Gone are the days when an orchestra could get a contract with a big record label and make lots of money, like the Montreal Symphony did with Decca in the ’80s and ’90s. Now classical recording as a for-profit business is almost gone. But orchestras still need to make recordings to promote themselves and attract listeners. So many of them are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. Thanks to a 2007 change in union rules that allowed orchestras to make recordings without paying its members up-front, orchestras are recording their concerts and then distributing them: sometimes as CDs, most often online. It won’t make the players a great deal of money, but it will attract attention, sometimes around the world: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is finding that many of the people downloading its performances are from outside Canada. The next step is to make recordings that are seen as well as heard; the Berlin Philharmonic has launched an online subscription service where people can watch its concerts in High Definition. Who knows, if enough orchestras do this, one of them might actually start to make money on it.
Orchestras are going digital
With the lack of recording work, orchestras need to record and distribute their own music