First reflections on #askaconductor

Wow. That was a whirlwind.

Last night, we finished up the more than 30-hour marathon of #askaconductor. It kicked off at 8:30 am Australian Eastern Standard Time with conductor Warwick Potter answering questions for the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Brisbane and it more or less ended shortly after midnight Eastern Standard Time in the United States. Between those hours, there were 3,458 tweets with the hashtag #askaconductor (see the transcript – PDF).

More than 60 conductors around the world participated—including former New York Philharmonic music director Lorin Maazel, Vancouver Opera and Duisburg Philharmonic music director Jonathan Darlington, San Francisco Symphony resident conductor Donato Cabrera, and Sydney Symphony Orchestra principal conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy. See the full list of participating conductors here.

Promotion leading up to #askaconductor

Facebook

Although it was a Twitter event, Facebook just edged out Twitter in referring visitors to the askthemusicians.com site. Facebook brought in 15.73% of the traffic (373 visits). Facebook tells me in the search function that 118 people shared a link to the site and a Google search on the facebook.com domain for the term results in a fairly comprehensive list of public Pages that shared the link to their fans (in alphabetical order; fan numbers indicated in parenthesis):

Association of California Symphony Orchestras (221)
Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra (276)
Beth Kanter (7,178)
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (6,309)
Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (599)
California Arts Council (3,314)
CIM Robinson Music Library (80)
Donato Cabrera (700)
Dutch Perspective (95)
Friends of the Jacksonville Symphony (242)
Georgia Made Georgia Grown (3,018)
League of American Orchestra (2,256)
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (830)
Maryland Classics Youth Orchestra (265)
netzwerk junge ohren (322)
Queensland Symphony Orchestra (871)
Sydney Symphony Orchestra (2,801)
Symphony Services International (109)
Technology in the Arts (1,774)
The Cleveland Orchestra (1,984)
The Hub (LAO) (180)
University Musical Society (2,557)
Vancouver Opera (2,135)
Verband Münchener Tonkünstler e.V (107)
Virginia Symphony Orchestra (1,464)
West Australian Symphony Orchestra (1,941)
WOSU Classical Music (127)
Zenph Sound Innovations, Inc. (304)

Twitter

Twitter came in just below Facebook with 14.64% of the traffic (347 visits). I set up a Twilert for the hashtag. According to those tallies, from November 16 through December 6, the hashtag was tweeted 331 times. In addition, I kept track of links from Twitter via backtweets.com. Up to December 8, there were nearly 300 tweets with links back to askthemusicians.com.

Banners

Several sites carried banners that were specifically created for participants. Sites include: Donato Cabrera, American Philharmonic, Stephen P. Brown, Alessandro Crudele. Those brought in 3.92% of the traffic to askthemusicians.com (93 visits).

Newsletters

The largest referrer to askthemusicians.com was the very nondescript “direct traffic.” This includes newsletters from organizations and people e-mailing links to the site to each other (each link opens a new browser window or tab). Newsletters that I have been able to track include:

Association of California Symphony Orchestras
Chorus America
Conductors Guild
League of American Orchestras
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
You’ve Cott Mail

Blog posts

More than twenty bloggers posted an item about #askaconductor. Here are the blogs I could track down (in no particular order):

Stephen P. Brown
Art Voice
Ceci Creative
Kultur 2.0
Dutch Perspective
Dutch Perspective
Tucson Symphony
Vancouver Opera
Performing Arts Convention
Adaptistration
Arts Management
Beth Kanter
The Cleveland Orchestra
Duisburg Philharmoniker
Jonathan Darlington
Kitchen and Residential Design
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
NPR: Deceptive Cadence
Season Tickets
Sequenza21
Smarts & Culture

Review of the event at Opern Haus

Others

Other mentions of #askaconductor appeared in forums, including Trumpet Herald and Double Reed, as well as news sites, including Buffalo News and xtranews.

#askaconductor on December 8

As mentioned above, the retroactive official start time was 8:30 am Australian Eastern Standard Time. Up until 12 midnight Eastern Standard Time in the United States (that is 30.5 hours later), #askaconductor garnered 3,458 tweets.

