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Music Industry Leaders Discuss “Classical Music in the Digital Age”

On Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at Lincoln Ristorante in New York City, Primephonic, a new streaming service dedicated to classical music, hosted a panel focused on classical music in the digital age.

Panelists included the guest of honor, The Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte; Graham Parker, President of Universal Classics USA; Sir Clive Gillinson, Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall; Matt Abramovitz, VP of Programming at WQXR; Veronica Neo, COO of Primephonic; Thomas Steffens, CEO of Primephonic; and Matthew Bird, Deputy Director of Development at Park Avenue Armory, moderated.

The panelists exchanged their views and concerns on the future of classical music in the digital age, resulting in unified agreement that the music-streaming space remains a significant opportunity for classical music and its listeners.

The panel started with a presentation by Veronica Neo, who summarized the current state of music streaming, and demonstrated how current streaming revenues and business models greatly benefit genre formats for pop, rock, hip-hop and country music, but are not designed to support the unique qualities and complexities of classical music. Neo also outlined the primary frustrations experienced by classical music fans: inadequate search functions and results, low audio quality, and lack of enriched content. Neo the demonstrated how Primephonic aims to solve these problems, in order to create a better future for classical music.

Sir Clive Gillinson also emphasized the importance of leveraging technology, and believes Carnegie Hall can play an important role in the digital space, particularly in supporting artists through digital recordings and concert promotion. Gillinson noted that to create a better future for classical music, there needs to be a shift from a competitive mindset to a collaborative one. With a laugh he concluded, “Classical music needs to go from exclusivity to polygamy.”

Graham Parker stated that the rising popularity of classical music playlists, such as “piano for studying” and “classical for relaxation” is already introducing new listeners to classical music. Parker believes that classical music can be democratized by leveraging the opportunities that the digital space offers.

Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, who was in New York to address the General Assembly at the United Nations, was excited to join the panel, being a big fan of classical music. Mr. Rutte shared his concerns on how current streaming services do not compensate classical music artists fairly. He commended Primephonic for developing a business model that fairly compensates classical music artists, and for being an entrepreneurial example of how a startup company can scale globally. Mr Rutte’s closing remarks expressed his pride in the role the Dutch play in creating a better future for classical music.

After the panel discussion, Mr. Rutte launched his personal classical music playlist using the Primephonic platform. The playlist contains 14 works ranging from the Baroque to Late Romantic periods, and from piano sonatas to symphonic works, and is available here.

This event was hosted by Primephonic in celebration of launching its streaming service in the U.S. Primephonic is also available in the UK and The Netherlands.