1. S.F. Opera simulcast sets ballpark record:
The San Francisco Opera set an attendance record for its continuing simulcasts of live performances from the War Memorial Opera House to AT&T Park. An audience estimated by the Opera at 27,000 showed up for the free simulcast of Puccini's "Tosca," shown on the scoreboard screen, starring soprano Adrianne Pieczonka as the doomed heroine.
Opera General Director David Gockley threw out the first pitch, so to speak, in a precurtain speech from the Opera House. After introducing conductor Marco Armiliato, who led the ballpark and sold-out Opera House audiences in the national anthem, Gockley poked his head out from behind the curtain to call out, "Play opera!"
This was the company's third simulcast at the ballpark. The company inaugurated the ballpark simulcasts with a production of Camille Saint-Saëns' "Samson et Delilah" in 2007, drawing a crowd estimated at 15,000, and followed last year with a simulcast of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor," which pulled in an estimated 23,000 people.
The next simulcast is scheduled for Sept. 19, when incoming Music Director Nicola Luisotti will conduct Verdi's "Il Trovatore."
2. The Seattle Opera Seeks Host For "Reality-style Video Project"
Seattle Opera is seeking to make its "Ring" cycle appeal to younger generations with a reality-style video project "Confessions of a First-Time Opera Goer," which will chronicle 19-year-old Cassidy Quinn Brettler's first experience attending the "Ring."
Beginning in mid-June and throughout the performance schedule, Brettler will conduct behind-the scenes interviews with the artists, attend rehearsals and even meet with the so-called Ringies, the die-hard fans who follow "Ring" performances all over the world.
Brettler, a double major in acting and broadcasting at Boston's Emerson College, will post her updates on the action on her personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as tweeting on Seattle Opera's Twitter account.
The youthful host was chosen from 49 hopefuls in an online vote. More than 6,500 votes were cast for five finalists, whose videos were posted on the Seattle Opera website for a four-day voting period that began June 1.
Seattle Opera Executive Director Kelly Tweeddale confirms that the company is turning to social networking sites to sell old operas to a new audience: "What better way to put it into practice than to find an enthusiastic participant who is eager to share the opera experience from an authentic and engaged viewpoint?"
The completed video will air on the Seattle Opera website and perhaps other web-based venues.
3. Cultural groups tap audiences via social networking
The use of social media as a marketing tool is fast becoming a key means for cash-strapped organizations, not only to spread the word about offerings, but also to heighten their "cool" quotients and attract Web-savvy patrons who might otherwise view the groups as stodgy or impersonal. Efforts by Columbus, Ohio arts groups include:
- BalletMet Columbus last year began using the social-networking Facebook and Twitter to post bite-sized updates, ranging from ticket specials and quiz questions (with prizes) to the breed of dog -- a schnauzer mix -- used in the production of The Great Gatsby.
- In the fall, Opera Columbus hosted a Tweet-up gathering for Twitter users in the Ohio Theatre -- including a dress rehearsal of The Pearl Fishers. About 30 guests kept their thumbs busy, Tweeting their impressions by iPhone or BlackBerry throughout the performance. "The most rewarding thing was hearing people say (online), " 'I've never been to the opera before; I love it' or 'I'm so surprised,' " said Lisa Minken, director of marketing. "We can look at how many people are talking about us."
- "There's absolutely nothing more powerful than a friend's recommendation," said Matt Slaybaugh, artistic director of Available Light Theatre. After curtain calls at Available Light shows (including God's Ear, through Saturday at Columbus Dance Theatre), cast members ask audiences to mention the troupe via Twitter, Facebook or blog.
- The Columbus Museum of Art has a YouTube channel, with in-house videos containing sneak previews of exhibitions. The museum is considering discounts or programming just for its 1,137 Facebook fans -- taking a cue from museums in Cleveland and Indianapolis -- and heavier advertising online and, soon, on Internet radio, spokeswoman Nancy Colvin said.
- After the recent Columbus Arts Festival, the Greater Columbus Arts Council encouraged visitors to post photos to Flickr, with prizes for the best submissions. The council also tracked Facebook comments. And the Wexner Center for the Arts recently started presenting live video feeds of panel talks, artist interviews and event announcements.
- The Columbus Symphony sent a Twitter post in April to encourage followers to shout "Tweet, Tweet, Tweet" among the black-tie masses before an Ohio Theatre performance -- in return for a free ticket to a future show.
