Australia’s iconic venue has signed an official partnership with the Internet broadcasting giant.

Sydney Opera House and YouTube have announced a two-year agreement that will see 20 upcoming performances in and around the world-famous building filmed and streamed live on the Internet. Home viewers will be able to watch these events as they unfold, from anywhere in the world with a connection. The project launched in January 2013 with a dedicated YouTube channel: “Live at the Sydney Opera House.”

The joint venture follows the unprecedented success of the 2011 YouTube Symphony Orchestra grand finale, hosted at the Sydney Opera House and beamed live to viewers around the world via the Google-owned video-sharing site. Within less than a week of the March 20 concert, it had attracted 33 million online visits (including 11.1 million real-time viewers), outstripping a clip of British rock band U2 to become the most frequently watched concert in YouTube’s history.

In 2012, Sydney Opera House continued its efforts to reach out to an exponentially expanding international audience through digital platforms. As part of a trial run of the partnership, four concerts at the 2012 Vivid LIVE festival streamed live on YouTube, garnering a total of 916,000 playbacks. One of these performances, by Australian band Temper Trap, clocked up 296,000 unique views – an audience roughly 100 times the size of the Concert Hall crowd. 

Quite aside from this live, remote access to events, the Opera House tested the waters with a different kind of YouTube experiment last year. The Ship Song music video was a yearlong project inviting Australian and international musicians performing at the venue to record their contribution to a cover version of Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave’s original ballad: participating artists included baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Bangarra Dance Theatre. It may not have had enjoyed the viral trending of Korean YouTube sensation Gangnam Style, but to date The Ship Song has amassed more than a quarter of a million views. 

Arts organisations around the country have ventured into similar technological territory as far back as 2008, with both the Australian Ballet and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra having offered live streaming presentations (through Telstra and iiNet respectively). These, however, were only available nationally. 

Richard North, Head of Music Partnerships YouTube Australia and New Zealand, praised the Opera House’s “commitment to using technology to democratise access to their incredible performances.” The two-year deal, he added, is dedicated to “showcasing the best of Australia and the world, live on the world’s largest stage, YouTube.” 

Newly sworn-in Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron said she was confident that “the numbers watching on YouTube will match or exceed the 8.2 million who visit the precinct annually.” The full program of events streaming online will be announced early 2013.