While more and more orchestras and classical music artists venture into the social media space, they lag behind other industry artists in leveraging their fan base. This has less to do with use and more with how their fans respond.
If you follow classical music artists on Twitter and Facebook, you'll get the feeling they are keeping up with the times. Numerous orchestras posts daily on Facebook and several times a day on Twitter. Compare that with how often Justin Bieber or Miley Cirus post on either and you'll see classical music artists are far more active. So, why aren't classical music artists getting the millions of fans of their pop counterparts?
It has to do with fan leveraging. Pop music fans tend to share posts, re-tweet and are far more fanatical about spreading the word for their idols. Miley has only three posts on Facebook this past week. But, each post was shared by her fans a minimum of 64 times. One post was shared over 648 times. Justin Bieber is a bit more active on Facebook. His post just an hour ago already has over 500 people who've shared it.
Compare this to the London Symphony Orchestra, which has a very respectable 50k+ fans, posted three times yesterday. Only one post was shared and that one only by two people. San Francisco Symphony has just over 23k fans, three posts in the past week and wound up getting shared a combined 285 times - but they were all referencing the SF 49ers heading to the Superbowl. The Symphony is far more popular on Facebook than the sports teams, but it was the sports posts that got shared. Nashville Symphony has one of the most active social media campaigns of any orchestra I've seen, and they only have 11.5k fans on Facebook. They have posted 15 times in the past week, shared 16 times by only 9 people.
iTunes just published the top 30 classical music charts. Sales of classical music downloads are up and has been steadily climbing for the past four years. Evidence suggests classical music fans, they just aren't vocal about their appreciation. Even musicians are conspicuously absent from comments and shares on orchestra websites. The other day I nominated eight different orchestras for a Shorty Award in classical music. There was no way classical music was going to compete with the thousands of votes pop artists were getting, so I opted to start a new category. Each of these orchestras were notified of their nomination (they were mentioned in a tweet). And yet, not a single one has attempted to leverage their fans. Only one even mentioned it in a tweet (no surprise, Nashville). Each of these orchestras have 80+ musicians. If only half of those musicians were to nominate the orchestra they play in, the chatter about classical music would incredible. None of these orchestras posted anything on Facebook. So, while they have thousands of fans who could potentially vote for them, the orchestras have decided to stay silent.
Why would classical music care about the Shorty Awards? Well, these awards are for outstanding presence in social media. Ostensibly, these are awards for being engaged with the public. While classical music might not win the award for #music, classical music artists ought to care about engaging with the public. If our fans aren't willing to share what we do, how can we expect people who aren't our fans to become our fans? If those of us who are making the music don't engage with the organizations we play with/for, they how can we expect anyone else to engage with these organizations?
Classical music fans are amazingly lack luster in their engagement on social media. Classical music organizations provide more content and yet capture less passion. For a music that prides itself on being "deeper music," there is a surprising lack of depth and emotion by those who follow it on social media. Perhaps classical music fans aren't into the hype of social media. But, as we wonder where our audiences are going (why they aren't coming to the concert hall like they used to), as we read of more and more orchestras struggling to balance their budgets (because both donations and ticket sales are down), perhaps it's time we started to get hyped about classical music. Perhaps it's time we ask our fans on Facebook and Twitter to GET INVOLVED. We asked our musicians to GET INVOLVED.
Getting involved isn't just liking our Facebook page, or following our tweets - but engaging with those posts and tweets. Imagine if EVERY musicians in an orchestra were to share one page a week from something their orchestra posted. That's 80 five to six time more shares than they have now. PLUS, those shares broaden the visibility of those posts exponentially. Beyond all the numbers, if musicians were to show their passion for the music, fans would be encouraged to show their passion. It wouldn't just be 80 more shares, but could result in hundreds more shares each week.
Statistics show a Twitter account with 10k followers has an expected reach of 2-5k people for each tweet. But, if that tweet is re-tweeted just once the expected reach doubles, twice quadrupled. If an orchestra could get 20 musicians re-tweeting every other day, orchestras wouldn't reach hundreds of thousands of people. This isn't rocket science, it's social science. The more people talking about you, the more people will hear about you. It's time classical music started talking about itself more.