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Startup of the Week Symphony wants to become the Netflix of classical music

What is Symphony?
The Amsterdam Symphony is a new streaming video platform that makes music from top orchestras accessible to a worldwide audience. The service enters into partnership agreements with well-known orchestras, who provide an evening-long livestream event four times a year. Symphony also offers a catalog of previously recorded concerts.

Co-owner José Evers: 'The subscriber gets a front row seat, as it were, but also a 'backstage pass' for stories behind the music and interviews with soloists and conductors.'

Symphony is not the first player to aim for a 'Netflix position' in classical music. Yet the startup believes it is unique. 'Many online streaming services, such as Digital Concert Hall, only offer music from one orchestra. Other players focus on a wider channel than just symphonic (opera or chamber) music. We opt for focus and pay a lot of attention to the stories behind the great works of Beethoven, Mahler and Vivaldi. In addition, we cut up the concerts, so that listeners are able to select their favorite parts. We then draw up a playlist based on such a listening profile.'

Who is behind it?
The idea comes from Rob Overman (64), former orchestra director and media entrepreneur. Two years ago he asked Henk Bout (65) as his partner. Bout is founder of video facilities company United Broadcast Facilities and BeyondDutch, operator of streaming services.

The team was completed with the arrival of José Evers (58), brand strategist and former partner of advertising agency XXS Amsterdam, and Bauke Freiburg (40), developer of streaming video technology. There are now about thirty people working at the start-up.

symphony streaming platform

Who are waiting for it?
According to Evers, there are 500 million people worldwide who indicate that they like classical music. 'However, a large part of this group finds it difficult to find new composers and classical music online. Another part lives too far from a concert hall to actually enjoy this music.'

At the same time, according to Evers, orchestras are looking for an online audience. 'They started streaming in corona time, but find it difficult to get paid viewers for it. An average stream of a classical concert quickly costs between 20,000 and 50,000 euros. You have to sell a lot of tickets online for that. We bring orchestras and classical music fans together on one platform. Half of Symphony's income flows back to the orchestras.'

'During the conversations with orchestras, we always made a comparison with the Champions League. Before that was established as a brand, the clubs had to recruit their own sponsors and make deals. The Champions League attracted major sponsors such as Heineken and Sony and ensured a much greater media reach. That's exactly what we do with Symphony.'

The following orchestras are now members: the Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchester symphonique de Montréal, Czech Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchester Zurich and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. More names will follow this fall.

How far is Symphony?
On September 24, Symphony went live in the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. At the beginning of 2023, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France will be on the list, followed by countries such as Korea, Japan and Mexico, where classical music is very big.

What is the revenue model?
“The idea is simple. The costs for the subscriber are EUR 9.95 per month. Subtract the marketing, personnel costs and income for the concerts and you arrive at a profit.'

However, the break-even point will only come in the future. According to Evers, this has everything to do with marketing. “Right now, all of our revenue goes directly to marketing. This is necessary to put Symphony on the map. We expect that to change in 2024.'

Still need money?
In July last year, Symphony was looking for capital. Within six months, the startup found fourteen investors, who together put 3.5 million euros together. An additional 3 million was added in a second investment round. The entrepreneurs/investors wish to remain anonymous.