"Viral" grass-roots chatter is essentially free -- beyond the time used by staff members to monitor and maintain the content. And the practice is increasingly common: A recent study by a California consulting group found that 85 percent of nonprofits are relying on social media for marketing and fundraising.
The old-school crowd needn't fret, however: Traditional advertising (from print and radio ads to fliers, brochures and mailed postcards) will still be used, said all 12 organizations surveyed by The Dispatch -- such as the King Arts Complex, Phoenix Theatre for Children and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.
Moreover, arts groups acknowledge a difficulty in determining the extent to which digital followers become bodies in seats. A fan on Facebook doesn't equal a season-ticket holder. Yet the frontier, all agreed, is one that shouldn't be ignored.
4. Universal Music and Virgin Reach a Download Deal
The Universal Music Group and Virgin Media announced that they have reached a deal that will offer consumers unlimited downloads as part of a partnership that steps up antipiracy enforcement. Universal, the largest recording company in the world, said it would offer its entire catalog customers of Virgin Media for a monthly subscription.
The music will be free from copy protection, a feature that distinguishes the service from most existing subscription offerings. The cost of the service, which will probably start by the end of the year, was not disclosed. In return, Virgin Media, the British cable television and broadband provider, agreed to take steps to reduce piracy on its network, something that other broadband providers have resisted. The measures could include temporary suspensions of offenders’ Internet connections, the company said.
For the recording industry, developing new digital business models is essential because pirated tracks account for 95 percent of online music, according to industry estimates. The announcement pre-empts the expected publication of the British government’s plan for the digital economy, including antipiracy proposals. Britain wants copyright owners and Internet service providers to cooperate in the fight against piracy, and it welcomed the agreement between Virgin and Universal. “Government has a role in creating the right legal and regulatory framework for rights and copyright,” said Stephen Carter, the British communications, technology and broadcast minister, in a statement. “However, the market will flourish through innovative commercial agreements between companies, and agreements such as this will help significantly in reducing any demand for piracy.”
Analysts said Virgin, which has more than seven million broadband customers, might have been willing to yield on copyright enforcement because it also produces and sells content via its cable television system, unlike many broadband providers, which simply serve as a conduit for content.
Virgin said it was talking to the other three major music companies — Sony Music Entertainment, EMI and Warner Music Group — in an effort to include them in the new service.
5. New York Philharmonic Gets Its Own iPhone App
The New York Philharmonic announced that it now has its own Apple iPhone application, developed by the classical-music website InstantEncore.com. Users of iPhone and iPod Touch can download the application for free at the iPhone App Store or through iTunes; the application allows users to access for no charge the orchestra’s concert listings, program notes, news, newspaper reviews, audio clips of upcoming concert, links to ticket purchase, podcasts, and blogs.
Users of the application also can link to the orchestra’s Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter pages. The New York Philharmonic describes itself as the first orchestra with its own Apple iPhone app; more information is available at nyphil.org/iPhone and at the Philharmonic’s fan page at InstantEncore.com.
6. Gergiev Launches New Label For Mariinsky Theatre
In an interview (in French), conductor Valery Gergiev describes plans for a new recording label being launched by the Mariinsky Theatre. The new label will publish CDs and DVD of opera, symphonic music and ballet. The repertoire, according to Gergiev, will include contemporary, as well as traditional works by primarily Russian composers, including Chtchedrine, Gubaïdulina, Tichtchenko, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky.
7. Priced to Sell: Is Free the Future?
An article by Malcolm Gladwell in the July 6th edition of the New Yorker, delves into the debate as to whether the declining costs of capturing and distributing digital content represent a business opportunity for content creators and distributors or, as Chris Anderson argues in this new book “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” (Hyperion; $26.99), the absence of any direct economic value from digital content.
According to Gladwell, Anderson makes four assertions: a technological claim (digital infrastructure is effectively Free), a psychological claim (consumers love Free), a procedural claim (Free means never having to make a judgment), and a commercial claim (the market created by the technological Free and the psychological Free can make you a lot of money). Gladwell believes, however, there are flaws in some of Anderson’s arguments and says that “the only iron law here is the one too obvious to write a book about, which is that the digital age has so transformed the ways in which things are made and sold that there are no iron laws.” Only hindsight will prove who is right, but whatever the outcome, it will have a big impact on arts groups.