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Property Category to Watch: Orchestras

Property Category to Watch: Orchestras

The Orchestra is Dead – Long Live the Orchestra

  • Orchestras have been going through a renaissance, challenging preconceptions to better serve their contemporary communities

  • There has been exciting experimentation with the organization structure of the ensemble and the content they perform that opens the doors to new audiences and ideas

  • Brands have the opportunity to embrace the appealing new face of orchestras and be the enablers behind this progressive movement

5 Minute Read


Orchestras are—at a glance—extremely traditional and conservative organizations, remaining largely unchanged since their rise in popularity in the 1800s. The art form can seem a bit out of place or antiquated in modern society. Beyond that, it’s heritage and the realities of having to employ such a large group of talented artists for each show have contributed to its exclusivity and the perception (accurate or otherwise) that it is only for an older, wealthier audience. Traditionally, the value to brands of sponsoring these properties was limited to high-value hospitality opportunities or outright association with the orchestra’s inherent exclusivity/prestige.

But with a rise in demand for unique experiences, millennials trying their hand at “adulting”, and a growing appreciation for analogue live music, the orchestra has potential to reach outside of its traditional base and appeal to new audiences. In response to the changing times and evolving trends in entertainment preferences, progressive orchestras have been going through something of a renaissance – and with a business model reliant on donations/sponsorship rather than box office revenues, there’s plenty of unique opportunities for brands to take center stage.

Redefining the Orchestra as a “Community of Musicians”

While the term “orchestra” can encompass a wide variety of ensembles, the full-sized orchestra that comes to mind for many is commonly referred to as a symphony orchestra or philharmonic orchestra. Considering that an ensemble of this size routinely numbers between 80-100+ and the musicians involved are often world-class, the financial requirement needed to retain, train, and pay the performers is extensive - playing an important part in the prohibitive cost of attending. This fact has lead some orchestras to reconsider what the membership into their organization is - picking up the torch that renowned orchestral Managing Director, Ernest Fleischmann, lit in a commencement address:

If the music we care about so deeply is to survive, we must accept that the orchestra is burnt out, but from its ashes something infinitely richer, more varied, more satisfying can arise if we all work together to create it—ladies and gentlemen, the symphony orchestra is dead—long live the Community of Musicians.
— Ernest Fleischmann

Different organizations have responded to this call in various ways. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s employs a core of 23 musicians, with two auxiliary tiers of part-time musicians that allow it to accordion out to a full-size orchestra when required, while staying lean - and able to fulfill other types of performances - day-to-day. The Pacific Symphony on the other hand is made up of a deep and dedicated community of freelancers who come together to perform for a limited series of performances a year.

All of this allows for a newfound flexibility for progressive orchestras... and opens the door to a new role for brands: beyond a “donor” to a facilitator of a grassroots musical community. It’s a new story that couldn’t previously be told - and with an increased affordability, it can be broadcast to a larger audience than ever before.

Challenging the “Classical” Rules

Apart from the way the orchestra is structured, the types of content these talented “creators” are permitted to explore is also being redefined. Orchestras are throwing the “classical-only” rule out the window; creating performances that appeal to a broader set of musical tastes and cultural touchpoints.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) is a vanguard for this movement - adopting and inventing new ways to connect with the communities and audiences it serves. Examples include:

By breaking the mold of what orchestras are supposed to play, the TSO and other ensembles like it are making the experience more accessible to new audiences, more appealing to a broader demographic, and have generally opened the door to new possibilities and provided exciting reasons for people to pay attention.

Benefits of Sponsoring Modern Orchestras

While there has been a lot of change as these organization adapt to the communities they serve, many of the key benefits of sponsoring these properties remain constant. Everything from:

  • Providing an opportunity to make your brand visible to a segment of the community with high discretionary spending capacity

  • Helping your brand stand out as a good corporate citizen (while potentially being able to claim some of the investment as donations for tax purposes!)

  • Building business relationships through hospitality opportunities - and reward deserving employees

  • Leveraging the orchestra’s international acclaim and name recognition when marketing your brand

  • Taking advantage of in-person sampling and product placement opportunities

That said, in this new world of progressive orchestras, the floodgates are open to brand new opportunities. Orchestras are more willing than ever to try new ideas and push the boundaries with the help and influence of brands. It’s now possible to:

  • Be seen as a progressive enabler, helping to evolve a cultural institution in a way that appeals to your key audiences and serves the community

  • Associating your organization with a cherished local grassroots movement

  • Leveraging the branded content potential of the world-class musicians and influencers

  • Showcasing your brand’s innovation and cultural impact through the sponsorship of unique themes and performances

  • Creating even more impactful hospitality opportunities through smaller-scale, custom designed private events

  • Tell a compelling story of how your brand aligns authentically with the property and makes an impact that your customers care about


Thinking about whether orchestras or another property could be a good fit for your brand? Reach out to us at infocanada@mktg.com to get the conversation started.

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