The audience for live classical music and opera is perilously close to the 82-year-old average age of a Covid-19 victim in Massachusetts (source). Concert venues are shut down by orders of the governor, First Amendment right to assemble notwithstanding. Even if it were legal to host a concert, would the core of elderly patrons show up?
This means that classical music and opera must be experienced via recordings and/or live audio/video streams. But what is the market for a new performance of Carmen or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony? If you’re going to sit at home and watch it on a screen, why it is better to experience a 2020 performance of an 18th or 19th century work than a 1995, 2006, or 2017 performance that was recorded?
With pop music, it makes sense that we could have a market for new performances. People would pay to hear a new song by Kanye West, performed by Kanye West. They don’t just want to listen to “Gold Digger” over and over. Pop musicians should be able to do roughly as well as the movie industry, i.e., by selling tickets to people watching from home.
Classical music and opera depend on donations and ticket sales tied to live performance. Due to high costs under union agreements, American orchestras have typically lost money on recordings. Even if the governor of Massachusetts and his License Raj would permit the Boston Symphony Orchestra to assemble long enough to make a recording, how could that possibly yield enough revenue to keep the institution going? Who is going to donate to an enterprise that is not legal to operate?
Maybe the institutions that have streaming services, such as the Metropolitan Opera and the ever-entrepreneurial musician-owned London Symphony Orchestra, can continue to exist. But what about the average player who would ordinarily be playing in the average city orchestra?