Monthly Archives: May 2011

Audience Development and lessons from Vegas

I have been a little quiet this week due to needing to catch up from my Las Vegas extended weekend trip.  I have blogged in the past about how the lessons are all around us, and while I was in Vegas, there were definite lessons that presented themselves for me to learn from.  Here are the lucky seven lessons that will summarize some of the audience development principals.

1. The people behind the hotel check-in desk were not very friendly, and throughout the weekend, they continued to get my name wrong.
If you want to make people happy and loyal, you will want to be happy and friendly and make sure you address your patrons correctly.  Everyone is sensitive about their name, whether misspelled or mispronounced, especially after attempts to correct have been ignored. If you want a happy and loyal audience, you need to treat them like they are important people.

2. Their alarm clock wasn’t working and their wake-up calls were 10 minutes late every morning. Plus, they didn’t have a towel bar in the bathroom.  When basic services are lacking, this sends a message that you simply do not care about your patrons.  Make sure your basic services are quality services.

3. Vegas doubles the prices and nickle and dimes you for everything you do.
I wouldn’t have minded this fact as much if the basic services and the services in general were good.  We had slow service at restaurants despite the prices being doubled.  If your ticket or art work is a little more on the pricey side, at least make sure what you are presenting (the entire package) is worth the higher cost.  I will say that one restaurant we went to was worth the higher cost.  The food and the service was excellent!

4. Vegas “highjacks” people around the bigger intersections, taking people out of their way through various hotels and past certain shops.
I see the necessity safety wise, but adding more walking time is a pain to the patron, especially if it is for marketing purposes.  I would have appreciated a foot rub booth, or something that would have made these “highjacks” a little more comfortable. They didn’t even have benches along the way.  How does this Vegas lesson translate?  If a change you make is necessary but might upset your patrons, make sure your patrons understand the reasons and implement amenities that will make them happier with this change.

5. Audience participation is fun and makes experiences memorable.
This was one of the good things about Vegas.  Their shows have the audience participation factor down and most of the shows are high quality and very entertaining.  I felt like I was part of the shows and not just a spectator watching the shows.  I was amazed how one theater had seats with built in audio to experience the music more personally.  The attention to detail to make the audience become a part of the show was there, and I will never forget these experiences!

6. Take a risk!
Vegas is all about risks when it comes to gambling.  If you don’t take the risk to play,  you won’t be taking the risk to win either.  Losing money is not the lesson here, but not getting in the game is the lesson.  If you are playing it safe with your art, you may not be winning new audience or helping your current audience to grow.  Stale art is just as bad as not getting in the game.  I do have to mention that in business, sometimes it takes money to make money, which also means taking a risk.  Use the 5th C Courage and take a risk!

7. Follow-up
Despite the hotel having some major flaws, they at least sent me a thank you email with a survey to get my feedback.  Whether they use the feedback and make some changes, I may not find out about, but the fact that they are attempting to follow-up makes me feel like I have a chance to be heard.  If you are not allowing for patron feedback, you are missing out on valuable information, missing out on an opportunity to get to know your patrons, and missing out on a way to show that you care to get their suggestions and comments for improvement.  Plus, if you do this step properly, you have a chance of building relations with them and inviting them to another fabulous opportunity.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”

~James Stewart

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Audience Development and the dumbing down for new audiences

Today I happened to come across this article:

The Lesson Of Britten’s ‘War Requiem’: Don’t Underestimate Younger Audiences

Basically, this article talks about how an instructor gave her students a challenging piece of music to listen to, Britten’s “War Requiem,” but found ways that the kids could relate to it so they could find meaning while they listened.  With these extra tools, tools to relate, the kids could understand, listen openly and ask  pertinent questions. They came up with well formulated comments that related to their own lives and to current events in our world.

Are these simply amazing kids or is this teacher on to something incredible?

These kids are amazing, however, the teacher was able to connect the kids to the music by finding ways they could relate, which we all can do.  It reminds me of the time I was at the National Performing Arts Convention a few years back, and I stumbled upon an Indian dance group that was performing.  This group told us stories about the dances before performing so the audience could relate to the dance and the music.  I had never seen this form of dance close and personal before, and I was delighted!  It was new to me, but I could relate since this group went the extra mile and helped me to understand through their stories.

Mainly, when it comes to reaching out to new audiences, I see attempts to dumb down the content in easy to swallow pieces.  Familiar plays, music and dance programming is starting to breed contempt.  The same old same old is being advised to hook new audiences, but from the above examples, there really isn’t a need to dumb down at all.  New audiences can enjoy new offerings if we find ways they can relate.

Of course, finding ways they can relate takes more time and effort.  It took time and effort for the teacher to come up with scenarios the kids could relate to, and it took time and effort for the dance group to find the right stories to tell their audience.  The time and effort are worth it due to this main fact- with finding ways your audience can relate, you are finding ways they can experience the joys and passions of your art, the basic reasons why your art matters in our world and how it can matter to them personally.

