The new guard: evolution of classical

Classical:NEXT brings the classical music industry together to exchange new ideas and practices. Head of communications Paul Bräuer explains how the event is helping drive the genre forward

We are living in very exciting times. A long period of overprotective conservation in classical music is coming to an end. The debate about how to move the genre forward used to get caught up in either/or questions: should we engage the audience more or leave distracting accessibility elements out of the equation? Do we bring classical music to pop music venues or keep the form out of the clubs? And on the argument went.

The most popular of these discussions is the fierce debate about the alleged death of classical music, which has once again been thrashed out in magazines and blogs around the Western world. Despite all the perceived doom and gloom, a recent Slate magazine eulogy provoked a multitude of articles in defence of the industry. Though it may need some rejuvenation, classical music is alive. The question is not if, but how this rejuvenation can be realised.

Read: 4 ways to revive classical music

That’s why in 2012, under our director Jennifer Dautermann, we took up the challenge of establishing a forum for debates on the future of classical and art music by hosting the first edition of Classical:NEXT in Munich. We had hoped for 300 people to attend, but in the end 700 delegates registered. This May we will host the third edition of Classical:NEXT, which for the second time will take place in Vienna, a world capital of classical music and now our home. We are expecting up to 1,000 delegates from more than 40 countries.

The amazing response we received from the professional classical music community demonstrates the will and the ideas abound to successfully move the genre forward.

All we needed was an open platform: the aim of Classical:NEXT was – and still is – to gather classical music professionals in one place at an event that they can customise to suit their needs. The conference programme is composed of our dele- gates’ suggestions, which are then selected by an independent jury. The results are fantastic, and the sessions will address these issues in a very concrete and hands-on way.

The Classical:NEXT team: director Jennifer Dautermann, head of communications Paul Bräuer and general manager Fabienne Krause Photo: © Michael Mann
The Classical:NEXT team: director Jennifer Dautermann, head of communications Paul Bräuer, and general manager Fabienne Krause © Michael Mann

This year representatives of the music scenes in South Korea and Brazil will introduce themselves with a suite of live showcases and conference sess- ions. Other sessions hinge on hot topics such as bringing new audiences to classical and art music.

William Norris from the UK’s Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will discuss ways to attract younger audiences using the ensemble’s nighttime concert series, The Night Shift, as an example; while musician Brendan Walsh will draw back the curtains on ways that Generation Y is adapting and moulding classical music models in a 21st century setting.

The trend is not only to learn about audiences in new markets, but also to find out more about existing audiences. Marketing and programming experts like Susanna Eastburn of the UK’s Sound and Music, and Anna Kleeblatt, formerly of the Bavarian State Opera, will show how big data can lead to surprising new insights.

Another trend of this year’s programme is the visualisation of music, for example the ‘Music Animation Machine’ presented by Swiss musician Etienne Abelin. Visual elements will also be at the forefront of many of the live showcases, which will offer an eclectic mix of performances from Europe to Japan, illustrating the point at which classical, contemporary and traditional styles of music meet.

The programme encompasses 25 sessions, an expo, as well as many showcases – and the contents of the event are still evolving. At Classical:NEXT we think that such a broad ‘work-in-progress’ outlook reflects the mindset of today’s professionals.

Exclusive offer: discount on registration to Classical:NEXT 2014 

In contrast to broad communicative strategies, our emphasis on collaboration leads to more innovators having a voice and a wider circulation of shared ideas. This helps to map out new ways of staging music and looking at the art form – something that was not previously possible at sector specific assemblies and meetings.

We encourage all innovators to attend: from live event managers to distributors, from record labels to media outlets, and everyone in between, all can share their ideas and knowledge with other professionals who are willing to move forwards.

Photo: The opening event of Classical:NEXT 2013 © Eric Van Nieuwland