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Cliburn International Piano Competition sees viral success with performance videos

Yunchan Lim’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto trended no. 24 globally on YouTube.

It’s not too often that a classical music video trends on YouTube.

But that’s exactly what happened during the 2022 Cliburn International Piano Competition, after Yunchan Lim’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, was released June 17 on the competition’s YouTube channel.

It trended No. 24 globally the next day, the Cliburn said, and has racked up almost 8 million views.

“Yunchan became viral,” said Jacques Marquis, president and CEO of the Cliburn. “I could not believe the numbers.”

Lim, an 18-year-old South Korean pianist, and the eventual gold medalist, was a big part of the Cliburn’s digital success.

The Cliburn livestreamed all performances online, where they can still be viewed. From June to August, the performances generated 25 million views, five times more than the previous competition in 2017, with viewers from 177 countries, the Cliburn said.

On social media, videos also drew 4 million likes, shares and other reactions.

The digital success can be explained in a few ways, Marquis said. First, the pandemic has increased awareness of online programming. The Cliburn also expanded the reach of its webcast to countries including the United Kingdom, China and South Korea.

Watched by concert managers, performers and fans from around the world, the videos bring important exposure to the competitors.

“I always say to all the candidates, ‘Don’t underestimate the power of the webcast,’” Marquis said, “because somewhere, someone is watching.”

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