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The targets of Twitter

It’s been observed here before, particularly by one commenter, that many of the classical music field’s attempts to be hip and draw in a younger audience are a little embarrassing, or stilted. (I’m putting words in ianw’s mouth here; he raised the point objecting to the term alt-classical. And I have to concur with him that if an orchestra were to use this term in its marketing, my instinct would be to run the other way.)

But they have to try. And in this light, it’s interesting to see how institutions use Twitter. More and more, a Twitter presence has become de rigueur, even though I’m not sure just how many core classical fans use Twitter (how many readers of this blog Tweet? Raise your hand. And that’s not even representative, since blog readers are almost by definition more open to using computers than a general cross-section of the public). I’ve started partial lists of Tweeting orchestras and opera houses on my Twitter account; the lists are by no means exhaustive, but I have dozens so far.

The question -- the $64,000 question for all forms of so-called “new technology” -- is what you put out there through this new medium. It’s the same problem that has faced countless organizations that got themselves spiffy new websites and then discovered they had to figure out a little thing called “content.” (A great scramble of the 2000s involved lots of performing-arts organizations discovering, after they had launched websites, that what audiences really wanted to do on-line was buy tickets. One of the Metropolitan Opera’s less-heralded but possibly most influential innovations was the development of the software Tessitura, a ticket-selling and fund-raising program that’s now in wide use.)
(read more after the jump)

For the most part, organizations are settling for using Twitter as a glorified bulletin board for PR notices: “Come see our performance on Sunday! Tickets going fast!” Some, though, are developing personalities, from "Here's what I did this morning" to “Hear a recording of our recent concert.” Were it not for the Fairfax Symphony’s Twitter feed, I wouldn’t know that the group is represented on the newly ubiquitous service Instant Encore, where you can hear recordings of recent concerts and even of ones that are coming up. (In fact, I had a brief moment of panic when I saw on the Fairfax site a recording of Avner Dorman’s second piano concerto, which had its world premiere in Kansas City in November, and thought I had somehow missed the Fairfax performance -- it’s coming up on March 13.) The Welsh National Opera is one of my favorites, because it is engagingly personal and, not least, because it Tweets everything in both English and Welsh.

But I think the Leipzig Gewandhaus has set some kind of new benchmark with its latest Tweet. It’s searching for a new director of its concert office and artistic planning. And it’s making this known over Twitter.

This is actually a nice sign of institutional transparency -- even, arguably, a sounder understanding of the Twitter audience than many groups seem to harbor. This ad tacitly presupposes that an internationally experienced classical-music business type with extensive connections in the field may be reading the Gewandhaus's Tweets. At least it doesn't fall into the trap of assuming that all Twitter users are 20 to 30 years old and card-carrying representatives of a hip generation. (Of course, since the Gewandhaus has all of 317 Twitter followers as of this morning, they are in a position to know exactly who's following them.) I'd be curious to know what kind of response, if any, they get.

By Anne Midgette  |  January 6, 2010; 8:20 AM ET
Categories:  random musings  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: States of music
Next: High fidelity


I am on the Twitter: @lindemania. Like many arts organizations, I have not quite figured out what to do with it yet.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 6, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I am on twitter @dziendobry, I use it to stay on top of classical music news, and to stay in touch with folk that have the same interests as I do.

Posted by: dziendobry | January 6, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh Anne, you can put words in my mouth anytime.

My organisation has decided it has to get 'one of those Twittbook things' without actually thinking about what on earth they'll put on it. I think that form of hyperactive social media is only effective when, as you point out, it's more than an outlet for press releases. And that kind of activity needs some pretty dedicated maintenance. The same applies for the now compulsory Facebook page.

Slate (I think) made the point that for all the hype about Twitter its really not that popular. More people currently play Farmville on Facebook than actively use Twitter. I'd hazard that Facebook is also a lot easier to maintain that a Twitter- which by its nature demands a constant churn of relevant, interesting and entertaining information. If there isn't information deemed worthy enough to update the Twitter every few hours, I'd debate whether its worth the effort.

So I guess my jury is still out on whether Twitter will be a meaningful tool for arts orgs, or just a gimmick to show they're 'reaching the young people'. I could see Twitter being useful for an organisation which does its own ticketing 'we've just released $15 tix for tonight's gig' that sort of instant, instantly actionable, material.

Facebook, however, I think is something people need. But, like any marketing, needs to be continually tended and loved and kept engaging. Get Gareth Davies from the LSO on their facebook right away! His blog, whenever they tour, is one of the best examples of 'arts blogging (arblog?)' I've ever seen.

Posted by: ianw2 | January 6, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Here's one way in which music organizations can use new technology: database searches of the past performances. The Met did it and it was a success; the NY Phil did it and it was equally successful. So what are the NSO and the Baltimore Symphony - not to mention Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia Orchestra, etc. - waiting for?

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | January 6, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse


In a very, unashamedly, self-serving comment, I'd like to point you to three pages on my Web site:

Orchestra and Social Media Survey:

Classical Music People on Twitter:

Classical Music Organizations on Twitter:

p.s. I always remember the first time I "met" you. At the Liverpool Phil's Second Life concert...

Posted by: mcmvanbree | January 7, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Hello Anne,
I've been following your blog for awhile now but this post finally got me to register so that I could comment. I handle communications for several arts groups in Vancouver, BC. My two main clients are Chor Leoni Men's Choir, @Chor_Leoni, and Elektra Women's Choir @Elektra_YVR. Chor Leoni has had a twitter account now for over a year while Elektra's was established more recently. We have found them a useful tool to amplify other marketing initiatives. In other words, they don't augment marketing campaigns but don't replace traditional methods - yet. I think the whole Social Media 'thing' is ripe with potential. It does take someone dedicated to creating content.

Bruce Hoffman
Brucecat Comunications

Posted by: brucecat | January 7, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Interesting piece although our experience is a little different than what Anne describes here. @DilettanteMusic, we follow a lot of performing organisations that use Twitter in a variety of ways - for instance, communicating directly with audiences who post comments about concerts and events. Sounds like small potatoes, but it's amazing how fast retweets spread information and observations. In that sense, while there's certainly a bandwagon at play, the latest social media tool is actually very effective at reaching the younger people who've embraced it. Sure, lots of organisations use it as a kind of digital loudspeaker to promote themselves, but we've found it a great business to business tool for disseminating industry news and supporting each others' efforts. Twitter has become an essential marketing tool for us, and it's great fun keeping an eye on our friends at performing organistions to see what they'll do with it next.

Posted by: Juliana_Dilettante | January 8, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

The arts organizations and orchestras that fail to understand the tidal wave that is social media are the ones that will drown (if they haven't already). That is reality.

As a musician who went to conservatory in the USA and now going to conservatory in Amsterdam, you'd think I'm crazy to devote my life and move around across the globe for a dying art form. But, I couldn't more excited to be a game changer!

Posted by: banihex | January 8, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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