and attend the talks and panel discussions. Ping me on Twitter — always happy to learn more about interesting projects.
Special thanks to Katariina Nyberg of ExClaM! Digital for organising & chairing the session I met some of these startups at.