BSO expands digital world capabilities

Sunday July 15, 2012


Ahead of its 75th anniversary celebration at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony has launched a full-scale invasion of the digital world -- a greatly enhanced website, a mobile app, and social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.

As Managing Director Mark Volpe has explained, the site and its sibling,, already log in 7 million separate visitors each year not just to buy tickets but also to stream live performances and now to download archival collections of BSO Tanglewood broadcasts, recent and long past.

Shepherding this summer's daily download of 75 broadcasts -- one daily, free for 24 hours and then available at a modest price -- is the orchestra's artistic administrator, Tony Fogg, at Tanglewood for his 18th summer.

"When I started on this, I didn't know where to begin," he recalled, remarking on the wealth of archival material available.

"We were throwing around ideas on how to celebrate the 75th anniversary," said Fogg, who made the suggestion to stream the concerts (a more cost-effective choice) instead of releasing a CD collection -- "a reflection not only of where the media's going these days but also to make it possible to achieve something on a much larger scale."

As curator of the project, Fogg noted most of the downloads will be available at prices ranging from 89 cents for a 7-minute track to $16.99 for a three-hour opera. At a subscription bargain price of $50, a listener can access all 75 broadcasts as they're released, automatically or retroactively.

"The real challenge was what not to include, a daunting task," he acknowledged. "At a certain point, I just had to decide that this had to be it. If I organized it according to some rough principle of categories, that would at least give some shape to the whole thing."

Other BSO new-media initiatives include live audio streaming of every BSO concert at Tanglewood and in Boston on its website -- "the orchestra was very generous in the last contract negotiation and allowed us certain flexibilities in respect to media that other orchestras haven't been wise enough to embrace," Fogg observed. "That put the onus on us to try and realize the possibilities of that, and I think we're living up to the orchestra's expectations in this area as well."

Fogg also expressed great pleasure that Saturday night's Tanglewood gala celebration was video-recorded by PBS for a national "Great Performances" telecast on Aug. 10. A number of European and Asian broadcasters are also planning to carry the concert.

"This is part of the push the orchestra made to have their artistry more widely available," he said. "It's a nice balance we have between current material which is going out and historic material" going out on the BSO Media Center section of the orchestra's website.

Fogg noted that "what's changed over the last 20 or 30 years is the way people access music. ... Nowadays, if you decide you want to hear a recording, probably within 30 seconds, you could have it. That's a sort of radical change."

Fogg believes that immediacy makes people "better informed ... people still love the feeling of live events and like to experience them again. In all of this, we have to remain as guardians of quality and of the true musical values that we're the custodians of, and make sure we provide the conditions in which our great orchestra can perform at the highest level with the greatest conductors and soloists, and wonderful programs. That's still our greatest responsibility and that core has to remain absolutely there and what we're most focused on."

Clarence Fanto is an Eagle staff writer.
He can be contacted at


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