Classical:NEXT day two &#8210 Streaming, video relay, composers’ rights and identifying future stars

- 16 May 2014

Phillip Sommerich reports on a packed programme of events at Classical:NEXT 2014

The classical market in Korea

Think mobile phones and television drama if you want to sell classical music in Korea, according to Moon-Seon Park, general manager of the Daewon Cultural Foundation.

Moon-Seon Park, general manager of the Daewon Cultural Foundation Photo: DK Lim

Moon-Seon Park, general manager of the Daewon Cultural Foundation
Photo: DK Lim

Kicking off the Classical:NEXT conference schedule in Vienna, he depicted a country very open to Western music but not without barriers.

As in many other countries, there had been an 80% drop in recorded music sales since 2000, he said. In part that was due to the dramatic growth of digital delivery of music, boosted by Korea’s world-leading high-speed wireless web connections.

Since 2000, digital delivery had grown from zero to 81% of Korea’s music market today.

He recalled that in his previous role at Sony Music, he serviced about 2,000 record store; today that figure would be 77.

‘On the Seoul subway, almost 90 of people are looking at their mobile phones or iPads.’

What does boost sales of classical recordings in Korea, he said, is if it is included the soundtrack of television programmes. A classical work included in a tv programme would overnight push recordings of that work into the pop charts, he said.

Concert audiences have grown markedly since 2007 &#8210 up 15.7% last year &#8210 probably due to the increasing visits by major Western orchestras and artists.

But Korea was also producing its own-world-class artists, he said, noting that five young Koreans were among prizewinners in the 2011 Tchaikovsky competition.

That was aided by Korea’s education system, which includes music tuition from elementary school, with a focus on Western music. ‘Even though we don’t know about our own traditional instruments, we know about the piano and violin.’

Exporting best practice: OAE Night Shift

An experiment by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to bring ‘old music to new audiences’ has proved successful, said William Norris of the period-instrument band.

William Norris, communications director, Orcehstra of the Age of Enlightenment Photo: Megan Russell

William Norris, communications director, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Photo: Megan Russell

The Night Shift, a series of one-hour concerts presented from 10pm in a club atmosphere, had captured a following among the under-35 age group rarely seen at the OAE’s conventional concerts.

Repertoire was explained by on-stage speakers rather than through programme notes and there were foyer events before and after the performance, he said, but the essential factor was that there was no dumbing down. Complete works, apart from an occasional concerto movement, were performed at the same standard as in conventional concerts.

Most repertoire, whether Tchaikovsky or Vivaldi, seemed equally popular. ‘People have come to trust the brand and see it as a good night out.’

Video relay: will it ever make money?

Video relays of opera and concerts to cinemas and online may be proliferating but it is not and will not make money, according to Franz Patay, secretary general of arts programming federation the IMZ, and Emmy-nominated film producer Bernhard Fleischer.

In a session on financing audiovisual production, Mr Patay shattered any illusions that DVD sales, subscriptions and cinema ticket sales could pay for a classical music video. ‘There is no buyers’ market in the classical sense,’ he said. While programmes such as House of Cards or Mad Men could attract mass sales, not even the biggest operatic stars could do that for classical music.

Television is and would remain the biggest financier of arts programmes.

‘Streaming, whether it is paid-for or free, is always there just to promote the performing arts company,’ Mr Fleischer said.

Mr Patay said the Metropolitan Opera’s cinema relays sold 25,000 tickets per performance in 170 cinemas across Germany and Austria and the New York company’s total revenue merely met a fraction of costs, while the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall had seen its viewers rise from 15,000 in November 2012 to 18,000 in February 2014 &#8210 75% of them paying a €215 annual subscription &#8210 but had yet to break even.

More depressing news for video producers came from Christopher Gruits, in a speech drawing on his experience as executive director of Interlochen and former director of e-strategy for Carnegie Hall.

While 8.8% of Americans said they had attended a classical music event over the previous year, 71% said they accessed the arts through electronic media and 50% of adults used radio and television to access music, while 34.2% of all interviewees used handheld devices to access music.

But among the younger generation, very few watched an entire performance. The average viewing time of a 13-minute video Interlochen aired of its closing summer concert was 5 minutes 27 seconds, he said.

For that reason, he said, younger people were ‘not comfortable’ watching live relays of performances and he believes the future lies in streaming. ‘Live events are great, but it is not necessarily where the big audiences are. It does not mean that people are dumbing down, it is just that their attention span is different.’

The answer, he said, was to create works for the online audience, such as 15-minute operas or brief chamber works.

