What Professional Orchestras Should Learn From YouTube

These days, when symphony orchestras make national news, the topic is usually not a happy one.  Yet one group has received a very different kind of coverage: the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO).  Culminating in a performance at Australia’s Sydney Opera House on March 20, 2011, this experiment has generated unprecedented buzz and excitement.

True, when considering professional orchestras and the YouTube version, we’re not comparing apples with apples.  Nonetheless, struggling orchestras can—and should—learn valuable lessons from YouTube about what it may require to remain viable and relevant in the 21st Century.


With traditional symphony orchestras, applicants audition behind a screen. This system was implemented to ensure that players would be selected based on the single criteria of outstanding performance.

The YTSO took a different approach.  Initially, candidates applied via video.   The conductor whittled down a short list of players who were outstanding enough to participate in the group.  But then, finalists engaged in Internet campaigns, where fans were encouraged to vote for their favorites.  Those with the highest ballot count were likely to get the gig.

This process has understandably received some criticism.  Will people with better marketing and social media chops be more apt to advance, even if their playing isn’t quite as strong?  Perhaps.  But isn’t that exactly what orchestras need?  More members actively advocating, cultivating a following, and motivating their own networks.

Imagine the institutional transformation that would occur if orchestras broadened their audition process.  After selecting a small group of qualified finalists, what if candidates were asked about their ideas on marketing, connecting with audiences, and building a following?  Or if local communities were encouraged to decide who they wanted to represent them in their orchestra?

The reason more people don’t patronize the local orchestra isn’t because they aren’t good enough.  It is because they’re not relevant enough.


YTSO VirtualDuring the YTSO show, video profiles of several members were projected.  These montages explored the lives, backgrounds, challenges, and joys of members.  In other words, musicians weren’t simply interchangeable cogs who happened to sit on a stage together.  They were real human beings with unique personalities and amazing talents.

People become more excited about art when they feel connected to artists. Professional orchestra members can: speak at concerts, interact during intermissions, be featured in videos, become media personalities, blog, lead pre-concert talks, offer engaging outreach activities, etc.

Eliminate anonymity and watch interest grow.


Conventional wisdom for orchestral programming contends the following:

  1. People only want to hear the classics they already know and love.
  2. Long or multi-movement works must be programmed in full.
  3. People come to orchestra concerts for the sole purpose of hearing orchestral music.

The YouTube event blew gaping holes through these theories.  One of the best received works was the premier performance of Mason Bate’s “Mothership.” Isolated movements of several works were included. This made it possible to program no less than a dozen works on this program.  And nestled in the program was a solo organ Toccata by Bach and a didgeridoo feature with percussion accompaniment.

Some individuals, myself included, can be excited by hearing just a few wonderful extended masterworks on a concert.  But many people today are more inclined to enjoy a greater assortment of musical experiences and traditions—new and old; familiar and unfamiliar; solo, chamber, and full ensemble.


sand AnimationThe YTSO event was stunning visually.  Projections accompanied almost every piece, including live streaming, lighting extravaganzas, and even the work of a sand animator.  Clearly, the YTSO spent months and considerable financial capital ensuring that this event looked amazing.

Such visual spectacle is impossible to expect from orchestras with different shows on a regular basis.  But a little attention goes a long way.  The incorporation of even small amounts of dance, video, slides, lighting, or staging can make an enormous impact, especially if done tastefully.  In fact, just having musicians smile and physically connect to the sound produced can move an audience.

Some folks argue, “great music should stand on its own.”  And perhaps that’s true.  But in this visual age of YouTube, it’s simply not the reality for many young and middle-aged audiences that orchestras so desperately need to attract.

And despite expert suggestions to the contrary, visual elements aren’t inherently distractions.  On the contrary, they can be the key to drawing people towards your music.


YouTube AppNot surprisingly, this YouTube event had a heavy emphasis on technology.

  • All players were given a website and smartphone app, powered by InstantEncore.com.
  • All players were given a Samsung Nexus S phone, enabling them to easily capture and upload video.
  • Thousands of YouTube videos—auditions, video diaries, rehearsals, concerts, reflections —are publically available.
  • Every member contributed online content.
  • Their event was available for free viewing via YouTube, the YTSO app, and every individual member’s website.
  • In total, there were 1.8 million unique live viewers; within two weeks, it had been streamed over 33 million times to 189 countries!

While technology alone can’t solve all of the challenges facing symphony orchestras today, it can be an enormous instrument for cultivating audiences and generating excitement.

With this in mind, symphony orchestras should post video content regularly.  All members should be encouraged to maintain a visible web presence and contribute to the organization’s blog. Fans should find ample opportunities to post comments, network, vote (favorite pieces?), share concert photos, and download recordings from events attended (gratis or for a small price).

Use the tool of technology to help build something great: an audience for the future.


In several ways, the YTSO event embraced traditional orchestral rituals.  It incorporated standard literature featuring standard instrumentation in a standard concert hall setting.  But it also built upon these traditions in innovative and forward-looking ways.  These unique, and sometimes controversial, solutions clearly generated a buzz.

