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“Facing the challenges in the digital world” by Ivana Jelača (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

COST Action Early Muse: Mission 8 at ESMAE-IPP, Porto
Start and end date: 08/04/2024 to 12/04/2024

This STSM mission which was hosted by Pedro Sousa Silva (STSM-ESMAE, Porto) was undertaken in collaboration with various experts and artists in the Early Music (EM) sector to discuss the opportunities and challenges that historical musicology and performers face considering the insufficiencies of current streaming platforms (like iTunes or Spotify).

During the week of exhaustive and vivid conversations, organized by Pedro Sousa Silva, we were continually receiving immensely valuable insights from Angel Manuel Olmos, the third member of our team—a musicologist from Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid, who was present online.

We started the work with the general brainstorming on the issue. The relevant topics such as distinctions of “general” music, “classical” music and “early music” were identified. Namely, classical and early music possess unique characteristics that set them apart not only from mainstream music but also within their own categories. General music often refers to popular music which is typically produced and consumed for mass market appeal. Classical music, known for its complexity and tradition of performing which is deeply rooted in the Western socio-cultural environments, spans over a wide range of periods, with distinctive styles both in composing and performing. On the other hand, EM refers to music from the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque to early Romanticism, and is characterized by the use of period instruments, tuning systems, and performance practices that are historically informed. What is more important and identified as the specificity of EM is the understanding of its historical, social, and cultural contexts that create the experience of performing and reception of EM.

From the documentation provided and insights shared during our sessions, it is evident that today’s streaming platforms largely disregard these aspects. They often treat all music with a one-size-fits-all approach, which strips away the rich narrative layers that are essential for EM.

During our interviews with professionals from the EM field; Hugo Sanches (performer, director of Surunyo ensemble and coordinator of ESMAE’s Early Music Department), Tomás Quintais (recording engineer, EM performer and CEO of, Mário Azevedo (audiophile, music lover, and professor at ESMAE in the field of music reception), Marco Conceição (audio engineer, president of ESMAE and former coordinator of ESMAE’s Audio Department), Johanna Bartz (flutist, professor at Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Geneve and director of Ensemble Astrophilandstella), we came to the valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities within the EM field, highlighting the need for improved digital platforms.

Based on the needs analysis and the discussions held during the STSM, the recommendations are proposed for the development of a more suitable streaming service that would provide specialized features i.e. program notes, scholarly content, essays, composer’s biographies, historical insights, details on performers and their creative processes and other contents that enrich the listener’s experience. Collaboration with professionals and institutions from other cultural, creative and educational sectors would be encouraged and stimulated (museums, festivals, schools, universities, audio-visual and music recording industries).This cross-sectoral collaboration has a potential to empower the idea of decentralized and sustainable economic model of monetization for artists and cultural professionals in the EM field.

Since the digital world seems to be more adequate for short-term / short-span of attention experiences, that aspect should be taken in consideration while devising digital tools to create richer, more complex, idiosyncratic, and deeper experiences of EM.

Therefore, this project idea will be further developed in order to prepare an application for potential open calls, taking into account the requirements of the current and upcoming Creative Europe / Innovation Lab programme for cross-sectoral collaboration.

As an additional output of this STSM, the draft of a survey was designed to gather data in the future follow-up collaboration among different target groups, including audiences, performers, recording producers, musicologists, students etc. The survey is aimed to assess the demand for various features and content on the proposed streaming platform, as well as to identify the key concerns and preferences of each stakeholder group.

To sum it up, I would describe this STSM as an intensive week spent in a creative-minded lab that brought together diverse people from the EM sector who were equally enthusiastic in sharing experiences and knowledge from various perspectives, which I find vital for moving a step further from the discussion on current challenges we are all facing and by taking actions for a sustainable and fair-p(l)ayed model in the future. Many thanks to Pedro and Angel; for the warm hospitality, excellent organisation and pleasant working environment, and the efforts invested to develop our project further.

Ivana Jelača, WG Performance

Pianist, artistic researcher, the creative leader of The Rest is Music NGO
(Dubrovnik, Croatia)