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01/30/2009 Classical Goes Digital

You know that times are changing when opera (music, not the browser) and classical music start shifting to online and digital media. Talk about shifting old media! What’s happening seems both smart and forward thinking.

I first noticed this when accompanying my mom to a HD broadcast in a movie theater to watch an opera from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I like opera somewhat, but I probably never would have gone if my mom didn’t need the company. And while my mind tends to drift at this type of concert, one thing is for sure: the broadcast was awesome.

Phenomenal picture and sound quality, pictures and interviews from backstage, I thought this was much better than actually seeing this in person. And the first thing I thought of was “Why isn’t this online?”

Well, it is online. The Met lets you streams its operas to your computer. It’s perfect for a HD TV hookup. You can sign up for a week of free streams but if you’re a hardcore fan and want to watch longer, you have to pay. You can get a yearly or monthly subscription, or rent them individually online.

About the same time I noticed this, the FWA chose The Berliner Philharmonic as its site of the day. The site, which is great, does something similar to the Met sit. You can watch live or taped concerts, individually or for a season. The quality is even better than the video streaming from the Met.

Now, back to the HD broadcast. Almost everyone in the audience had gray hair. They packed the theater and this was a repeat broadcast! According to the Pew Internet Research group the fastest growing online segment is people between 70-75 years old. Only 26% of this group went online in 2005 whereas 45% of them now go online. Smart strategy for both Met and Berliner to expand access through the Web.

Pavarotti.sm And while opera fans have always had the option of listening on the radio, these Web sites give them far greater access and choices, both as it relates to time and content. Want to see a Pavarotti opera from the 80s? It’s there. I would like to see a YouTube channel, though, which makes me think of something else.

Targeting an expanding and loyal audience through digital shows forward thinking but a bigger challenge is how to expand that audience. Again, the Met shows how modern they can be.

In addition to streaming the HD broadcasts into schools, soon they’ll launch a “Met Idol” documentary about people auditioning for the opera. Reality TV meets classical music? It’s probably not a bad idea. I’ll have to take my mom.

If the opera and classical music can figure this out, then more “modern” businesses have no excuse.


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