Reaching New Audiences Online – A Steep Learning Curve

Thursday 28 January 2021

The covid pandemic has completely decimated the arts.  Concerts are about bringing people together to enjoy a shared experience: covid has achieved the opposite! The inability to plan ahead with any certainty has made it very difficult for arts organisations to move forwards.  Yet, despite the gloom, it has enabled us to reflect and look at new ways of working.

For Music@Malling, it has led to the development of online activities and to experiment with new ways of reaching audiences. 2020 saw Music@Malling develop its digital offer with a new website and an online festival enabling audiences to enjoy concerts and outreach from the comfort of their homes! Some of these events reached very large numbers of people and were a terrific advert for our activities.  For example, West Malling by Drone has had over 25k views on the Classic FM Facebook page and the festival was included in their round up of top online events internationally and described as “a wonderful music festival.”

The new website with its videos, play lists, shop, blog and box office received over 6000 visits in a three month period, many people exploring the site for the first time.  Our Facebook and Twitter posts were very popular and reached thousands of people.

Online outreach events included Go Compose which engaged 9 young musicians from across the country in a composition project: writing a piece in a day mentored by composer Simon Speare.  It was really inspiring to see and hear creativity and imagination shining through!

The virtual concert can be viewed here:

45 singers from the UK and Europe took part in Zoom workshop with world renowned choir Tenebrae and their director Nigel Short.

Eleanor Alberga – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was recorded remotely by 20 musicians and narrator Matthew Sharp and this is available on our website as a podcast.  This was a very ambitious (possibly mad) undertaking and will be developed into a film for use in primary schools with resources for teachers that will be available for the Summer 2021.

Concerts covered 400 years of music from Dowland through to contemporary music by Mark-Anthony Turnage CBE and Brian Elias.

“2020 has been a disaster for musicians with many losing all their work and 40% receiving no help from the government.  It was fantastic to offer online concerts and proper fees to our brilliant musicians, many of whom have performed every year since Music@Malling started in 2011. Lets hope 2021 is a better year for everyone.”  Thomas Kemp

An article by Thomas Kemp about the challenges of setting up an online festival appeared in The Strad and can be viewed here:

James Pearson – Artistic Director of Ronnie Scotts comments: “Having played at nearly every M@M festival since its inception, last year was like no other.  The audience were physically invisible but spiritually present. I actually really enjoyed the challenge of having to play and create the right energy as a performer, with no  live audience to draw that energy from.  The church at Malling is a special place and I suppose that having played there several times before I was able to imagine a few smiling faces… well they certainly weren’t any frowns – in my mind!  I was particularly impressed with the filming and sound –  the quality was second to none and they made it very easy for us as performers to feel at home.”

Local concert pianist, Daniel Grimwood writes: “The last year hasn’t exactly been a dream come true for any musicians. The cancellation of most concerts was a blow, the feeling that all the work that had gone into those cancelled concerts was hard to overcome (although no work is ever really wasted).”

“But the limitations of these times have also brought lessons and opportunities in unexpected places. I now know how to cut my own hair and create recipes from the most unlikely combinations of ingredients!””I had been booked to perform at the Music at Malling Festival for some time before everything changed, and fully expected it to be cancelled along with everything else, but thanks to the enthusiastic and indomitable spirit of Thomas Kemp, the festival did happen online.”

“Of course, recording a live concert with no audience is tremendously difficult. Performers are all conditioned by expectations created by edited recordings and it isn’t easy to accept wrong notes in the same way that we do in a concert where once the moment has passed, it is forever gone. But this is where we are at, and it has been a valuable lesson in modesty. The fact that we as performers have been able to connect with an audience, albeit one we can’t see, is really special, and I hope that it was as uplifting an experience for those listening as it was for me on the other side of the camera.”

All the concerts will be available on to watch for free in 2021 and will provide a record of a very challenging year! Go to the Festival page and watch for free!

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