Tag Archives: philharmonic

The changing face of classical music for arts audience development

Inspired by the article, The changing face of opera, posted in the Oxford University Press’ blog by Meghann Wilhoite, I give you my first mini-podcast for 2013.

Have a great weekend!

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

Although we are not a non-profit, if you would like to support ADS to continue our work, you can donate here.

***Purchasing my book will help support ADS and our mission.***

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Good team arts management and audience development can turn it around

I remember going through one round of union negotiations that was as nail biting as the ones I am seeing in the news about the Atlanta Symphony.  We didn’t know if we would be able to have a full season.  Cuts were on the table.  And, this was during the season, not before it, so even more crucial that decisions be made.

I watched as the decisions to shut down the office for two weeks, to have a pay cut for the staff for a month, to scale back a full orchestra concert to a chamber concert, and to issue cuts to musicians’ pay were enacted.  I didn’t feel this was the right answer at the time, but at the time, it really was an emergency.  How did the orchestra get to this point?

In a polite way, it takes good team arts management to run an orchestra.  Good team arts management consists of everyone thinking about the delicate balance of revenue and expenses at all times, and not letting either side cave in.  Here’s the funny part about arts management of old. It is not a team mentality and instead it is run by groups of separate minds.

The revenue is comprised of money from the music or the product (and people believing in the product to invest donations).  This product is made by the orchestral employees of the business.  The employees rarely have a say in the product, with the exception of the music/artistic director.  The product of live music isn’t something manufactured and then placed on a shelf to sell.  The musicians have to create the product time and time again in a live fashion.  Without the musicians, you would not have a product!

The staff and board are responsible for obtaining extra revenue to keep the budget in balance and for selling the product.  The board and executive staff are responsible for the overall budget, expenses and revenue.   The musicians do not really have a hand in this side of the business, although they may have opinions that might be voiced in the form of an orchestral committee.

If the orchestra does not balance their expenses and revenues, they will be in big trouble, which is what we are seeing these days in the news.  Running an orchestra is costly.  Obtaining funds for an orchestra year after year can feel like a monumental task. The solution that the boards and executive staffs seem to  implement every time when times are tough is to start making cuts to the staff, the music and the musicians.  This means they are cutting into their product and making cuts to the people that can sell the product.  This does not make sense to me. I never see a company in trouble actually cut their product in half and place it back on the shelf to sell.  The marketing team would need to spin how fantastic the half of a product is while the consumers know full well they are getting half a product which is not valued as much.  Since it is likely that cuts are made to marketing/development/box office during this phase, it is less likely the orchestra will have a solid staff to carry out this impossible task anyway.

I do hear of talks about looking into raising more money.  However, it is rare when I see the boards and the executive staffs step up enough to make good on their words.

All of the above leaves the audiences feeling sad, angry, not very secure about their orchestra and how they handle their monetary support.  Many of the audience members will side with the musicians since they know that it takes musicians to create the enjoyable night they are paying to see.  The audiences will be less likely to want to donate or volunteer when it gets to this point.

So, who can fix these messes?  Everyone.

1.  The board and executive staff need to step up and secure donations, sponsorships, and stronger leadership. This means that they need to acknowledge that they may need extra help to get them out of this mess.

2. The executive staff needs to allocate some of the budget for audience development programs.  Audience development programs can create more audience and more donors and volunteers.  This also means having the money for outreach events and for paying the musicians for these events.  If there is no money to allocate (usually there is, but for devils advocate sake), the musicians would be wise to volunteer for a round of these outreach concerts until money will be set aside for their pay in the future.

3. Everyone needs to start connecting with people again and becoming part of the community.  More collaborations need to be made at this time.  More implementing of programs that show you care about your audience through this tough phase is crucial.

4. Everyone needs to start connecting with each other in order to run the business properly.  Since the musicians create the product, maybe they should have a little more say in this part of the  equation.  Since the board and staff are responsible for the budgets and for selling the organization and product, the musicians need to listen to them as well.  Everyone in a non-profit needs to step up, donate and volunteer at some point.  It takes a team to make a non-profit business successful.

