Marin Alsop, Joshua Bell, and the Emerson String Quartet are just a few of the names visitors can expect to see in the opening leg of an expansive and varied multimedia venture that promises nearly 50 live concerts over the next six weeks.
The new Paris-based website, in addition to serving up live performance webcasts from some of the world's most exciting music festivals and concert halls, will also provide access to an extensive video library of performances by leading stars of today and legendary artists of the past- not to mention a host of documentaries, exclusive interviews and special events.
After its visit to Aspen, medici.tv moves to the Aix-en-Provence Festival in the south of France, where their webcast series (beginning June 27) will continue with the festival-opening performance of a Peter Sellars production of Mozart's Zaide, conducted by Louis Langr_e. Other highlights from Aix: Sir Simon Rattle leading the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in Brahms's Symphony No. 3; Bart‹k's Miraculous Mandarin ballet; and Dvoršk's Piano Concerto, with soloist Andršs Schiff.
For a more complete listing and details, see the bottom of this article.
In the conversation below, medici.tv director Herv_ Boissire discusses the bold new project and explains why he is so adamant about classical music's future on the Internet.
Q: How did the idea for medici.tv come about?
HB: With my background in the record industry, which continues to produce CDs that sell less and less, I continually ask myself: how can we continue to be good producers of successful projects? How can we continue to do our job in the best way? That job is, quite simply, to identify the best artists and expose them in the biggest way possible. It has become increasingly apparent that the combination of audio-visual elements and the Internet is the new and more effective way for reaching new audiences and promoting artists. I also realized that live events have to be a central element of this new approach: to be on line with live events is very attractive and differentiates what we do from what record companies are doing.
Q: When did medici.tv go from being a concept to being this new web site?
HB: Well, we tested things out at the Verbier Festival last summer. Arte [a production company] was interested in going there with the idea of producing ten to twelve television programs, and we also had interest from the NHK in Japan for such programs; so we thought: why not go further and go on line and do live streaming? It was a tremendous success, with 150,000 people visiting the site _ which we weren't even promoting _ and watching a total of one million videos. This clearly showed us the appetite for live webcasts. Then, it was time to develop the platform, clear the rights and raise money _ tough in a business where the return is difficult.
Q: Some skeptical people might already be wondering how you can possibly make money on such a venture, given the expenses involved and the challenges of reaching so many small niche markets for classical music around the world.
HB: As a company we are not just distributors _ we are also and primarily producers. We create assets for the future that create value regardless of what the platform generates. Most of the financing and funding of the platform is generated by the production itself. The Verbier funding, for example, covers the production and makes the project financially sane, which is very different than just being a distributor. I don't want to appear arrogant, but we're doing something different. Of course, we are always striving to perfect our business model. Thankfully there is strong public support in France; the CNC, for example, provides funding for audio visuals. Fundraising is promising and there are good opportunities for corporate sponsorship.
Q: Explain for the general consumer what the site is all about and how it works?
HB: People get the live webcasts for free _ that's the unique selling point. This summer we will give close to 50 concerts. Compare that to the TV business, especially in Europe, where individual channels offer no more than 15 to 20 live shows per year! The plan is to equip concert halls around the world _ permanent equipment in several halls _ that can be monitored from Paris. Our goal is to have a steady frequency of live events; we're aiming, at first, for THREE events per week _ in other words, a real channel. I believe that is the engine of the traffic. And that audience will be monetized, possibly through advertising.
Q: And beyond the webcasts?
HB: Medici.tv also offers access to a remarkable video-on-demand catalog _ the biggest available on line today. We currently have almost 150 programs, with the potential to have as many as 400 soon. And the exceptional quality of these offerings is unique.
Q: Does the Internet offer many possibilities not available to traditional TV stations?
HB: Well, there are certainly exclusivity issues that are linked to the TV business. Only one New Year's concert is available on TV worldwide on the same day, one of the most exposed events in the world. All the others are local events managed by exclusive/territorial contracts. Our goal with medici.tv is to become totally international. With the development of streaming technologies, videos and signals are quite good in terms of quality on the Internet. And it will be improved dramatically in the next few months, possibly at the time of the Verbier broadcasts. The quality will be spectacular. Classical music can be very well distributed/webcast because the quality of sound AND image will be sensational.
Q: What do you know about the visitors who came to the site to watch the webcasts from Verbier last summer?