Composers’ rights: the case for rights organisations

The case for composers needing rights organisations even in a fragmented music market was made by Lucie Mattera, secretary general of the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA). ‘Collective management of rights still the best system for the vast majority of music writers.’

The economies of scale, board-level representation of composers and mutualised risks are among the advantages, she said.

Rights societies also allow commercial users to clear rights for a large number of works in circumstances where negotiations with individual creators would be prohibitive.

She stressed, though, the need to improve digital royalties. ‘I’ve been expecting for years now to see aggregate revenue flowing to artist increase. Disintermediation promised us this. It hasn’t happened. Everywhere I look artists seem to be working more for less money.’

She cited the example of David Lowery, who has more than 200 published songs. His income from streaming and webcasting services for the second quarter of 2013, when his songs were played about 1.5 million times on Pandora translated into a total of €49 for him and his co-writers.

Streaming: The Future?

The title of what was expected to be one of the most lively sessions was Classical Subscription: the Future or the Enemy? But the question drew an almost unanimous answer at the outset.

A poll of the audience found only one vote for streaming not being the future for music.

But there was a divide between enthusiasm and resignation. Steve Long, managing director of Signum Records, said: ‘It is earning us money and promotes our records. I’d like to think it makes people buy more CDs.’

But Jared Sacks, at Channel Classics, said the fees paid by streamers such as Spotify came nowhere near meeting the cost of recordings.

Christopher Widauer, Vienna State Opera’s director of digital development, insisted his UHD video streams were paying handsomely. Television channels were not broadcasting VSO productions, recordings paid less than 10% of revenue to the house, while it gained all the profit from streaming, over a third of which went to the artists.

The most trenchant criticism came from Naxos owner Klaus Heymann in the audience. His Naxos Music Library paid three cents a stream to artists, against 0.3 cents from Spotify, which was one reason why he had refused to allow streaming of any new Naxos titles since April 2013.

‘Spotify is destroying the independent classical labels whose interest is in repertoire.’

Next Generation Artists: Who will they be and how will we find them?

Don’t be afraid to sell yourself as a brand if you want a career in music. That was the advice from all three speakers in a session on Next Generation Artists.


Christopher Kuyvenhoven, Susanne Barthelmes and Bettina Mehne
Photo: Eric van Nieuwland

Pianist and producer Christopher Kuyvenhoven said: ‘What is so terrible about the word “brand”? We are a brand. Beethoven is also a brand.’

Susanne Barthelmes, general manager of the Menuhin Competition, told of two young cellists who approached the competition director asking how they could make money from performing. The director jokingly told them to make a YouTube video. Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser made a video of their version of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal, it became a YouTube hit and they were signed by Sony Classical.

Their success was due to the quality of their performance, she argued. ‘Find you own voice, one that is authentic.’

Bettina Mehne of online platform Hello Stage said conservatoires concentrating on technical performance were not giving enough attention to extracting the ‘uniqueness’ of students’ creativity.

Qobuz: Creating value for the classical recorded music industry

Qobuz, the online streaming service launched by French classical distributor Yves Riesel in 2008, is expanding into eight European territories and plans to enter the US market by the end of the year, he announced in Vienna.

‘Our international expansion, which started in 2013, is testament to Qobuz’s robust state of health,’ Mr Riesel said. ‘Streaming offers can now be accessed in eight new European countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Users in these countries will also be able to access our downloading services from spring 2014.

‘But that’s not all: Qobuz’s ambitions go far beyond the borders of the European continent, and Qobuz is currently preparing its launch in America, which will take place at the end of 2014.

He also announced a media partnership with Gramophone magazine in the UK to cover promotion and marketing.
Central to Qobuz’s drive has been its offer offer of high-quality audio, starting with ‘real CD quality’ FLAC 16bit/44.1 kHz files, and at the top end Studio Master tracks at 24 bits/192 kHz, which Mr Riesel said is the highest quality discernible by the human ear.

By ‘segmenting’ his prices according to sound quality, Qobuz was able to offer higher financial returns to artists and labels than other services, Mr Riesel said. The company was working on segmenting also by ‘the sociological profiles of consumers’ to further increase revenue.

Qobuz gained a 150% increase subscriptions last year, with France alone showing a doubling in the number of downloads, he said. In the four months since its international launch Qobuz added 20,000 subscribers, half of them located abroad.

Another key to streaming growth, he said, was to cater for all devices, including tablet PCs and smartphones, without loss of audio quality so that the same audio files could be used on the move and for home listening.

‘Sound compression, which has been the bane of music for 15 years, is no longer necessary.’

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