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Communicating Choral Music in the New Age: A Case Study on WSCMIstanbul2023

Updated: Apr 11

By Sinem Erenturk



The success of the World Symposium on Choral Music in Istanbul last year can undoubtedly be attributed, in part, to its effective communication strategies. The event embraced a multi-channel approach, including digital, that aligned with global professional marketing and communication practices, thus significantly contributing to its overall success reaching more than 10 million online and 8 million through traditional media with audiences filling the concert halls.


As a noteworthy soft benefit, this approach played a pivotal role by creating a safe space for fostering successful collaborations between the arts, the state, and the private sector —entities that possess different structures and operations and even world views, all uniting around the power of choral music.

When WSCMIstanbul2023 Festival Director and dear friend Dr. Burak Onur Erdem approached me with enthusiasm and joy about the news that the upcoming WSCM would be in Istanbul, and asked if I would be interested in leading the communication side of the event, I felt honoured to receive such an invitation, along with feeling pleased and happy that such a significant event would take place in my home country. Choral singing has been my passion since the age of 8, shaping the way I perceive the world in the intellectually rich culture of Ankara (capital of Türkiye), where I was brought up. Universal values of humanity such as listening to each other, empathy, making decisions together, the importance of a sense of community while having one’s own voice and a strong belief in progress towards the good were first instilled in me through choral music. In my professional life, I was trained as a marketing expert with a focus on digital in multinational bodies in my 15-year-long corporate career.


Despite a multitude of questions in my mind about the logistics of managing this massive event with multiple parties and organizational layers in such a limited time, I unequivocally said yes. In the end, what initially appeared as challenges for the project turned out to be strengths of the event, thanks to trying to stick with global communication and marketing practices that foresee an integrated approach across multiple channels with consistent verbal and visual messaging.  


It was interesting and fascinating for me to see this invitation coinciding with my own contemplation that the best communication and marketing practices developed over the years in corporate structures should extend beyond those confines. This is particularly relevant in the context of arts and culture, which have become as indispensable as basic human needs such as food, energy, and medicine, especially in the world we currently inhabit.

Before I start my case study, let me elaborate more on this matter to preempt any potential misconceptions or judgments. The integration of marketing strategies into the arts and cultural domains can yield numerous benefits. Firstly, it can enhance audience engagement by reaching a wider demographic and fostering more meaningful interactions, a crucial element for success in this area. Additionally, marketing plays a pivotal role in revenue generation, contributing to the financial sustainability of artistic endeavours by attracting patrons, sponsors, and different supporters.

Furthermore, the establishment of a strong brand is paramount for cultural entities, and effective marketing can contribute significantly to this.

Effective marketing can amplify the cultural impact by promoting meaningful content and artistic expressions. By combining advocacy and educational strategies, these practices contribute to raising awareness about the importance of arts and culture, particularly choral music, creating support and appreciation.

Collaborations and partnerships are facilitated through marketing, fostering connections between artists, institutions, sponsors, and the public. This collaborative approach creates synergies and amplifies the cultural impact, promoting a more interconnected and enriched cultural landscape.

In today’s world, digital communication and marketing is a powerful tool for global outreach. Leveraging online platforms, social media, and digital content expands the reach of cultural initiatives beyond geographical boundaries.

Last but not the least, marketing principles provide a means to measure success more effectively. Metrics such as attendance, online engagement, and revenue generation can be monitored, offering valuable insights into the impact of communication and marketing efforts.

I am well aware of the ongoing debate around the treatment of arts and culture as commercial commodities, rooted in various reasons ranging from preserving the authenticity of the process of any artistic endeavour to come alive to acknowledging the challenges of mass-producing arts and culture works in most areas.  Choral music in particular seems at first glance to fall completely outside of this as it is an art form where ownership is not vested in a single entity —neither the conductor, the composer, individual choir members, event organizers, nor the venue or choir management. Instead, the owner of the work produced is all of them and perhaps even the audience itself, as it is a simultaneously shared, unique experience.

However, my focus extends beyond the dichotomy of whether choral music can or should be considered a commercial commodity, reaching towards something broader and more meaningful. I’m interested in the prospect of independence and the ability of the choral music are(n)a to decide shape its future on its own by being aware of best global marketing and communication practices. Using them wisely would offer the opportunity for choral music to have its voice be heard among stakeholders, patrons, sponsors, decision-makers and a wider audience. Furthermore, I prefer to view what may initially appear as a challenge for choral music—being an art form without one specific owner—as an opportunity for further growth and heightened impact through collaborative efforts among its various components.

In essence, I advocate for embracing awareness of global marketing and communication strategies as a means for the choral music community to not only be heard but also to wield influence among various stakeholders, ultimately steering its own destiny.

In this case study on the communication of WSCMIstanbul2023, I aim to showcase what we have achieved in terms of results and impact, the process itself, the milestones followed all through the process and additionally, I will identify areas for improvement for the future. I hope this analysis will be valuable for future organizers of the WSCM event, an important tradition that would surely resonate across generations in choral music. Insights from this study could contribute to further refinement and success of future editions of the event.

In summary, adhering to current global marketing and communication practices which aligned traditional and digital media with consistent visual and verbal messaging proved highly effective in principle, with all its soft-benefits in this multi-layered event. However, we identified areas for improvement, particularly concerning setting up the right team structure, the allocation of online media budget and the integration of the website in the overall strategy.

The widely known methods of promoting choral music mainly revolves around family and loved ones of the choir members, flyers and posters, word of mouth, and occasionally through posts on social media.