You can read the entire transcript of the #askaconductor chat here (PDF).

The site wthashtag.com is a good source of collecting those tweets. It looks back seven days. There are still some #askaconductor tweets trickling in here and there, but in the past seven days we saw 3,797 tweets from 488 contributors. Of those tweets, 31.8% come from the top 10 contributors; 22.7% are retweets; 82.8% are mentions; and 4.0% have multiple hashtags.

The top 10 contributors in the past seven days were:

1. @sashamakila – 357
2. @fergusmacleod – 196
3. @MaestroDSCH – 109
4. @Stephen_P_Brown – 91
5. @marisagreen – 89
6. @batonflipper – 80
7. @askthemusicians – 79
8. @AudienceDevSpec – 70
9. @klassikakzente – 70
10. @Gigmag – 67

Some observations

Although this event was modeled after #askacurator, it seemed to have a little bit of a life of its own. Of course, it was slightly smaller in scale, but the conversations seemed to differ from those I saw in #askacurator as well. At first look, there seemed to be a narrower (even relatively) base of questioners (488 contributors), but they asked more questions. I suppose, with the few exceptions, it seemed more like a #conversewithaconductor than an #askaconductor event. Conductors would also chat amongst themselves.

This was likely partly a result of our guidelines that instructed people to ask general questions to all conductors with the hashtag and optionally direct specific inquiries to their conductor of choice. By allowing these general questions, the event was very inclusive for lesser known conductors, as we saw the specific inquiries go toward the better known conductors, such as Lorin Maazel.

Another difference between #askacurator and #askaconductor was that the latter event focused more on individuals than institutions. Many conductors, more than I had expected, tweeted from their own accounts, rather than an affiliated orchestra or institution. I think this changed the dynamic as well.

It was a different dynamic, not better, not worse. I did very much like the conversational aspect of the event, rather than purely question-and-answer. But if I were to change anything, perhaps for a next event, I would love to find ways to broaden the base just a little bit. To go outside of the classical music scene just a little bit more and include those who might only have a marginal interest in classical music. Busting myths about classical music was one of the things we set out to achieve and we don’t want to be preaching to the choir.

All that said, I cannot forget to write that the event was just plain fun. The reactions from Twitter users, as well as participating conductors, we outstandingly positive. Here are just a few of them:

Trending Topics

It wasn’t an objective. But I admit, it would have been neat to have seen #askaconductor become a trending topic. On the other hand, seeing the spam problems that plagued #askacurator when it became a trending topic, I was glad we stayed clear from those issues.

Looking at the sheer volume, #askaconductor was close to par with some of the trending topics. But in a feat of perfect timing, Twitter offered a little glimpse into the algorithm that determines what topics are trending:

We track the volume of terms mentioned on Twitter on an ongoing basis. Topics break into the Trends list when the volume of Tweets about that topic at a given moment dramatically increases.

Sometimes a topic doesn’t break into the Trends list because its popularity isn’t as widespread as people believe. And, sometimes, popular terms don’t make the Trends list because the velocity of conversation isn’t increasing quickly enough, relative to the baseline level of conversation happening on an average day.

Our #askaconductor effort didn’t see this dramatic increase in number of tweets; it was a regular, sustained amount throughout the day. Of course, trending topics also typically see a broader base with less than 10% of the tweets stemming from the top 10 users, whereas #askaconductor saw a fairly narrow base with more than 30% of the tweets stemming from the top 10 users.

What’s next?

Lacey and I will be planning a next #askthemusicians event soon. We’re thinking of putting the subject of the next event up for a vote. Will it be #askacomposer, #askacellist, or something different altogether? Stay tuned!

These were just some initial thoughts and reflections. I will be gathering a full report on the #askaconductor event as things wind down a little bit. More analytics, more analysis! Do you have any questions, suggestions or comments? Let us know! Leave a comment, send an e-mail (info (at) askthemusicians.com), or, of course, send a tweet (@askthemusicians, or @laceyh and @mcmvanbree)!

Edit: You can now vote until 12/17 on what #askthemusicians topic we should be doing next. Click here to vote on askthemusicians.com.

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