Does Your Orchestra YouTube?

You might think not but then again you might be YouTubing and not even know about it. An astute Adaptistration reader brought to my attention several video clips of live orchestra concerts available at the increasingly popular online hub of…

YouTube_logo.gifJust in case you aren’t familiar with YouTube yet, the company describes itself as “a place for people to engage in new ways with video by sharing, commenting on, and viewing videos. Originally, YouTube started as a personal video sharing service, and has grown into an entertainment destination with people watching more than 70 million videos on the site daily.”

However, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that some YouTube users may be using the service to distribute videos, images, and audio files that are protected by copyright. Nevertheless, YouTube maintains a well labeled Copyright Infringement Notification and Counter-Notification page to make resolving these issues as easy as possible.

Just go to and do a search for “symphony”, “orchestra”, or any combination of words that would fit with live orchestral music in order to locate surreptitious files. The perceptive Adaptistration reader that pointed this out to me sent along the following links to files they found during one such search:

A live performance of “The Lord of the Rings” Symphony by the San Francisco Symphony:

A live performance of a violin soloist with the Houston Symphony

A live performance from Sydney Symphony’s “Classical Spectacular”

A live performance from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s “Sci Fi Spectacular” (which I think is pretty cool – I’ve never heard the TOS Star Trek theme performed live before).

Some of the links they sent took me to pages which display the message “this video has been removed at the request of copyright owner [blankity blank] symphony because its content was used without permission”.

It’s obvious that most of the videos were recorded using cell phone cameras so the quality isn’t all that great. However, a question that nags at the back of my mind is this:

“Yes, it’s illegal to make and distribute these recordings but is it really such a bad thing?”

All of these videos are very short in length and I don’t think they really degrade the value of the orchestras in question or would prevent anyone from attending a concert because they’ve seen the video. Of course, the technology already exists where it wouldn’t be difficult to make bootleg full length video copies of entire performances. Similar situations have plagued the movie business for decades where bootleggers take a video camera into a live showing of a first run movie and then run copies off to DVD and sell them on city streets and the internet the very same day.

So we come back to the question of whether or not these videos should be perceived in the black and white context of “right and wrong” or would it be better to examine the issue as shades of grey?

I wonder if YouTube users are posting these videos as an act of “look what I can do!” or are they passionate patrons that want to share an experience with others across a social network they enjoy using? I also wonder if they post videos in a deliberate attempt to devalue a particular orchestra’s live event. Can enthusiastic fans actually generate increased interest in a local orchestra by posting these type of videos on a socially driven online community?

What do you think?

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “Does Your Orchestra YouTube?”

  1. Copyright owners can exercise their rights as they see fit.

    But it competes with say, Radiohead. I heard bootleg MP3s of their new music before I saw them in Berkeley, I saw them in Berkekley, and then I (in theory) could have downloaded MP3s of when I saw them in Berkeley. After such an intense experience, I filled out my Radiohead CD catalog and bought two books describing their music. And then I couldn’t wait so I bought my first album off iTunes (the Thom Yorke solo album) despite Digital Restrictions Management.

    Were the classical music experience even remotely as fulfilling…

  2. It is difficult for me to see a downside to YouTube promotion. It is technically a copyright violation in most cases, but the potential publicity can’t be beat. NBC originally freaked out when “Lazy Sunday” started circulating on YouTube–a few months later they were partnered with the site. Is a five minute Flash video on YouTube really going to devalue an event, or is it going to potentially help classical music?

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