Orchestras are rapidly considering how they can continue to serve their communities, exploring streamed concerts and digital-learning capabilities for education programs. A side letter to the AFM’s International Media Agreement was quickly negotiated as the crisis unfolded, allowing orchestras to more easily offer audio or audio-visual streaming of certain performances to their audiences in exchange for commitments to continue compensation to all musicians even when live work cannot proceed. A similar special agreement was created to cover streaming by Canadian orchestras. Other orchestras are availing themselves of streaming rights that already exist within the IMA.
The Philadelphia Orchestra became the first US orchestra to livestream a concert in response to the coronavirus pandemic. On March 12, the orchestra announced the cancellation of its events through March 27, including a concert that had been scheduled for that evening. The same day, a plan was put into place to livestream that evening’s performance as well as record it for radio broadcast. More than 5,000 people tuned in to the Facebook Live broadcast—more the twice the seated capacity in the orchestra’s hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies were performed for the digital audience, as well as the world premiere of a new work by composer Iman Habibi, who was permitted to attend in person.
A Minnesota Orchestra livestream and one from the Toledo Symphony followed the next night. The Windsor Symphony on March 14 and the Vancouver Symphony on March 15 live-streamed concerts performed in empty halls. Among other efforts thus far, on March 16, the Metropolitan Opera began making available a free nightly stream of an encore presentation from its Live in HD series and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has made its “Replay” archive of past performances available free of charge for one month.