Within less than a week, the Sydney Opera House YouTube extravaganza has become the most-watched live music concert on the Internet.

The online statistics are in, and they declare YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s grand finale of March 20 the most frequently viewed concert in the history of the video-sharing website.

Following an online auditioning and voting process, the YouTube Symphony initiative selected 101 orchestral musicians and soloists (including four Australians) from thousands of applicants in over thirty countries to come together in performances held at the Sydney Opera House and broadcast live via satellite to YouTube viewers all over the world. The participants were coached in a week of rehearsals with San Francisco-based conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and mentors from the Berlin Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra.

The worldwide audience figures announced today confirm a total of 33 million people watched the YouTube Symphony Orchestra finale. This includes 11.1 million live streams of the three-and-a-half-hour event, displacing rock band U2 as the most-watched live music concert online.

After the initial live presentation, a further 19.1 million streams followed in the next 24 hours. Approximately 2.8 million people tuned in on mobile phones: the biggest-ever YouTube mobile live stream.

A truly global collaboration, the eclectic program featured several Australian and international guest stars, including Ukrainian sand artist Kseniya Simonova, whose own YouTube portfolio boasts several million hits. In Sydney, Simonova created one of her signature, free-flowing sand animations in real time as the backdrop to music performed by Richard Tognetti and members of the orchestra. Throughout the event, high-tech visual projections in the concert hall and on the Opera House sails reinforced the theme of YTSO bringing music and technology together in innovative new ways, for new audiences.

Didgeridoo player William Barton, who performed with Synergy on the night, is bound to become an Internet sensation thanks to his crowd-pleasing antics and blend of ancient tradition and hip-hop.

The success and scale of the YTSO phenomenon is unprecedented in any music genre. Its first outing in 2009 at New York’s Carnegie Hall, also headed by Tilson Thomas, garnered 15 million hits on its dedicated interactive channel.

Read Limelight’s story about the YouTube Symphony and interview with Michael Tilson Thomas, originally published in the March issue of the magazine.