Philadelphia Orchestra says app is ready to earn its keep

The Philadelphia Orchestra's LiveNote app

The Philadelphia Orchestra's LiveNote app (WHYY file photo)

The Philadelphia Orchestra is rolling out a new way to make money: the LiveNote mobile app.

For the past few years, the orchestra has been experimenting with LiveNote in concerts at the Kimmel Center. The app is able to “hear” and recognize certain passages of music in the room and provide graphic and text information about that particular musical phrase on the user’s phone, in real time.

While the Philadelphia Orchestra had been developing it for the last couple years, it was restricted to the orchestra’s base, Verizon Hall, via its in-house Wi-Fi system.

It is now available over cellular signals, so the orchestra can take it on the road.

“So now LiveNote and the content that it is curated for it will be available wherever the orchestra is in performance,” said president and CEO Alison Vulgamore. “And, therefore, in its new licensing, available where any institution chooses to make it available.”

LiveNote was always envisioned as an amenity and a moneymaker. With its licensing partner, InstantEncore, the orchestra plans to sell to other orchestras the rights to both the technology and content the orchestra has tailored for particular pieces of music. For example, explanations of Russian folks songs referenced in a symphony by Stravinksy could be of interest to any group performing that piece.

“We have a waiting list of folks who want to sign on to experiment with the technology and design content,” said Vulgamore. She envisions a marketplace of third-party designers who sell their own LiveNote content to orchestras and performing arts organizations.

Not all performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra will be LiveNote enabled, to preserve the purity of the concert experience. But Vulgamore says about a third of the season’s selections allows audiences to use the app, and that’s likely to increase.

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