The economic impact of COVID-19 is extending far and wide, and the music and arts industries have been hit particularly hard. Concerts were one of the first types of gatherings canceled in order to slow the spread of the virus, and it is likely to be months before things start returning to anything resembling normal.
A handful of orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, have already canceled concerts through the rest of the 2019-20 season. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has canceled performances through April 29 as of now, but according to president and CEO Kim Noltemy, they are taking things day by day.
“We’re planning contingencies and various scenarios, all the while, taking it one step at a time with what’s going on in the next month,” she explained.
As a nonprofit organization, the DSO relies on money from ticket sales and donations to keep things afloat, so they may have to lean in to their base for more donations to compensate for not bringing in revenue from live concerts. Fortunately, ticket holders have mostly been sympathetic to their plight.
“People have been very generous donating their tickets back to us for tax deduction rather than asking us for a refund,” Noltemy said. “That helps us a lot.”
One bright spot in this otherwise dumpster fire of a situation is the plethora of positive social media content filling our feeds. Marketing departments everywhere have really been upping their game to keep us connected and engaged, even though we’re now “sheltering in place.” The DSO is no exception. Naturally, they wanted to keep the music going, despite not being able to perform for a live audience.
“As soon as we realized we couldn’t have concerts, we thought about how we could stay connected with our audience, music lovers and people who are just looking for things to do,” Noltemy says. “It was the first thing I thought of, really.”
Before moving to Dallas to take the top leadership spot at the DSO, Noltemy was responsible for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s digital strategy, so she certainly knows how to curate top-notch content.
The DSO is now sharing full-length performances from their archives. The first video was a real treat — Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, conducted by Fabio Luisi in April 2019. This was his very first performance after being named the next music director of the DSO, a position he officially takes on next season.
Full-length performances are not going to be shared daily, according to Noltemy.
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“Unlike some of the other orchestras like New York or Boston, we don’t have that much in our audio archives, so we’re posting what we do have,” she says. “We’re doing it every couple days, because we’re trying to keep people wanting to come back for more.”
To fill the content gaps, the DSO is looking to their musicians to share “Music Minutes.” These daily posts are meant to give followers a behind-the-scenes look at what DSO musicians are up to right now.
“It doesn’t have to be strictly about music,” Noltemy says. “It might include playlists and videos, photos, performances. Or it could be a musician sharing a recipe baking a cake.”
Things are uncertain and chaotic right now, but we can always count on music to provide some much-needed serenity. Let’s crank up some Beethoven courtesy of our very own symphony orchestra, and just breathe. Hang in there, everyone. Oh, and please stay the f*** home.