HB: We reached 150,000 unique visitors worldwide last year in almost three months, starting on July 20 and lasting until late September. These visitors watched one million videos! Some individual concerts, when you combine live and delayed webcasts, were watched more than 100,000 times. Five artists reached this level: Argerich, Grimaud, Quasthoff, Renaud Capu‹on and Kissin were each watched 100,000 times. That's 50 times the number of people who attended each concert in the Verbier concert hall! Kissin was amazed when he heard these results. Renaud Capu‹on said that this number of people was almost impossible to reach with CDs.
Q: What kind of responses have you received from people in the music industry?
HB: We see medici.tv as a unique tool for managers and record companies to take advantage of. My job is to convince the industry that they will get benefits from it. Let's invent a new game!
Q: Tell us more about the audience for your pilot season from Verbier.
HB: Our visitors came from 173 countries _ totally international. It was very exciting to seem people coming from so many places, from Morocco to Columbia to Asia. France was 40%, of our viewership, then the U.S. with 20,000 people, followed by Switzerland. We were pleased to see that people at the festival were crazy about the project and Martin Engstroem [the director of the Verbier Festival] said he got wonderful responses. People who attended a particular concert were happy to be able to watch it again! We had 15,000 unique visitors from Japan without any publicity. Overall we had just a small budget for on-line advertising, with no publicity. In my opinion, it was the prestige of the artists that brought visitors to the site and makes the best argument for what we're doing.
Q: What was it about the Aspen Music Festival that attracted you to the idea of webcasting from there?
HB: Aspen is one of the oldest and most important festivals in the U.S. As a European, I knew that Aspen was prestigious but I hadn't a clear idea of what it was really about. I had to learn about its past and history, and it was spectacular. Stravinsky was first conductor to appear there. The list of people that came out of the academy is incredibly impressive: Shaham, Josh Bell, Philip Glass. This profile was very interesting to us. Also, we wanted to be associated with a festival active on the pedagogical side _ with master classes, etc. Students are Internet-minded; they use Facebook and MySpace _ it's part of their lives. They will perform in the orchestra at Aspen and I believe they will help increase our traffic. This link is good for marketing.
Q: What are some of the highlights of this summer's webcasts?
The world premiere of the Harbison piece _ the Great Gatsby Suite _ in Aspen is very exciting: hearing a piece of music for the first time is always a special thrill. We're very excited about the Emersons and Takacs playing from Aspen _ they are the best performing today. We hope to release a video DVD afterwards: chamber music from Aspen.
Zaide opens the Aix-en-Provence festival, which celebrates its 60th anniversary season. Mozart has been important there since the festival was founded in 1948, and it remains linked to him. We'll do something special on the site in memory of Gabriel Dussurget, the founder of festival. Peter Sellars is especially excited about the libretto to Zaide, which deals with the issue of slavery. Aix-en-Provence is close to Marseilles, where there were serious problems with immigrants in the suburbs some years ago. Peter Sellars wants to have workshops in Marseilles with the immigrants and to have some of them participate in the show by singing in the choir, which will be a mix of people of different religions and ethnicities. We will try to webcast some of these workshops live. This medici.tv platform can be a forum that goes beyond top-notch artistic content. We can promote initiatives that make life better.
Q: Are you already in discussion with some new webcast partners?
HB: Opera broadcasts are a bit more complicated _ more people involved, stage directors, much more to clear, etc. But we are definitely looking ahead to partnering with other important concert halls and festivals, and will continue to explore the possibilities with opera.
Q: What are some of the library titles that you are personally particularly excited about?
HB: The diversity in our film library is very specific and rare, and it's not comprised of just concerts. We have Maria Callas in 1958 from Paris _ incredible! We have extraordinary documentaries by Bruno Monsaingeon, and Glenn Gould films. Having worked with French TV and the BBC, we are now working on a deal that might give us access to the treasures of the Russian TV achives. That could yield perhaps 50 hours of material from Russian State Television never released before, featuring legends like Mravinsky, Shostakovich and Oistrakh. And also Van Cliburn!
Q: And how did you choose the name of your company?
HB: The name was chosen by the founder and CEO of our company, Robert T. Walston. The Medici family was one of the greatest supporters of the arts during the Renaissance, commissioning a wide array of music, painting, poetry and architecture. The name is easy to remember and easy to type, which is important. To be consistent, our TV and DVD productions will now come under the name of Medici Arts (no more EuroArts and Id_ale Audiences), all under a single name to create a real brand and identity. We will be promoting the artists in every media, including CDs where we have had such success with the BBC Legends and Medici Masters series. We want to appear as a newcomer to artists and management and record companies to develop and promote artists on TV, on the Internet, and on physical goods (CD and DVD) _ the entire spectrum of an artist's needs. Many people throughout the music industry have been talking about doing this very thing, but very few will be able to achieve it.