At the WSCMIstanbul2023 event, we endeavoured to depart from traditional methods and instead embraced marketing and communication practices which prioritize a well-thought solid strategy and involve a focus on digital and seamless integration of traditional and digital media. This shift aimed to enhance the event's visibility and engagement on a local and global scale.

For this massive event, boasting 2,500 participants, 60 presenters, 55 choirs from around the world, 44 concerts across 11 different venues, and nearly 500 registered delegates, audiences flocked to the concert halls, resulting in a total of 8,500 tickets sold in both Istanbul and Ankara. Despite the potential perception of it being an academic, closed-circuit affair, the event drew a diverse audience beyond highly interested individuals or acquaintances.

Throughout the event, 16 TV news reports, 53 printed news articles, and 652 online news pieces were generated. TV news reached 1.5 million, printed media 6.7 million and online media 4.5 million. Our primary promotional film on YouTube got 1.3 million views, while between December 2022 and May 2023, over 4 million impressions were achieved on Instagram with more than 1,000 reposts or restories of its content. Additionally, three influencers in arts and culture, each with more than 250,000 followers, shared the event. The website itself received 300,000 impressions. The online engagement showed a demographic split of 60.5% women and 39.5% men.

Let me elaborate on the milestones we followed through the event in terms of marketing and communication which I hope would be of help for future organizers of the event, resulting in even greater results and achievements in the future.

  • Identifying and Collaborating with Relevant Parties For the event we collaborated with four different parties for communication and marketing: the event organization agency’s communication department, website production agency, video production agency and social media agency.

  • Team Structure and Recruitment During the event, apart from me as head of communications overseeing the entire process, we had two officers, one looking after the social media content, digital assets (including the website), and collaborating with third-party agencies for video production and the other officer managing the production of all key visuals across channels, overseeing the delivery of printed materials through the organization agency.

  • Setting the Marketing and Communication Strategy We developed a rounded and effective strategy with a main tagline “Welcome to the Voices of the World” in line with the IFCM’s “Changing Horizons” concept. The strategy focused on Istanbul as an asset and seeing it through a choir singer’s perspective as well as emphasizing the event’s contemporary program with the umbrella concept of “choral music tradition meets innovation/future” under which we produced a series of various video content and interviews.

  • Finalizing the Strategy The strategy was discussed, concluded and agreed with all relevant parties and organizing committee and stakeholders.

  • Identifying Communication Elements: We determined the main communication messages under the tagline, prepared a social media strategy with the agency with a focus on video content. We prioritized infusion of agreed strategy in every communication element, be it a public billboard or a wide-screen or hand flyers and posters of the event or banners for online media ads and seamless integration of online and offline elements.

  • Establishing Social Media Management and Content Creation We defined an agile working model for social media management, content creation and the approval process of visuals and post texts.

  • Tracking of Key Performance Indictors (KPIs) and results periodically We kept an eye on KPIs and results achieved online as much as we could, feeding into our interpretation and planning of new content.

All these milestones in the process worked well, resulting in the collaboration of the parties around the agreed strategy. This approach, as a soft benefit, created a safe space across arts, state and private sector circles involved in the project, each of which has its own ways of working, set cultures and even world views.

The project was also a massive learning environment leading to a few areas of improvement. Establishing precise organizational roles for communication and marketing, recruiting individuals with the right skills for these roles, designing the website after finalizing the strategy, seamlessly integrating it into the overall strategy mix, and initiating the planning of online media budget allocation from the project's outset emerged as pivotal lessons. These insights are invaluable and, when given careful consideration, can be easily addressed in future events.

Of course, the fact that such a huge project had to come alive in just a few months, rather than a crucial preparation process of at least 2 years should be taken into consideration which makes the success of WSCMIstanbul2023 even more meaningful and miraculous looking back.

In the end, beyond its numerical success, the event's artistic and cultural impact transcended quantifiable measures, forging invisible connections between choirs from diverse corners of the world. It fostered invitations for future events, inspired cohesion in potential discussions, and generated ideas for the future. A significant amount of shared empathy and energy fuelled belief in the future of choral music.

One particularly poignant scene left a mark on my mind during an evening event in Beyoglu, the cultural heart of Istanbul. Witnessing substantial clusters of audience members, ranging from large gatherings to more intimate groups and collectively forming a significant crowd, some emerging from a concert at the Ataturk Cultural Centre and populating historic Beyoglu, down to Tunel. Among them, new enthusiasts hopped on the tram to attend another concert at St. Antuan Church, while others explored boutique cafes, engaging in animated conversations about choral music. This experience felt like a glimpse into a utopian world — a pure joy that defies any attempt at metric measurement, which I believe will be reiterated in many future WSCM events across the world, with an increasing number of people uniting around choral music.


Edited by Patricia Abbott, Canada

Sinem Erenturk began her career as a young journalist at Türkiye's only English-language newspaper at the time. She then moved to the pharmaceutical industry, where she worked for 15 years in various positions, primarily focusing on strategy and multi-channel marketing in the latter years. Her life changed dramatically when she became a mother to twin boys and relocated to London with her family six years ago where she is a member of a local writers’ group in Richmond, London. Sinem has been singing since the age of eight in various choirs, ranging from children's, girls', youth choirs in her hometown of Ankara, to mixed choirs in Istanbul. Currently, she is part of a philharmonic choir in south-west London. Recently, Sinem assumed the role of Head of Communications for the successful launch of WSCMIstanbul2023. As a choral enthusiast and a member of the editorial board of IFCM, she’s excited to bring new perspectives to the promotion of choral music worldwide. She sees choral music, along with the collective arts, as a crucial catalyst for a genuinely connected world.

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