Video Amplifies the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Audience And Donor Opportunities

Agency: Brightcove

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) launched its first webcast initiatives in 2011, providing free access to live streams of more than 20 classical performances during the season. Live video connected the DSO with viewers around the world, and the orchestra has since exceeded its audience goals, reaching roughly one million viewers in four years. Half of the viewers hail from the Detroit area; the other half split equally between viewers throughout the U.S. and viewers around the world.


“Video has exceeded our expectations for reaching new audiences,” states Eric Woodhams, Director of Digital Initiatives.  “It has also created a unique fundraising opportunity by leveraging our archives.”


The internationally acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is the fourth oldest orchestra in the United States. It boasts a rich history of community support, but in 2010, the combination of Detroit’s economic downturn and institutional challenges kept the orchestra silent for most of the season. To move forward, the DSO knew it needed to reach beyond its orchestra hall to give more people access to its symphonies. DSO leadership embraced video as a driving force behind its vision to become ‘the most accessible orchestra on the planet’. It worked. “Webcasting truly helped put the Detroit Symphony Orchestra back on the map after a very difficult time,” notes Woodhams.


After four successful seasons of live webcast streaming, the DSO had amassed a significant video archive. DSO quickly recognized the value of its assets and began to explore how to best utilize on demand video in support of the orchestra’s fundraising efforts.


DSO Replay: Uncompromising Audio Quality

The DSO wanted to keep its live broadcasts free and use the archives to inspire donations to the orchestra’s Annual Fund. Working with Brightcove, the DSO created ‘DSO Replay’, its branded video portal offering on-demand, HD replays of performances.


Ensuring the highest level of sound quality for members with streaming video was a key concern as the DSO built its video portal. “Brightcove worked with us to keep audio sound quality intact when performing a video upload – that was key for us,” adds Woodhams. “It is something unique to the DSO, but our sound quality is uncompromising. The Brightcove player also meets our needs for speed and quality of video.  We can upload video in full 1080p HD video and 320kbps audio.” As Brightcove continually improves and enhances its player technology, DSO engineers can upload video more quickly and in higher resolution, so viewers can experience Replay more quickly and with higher quality.


“Brightcove’s history of working with arts organizations is really making a difference,” continues Woodhams. “They understand our unique needs and are helping us find ideal solutions.”


Call-to-Action Brings In Scores of New Donors


DSO considered charging a monthly subscription fee to access DSO Replay, but since the number of performances varies from month to month, it could not offer a guaranteed number of new Replay performances each month. Instead of a subscription, DSO incorporated access to the video library into its Annual Fund campaign to thank existing patrons and attract new donors.


In order to reach new donors, DSO integrated a call-to-action (CTA) on its DSO Replay pages. Anyone accessing the DSO website can view 2-minutes of video on the DSO Replay page for free. For an Annual Fund donation of $50, users gain unlimited access to the full library of 125+ works. “Patrons can listen to our performances anywhere, anytime, on a multitude of devices,” explains Woodhams.


They launched DSO Replay in late 2015, providing all existing Annual Fund donors with full access to the video library. In a matter of months, DSO’s current donor base grew by hundreds of new households as a result of DSO Replay – for many it was the first contribution they had ever made to the DSO.


“The outcome has been even better than we expected. Replay is a great incentive for people to give philanthropically to the DSO,” explains Woodhams. “Brightcove also enables us to customize our call-to-action depending on the user. For new viewers, we promote giving. For existing donors with full access to our DSO Replay archive, we can promote any number of opportunities, including upcoming concerts, ticket sales, and subscriptions to the season.”


“We chose Brightcove in large part because of the functionality of its Gallery product,” continues Woodhams. “It was very easy to get up and running quickly, and customise the platform to our needs. It enables us to have nested playlists, and patrons can search for programs in a variety of ways: alphabetically, by composer, by concert date, or by curated collections.”


Unlimited Opportunities to Reach More Audiences

Live from Orchestra Hall webcasts and DSO Replay have become central to the DSO’s mission to bring the symphony experience to as many people as possible. The Orchestra’s next step is to extend access to students and teachers worldwide. “A number of our own musicians use the video library as a teaching tool to help prepare students for auditions.”


A rich content library and ability to bring in new donors are helping the DSO become ‘the most accessible orchestra on the planet’. “We’re grateful that DSO Replay lets us share our beautiful music on demand to audiences near and far,” concludes Woodhams.