Magazine article Gramophone

Stepping Inside the World's Greatest Music Competitions: With Advances in Streaming and Online Interactivity, the Best Competitions Are as Exciting for Remote Audiences as They Are for Those Attending in the Flesh

Magazine article Gramophone

Stepping Inside the World's Greatest Music Competitions: With Advances in Streaming and Online Interactivity, the Best Competitions Are as Exciting for Remote Audiences as They Are for Those Attending in the Flesh

Article excerpt

The computer scientist Alan Kay once described technology as 'anything that wasn't around when you were born', but writing Gramophone's annual Competitions Guide again this year has been a pertinent reminder of how long even a single year can be in the world of technology. For, while streamed competitions were progressive deviations from the norm in 2016, the competitions not streaming are the anomalies within our 2017 guide.

At the root of this seismic shift in the landscape is the desire by competitions to have international appeal. Appearing in 79 per cent of the competition titles in this year's guide, the word 'international' had, before the advent of streaming, reflected the competitions' eligible participants more than it had their audiences. Flowever, streaming is now allowing competitions to have a truly international profile, as the Tchaikovsky Competition demonstrated so extraordinarily in 2015 when it streamed for the first time, through medici.tv. The result was more than 10 million hits and more than 250,000 unique users, reaching 13,500 cities in 190 countries.

Watching this success closely from the UK were the new joint artistic directors of the Leeds International Piano Competition, pianist Paul Lewis and Adam Gatehouse; a new partnership with medici.tv sits at the heart of their revamped 2018 Leeds International Piano Competition. As Gatehouse explains: 'When Paul and I first got together to talk about the possibility of our taking over the artistic management of the Leeds, within the first five minutes we had both spontaneously said that we had to reach out to the biggest possible audience, and that meant streaming it.' He continues: 'The viewing numbers for the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition were 20 times higher than what the Leeds has probably reached in its entire 5 5-year history, and I don't think that any competition of real standing could now really satisfy itself with just reaching out to the physical audience in the hall.'

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And who exactly is watching streamed competitions? Gatehouse believes it's not just the usual concert-goers. 'Let's not forget what turns people on', he points out. 'The X Factor element is something that people like, and there is probably an audience that would never go to a concert but that really enjoys watching the competitions.'

Streaming also offers huge benefits to the competitors, most obviously in terms of visibility. As Gatehouse recalls: 'When talking to young pianists about taking over the Leeds, almost in the same breath as asking what our plans were, they said "I hope you're going to stream it". …

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