We must face the obvious truth: It takes more than great art to thrive in today’s world.  In order for professional orchestras to avoid extinction, re-invention is necessary.

Yet I remain optimistic.  Professional symphony orchestras already provide outstanding and powerful art.  And now they have a new role model that offers a possible path forward: the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.




For a follow-up article, including feedback on comments by readers, see Dumbing Down or Smartening Up?

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • RSS
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • Mixx
  • Blogplay
  • Yahoo! Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz

526 Responses to “What Professional Orchestras Should Learn From YouTube”

  1. 0rz.tw says:

    When you are traveling togethr with your puppy, makie certain that they are properly qualified
    and acclimated to any kind of setting you may Get flip video onto mac; 0rz.tw, into.

    They should be carefully leash and ound demand educated and kept on leash all the time in tthe course of vacation and whenever
    visiting holiday destinations. Because they are in full power over your
    dog in the course of travel, you guarantee its security.

  2. Esta obra básica y sencilla, desarrolla las leyes que rigen en los líquidos y gases en función de la transferencia de calor, y que encuentran aplicación en las instalaciones de aire acondicionado. La obra progresa desde una explicación de principios básicos, pasando por una exposición de detalles de construcción y tipos de sistemas de aire acondicionado, hasta la instalación, localización de averías y reparación de estos sistemas.

  3. 11/7/2016 I’m gratified with the way that savvymusician.com handles this kind of topic! Generally on point, sometimes controversial, consistently well-researched as well as thought-provoking.

  4. How do i eliminate undefined in blog posts?

  5. Janean Joun says:

    Kudos for the noteworthy site you’ve set up at savvymusician.com. Your enthusiastic take on the subject is certainly contagious. Thanks again!

  6. 11/15/2016 I’m pleased by the manner in which savvymusician.com covers this kind of issue. Generally to the point, sometimes controversial, without fail thoughtful and more often than not quite thought-provoking.

  7. Gracias dios por todo y buenos dias amen

  8. So Now i’m obviously new to the site. I figured out how to customize my blog page but now I need some help learning how to delete the content that appear to automatically become there as examples and create my own..

  9. Hey, your site is very interesting.. Plus it was something I’m able to definitely relate with Ill constantly stop by for your blog therefore i hope you continue making fun and interesting posts like this one…

  10. I want to create my own website yet I have simply no experience. A classmate suggested me to instead create a blog so that I can obtain experience.. What free blog site should I use?. Any tips?.

  11. draftkings says:

    New depositors get special welcome offers at Draftkings with first deposit.

  12. soft and sweet but could possibly get wild and crazy between the sheets. I get turned on by men who wish me to take charge and fulfill their every fantasy and women who tell me the actual want and let me show them things they have never carried out.

  13. jual online says:

    Ways to rotate my blog posts again and again with a pre-programmed time interval with PHP code?

  14. I would really prefer to start a blog speaking out against feminism. And so i would like to understand the best way to do it and the best place to go to begin one..

  15. mesintekno says:

    I already have a college degree so I don’t need the credit. We don’t need to pay a ton of money for it, yet I do want an actual class with actual assignments. Which is creative writing as in HYPE. Thanks for your help. A class on the Northside would be great..

  16. I really like the sciences, especially chemistry and physics. But I also love the creative aspect of the spectrum, such as writing and books. I really wish to write. Would it not be smart to minor in English or Creative Composing but major in the sciences? Will it look acceptable? I’m a new comer to college stuff, and I’m just curious. We don’t need to miss an opportunity to advance my technological or creative knowledge! I am just a Jr . in senior high school..

  17. Gilliom says:

    I will be sure to book mark your blog and may even go back someday.

  18. Great ¡V I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs and related information ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it at all. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or something, web site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Nice task..

  19. What is the best blogging platform for a podcasting or a blog?

  20. Scherbring says:

    And indeed, I’m just constantly surprised about the exceptional things dished up by simply a person.

  21. I want to possess a secret blogspot web page, but some people I understand have been able to find my URL via a Google search… can there be a way I could prevent this? I avoid want one to be able to realistically find the URL unless of course I give it to them… (Please don’t suggest that I in order to another blog site. ).. Thanks!.

  22. a0 printing says:

    An interesting discussion is worth comment. I feel that you simply really should write a lot more on this subject, it could not be a taboo topic but frequently folks are not sufficient to speak on such topics. To the subsequent. Cheers

  23. I’m just a teenager and I noticed that you can in fact get paid meant for things like this. I’m knowledgeable about computers and have good novels skills and I’m sure I can write effective blogs/articles… On a different (sort of) topic, would I be able to sign up for affiliate programs?.

  24. How do i add third party widgets to free wordpress blogs?

  25. Great web site. Lots of helpful info here. I am sending it to a few buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks to your effort!

  26. Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all folks you really recognize what you’re talking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly also talk over with my website =). We will have a hyperlink alternate arrangement among us|

Leave a Reply

Powered by Wordpress | Designed by I Design Blogs