Press Clipping
On Air & Online: Radio and streaming in December 2022

Each month we take a look at the highlights coming up in online streaming as well as on ABC Classic and the independent radio stations ArtSound, Fine Music Sydney, 3MBS, 4MBS and 5MBS.

Rob Overman
Rob Overman, CEO and founding Artistic Director of the streaming platform Symphony. Photo courtesy of Symphony Media
An international Symphony
A new streaming platform is sharing concerts and behind-the-scenes content from nine of the world’s leading orchestras, with more to follow.
In September, a new classical music video streaming platform called Symphony launched itself to the world with an open-air concert from Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Clarinettist Martin Fröst and pianist Víkingur Ólafsson featured as soloists on the program, which included music by John Adams, Edvard Grieg and Leonard Bernstein. The concert was streamed by Symphony in its prime-time Saturday spot, Symphony Night Live, accompanied by interviews with Fröst among others.

The Concertgebouw is one of nine major orchestras currently signed to Symphony, along with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, The Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Czech Philharmonic and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. And there are more to follow.

Given the explosion of digital platforms that emerged during the COVID era, it seems a competitive time to be launching yet another, but Symphony’s founding CEO and Artistic Director Rob Overman tells Limelight it is something he has been thinking about for 12 years, and he is confident that Symphony has plenty to offer classical music lovers and tempt them to take up subscriptions.

Overman, who is based in the Netherlands, was the Managing Director of the Rotterdam and Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestras in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He has also worked in the media and spent time on the podium as a conductor.

“I was running one of the first video streaming platforms in 2007. It was all far too early, but it always stuck in my mind,” he says.

He points to the UEFA Champions League, describing it as “a fantastic event, which is bundling all these football clubs, and bundling sponsorship and advertising. Everything started to work; it was a facility that helped the football clubs to shine more than they did before. Since Netflix came out, I had always thought it must be possible to combine a structure like Netflix and sports. So, in the beginning of 2020, a few months before COVID, I quit my job and decided to go for it.”

“And then the pandemic came, and you saw that worldwide, orchestras [felt] total panic. They needed to continue communicating with their fans, and they started focusing on video, because only sending out newsletters is not enough to connect with your fans. There were so many things to learn for the orchestras . . . it was a totally new world for them.”

“And right at that moment, we were developing this idea to bundle the orchestras and create a facility that can [allow them to] collaborate on one platform and shine [their music] to a worldwide audience.”

When Overman and his team at Symphony first approached the orchestras, they were reluctant to get involved as they were trying out online on-demand presentations themselves, but Overman says they quickly discovered that running a video platform is a huge undertaking. Many of them subsequently changed their minds and welcomed the chance to become involved with Symphony, which knows the business inside out and has an established international structure.

“They embraced the idea that [with] a platform like Symphony, they can start collaborating with kindred spirits; they can reach worldwide audiences, which is difficult when you don’t tour; they can start experimenting with different ways of presenting themselves. Storytelling has become more important, because video is a great way to tell stories about [what is happening] behind the scenes.”

“So, to be honest, we were lucky,” says Overman. “We had an idea, but we were lucky because of the circumstances. We start now with nine really great orchestras, and before the end of the year, three more will be added. And then we hope to reach 25 orchestras in the coming one-and-a-half to two years.”

Subscribers get a front-row seat and a backstage pass to four concerts a year from each of the orchestras, plus interviews with soloists and conductors, a look inside the rehearsal room and other content.

The orchestras themselves film all the footage and Symphony streams it, using two presenters: Dominic Seldis, a double bassist with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and a judge on the TV program Maestro, and Tommy Pearson, a former BBC and Classic FM presenter and a classical music expert.

“We share 50 percent of all revenue with the orchestras, and we take all the costs from our 50 percent, so the orchestras really have a new business case in Symphony, and that’s also a reason for them to embrace it,” says Overman.

In December, Symphony will stream the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra’s performance of John Adams’ oratorio El Niño, which retells the story of the Messiah. There will also be concerts from the Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Budapest Festival Orchestra, as well as plenty of Christmas content such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Christmas Oratorio and other special programs that Symphony is putting together.

“[The Christmas repertoire] won’t be live, that will be in our catalogue, which is the second important thing on the platform – an impressive symphonic catalogue,” says Overman.

Asked if he is considering approaching any Australian orchestras about joining Symphony, Overman laughs. “I knew this question was coming! Yes, definitely. I have been following the Australian music life for decades and I’m always extremely interested in what’s happening in Australia,” he says, citing the Mahler 2 that Simone Young conducted when the Sydney Symphony Orchestra reopened the refurbished Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House in July.

“But, for sure, there will be an Australian orchestra on our platform. I really hope that we can announce it by the end of the year.” Jo Litson