5. If cuts are being made to musicians and staff pay, cuts should also be made to executive pay.  If you do not act as a team during this phase, people will simply remain resentful. Everyone should take the hit.  In our age of easy transparency, if someone catches wind that the executive staff is not taking any cuts, it will look bad for the organization.

6. The board needs to be responsible for the overall health of the organization.  If the organization isn’t healthy, then you need a different board or different board dynamic.  The challenge is that the board is in charge of themselves (similar to how our congress runs in America).  It will take a mighty strong leader to start implementing board evaluations and making changes that are necessary to get the board functioning properly again.

7. The organization needs to realize that every component is important for running an arts organization.  Cutting off one part will hurt the whole, which is why we see some of these organizations going into bankruptcy and closing their doors.  Until everyone works together and does their job to correct the imbalances, the organization will not be able to turn around.

8. The audiences need to learn that ticket prices only pay for 30-40% of the costs of the orchestra.  Audiences, if they want the orchestra to succeed, could volunteer their time to help bring others to the orchestra and donate monetary support above the cost of the tickets to increase the revenue stream.  However, audience development programs need to be ready and in place, and audiences need to be invited to participate and get more involved.  These programs will be seen as positive energy and will show that the orchestra is working toward a positive direction.

9.  In fact, everyone that is part of the organization should be responsible for “selling.”  Everyone can be an ambassador for the organization and  invite people to attend the various events.  Everyone can be more involved with connecting, collaborating, caring and becoming a part of the community on behalf of the orchestra.  The main problem with these old fashioned non-profits is all the “it’s not my job” that has been established.  A new team mentality needs to be born instead.

I have likened the bigger arts organization to a Titanic.  If something goes wrong, it will take different actions, not remaining the course, to turn the big ship around.  If you remain the course, your ship will hit the iceberg, and things will start sinking.

The audience of your product is also the audience of your business.  They will be the ones watching your ship sink.  Wouldn’t you rather have them watching and enjoying the music?

It takes a team to create an orchestra arts organization, and it will take a team to run it successfully as well. Everyone can roll up their sleeves and get to work to create a healthier organization.  Functioning as a team is good arts management and using audience development for a solution is too.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

FacebookTwitterLinkedin

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

Although we are not a non-profit, if you would like to support ADS to continue our work, you can donate here.

***Purchasing my book will help support ADS and our mission.***

My eBook

New eBook! The How of Audience Development for the Arts: Learn the Basics, Create Your Plan

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Audience Development, Peter Gabriel and Orchestras

Last night I went to see one of my favorite artists, Peter Gabriel.  He is right up there with the Beatles, Sting/The Police, and all my favorite classical music composers.  For this concert tour, Peter Gabriel was being backed by his own orchestra, the New Blood orchestra.  He chose particular songs to have arranged (brilliantly, I will add by John Metcalfe) so the mix was a little more on the mellow side.  There was no “Big Time” or “Sledgehammer,” but instead moving and powerful renditions of “Mercy Street” and “Blood of Eden.”

I’m not here to review the concert per se, although I highly recommend going to see this concert, but I am here to tell you that the crowd was not only hooting and hollering for Peter, they were also very excited about the orchestra.   The orchestra was mainly comprised of  musicians from the local area and the UK.  The conductor, Ben Foster, looked very young, but was extremely polished. These musicians played with such passion and conviction that you couldn’t help cheer them on.

I have no idea if other people in this audience were orchestral fans or as big of a Peter Gabriel fan as I am, but the audience was right there with me in acknowledging powerfully performed music.

Aside from the high quality content of this concert, the execution was audience friendly.  Peter told stories of how a song came into fruition to lead into the music.  Having a better understanding of the song led to a deeper enjoyment of the music.  He was gracious in always giving nods to his fellow musicians, and he definitely seemed to being having a wonderful time, always adding his personal theatrical flair.

Of course Peter couldn’t help adding a multi-media show with video images on a finely meshed backdrop.  It served as a curtain for the orchestra as well.  He is a highly creative individual that has to share the many sides of his artistry.  The video shared the many sides of the music, including the performers themselves.