Interview courtesy of 21C Media Group, Inc.
Medici.tv: Select Webcast Dates For Summer 2008
Friday, June 20: Opening concert of the Aspen Music Festival (Benedict Music Tent)
Jeffrey Kahane plays and directs Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 from the keyboard with the Aspen Chamber Symphony; Joshua Bell plays Ravel's Tzigane and Chausson's Pome, Op. 25; Kahane conducts Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1, _ã–Classical_ã
Saturday, June 21: Live from the Aspen Music Festival (Harris Concert Hall)
Takšcs Quartet with Joaquin Valdepeê±as, clarinet, and Antoinette Perry, piano. Haydn: String Quartet in G minor, Hob. III/74, Op. 74, No. 3; Schumann: Fairy Tales, Op. 132; Janšcek: String Quartet No. 2, _ã–Intimate Letters_ã
Sunday, June 22: Live from the Aspen Music Festival (Benedict Music Tent)
David Zinman conducts the Aspen Festival Orchestra. Wagner: Overture to The Flying Dutchman; John Harbison: The Great Gatsby Suite (world premiere); Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel, Op. 28
Monday, June 23: Live from the Aspen Music Festival (Harris Concert Hall)
Sylvia Rosenberg, violin; James Dunham, viola; Michael Mermagen, cello; Espen Lilleslatten, viola; Virginia Weckstrom, piano; Renata Arado, violin; Rita Sloan, piano. Schubert: String Trio in B-flat major, D. 581; Sibelius: from Four Pieces, Op. 115; Wernick: A Song for Phil; Mozart: _ã–L'amero sar‹ constante_ã from Il re pastore; Dvoršk: Piano Quartet in D major, B. 53 (Op. 23)
Tuesday, June 24: Live from the Aspen Music Festival (Benedict Music Tent)
Singer-composer Patti Austin with the Count Basie Orchestra
Wednesday, June 25: Live from the Aspen Music Festival (Harris Concert Hall)
David Finckel, cello; Wu Han, piano. Janšcek: Pohšdka (Fairy Tale); Finckel: Brief Encounter;
Jalbert: Cello Sonata (world premiere); Grieg: Cello Sonata in A minor, Op. 36
Thursday, June 26: Live from the Aspen Music Festival (Harris Concert Hall)
Emerson String Quartet. Martinu: String Quartet No. 3; Bright Sheng: String Quartet No. 5, _ã–The Miraculous_ã; Brahms: String Quartet No. 2
Friday, June 27: Live from the Aspen Music Festival (Benedict Music Tent)
Marin Alsop conducts the Aspen Chamber Symphony. Christopher Rouse: Friandises; Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 with Cho-Liang Lin, soloist; Brahms: Symphony No. 3
Friday, June 27: Opening night of the Aix-en-Provence Festival (Th_ê¢tre de l'Archevê_ch_)
Mozart's Zaide in a Peter Sellars production conducted by Louis Langr_e. Peter Sellars also directs the webcast.
Saturday, June 28: Live from the Aspen Music Festival (Benedict Music Tent)
Emerson String Quartet. Brahms: String Quartet No. 3; Janšcek: String Quartet No. 1, _ã–Kreutzer Sonata_ã; Nielsen: At the Bier of a Young Artist; Brahms: String Quartet No. 1
Sunday, June 29: Aix-en-Provence Festival (Th_ê¢tre de l'Archevê_ch_)
Mozart's Zaide in a Peter Sellars production conducted by Louis Langr_e. Peter Sellars also directs the webcast.
Sunday, June 29: Live from the Aspen Music Festival (Benedict Music Tent)
Michael Stern conducts the Aspen Festival Orchestra. Kabalevsky: Overture to Colas Breugnon, Op. 24; Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 with Vladimir Feltsman, soloist; Prokofiev: Suite from the ballet Cinderella
Monday, June 30: From the Aix-en-Provence Festival (Grand Th_ê¢tre de Provence)
Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Brahms: Symphony No. 3; Bart‹k: The Miraculous Mandarin; Dvoršk: Piano Concerto with Andršs Schiff, soloist
Friday, July 18: Beginning of webcasts from the Verbier Festival
30 additional concert webcasts through Sunday, August 3
(program details TBA)
All webcasts at medici.tv will be available for free, most of them being offered live with video-on-demand streaming available for an additional 60 days. Videos in the film library _ an extensive selection of operas, ballets, documentaries, exclusive interviews, and historic performances _ will be available for streaming and download by subscription (24-hour, one-month and six-month packages are available).
Visit www.medici.tv for additional information.