Key Takeaways

  • Reach younger audiences digitally. Music in the Summer Air (MISA) festival live streamed on multiple platforms popular with younger generations to target new fans and promote classic music.  
  • Rethink programming based on capacity restrictions. the Shanghai music festival was governed by new health and safety measures and decided to host more smaller-scale concerts and scrap intermissions.

In the era of COVID-19, holding an in-person concert is a rarity in itself, but when the Rainbow Chamber Singers took to an outdoor stage in downtown Shanghai on July 26, their performance was equally remarkable.

The show from a choral group made popular through humorous songs about millennial life in China was an improv spectacle, with audience members providing lyrics and, in some cases, their voices.

Staged at the 11th “Music in the Summer Air” Festival (MISA) hosted by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, it was an innovative approach in keeping with the festival itself.

Health capacity limits may have greatly restricted attendance, but hundreds of thousands tuned in to follow the live stream on video-sharing platform Bilibili. Proof of a festival willing to redefine itself and its revenue generating practices in a challenging environment for performing arts events.  

Base programming around attendance restrictions. To compensate for the mandatory 30 percent capacity limit, the 10-day Shanghai music festival greatly increased the number of shows it offered to 10 public performances, four private concerts, and seven free open-air shows. Instead of a traditional two-hour concert with an intermission, MISA limited each to an hour and offered two time slots for the same concert separated by a 40-minute break. 

During these lulls in performance audience members could browse MISA’s mini night market which sold refreshments, t-shirts, CDs, as well as timely accessories such as classical music-themed thermometers and face mask clips.

Generate revenue through live streaming. MISA’s other innovation was to fully embrace live streaming. It worked with Kandian, Tencent’s cross-platform news feed service, which live streamed performances and sold viewers exclusive coupons and packages through its WeChat Mini Program. This complemented the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s own live streaming partner, Bilibili, and together they succeeded in reaching a younger digitally active audience. It also partnered with local radio station FM947.

In a world reoriented by health and safety protocols, performing art festivals around the world face the reality of reduced capacity for an extensive period of time. But, as MISA showed in July, balancing physical and digital attendance can succeed in reaching new audiences and generating revenue.

Edited by Richard Whiddington


Jing Culture & Commerce