Already a key player in the mission to engage audiences with classical music, Alternative Classical is also providing music fans with a rather excellent new way of discovering classical music.
As the music world continues to deal with the pandemic, the Alternative Classical team has developed Concert Roulette, a jukebox comprised of over 200 high-definition YouTube videos curated by the company.
With an inspirational nod to Chat Roulette, Concert Roulette allows listeners to skip performances as they see fit.
Co-founded by Hannah Fiddy and Hanna Grzeskiewicz, the UK-based Alternative Classical is focused on changing the image of classical music to attract new audiences; the team offers marketing, press and project management services to music organisations and individuals who create informal classical music experiences for everyone to enjoy.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Hannah to chat about launching Concert Roulette, the music business, and what’s next for Alternative Classical and Concert Roulette.
P&S: What was the jumping off point to start a new classical music platform?
The short answer is that it was inspired by Chatroulette. The more detailed answer is that as many things do, it started with a discussion over dinner: how would listening habits change during lockdown? Without live concerts to promote, what is the call to action for classical organisations? Concluding that streaming would become far more important to the industry, my partner and I brainstormed ideas for what might be useful and also fun that people could investigate while at home.
A common response I get when I talk to people about classical music is “I don’t know where to start” so I decided to remove the element of choice, and instead serve up my own picks: a broad range of music performed by professional ensembles all over the world. I thought this would be a much more open-ended way of discovering appealing classical music: if you find a Spotify classical playlist, it’s likely to be filled with the most popular tunes. I wanted to provide a platform with a mix of well-known and less-known pieces: you never know what’s going to float someone’s boat, and it’s not always the music you expect.
P&S: Were there any notable obstacles in getting the Concert Roulette up and running?
There’s so much content on YouTube that it can be hard to find the high-quality videos. It was important to me to represent a whole range of ensembles (choirs, orchestras, soloists), styles (from the 12th century up to the present day) and composers.
So the main thing at the start was just the time it took to find enough relevant videos to represent a whole swathe of music. One stumbling block I came up against was finding good videos on channels that didn’t have the relevant rights, so at one point I went back to the drawing board and checked the legality of every video (out of several hundred) and had to remove quite a few.
P&S: What are your thoughts on music streaming – specifically as it pertains to classical music? Do you see the genre getting stronger and stronger as music streaming becomes more popular?
The classical music industry in general has been fairly slow to react to streaming: I have spoken to many musicians who have been loath to release their music digitally due to the tiny amount streaming services pay per play. However, in the last couple of years, the statistics have been much more promising: in 2018, streams of classical music rose by 42% (compared with a 33% rise for the whole UK music market), and streaming now accounts for a quarter of classical consumption.
There are now various streaming services designed specifically for classical music, such as Primephonic and Idagio, that improve the streaming experience for listeners, and pay musicians based on how many seconds their music has been played as opposed to the number of times a track has been played.
P&S: Is there more the classical music business can be doing to help people ‘discover’ classical music?
There are so many ideas out there, waiting to be captured. During the Coronavirus pandemic, the industry has had to come face to face with streaming, and thousands of musicians have live streamed concerts from their homes for the first time. Beyond the obvious benefit that musicians have had a chance to learn how this works technologically, I think it could also encourage a broader definition of performance, which in turn will spark new ideas about the concert experience, streaming and listening. For an industry steeped in tradition, digital hasn’t ever been top of the agenda, but change is currently afoot.
P&S: What’s on the horizon for Concert Roulette?
I am currently working on a new idea – I can’t tell you more just yet, other than it is another way of discovering classical music and it will be quite different from anything else I’ve seen. Follow @alterclassical across all the socials or sign up for the mailing list to hear when it lands! As well as creating new ways for people to discover classical music, I also write articles on the Alternative Classical site: my latest topics include classical podcasts, lockdown entertainment, and contemporary black composers.
I am also interviewing a series of world-renowned musicians and music leaders about innovation within the industry, so check that out if it sounds of interest. I always have more ideas than time so there’s a lot in the pipeline, waiting to happen…