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The Digital Culture Awards Income Generation category celebrates innovative ways of utilising digital technology to create revenue streams or to raise funds.

The 2022 Judge in this category was Liam Darbon, Director of Digital and Innovation at Tate.

2022 Winner

Opera North for ‘From Couch To Chorus’

When the pandemic hit, Opera North’s priorities were to stay connected to audiences, supporters and participants, to keep making music, and to replace lost income. But the ‘From Couch to Chorus’ project was much more than just an income-generation exercise: it helped Opera North build community and had an impact on their education and outreach programmes.

Triumphal March performed as part of Opera North’s From Couch to Chorus

The project was a ‘virtual choir’, where participants could learn to sing opera choruses via Zoom. With no income from in-person ticket sales, it could have been tempting to charge a fixed price for these workshops, but Opera North experimented with a ‘pay-what-you-feel’ model to allow as many people to access the workshops as possible. 5,000 unique bookers from all over the world took part, with 48% of these people being new to Opera North.

The relatively low cost of the workshops allowed Opera North to experiment and learn from their data, using their website to split test options and working out what time to send emails to generate the best results.

How you can experiment with income generation strategies like Opera North:

  • Analyse, analyse, analyse! Experimentation is important, but make sure you invest time and energy in understanding the results of every campaign. Spending a small amount of money to get performance benchmarks is important, and you can learn what’s working and what you can change in future campaigns.
  • Understand your return on investment (ROI). How much are you spending, and how much money are you making as a result? Make sure you try and keep track of all costs, actual or estimated, and be clear about which costs are specific to your digital project: if you are live-streaming a production, what are the extra costs on top of the existing production budget to bring this to a digital audience? If you are creating something from scratch, will you account for ‘staff time’ as well? Be consistent in how you cost up your projects so you can compare like with like.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your revenue streams. Offering content for ‘free’ (/pay-what-you-feel) might have an initial cost attached but if you measure your ROI and ensure you are able to recoup your costs, you might be surprised how much money your audiences and supporters are willing to donate if you delight them with free content.

It was such an honour to win a Digital Culture Award for our ‘From Couch to Chorus’ project. We are in the middle of planning the next edition, thinking about ways of moving to a more hybrid model, offering extra in-person elements alongside the online workshops.

Opera North, 2022 Income Generation Winners

2022 Shortlist

2022 Longlist

  • Cornwall Museums Partnership – Beyond Digitisation
  • Heart n Soul – Heart n Soul Shop
  • London Philharmonic Orchestra and Marquee TV – Streaming Partnership between London Philharmonic Orchestra and Marquee TV
  • Music Masters – Music Masters – Instruments of Change in a time of change
  • Real Ideas Organisation CIC – Real Ideas Membership and digital platform
  • The Tank Museum – Tank Museum Online Shop
  • The York Early Music Foundation – Early Music Online

Want to understand how you can maximise your organisation’s income? Our network of Tech Champions can help.

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Liam Darbon
Director of Digital and Innovation, Tate

Joining Tate 3 years ago, Liam is Director of Digital and Innovation, leading Tates Digital, Trading and Innovations strategies.

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