The Well-Tempered Ear

Will the public pay for online virtual concerts? Will you? Consider the fate of newspapers | August 23, 2020

PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event. And you might even attract new readers and subscribers to the blog.

By Jacob Stockinger

More and more local classical musicians and music presenters are moving concerts and music-making to virtual online events, at least for the fall and early winter – and quite possibly for the rest of the season. (Below is Shannon Hall in the Wisconsin Union Theater.)

And although we are still waiting for details, it seems all but certain that many of them will be pay-per-view and require tickets.

True, the move from free streaming to pay-for-view might be very useful in helping performers earn a much-needed living.

But it could also be disastrous – or at least extremely disruptive and disappointing.

Anthony Tommasini (below), the senior music critic for The New York Times, recently wrote a long story defending the move from being free to becoming paid for both livestreams and pre-recorded music concerts.

Tommasini — whose profession demands that he follow wherever the music goes —  thinks it will, or should, work.

Here is a link to his story that includes concerts at The Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere with international stars such as soprano Renée Fleming (beow top) and pianist Daniil Trifonov (below bottom).

But The Ear isn’t so sure.

For one thing, many listeners might find alternatives. They might like watching outstanding performances of the same works by great and even historical performers on YouTube for free.

They might like exploring their own collections of recordings, or listening to the radio and watching TV, or even making more music as amateurs.

The Ear also suspects that now that the habit of going to live concerts has been interrupted, many people will simply find that they miss going to live performances much less than they thought they would – or than various arts groups hoped they would. (Below is the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in a photo by Mike Gorski.)

In addition, even since the coronavirus pandemic lockdown last March, listeners have become used to the free events that many organizations offered if only to keep a presence in the public’s mind.

The strategy was understandable and made sense at the time.

But The Ear thinks of what happened with newspapers.

In the early days of the internet, newspapers offered online stories for free, as a kind of extra attraction or added benefit to secure subscribers.

But as the newspapers lost both advertisers and subscribers and tried to “monetize” their online editions, they found that the horse was already out of the barn.

Many viewers did indeed subscribe to digital editions, but many others abandoned newspapers and instead turned to free online media for their news.

So what will happen in cases less prestigious than what Tommasini describes?

What do you think?

Will local pay-per-view concerts, perhaps with bigger volume if lower individual ticket prices, be successful?

Will you pay to “attend” such virtual online events?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music
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  1. Yes, we would pay to see the events we usually subscribe to – MSO, Madison Opera, Forward Theater. We have received such blessings from all this excellent local work. How can we not pay to help these groups continue in our community?


    Comment by Margaret Irwin — August 23, 2020 @ 5:58 pm

  2. I can’t receive any more email, so I’m not signing up for the blog.

    However, I think you should emphasize the wonderful musicians we have in the MSO and MCO and other groups, and how, because they have provided us with so many riveting performances over the past decade, that we should support them. If we don’t support such a rare cultural asset as the MSO, we are asking for cultural decline in our region. A regional orchestra that presents concerts that compare with the best orchestras in the country would be a terrible loss for the area.

    With the right kind of marketing and messaging, and technical expertise, you may be able to actually increase the audience base. Of course, you would also have to plan the transition back to live concerts. Nothing compares to hearing and seeing live music. But for those of us who live some distance outside madison it can be daunting to come into town each week, especially during the winter months. (We make it work, but wonder how much longer we’ll be able to do it). So, would a combination of live tickets and remote work — with some free concerts online to bring in new subscribers?

    You’ve probably already mulled over the options, and I know you’ll find the best solutions over time.

    In any case, we really need to support our musicians — we don’t want to see them have to leave their professions, nor for their expertise to decline due to not being used, nor for them to gradually move off to other areas to try to pursue their livlihoods — a brain-drain and cultural-drain for the region.

    Thanks for looking at options,

    Linda Meadowcroft

    On Sun, Aug 23, 2020 at 12:02 AM The Well-Tempered Ear wrote:

    > welltemperedear posted: “PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG > POST, SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not > just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw > potential audience members to an event. And you might even a” >


    Comment by Linda Meadowcroft — August 23, 2020 @ 10:51 am

  3. Yes, I would pay for a streamed concert but it depends…..Can I count on a top notch performance in technical terms. Have the sponsors full understanding of new audio visual requirements. If not, I would rather listen to a CD or play TV performances through speakers. The Willy Street Chamber Players’ and Christopher Taylor’s performances are two examples of recent successful online concerts.


    Comment by Ronnie — August 23, 2020 @ 9:00 am

  4. 1


    Comment by powelsj — August 23, 2020 @ 8:34 am

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