3 Ways For Classical Musicians To Continue Digital Performances

Are you sensing it yet?

Looking out of the window, it’s starting to emerge. On twisting branches, impulsive waves and aspiring clouds.

Change is coming.

With the announcement of a return to in-person events, possibly by June, what does this mean for your digital performances?

Are you hoping to go BACK to pre-covid normal?

Or will there continue to be a place for your online performances?


Earlier this week I had the delight of giving a talk to music students at the University of Nottingham about performing in a digital world.

Towards the end of the talk, they shared their thoughts on this very issue. You are always guaranteed to get honest insightful responses from curious minds. One student said that online performances could never compete with “in-person events”.

Her comment sums up the struggle we have had to wrestle with for the last year. You’re not allowed to perform in person recitals yet. Live streaming has been a way for you to get around this.

At first, the novelty was exciting for both you and your audience. But change was needed to sustain interest and engagement over a longer period.

Like your experiences with online meetings, training and teaching. Using the familiar ‘in person’ format doesn’t always quite work.

I don’t think the aim is to compete against in-person performances. Instead, it is to be different!

How can you start to achieve this?

What Does Your Audience Want?

Yes, I’m going to say it again (unless this is your first email!). The answers lie with what your audience wants:

  • To learn
  • To be intellectually stimulated
  • To be entertained

Whether you are on YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Netflix or Amazon Prime. You are searching for something that ticks one of those boxes.

I have three possible starting points to help you achieve this for you and your audience. Would like to know what they are?

No.1 – Presenter

When you produce digital performances you are not only the musician. You are also the presenter! You are responsible for looking after your audience. Like a great customer care. You welcome and then guide your audience through an experience. Your job is to create an environment for a fantastic experience to happen.

Pianist J.P. Ekins is a great example of this. He welcomes you with a smile into his performance space. You receive a wonderful sample of the musical menu. He reveals the hidden layers within the pieces. You have the opportunity to learn something new. To enjoy the intellectual stimulation. It’s like peering behind the factory doors to see the magic. like wine or beer sample session and tour. You learn, get stimulation and be entertained. Click here to see.

Or check out Andras Schiff at the Wigmore Hall. His introductions make all the difference for me. The Bach makes total sense. I got to learn and so it was more entertaining and stimulating for me. 

Be conscious to choose the language that connects with your audience. Technical jargon can alienate your audience and put them off your performance. I experienced this recently watching a String Trio live stream. 

Is this different enough? You could create this presentation as part of an offline performance.

The difference could be bolder.

No.2 – Would You Like A Cocktail?

Cellist, Natalie Spehar has started a ‘Cello Cocktail Hour’. She clicks live on her Instagram channel and her fans join her. She themes the music each week, which fits with the popularity of playlists. She also lets her fans send in their requests.

You could take this a stage further. Send a free cocktail recipe to your audience in advance. Then book a mixologist to teach your audience how to make a cocktail. They could then enjoy your cocktail as you perform. Your audience gets to learn and be entertained.

Is it gimmicky? Not, if it fits with who you and your audience are. Part of innovation is finding new ideas, opportunities and collaborations. It’s different from a traditional recital format.

What if you distinguished between what your audience experiences offline and online?

No.3 – Companionship & Learning

Mark Masters is a genius at creating a community. The You Are The Media Groupis how he leads by example. Last year he moved his event’s online. He was quick to experiment and to see what could work. He shared the following post:

Could this be a clearer point of difference?

Your audience could learn from your digital performances. For example, you could have a recital programme which you are due to play in person. Online you could give a series of ‘How To Play…’ from your recital programme. This then culminates in your audience coming to your in-person performance.

You could give shorter online performances for your audience to snack on and learn about. This then leads them to an in-person performance feast.


Now is your time to experiment. The insights can come from what didn’t work, as from what did. Today I offer you three starting points. 

  • Presenting and sharing insights into your music. 
  • Finding more collaborative and immersive experiences.
  • Defining how offline and online can enhance your audience experience.

It’s not about competing with in-person performances. It’s about digital recitals finding their own place. Remember to help your audience learn, be stimulated and entertained.

Let me know what your thoughts are around this.

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