Tweeting a live orchestral performance

Posted on May 8, 2009 
Filed Under Social Media

What role has social media in promoting orchestras?

Canadian blogger Rob Cooper (pic above), a “former fat guy”, answers that question when he was recently invited to live-tweet a performance by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO).

We stumbled upon him after searching for a related case study for our participants at a recent Corporate Social Media training workshop.

Rob was kind enough to respond via Facebook:

Q1. Were you invited randomly or did the ESO have some contact with you before?

Rob: My fiance had been invited to blog the ESO symphony back in spring of 2008. I went as her guest and helped her with the technical issues. Bloggers at that time had to sit in a room where we could see the orchestra, but heard piped in sound.

The same bloggers were invited back to live blog the “symphony in the park”, an outdoors venue in one of our parks here. William Tell’s 1812 overture was featured along with our Canadian military shooting the guns at the finale.

I was not asked to, but chose to tweet the event. When we left, I spoke with the fellow who had invited my fiance and told him that I had tweeted it. He was not aware of twitter at the time. This was the summer of 2008.

Then, yes, we were both asked to come back, to blog and to live tweet this specific ESO performance once again. Now Twitter was more mainstream and the media relations guy for the ESO was making his public move into the twittersphere.

Q2. What did you use to live-tweet – a Blackberry?

Rob: Live tweeted with my Blackberry Bold

Q3. Were the live-tweeters seated together – and was your presence and activity during the performance obtrusive to the others in your seating area?

Rob: We were seated together at the very back of one section with a wall behind us. The level above us had a bit of a balcony, so we were under it. Our screens and keypad clicking did not bother anyone. Bloggers were NOT allowed to blog within the chamber, but tweeters could use their phones. I asked a blogger who was in front of me (taking notes by pen and paper) if my keypad clicks bothered him. He did not hear them at all.

Photographs from within the building are not possible. Cameras are not allowed. However, I turned off the flash on my Blackberry and snapped a shot because the twittersphere was asking for a photo. I uploaded it to Twitpic with the disclaimer that I might not be asked back.

I’m pretty sure the no photo rule is because of disruptions. I did everything I could do so that the photo from my cellphone would not cause a disruption.

Q4. Orchestral halls here have strict policies barring all forms of recording equipment and photography. Do you think in future, like the ESO, they need to change this policy, or be more flexible towards reaching out to bloggers, tweeters and other social media enthusiasts?

Rob: I think there could be a change allowing for a section of tweeters, but no need to allow phones or cameras throughout the orchestral hall. I think that the changes should be gradual.

To mix technology with the arts has to introduced slowly. There are hardliners who want their rules so they can appreciate the music. I think they “think” there will be disruptions when there clearly was not.

So… flexibility. Give some space where the tweeters can tweet. Computers are another issue all together. Big, bulky and the screens throw off a lot of light so no to the computers.

Q5.How else can ESO and other orchestras engage bloggers and tweeters?

Rob: How can they engage us? Don’t really have an answer. Tweeting is quickly becoming mainstream. I think nothing of popping open my phone and sending off a tweet as I think about it. They’re random thoughts or tweets that I simply want to share. It’s the same as sending a text message, so it seems perfectly normal to open up the Blackberry while in the orchestral hall. One has to be respectful of the space we’re in as well.

Other than that, I’m not quite sure I understand or have an answer for this question.

The whole tweeting thing would be confusing to someone not aware of what it is or how it works. That does not mean they should stop it, that’s for sure. One can “know” about Facebook, not be involved, but still appreciate the power it has to connect. Same for text messaging, tweeting and the like.

When it comes right down to it, the orchestral hall is a place to be respectful of the other patrons there to enjoy the arts. I for one respect that. If you’re “at” the symphony, my guess is that you’re educated enough to understand how reverend it is.

Below is a video of the bloggers and tweeters invited by the ESO:

NOTE: Review Rob’s tweets here and check out Rob’s fiance Darlene Hildebrandt’s blog post of event here. (She’s a photographer and has just released a book entitled “Visions of Peru” to raise money for the children of Peru.)

NOTE2: Mack D Male also live-tweeted at the ESO, along with others, earlier. Look at his blogpost here.

NOTE3: The ESO has a blog, Youtube channel, Facebook page and of course is on Twitter too.

ESO Music Director William Eddins has his own blog at Sticks and Drones.


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