Classical Music continues to lag behind in social media

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.


Jo Johnson said…
Hi Chip

A couple of thoughts if I may?

1. You chose a day on which I was moving house, and therefore not really engaging myself in Facebook, to highlight a lack of engagement on the LSO page. When I look across our engagement analytics I see that we reach somewhere in the region of 2000 people a week are "talking about this". On Monday we launched our 2013/14 season, a story which has so far been interacted with (liked, shared etc.) 623 times, with over a thousand clicks on it. So remember, not every day is representative.

So, ego trip over, a couple more thoughts:

2. Orchestral musicians - why aren't they engaging?
All sorts of reasons of course, but I can't help but think that it's quite a bit to do with practicalities. They spend large parts of their working day without access to computers and smartphones - i.e. when rehearsing or performing - and when they're not they can be travelling on coaches, aeroplanes, trains, in foreign countries where accessing the internet without wifi is expensive. Backstage areas often aren't that great for mobile reception, particularly our home at the Barbican, and some concert halls have not yet provided useful wifi.

They are therefore not so embedded in the digital culture as others. It's taken a while for them to catch on (at their own speed - you can't force them) but the LSO now has several musicians who are flying the flag for us. For example Maxine Kwok-Adams, Gareth Davies, Neil Percy, David Jackson, Lorenzo Iosco, Christne Pendrill and a fe others - all players I know I can call upon yo either put things up on their own accounts or send me things to post on the main account. It's slow progress, but it is progress, and others in this position shouldn't give up on their musicians.

3. Numbers
Pop is always going to beat classical at the numbers game - it's purely a matter of audience profile and typical behaviours, and a little about mass media hype.

4. What's a Like worth?
So we've got these numbers (LSO has 102k Twitter, 58k Facebook) - what's that actually worth? Is a Like or a Share enough to sustain us? How can we move this to the next level? What does that look like?

All best wishes
Jo Johnson
Digital Marketing Manager, LSO
Chip Michael said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip Michael said…
Jo -
An Excellent Reply!

My reply was too big for the comment field, so I posted on the topic again.

Is Social Media Important to Classical Music? The discussion continues



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