In a new push to expand the market for classical music, Carnegie Hall is launching free live webcasts to reach beyond the aging in-house audience at the venerable New York institution.
Medici TV, a six-year-old French company that has already webcast many of Europe's premier classical events, will start its collaboration with Carnegie Hall on Tuesday with a recital by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.
DiDonato, who will present a "Journey through Venice" including arias by Vivaldi and Rossini, told AFP she was excited that people in the Italian city of canals could watch her live.
"Medici TV is literally bringing our program into people's homes, where I hope that we'll be able to recreate that sensation of a gathering of friends celebrating music together," said DiDonato, who last week sang the national anthem at the final game of baseball's World Series.
Clive Gillinson, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, noted that most people in the world could not come to the 2,800-seat New York venue.
"It's to give these people the opportunity to share what we're doing and to continue to broaden the audience for classical music and for music in general," he told AFP.
Gillinson said that, unlike clunky cameras used for past Carnegie Hall broadcasts, the technology has become "relatively unobtrusive" and that he did not expect the webcasts to distract from the live experience.
The obstacle, he said, had been labor costs as the webcasts do not earn money. A new union contract sealed a year ago made it possible to start the project, he said.
Gillinson was unconcerned by the lack of revenue from the webcasts. Except for some pop artists, the days are gone when recordings were a major money-maker, he said.
"It's exactly the opposite way around now. There is little or no revenue in the media side of it, and the media promotes the concerts," he said.
- Broadening the demographic -
The Carnegie Hall webcasts are free live and for 90 days afterward. Medici TV also sells subscriptions for fuller access to its archive.
Herve Boissiere, the founder and managing director of Medici TV, said that the service was able to survive largely through corporate sponsorship and tie-ups with educational institutions.
"That's the condition of being free and independent. We have to be profitable or at least break even; without that, we cannot make it sustainable," he said.
Despite work with the New York Philharmonic and several other institutions, Medici TV has recorded relatively few performances from the United States although, paradoxically, some 30 percent of the service's users are American, a larger portion than any other nationality.
It was crucial to include Carnegie Hall, Boissiere said, explaining: "Every time you talk to musicians, they will tell you, 'Oh my god, the acoustics there are unique.'"
Boissiere said that the average Medici TV user was aged 51 -- older than the target demographic for television advertisers, but comparatively young for a classical music audience.
He hoped that the webcasts would further diversify the audience, as Medici TV users were still overwhelmingly better educated and wealthier than average.
"For the social profile, we are still in the tradition of a classical music audience," he said.
Medici TV, which started in 2008 before webcasts were mainstream, has tried to keep up with technology and offers performances by mobile app. One-third of Medici viewers watch by tablet, Boissiere said.
Upcoming Carnegie Hall performances scheduled for webcast include concerts by Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, whose program will include the US premiere of her ex-husband Andre Previn's Violin Concerto No. 2.