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When concert halls and opera houses remain closed in times of Covid-19, how can performing arts reach its audience?

Meet our Digital Cross Over partner IMZ

Katharina Jeschke

Meet Katharina Jeschke from the IMZ International Music + Media Centre, the international business network dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts through audiovisual media. As Secretary General of the IMZ International Music + Media Centre, Katharina is a curator, developer and host of music film festivals and competitions worldwide. She is the driving force and programme developer of Avant Première Music + Media Market, presenting latest music film productions for international broadcasting and coproduction. 

The IMZ International Music + Media Centre is the project lead of Digital Cross Over which is implemented in cooperation with Ars Electronica, Börsenverein Group, Centrica and Izneo in the framework of the Creative Europe funding programme of the European Commission. It aims to demonstrate and explore the current challenges facing the creative and cultural industries: Who pays for the content created by cultural and creative professionals? How do I reach my target group in the digital age and how can I learn from players from other industries who are or have been facing similar challenges? 

Who is the IMZ? 

Katharina: The IMZ International Music + Media Centre is the international business network dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts through audiovisual media. It was founded under the aegis of UNESCO in 1961 to preserve the performing arts as a cultural asset. Our mission is to promote the performing arts in and through audiovisual media in order to make music + dance performances available for future generations. At the same time we want to reach + engage new audiences through the more easily accessible medium film.

Who are the members of your network?

The IMZ acts as the global business network for more than 150 IMZ Member Organisations active at the intersection of performing arts + media. Our members are as diverse as the industry itself: Some are the creators of performing arts - the world's renowned stages, dance companies, opera and concert houses, others are representatives from the audiovisual sector - film and TV production companies, distributors, public and private broadcasters and streaming platforms. Additionally, we are also happy to include members from educational institutions and individual artists like musicians, dancers, choreographers, directors, script writers and filmmakers.  

 

What are your main activities?

Katharina: The work of the IMZ is based on 4 pillars:

  • Market access + network is our first pillar: We connect the industry through sustainable networks and beneficial business opportunities. One of the best places to see this live in action is Avant Première, our flagship event and the largest international trade fair for film + TV licenses for music + dance films. We arrange pitching opportunities and film competitions. But we are also active in various juries for film prizes and represent the performing arts film industry at other events.
     
  • Audience development is our second pillar: We engage new audiences for performing arts by handling or providing our expertise in the programming of music film festivals like the open-air film festival each summer in Vienna at the Rathausplatz.  We are active internationally and have been part of the team for festivals in Russia, the Czech Republic, China as well as Argentina. With our initiative IMZ on Tour we provide access to exceptional art also to smaller and tightly-budgeted events at reasonable prices.
     
  • We spearhead learning and development opportunities in order to advance a sustainable future for the performing arts film sector,  which is at the core of our third pillar: Professionalisation. Within our IMZ Academy we have a master-class series for young and established professionals aiming to develop innovative know-how and aiding to build sustainable interdisciplinary networks. Not so different from our joint project “Digital Cross Over” – networks are just our thing!
     
  • Innovation + new business models are important topics within performing arts as in any other sector and represent our fourth pillar: We foster and showcase pioneering technologies for the arts, lead working groups on innovative approaches and share this knowledge with stakeholders in the cultural film sector. Again, our joint project Digital Cross Over is an excellent example! We are also working on IMZ Online Services, the digital B2B search engine + marketplace for film licence trading we are developing with and for the IMZ Members. Other projects include the Fedora prize for digital innovation, the Innovation Channel featured also in our Avant Première programme and the Content Innovation Council designed to actively support Europes cultural and creative sectors as they respond to the challenges resulting from digital transformation.

You can find more information under https://www.imz.at/activities/

 

When concert halls and opera houses remain closed in times of Covid-19, how can performing arts reach its audience?

Katharina: When concert halls + opera houses remain closed, performing arts can reach the audience as long as they are made accessible through audiovisual media – which is and always has been the highest mission of the IMZ. 

Especially during the lockdown, streaming platforms have seen an increase in the number of users. Public + private broadcasters have also played an important role in quenching the audience’s thirst for concerts and performances. The cancellation of events (e.g. sports) has led to TV slots becoming free, many of which were filled with music + dance films. All in all, times of crisis also boost creativity and innovative solutions. Czech Television hosted a special benefit concert without an audience, raising almost 300,000€ in support of the medical professionals persevering during the Covid-19 peak. Arte Deutschland launched the Hope@Home concert series, featuring star-violinist Daniel Hope playing live from his living room and inviting artists + friends to his home in Berlin to play mini-concerts (of course, keeping the safety distance at all times).

Many renowned stages made their archive material available, and IMZ Member Russian State TV and Radio Music Centre gathered the concerts offered by various concert halls on one platform.

These are just a few examples of how through performing arts films, IMZ Members bring music + dance to people’s homes and are having a more positive impact than ever before!

A look at the time after Covid-19: What are you most looking forward to?

Katharina: We are looking forward to our extensive IMZ Academy Programme this fall. We will host two IMZ Academy Sessions on film metadata + online copyright protection, two topics that move our industry. Due to the current situation od COVID-19, this year’s edition is taking place on 3 December 2020 in the format of an online workshop. One main goal is to let the invited leading experts and attendees explore together how conservatories could integrate media skills training into their syllabi to prepare students effectively for the challenges + opportunities presented by the digital world.
And last but not least, we are looking forward to our flagship event Avant Première Music + Media Market Vienna, taking place from 14-18 February 2021. While Avant Première usually takes place in Berlin, only in 2021 it will take place in Vienna as a hybrid event to counteract pandemic-related accessibility challenges. The entire programme which includes screenings, conference and matchmaking opportunities will also be available online: we want to make sure that everybody has equal access to all these valuable business opportunities, no matter the circumstances!

These events give us the opportunity to actively engage with our partners and to keep on building bridges and fostering synergies. Not to forget, IMZ is a member-driven organisation. I speak in the name of the entire IMZ Team, when I say that we are all really looking forward to actually meeting our members in person and having real face-to-face conversations over a drink or two again!

 

The way how to reach and engage new audiences, especially the younger generations, has changed significantly in the past years and decades and continues to evolve. What role do new technologies and cross-sector approaches play here?

Katharina: New technologies have not only changed the audiences, but have also offered new channels for our artists. Think of all the streaming platforms as well as the live-streaming concerts on social media (Igor Levit’s daily living room concerts on Twitter in spring, for example), especially during the past few weeks of quarantine. Artists’ personal accounts on social media have also made them more personal and tangible again. An excellent example for using social media as an artist is the violinist Yury Revich. He also gave a keynote in February 2020 at Avant Première on being an artist in the changing media world, which became even more relevant a few weeks later. You might enjoy his interview he gave us before speeding off to his next concert. You see, the serious cuts of COVID-19 have shown us how important digital must become for artists. Now, more than ever, technology has to find its way into the cultural sphere right from the beginning.

 

Thank you very much for the interview, Katharina!

Digital Cross Over Team

More about Digital Cross Over

Find out more about upcoming events, project partners and past highlights on our website!