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

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

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

Sophie Harvey is responsible for the orchestra’s digital marketing and residences and leads its social strategy. She says her first year was all about experimentation, admitting that during her first foray into the platform, the LPO made the mistake of churning out “TikTok-style” content, posting videos like as “the best advice for performance anxiety”.

These found no resonance, however, forcing Harvey and his team back to the drawing board. They settled on a formula of layering performance videos with a scrolling score and quickly realized they were “onto a winner,” she says.

“We’ve finally gotten into a beat and found an audience on TikTok who are great at classical music and want to talk about it in the comments or guess the track.”

She says the arts world “has only just begun 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 little nervous about joining”.

They don’t need to be, she says. “My advice for them is to experiment, but don’t expect something to work. Don’t try to be too ‘TikTok’, just be authentic to your brand and don’t be not something you are not.

“Go ahead, don’t be nervous. Post it and learn from it.

Harvey was surprised by the conversation from TikTok. Engaging with comments is now a key part of the LPO’s social strategy, answering questions and keeping tabs on activity happening on other accounts to spark conversation.

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

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. However, since most of his audience is international, Harvey must figure out how to promote sales without alienating the audience.

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

Meanwhile, for its YouTube strategy, the LPO has created an interview-style series for fans to get to know the performers, which Harvey says helps break the stereotype that classical music is stuffy: “We want to remove a layer for people to get to know the players.

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