Classical:NEXT 2017 – Musical Babylon of the Digital Era

16 Jun 2017

A very brief glance at “Classical:NEXT” (Rotterdam, Netherlandes) I attended as a delegate form Austria on 17-20 May. 


Some data from the official website:




“'s most important classical music meeting”

“...Music Olympics”

“...The global meeting for all art music innovators”




"Classical:NEXT was born out of the simple idea to bring the diverse scenes of classical music together and offer them a forum to exchange and develop new ways for classical and contemporary music”




“Since the first edition in 2012, about 3000 classical music professionals from more than 1000 companies and from over 45 countries have engaged with Classical:NEXT”


Problems to address


“How to reach out to today’s audiences? Which trends to follow? What are the visions for the future of the genre and for your specific sector? …. Get up-to-date and future-oriented in areas such as communication and PR, new tech, alternative concert programming, audience engagement, the relevance of classical music, emerging business models and much more.”




Classical:NEXT  was initiated by the Association for Classical Independent Labels in Germany (CLASS) and is produced by Piranha Arts, who also produce the World Music Expo, “the most important international professional market of world music of every kind”




Impressive list of participants in 2017 is here.


To mention a few of them: BBC Proms,  Gramophone, Warner Classics, Sony, European Concert Hall Organisation, Hong Kong Arts Development Council,   Universal Music-Decca Records, Barbican Centre, Concertgebouw, Philharmonie de Paris, Taiwan Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra,  Toronto Symphony Orchestra,  Karajan Music Productions,  Naxos, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Royal College of Music, Korea Arts Manangement Service, European Festivals Association, The Arts Council of Ireland, Shanghai Concert Hall, and so on and so forth.




“Classical:NEXT consists of four sections – showcases, conference, expo and film screenings.


Showcases are where artists and productions can be presented in a series of short concerts or video screenings.


The conference section is set up to offer presentations, seminars, discussions, one-to-one and roundtable mentoring and other formats to help delegates keep up with changes, trends and innovations.


The expo exhibits the work of labels, publishers, agents, festivals, associations and others, and serves as a meeting point for all delegates.”


Virtual platform


Classical:NEXT is presented on the internet as C:N NET,  a year-round database and virtual trade fair for its members. It provides special artistic and business opportunities for musicians, just like Linkedin or any other professional platform.


Some of my thoughts on Classical:NEXT.


Why has it appeared?


Classical:NEXT  is quite a recent phenomenon. The obvious catalyst of its existence is a growing number of issues classical music has faced for the past years. Many in the profession consider that the time has come to change something. Classical:NEXT bridges an impressive range of genres and involves many important players of the classical music industry who are not comfortable with the status quo in the field.


The other reason for Classical:NEXT existence is the new opportunities for the artistic creation and for related business generated by the modern world.  It's actually a call to explore new horizons in the situation of hi-tech revolution and chaotic life.


Is it really classical?


From what I witnessed in Rotterdam, my answer is – No.


Music is deemed classical because of its content, not because of the type of musical instruments or the venues usually associated with it.


It’s clear enough that Beethoven symphony performed in a starship by a computer programm is classical music, but the voice rituals of the New Zealand Maori performed in Vienna Musikverein is not classical music.


The fact is, the names of the baroque, classical and romantic period composers were rarely mentioned over the four days of the Classical:NEXT 2017. Sure, I saw a lot of classical instruments there, and yes, I met with the classical music industry VIPs, but if the fundamental names of the genre are not in the game, then we deal here with some other genre, not the genre of the classical music.


Naming this event “Classical:NEXT” which indicates that it's related to classical music is good marketing, but somewhat misleading. Although the trend addresses some problems with the  bureaucracy within the industry, employment and classically  trained musicians, it in no way addresses the “problems” of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms in the modern world.


On the contrary, it exacerbates the latter.


Is it important?


Very important, in my opinion. One of the main ideas of the forum and the trend as the whole, is the idea of diversity that implies merging the mastery of classical musical instruments with the BME communities (Black and Minority Ethnic, according to the UK terminology) as well as with the third-world countries.


The Classical:NEXT opening ceremony  illustrated it quite well, all eight ensembles introduced during the ceremony were BME and intercultural from all continents.


This intercultural trend integrates culture and peace movement into a modern world of violence and animosity. The super friendly atmosphere at Classical:NEXT presented a clear evidence of that.


And this trend also supports classical music industry by widening its customer base.


How do they do it?


There are two distinct ideas under this trend. First idea is innovation. One has to be innovative at any cost. Otherwise, one does not elicit interest.


The second idea is of mixing anything with anything, or everything with everything. Just to be  innovative.


Both ideas are debatable. Unlimited freedom is definitely a basic state of creatvity, but neither the originality nor mixing "something with something" creates values in itself. These are not recipes for true creativity.


The appeals like “Let’s play Mozart at a night club and hard rock at the symphony” were quite typical for Classical:NEXT. Still, this approach appears to be superficial.


Imagine jumbling up dessert and a main course on a single plate, this for sure makes this “dish” uneateable. Similarly, a night club mixed up with Mozart piano concerto is the best recipe to kill them both. Despite the fact that these combinations are definitely innovative.


The basic guideline of the new trend to search for novelty at any cost is fairly unproductive. The expectations to inspire musicians and audiences by "crazy mixtures" and to siginificantly improve the situation in the industry through this trend seem too exaggerated.


In short


Classical:NEXT is an extraordinary event which I would recommend to anyone who wants to plunge into the thick of things and feel the atmosphere of a modern "classical"musical Babylon.


What we see emerging today is not the development of classical music, but the development of the culture of using classical instruments in non-classical contexts.


The latter is good in many ways, but not in every way. The problem is, this newly emerging culture has little to do with the spirit of European classical music and it's profound meaning. It doesn’t “rest on the shoulders of Giants” -  rather it is taking their place.



Photo by Eric van Nieuwland from

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© Yevgeny Chepovetsky 2015-2017