Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

ProjectMelbourne Digital Concert Hall: long-term sustainability of live concert streaming



ProgramPast Programs | Arts and Culture

COVID-19 After COVID-19 shut down the entire arts sector almost overnight, Melbourne Digital Concert Hall was rapidly created by musicians for musicians, as a means for Australian artists to continue their profession and to connect to audiences through music and technology. Melbourne Chamber Orchestra provided the ideal ensemble-in-residence to ensure the initiative could grow into a sustainable long-term digital platform for musicians.

Supporting musicians during challenging times

Melbourne Digital Concert Hall provides a safe concert platform, generates income directly to musicians, maintains a connection with existing audiences, improves equity of access for those unable to visit a concert hall, and acts as a pilot for the long-term sustainability of live concert streaming. By November 2020, $1,000,000 had been earned by 350+ musicians in over 200 recitals.

Image A livestreamed concert by Melbourne Digital Concert Hall from the Athenaeum Theatre during the COVID-19 lockdown of Melbourne in 2020.

Largely ineligible for JobKeeper due to the nature of their work, professional musicians found themselves with no income and no performance opportunities for the foreseeable future. Thousands of concertgoers around Victoria were deprived of an outlet for inspiration and lost a treasured connection to ‘their’ artists. Ironically, as the community turned to recorded music for solace and company, the artists themselves were unable to make a living.

Melbourne Chamber Orchestra (MCO) and Melbourne Digital Concert Hall (MDCH) formed a partnership to facilitate the delivery of 100 live-streamed concerts on 50 evenings between June 2020 and January 2021. Crucially, MDCH demonstrates that ticketed streaming is a viable business model under the right circumstances, and that it carries vast potential to connect communities everywhere through live music.


  • MDCH was created by Melbourne-based musicians and music administrators Chris Howlett and Adele Schonhardt who responded to the shutdown by establishing the digital concert platform in record time.
  • Launched on 27 March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, MDCH operates as a social enterprise, with the sale of digital tickets providing a critical source of income for musicians.
  • Emergency funding for MDCH’s general operations addressed the urgent need to support Melbourne’s classical musicians, many of whom are members of MCO or perform with the MCO.
  • The live concerts averaged 126 tickets sold, or $2,516 in artist revenue – a figure well above the industry rate for the vast majority of soloists and small ensembles who performed.
  • Pre-COVID-19, MCO typically presented 50-60 performances and events per year, with over half outside central Melbourne. In 2020, MCO ensembles were scheduled to present a ten-concert Melbourne orchestral season, as well as 33 performances on tour for thousands of listeners across the state and a range of live educational experiences for hundreds of primary school children. Coronavirus prevention restrictions caused the cancellation of all planned 2020 activities, and continues to impact delivery of performances in 2021.
  • MDCH is built on the strong reputation of a vibrant music scene, performers and supporters. Its aim is to generate immediate income directly to musicians through single view sales.
  • The programming showcases the full spectrum of Australian classical artists who have lost work due to COVID-19.
  • The digital concert format has unexpectedly enabled a vast audience for concerts, with viewers from around the world.


“Melbourne Digital Concert Hall has provided a solution for Melbourne musicians to continue to focus on their craft and creativity.” Zoe Knighton, Cellist, Flinders Quartet