As the pandemic continues and live concerts are all but impossible, classical music organizations have moved their seasons online — with widely varying paywalls and content.
How is this working? In one case, surprisingly well. One of the first major Seattle-based arts organization to complete an online season, the Seattle Chamber Music Society is releasing findings for its 2020 Virtual Summer Festival, a four-week series of 12 concerts by 41 musicians whose performances were filmed in Seattle and in remote locations.
Of the 935 patrons surveyed, with a 36% response rate (25% is typical), the virtual festival rated 8.4 on a scale of 10. It brought in 389 new ticket purchasers (32% of patrons) and 92 first-time donors, many international patrons, and 300 more subscribers than usual — likely because there were no constraints on the size of the concert-hall space (the festival is usually held in Seattle’s 536-seat Nordstrom Recital Hall in Benaroya Hall).
First-time donations came in from Canada and U.S. states from California to Massachusetts, due in large part to marketing efforts. More than 70% of the respondents added comments, most of which “filled my life with joy,” said Executive Director Connie Cooper, who will leave her post next year after 25 years with the festival. And 99% of respondents said they were “very interested” in subscribing to the virtual Winter Festival series in January.
The SCMS worked hard on outreach to the general public, preparing information packets for all the musicians (many of them based overseas) to share on the musicians’ international social media. The concerts were new content, not archival, which was a significant plus in attracting audiences and support — as were reminders in the videos to kindly donate, according to Cooper.
“People took a chance, had a positive experience, and supported us financially,” Cooper notes. “We’ll continue to reach out to more new folks.”