YouTube and Classical Music?

Whether you are a record label, ensemble, orchestra, organization, or an artist, being seen is still the most important piece of the marketing/branding puzzle. If no one knows about you, how can they buy what you’re selling? That is why social media is so important in general. You need to be where your audience is looking. In our opinion, one of the biggest reasons for being on Facebook is that it is likely someone is looking for you there, so how much better is it if they actually find you. It is the same way with YouTube. There are over 2 billion video views on YouTube every day. Yes, you read that right, every day! How can you not be on that platform?

One of the biggest questions we get asked when talking to prospective clients is how often are people actually watching classical music-related videos? After all, isn’t YouTube just (double) rainbows and kittens? Well, we’ve always been able to honestly tell people that of course classical music videos are a part of the platform, but we’ve never had the kinds of numbers in our pocket that we now know due to the YouTube Symphony.

On March 20th, the YouTube Symphony at the Sydney Opera House had 33 million live streams from 189 countries for a three-and-a-half hour classical concert on YouTube. That’s right, at one time around the world, 33 million people watched classical music on the internet. And of that, 2.8 million people were watching from their phones! So obviously, there is some sort of market for high-brow content on YouTube, and of course, not every video will be seen 33 million times. Shoot, not every video will even be seen 100 times. But it doesn’t mean that putting your content out there isn’t a worthwhile endeavor. Maybe you haven’t sold out Carnegie Hall, but if you have 100,000 views of a performance, that’s definitely something to put in your bag of publicity tools.

The other issue we hear a lot pertains to quality. Artists and independent classical labels don’t have the budget (or time) to put together slick, music videos for YouTube like their pop counterparts. But here’s the good news, you don’t have to! Just for fun, we searched “Beethoven” in YouTube, and the top video has 30 million views. It’s a video featuring the “Moonlight” Sonata. But is it a high-quality, high-dollar production? No, in fact it’s simply a slideshow of public domain images of Beethoven and pianos. So why are 30 million people watching boring pictures? Because they are listening to the music!

So if you can upload your performance, or give people a sample from your label’s albums, the image and video content and production value isn’t what is ultimately going to matter. People will come to listen. YouTube has become a great place for people to find and explore new music. Streaming services like last.fm or Pandora don’t come close when it comes to how people find and sample new music. One of the reasons for this is Google. If you search for a band or artist, it puts matching videos right there at the top.

Again, at this point, people almost expect an artist to have something on YouTube. So if you’re scared because you don’t have great video skills, don’t be. One of the most popular videos that comes up when you search “Chopin” is a video following along with the score. If you can do that, you can have a YouTube hit. Of course, if you do have the capabilities, time, budget, forethought, etc., having quality visual content is definitely a plus. But if you’re an artist, that’s pretty easy. Just get the permissions to a performance. Or, do a performance specifically for YouTube with just you and a camera. Odds are, someone is already searching for you.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter (@RbClassical)