Classical music and its two-sided market

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Farmer's Market

On Friday, I had an online meeting with friends about audience development in the classical music market. Lots of ideas were expressed and it got me thinking seriously. A couple of days ago, I was having my morning coffee while browsing through my RSS reader and I stumbled upon Joel Gascoigne’s post How to gain traction in two sided markets from his blog located at Suddenly it hit me: what I’ve expressed for years with many words about the classical music market and its challenges could be summed up using one single expert concept: the two-sided market. Let’s see what it means for musicians.

I won’t come back to the definition of the two-sided market but rather explain how it applies to our classical music market. For a solo musician like me, the main challenge is to deal with several very different groups of “customers”, each one looking for something different and interacting directly with the others. To simplify a little, on one side we have our audience and on the other side the classical music industry: both are very different, both are essential for us. We could go further and say that each group contains two-sided markets itself, but that would only complicate things.

MarketIn a way, we, musicians are acting as a multi-sided platform: we provide a service/product from which should benefit each group. Let’s take a simple example here. To make a recital happen, we definitely need both sides of the market: an audience willing to experience a live concert and a presenter who wants a successful concert (i.e. a full house). If you don’t have any audience for his particular concert series, the presenter will not hire you. If you don’t appeal to a presenter, your audience will not see you performing.

Interesting to analyze since it helps us to solve the chicken and egg problem and understand how the classical music economy actually works. Did you get know all these “freemium” strategies? Yes, it’s to acquire one missing side of the two-sided market.

Well, now you might say it’s just a crappy theory and you don’t need that because others succeeded without respecting it. It’s theory and like all theories, it has exceptions. I spoke above about Joel Gascoigne’s post How to gain traction in two sided markets, maybe, just maybe, you should have a look at it to find some answers. Even if the post is targeted towards startups, you can easily adapt that to classical music.

What do you think about the ways he would go about building traction in a two sided market? Do you think these are good ideas? What are your ideas to reach a two-sided market?