84% of Canadian orchestras went digital according to new survey

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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.

Key Findings

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).

A survey analysis is provided by The Space, an independent Community Interest Company based in Birmingham, England. To read the full survey analysis, click here.

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