Last weekend, the fall meeting of AMS Midwest Chapter took place at Wayne State University in Detroit. SMR member Nee Chucherdwatanasak participated on panel on a Saturday afternoon to present her paper, “Live from Orchestra Hall: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Concert Livestreaming” (see below for abstract), which examined the DSO’s webcast series and its impact on the digital strategies of other American orchestras.
Abstract: “Live from Orchestra Hall: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Concert Livestreaming”
To ensure their vitality in the twenty-first century, several American orchestras have adopted digital technology to attract audiences, particularly by livestreaming concerts. While many orchestras livestream their concerts only occasionally, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) offers free, regular HD webcasts—Live from Orchestra Hall—virtually every week throughout the concert season. How does the DSO’s webcast series operate? In what ways does it contribute to the organization? And given how critical this digital strategy has been to the DSO’s turnaround after its near-disastrous strike in 2010–11, why have other orchestras not adopted this livestream approach?
This paper examines the DSO webcast series, the first—and so far, the only—free, regular classical concert livestreaming service in the United States. My research combines an archival approach, based on local newspaper coverage and DSO material, with an ethnographic study including interviews with the administrative executives, staff, and musicians about the impetus, strategy, and impact of the orchestra’s webcast series. Helping the DSO to prevail in the new century, the Live from Orchestra Hall series has brought about innovative changes without compromising the organization’s artistic goals. Although the webcast strategy brings no direct financial profit to the orchestra, its long-term, indirect benefits to the DSO’s image and revenues could be influential.