Monday, July 2, 2007

Classical music in a digital age

Chicago Classical Music is running a two part piece over the next two weeks called "Think Digitally, Broadcast Globally" by the Future of Music Coalition. The piece focuses on how the Internet has changed the way classical, jazz and world music reaches fans. Here's an excerpt from the first installment:

Just a decade ago, options for hearing chamber music, jazz, and world music on the radio were straightforward and rather limited: a local NPR or Pacifica station spinning Beethoven string quartets or Wynton Marsalis on a dial filled with infinite varieties of commercial pop, country, and talk.

But as with many art forms, the Internet has revolutionized how niche music reaches fans. With recording, podcasting and webcasting becoming cheaper every day, traditional radio broadcasts have morphed into dozens of new forms on the web, and - perhaps most importantly - the line between being a performer and a broadcaster has blurred. This new environment offers new possibilities for reaching new audiences, but it requires a new way of thinking about radio.

More than a quarter of all Americans tuned into web radio last month. Of that, 25% were tuning into simulcasts of their favorite broadcast stations. But what were the rest listening to? At least 6,000 of them were listening to Wolf Trap Radio, checking out live recordings of classical, cabaret and soft rock from the Filene Center, interviews with performing artists and Wolf Trap staff, and special programming such as music and commentary from jazz pianist John Eaton. Wolf Trap Radio broadcasts 24 hours a day and is accessible via their website,, and - perhaps most importantly - the iTunes web radio station directory, filed under "Eclectic".

Radio offers many opportunities for classical music, but the key to finding them is understanding the medium in the Internet age. It requires new partnerships, new thinking, and, in some cases, becoming a DJ.

To read the whole thing, go here.

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