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How the London Philharmonic is using TikTok to bust classical music stereotypes

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By Hannah Bowler | Journalist

January 18, 2022 | 4 min read

The London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) has joined TikTok in an attempt to reach younger fans and quash stereotypes about classical music. We catch up with its digital marketing manager who urges fellow arts institutions to join the platform, but warns “don’t try and be something you’re not“.

London Philharmonic Orchestra joined TikTok while performances were cancelled but discovered a loyal fan-base

London Philharmonic Orchestra joined TikTok while performances were cancelled but discovered a loyal fan-base

The London Philharmonic Orchestra joined TikTok in January 2021 to keep audiences engaged during the lockdown. Just a year in and the account has amassed 32,000 followers while its posts have been viewed 200,000 times.

Sophie Harvey is the orchestra’s digital and residencies marketing manager and leads its social strategy. She says its first year has been all about experimentation, admitting that in its first foray on to the platform the LPO made the mistake of producing “TikTok-style“ content, posting videos such as ‘top tips for performance anxiety‘.

These failed to resonate, however, forcing Harvey and her team back to the drawing board. They settled on a formula of overlaying performance videos with a scrolling score and soon realized they were “on to a winner,“ she says.

“We’ve finally got into a rhythm and found an audience on TikTok that is super into classical music and who want to talk about it in the comments or to guess the piece.”

She says the arts world has “only just started to tap into TikTok”, with only a few organizations such as The Royal Opera and the Black Country Living Museum running accounts. Others are still “a bit nervous to join”.

They needn’t be, she says. “My advice to them is to experiment, but not to go in expecting something to work. Don’t try and be too ’TikTok’, just be authentic to your brand and don’t be something your not.

”Just go for it, don’t be nervous. Post it and learn from it.”

Harvey has been surprised by how conversational TikTok is. Engaging with the comments is now a key part of the LPO’s social strategy, answering questions and keeping an eye on activity happening on other accounts to spark conversation.

The LPO’s TikTok has tapped into international classical music fans with key audiences in Mexico, America and Germany, and Harvey has also identified a loyal fanbase of American teenage marching bands performers. To lean into this, the social team has curated videos specifically for the teenagers to duet on.

In 2022, the orchestra plans to continue its engagement strategy. Next year, the plan is to explore how it can integrate ticket sales into the platform. Since most of its audience is international, however, Harvey has to solve how to go about promoting sales without alienating audiences.

Following its success on TikTok, Harvey is looking to do the same with its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and reposition them away from sales promotion and more towards engagement.

For its YouTube strategy, meanwhile, the LPO has created an interview-style series for fans to get to know the performers, which Harvey says is helping to bust the stereotype that classical music is stuffy: “We want to peel back a layer so that people get to know the players.”

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