• Tanglewood and BSO Pioneer Broadband Use for Arts/Cultural Organizations

    Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), and also the host of world-renowned musical training programs, has expanded its use of broadband video, helping pioneer how arts and cultural organizations can tap into the power of this new medium. I talked recently with Rich Bradway, Associate Director of Ecommerce and New Media to learn more.

    First, for those unfamiliar with Tanglewood, it is a lush former estate in Western Massachusetts' Berkshire Mountains containing an outdoor theater and other performance buildings. Open only for the summer, it hosts a mostly classical program, but also features performances by the contemporary Boston Pops and others like James Taylor (whose annual concerts draw over 20,000 fans). For many the Tanglewood experience means elaborate picnics on its expansive lawn, followed by a moonlit night or lazy afternoon of beautiful music.

    This summer, the BSO has created TanglewoodWebTV.org, with its first "episode" around the centenary of the birth of Elliott Carter, a well-known composer who's being celebrated in Tanglewood's 2008 Festival of Contemporary Music. Previously the BSO has launched BostonPops.TV, and both are powered by PermissionTV. Rich explained that Tanglewood and the BSO are using broadband to build awareness, reach a younger and more global audience and drive new revenues.


    The episode includes performances along with interviews, documentaries and behind-the-scenes footage. The presentation is very non-linear with an overlay menu providing easy navigation to other video segments, so the user can sample at will. Rich said prior to launch the episode was seeded with archival video, and then during the Festival week it was updated continuously. Since broadband is new for the Tanglewood team a key goal was understanding what's involved in the digital media workflow and how to scale the process over time.

    With BostonPops.TV and TanglewoodWebTV.org, the BSO is helping prove in broadband's benefits for other arts and cultural organizations. Yet, as Rich and I talked, I mentioned that it seems to me the really big opportunity here is to stream live concerts from Tanglewood, and then make them available on-demand afterwards. This would extend the full Tanglewood experience to remote users in the same way that the Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts of the New York Metropolitan Opera have been doing for decades. Consistent with that model, the streaming should be free and sponsored, rather than paid by the user.

    Rich said that the BSO and Tanglewood have been doing the spade work to enable paid concert downloading, focusing on both technology infrastructure and addressing rights issues with the orchestra itself. Rich reminded me that this is all very new territory for a traditional organization. I understand that and the value of a "walk before you run" approach. Still, for arts and cultural organizations like the BSO and Tanglewood, broadband is presenting exciting opportunities to extend their brands and build new revenues; I believe that these should be pursued as aggressively as possible.

    What do you think? Post a comment.