For promoters, it’s an unparalleled new way to discover talent. For musicians, it could be the road to stardom. Hello Stage is connecting the classical music world like never before.
Last summer Bernhard Kerres, former artistic director of Wiener Konzerthaus, saw a production of The Flying Dutchman. ‘It starred a soprano I had never encountered before,’ Kerres says, ‘She [Swedish singer Ingela Brimberg] was probably one of the best singers I’ve ever heard. She was really amazing.’
Kerres asked the production’s conductor, Marc Minkowski, where he had discovered Brimberg. ‘He said to me, “You won’t believe it, but I found her on YouTube”.’
It was then that Kerres fully realised the wider potential of the internet for the classical sector. He saw a gap in the market to create a specialised product that would make the classical music market much more transparent and interactive, a portal that would launch and promote artists, who would benefit from having a stronger professional online presence. It was this realisation that was the catalyst for Kerres’ latest venture, Hello Stage.
The platform is an online community for the classical music sector, and serves to connect musicians and ensembles with managers and promoters. Artists can create personalised web pages on Hello Stage, featuring details of their repertoire and calendar, while artist managers can do the same for their roster.
The information is available for free on the website, but it’s also fed into an extensive Hello Stage database targeted at industry decision makers. Presenters looking to book a violinist, for example, in a particular city with a very specific repertoire, can turn to Hello Stage. Or they can use the resource simply to browse and discover new talent.
While the internet has changed the classical music ecosystem by creating infinite opportunities for new artists to be discovered and promoted, it also places pressure on existing performers and managers who find they have limited resources. Hello Stage attempts to address this by both harnessing the power of online activity and levelling the playing field.
The platform also reflects – and perhaps is now driving – a recognition that the traditional models of artist management need to evolve with the rest of the industry, so provides firms with a wealth of additional tools and resources.
Flautist Jasmine Choi (pictured top), for instance, is currently in negotiations with two artist management firms over her representation – both secured off the back of her Hello Stage profile. Other musicians on board include Belcea Quartet, the percussionist Martin Grubinger and violinist Julian Rachlin.
‘Many of the smaller and medium-sized artist management agencies find it tiresome to keep their own websites up to date because it’s complicated and they spend a lot of money on it,’ says Kerres. ‘So many of them find it extremely easy to use Hello Stage, not only because they can display their artists and what they’re doing, but also because they know that the website gives promoters a different way to look at their artists. Promoters look for who’s playing what, where, and with whom. This kind of highly targeted searching is a possibility they’ve never had before.’
Hello Stage offers various premium packages, but registering and hosting a personalised web page is free. The website was officially launched in October 2013 and has so far attracted around 1,000 members, and approximately 140,000 page views from 120 countries.
This month the site further evolved by adding a media stream that displays easily shareable videos, photos and news on each member artist’s profile. ‘It has become extremely interactive and fun to use,’ says Kerres.
Hello Stage, with its clever functionality, extensive capabilities and the sheer size of the platform, has been a considerable undertaking.
‘The biggest challenge was always to observe what was necessary in the marketplace and then translate that into technical specs so the programmer can actually make it happen,’ says Kerres. ‘We have a fantastic chief technology officer, Günter Lepuschitz, who is really eager to get into the depths of how the market works. And that’s the kind of thing you really need, because these two worlds, programming and artistic management, are completely different.’
Finding the right team was important. Kerres began his career as an opera singer, and in addition to leading the Wiener Konzerthaus for six years, has been CEO of several leading technology companies. For Hello Stage, he immediately brought Bettina Mehne on board, former head of artistic planning at the Konzerthaus, and managing director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, to manage sales and artist relations.
Clio Montrey, a composer and singer, manages social media, while Raphael Shklarek is responsible for member experience. On the financial and operational side of the business is COO and CFO Murli Bhamidipati, an old colleague of Kerres’ from business school.