Audience development is about building relationships with people, but in this sense, it is also about helping your audiences, new and old, to build relationships with your art.   Dumbing down to me means that you were too lazy to go the extra mile to find ways your audience can relate to all kinds of offerings.   There is an opportunity to do better!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”

~James Stewart

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Audience Development and Classical Music concerts for newbies

I had a major thought today after reading another article about a symphony performing a free classical music concert mainly for audience development purposes.  The repertoire selected was the same old type of list: Barber of Seville, some poppy selections from South Pacific, some light operetta favorites.  Throw in pieces from Fantasia and it’s a wrap!

I agree that it is nice to choose pieces that might be familiar to people in order to get them interested in classical music.  However, if they are truly newbies to art music, go ahead and program an accessible newer piece!  Here’s my story:

I had invited a friend to a wind ensemble concert.  She had never heard a wind ensemble.  She said she was willing to give it a try.  She was familiar with a few pieces on the program, but the one she really liked was something she never heard before.  She ended up enjoying the concert mainly because of this piece.  My friend came with an open mind so it really didn’t matter if the selections were familiar, only that they were quality music performed well.

From this example, if a person truly is open and new to hearing classical music, then they will be open to hearing anything!  It’s similar to when someone hears classical music out of context, let’s say on a commercial, and they end up noticing and really digging the music.

The point is, we have an opportunity to play new music for new audiences!  We don’t have to keep performing the same, although pleasant, “gateway” pieces.  We can throw in an accessible newer piece too.  I caution with “accessible” since something outside of a new ear comfort zone could be a complete turn off.  There are pieces out there that can fit nicely into an audience development concert, even if it is for kids.

I hope the composers out there are jumping up and down.  This is an opportunity for you too.  What would you compose if faced with the challenge of creating for a brand new classical music audience?

Perhaps you might still fear the fact that if the music is unfamiliar, this new audience may not like the program.  Please do consider though that if it is truly a new experience, these people are open and ready to receive the best of what you can offer them, no matter what century the music comes from.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”

~James Stewart

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Quick post: Audience development with open heart and mind

In terms of doing audience development effectively, I recommend keeping an open mind and heart. Audience development deals with finding the right people as audience members and as supporters. If you discard people based on appearances alone, you may be missing out on the right relationships and the right people to help support your art and organization. Appearances can be deceiving. Don’t judge a book by its cover. The cover may look bright and shiny and reputable, but the lump of coal inside could be an extremely bad addition to your art community. Or, the cover may look shabby, but the jewel inside might be a great person to add to your art community.

Someone may look like they listen to punk rock, but they actually enjoy classical music as well. Someone may look like a sports fan, but they might enjoy going to the ballet or Broadway. People come in all shapes and sizes and these shapes and sizes should not be the deciding factor of whether or not to attempt to build relationships with them.

Again, audience development is done most effectively when you keep an open heart and mind. Being open means being open to a world of possibilities!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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Audience Development and Old Fashioned Customer Service

Remember the days when you had to go to the box office to purchase a ticket and speak to a person that was a part of the organization?  Or remember purchasing art from the artist directly instead of online at Etsy?

I’m not knocking the new services that we have that provide a quick and easy way to purchase art and tickets to an event, however, this new speedy technology that is convenient for both sides of the equation has rid us of face-to-face, one-on-one, old fashioned customer service.

Patrons, your audience members, are falling through the cracks of our convenient technology.  You might say that social media will come to the rescue, a modern, convenient way to reach out to our audience and get to know them.  However, after reading a museum survey (500 people surveyed) with the report stating  that 80% of the people did not know their museum was involved in social media, I’m not so sure social media is the magic that will solve the problem if your audience doesn’t know about your social media.  This means that the technology solution attempting to save the day and connect us back with people will only work if the knowledge is there.

Old fashioned customer services brings us back to the days of people interaction where we get to know our patrons and they get to know us.  Think of the door to door salesmen having conversations with existing and potential customers.  Think of the days you chatted with your patrons over the phone while taking their ticket order.  There was a time and place where we were building relationships via the old fashioned way of handling a sale or transaction.

So what can we do to put the “old fashioned” back into our modern day customer service?  I would highly recommend finding ways that you can interact one-on-one with your patrons again.  Even if this means simply following up with a friendly individual email or phone call. You can use this time to thank them and ask them about their experience at the event or about their purchase.  This small way of getting in touch personally can make a world of difference.

For example, back in the day, I was a box office manager and part of the staff for placing orders.  When people came in to purchase tickets, I would make sure to “shoot the breeze” with them.  In one instance, I found out that the subscriber patron I was placing the order for was having his grandkids into town over Thanksgiving weekend.  I casually glanced at their subscription and saw that they did not have tickets to our Nutcracker performances over the holidays.  I suggested to them that we had a family pack for the Nutcracker so they could take their grandchildren.  I ended up selling them those tickets on top of their regular purchase!

Aside from upselling or reselling, old fashioned customer service can help out it ways to obtain patrons, donors, attendees at your special events and receptions, and perhaps by getting further contacts to help you and/or your organization.    Old fashioned customer service is one of the best audience development techniques.  It’s amazing what you can discover when you take the time to get to know your audience and what can happen as a result of forming strong relationships with them.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”

~James Stewart

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Filed under arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development