Even when it rained, perhaps due to his heavy choice of water image songs, the crowd continued to be enthralled the entire time.  I was getting bathed and soaked in both rain and wondrous music.   This means that despite the set backs of the venue or any happenstance, there was no way the audience was budging from this amazing night.

Now back to the orchestra.  There has been a trend with musicians wanting to go on tour with an orchestra, and I do not see this trend letting up.  Just today I saw another article Deep Purple Guitarist Talks North American Orchestral Tour.  There is a draw for musicians to spread their wings, and working with an orchestra can provide a new outlet for their music.  This has many advantages for the orchestra world if they are smart enough to see these advantages.

First, there are new audiences being introduced to the sounds of an orchestra in a format that is already pleasing to them, a rock concert.  The audience usually ends up cheering on the orchestra as well as the main artist.  Some of the audience will take a liking to how an orchestra sounds and seek out recordings and concerts in the future.  Here is the biggest advantage, if you are an orchestra in the area and happen to have one of these types of concerts in town, you better believe I recommend finding a way to reach this new audience.

Our local theatre performance center had a chat session during the Tonys.  I can envision local orchestras equally latching on to this opportunity by hosting Twitter chats or Facebook posts, etc.  Or, perhaps finding a way for the venue or artist to mention going to see a performance of a local orchestra.  If there is a will, there is a way.

Also, if there are local musicians performing, like there were on this concert, find a way to connect with them.  Perhaps they can be personality advocates for the orchestras in the area and reach the audience by tweeting what is it like to perform with someone like Peter Gabriel.  There are people in the audience that would enjoy getting this backstage perspective.

Lastly, I would recommend attending one of these events yourself and take notes as to how the concert is executed.  The orchestra world can learn a great deal from one of these concerts, as aforementioned.  Would it really hinder us to program new and interesting music that an audience can relate to and get excited about, and allow them to applaud when highly moved after a solo?  Mozart enjoyed it.

New audiences such as the ones that attend these types of concerts are ready and waiting if we find ways to reach them, but we must make the effort to reach them.  We could stand to shed our high orchestral ideals and learn from the world around us, even if it is outside of our genre.  Peter Gabriel and the New Blood Orchestra put on a concert that could teach us many lessons that are vastly needing to be learned.

If you would like a real review of the concert, click here! 

Peter Gabriel’s New Blood Orchestra recording Digging In The Dirt at Air from York Tillyer on Vimeo.

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 symphony orchestra-do you really want GenX?

This morning my thoughts are on the symphony orchestra, the musicians and the audience.  I recently went to a CMF concert where the musicians were mainly GenX’ers (27-43), but the audience was still mainly Baby Boomer and Silent generation (44+).  Why is it that orchestra’s seem to have no problems with refilling the performer seats, but have all the troubles of filling the auditorium seats with this age group?

Please allow me the ability to ramble a bit on this blog.  I hope my thoughts will lead to some useful solutions in the end.

Since I am GenX, I will be referring to this group as “we.”  We tend to have some disposable income at hand so GenX is a prime target for all of the arts.  However, are the arts seriously looking at what makes our generation tick and how to connect with us?  I am seeing a little more out of the comfort zone marketing to attempt to lure us, but for the most part, same old same old structures are still in place, and they do not work for us.

So here is a nutshell view of what the majority of GenX tends to lean towards:

1. We like it bold and quick.  If you don’t capture our MTV attention spans within the first few sections, you lose us.   This means that information needs to be short and sweet, filtered, bulleted, bold, colorful, and daring.  Once you have our attention, you have our attention.

2. We rarely tend to commit to package deals, unless they are flexible and convenient and/or something irresistible is a part of the deal.  Subscriptions are dying due to this lack of commitment from my age group.  I admit that I rarely buy subscriptions.    However, I do see that we tend to purchase season passes if we really enjoy something.  The Season Pass is different than a subscription.  For one, we can use it anytime we want as opposed to subscriptions that are mainly set concert packages with set dates.  Another reason Season Passes work is if they have some extra value attached to it.  My age group loves to buy if we can use the pass in more than one way.

3. My age group will go to a concert if there is a fun social activity attached.  Why do you think we purchase $50-$300 tickets to a rock concert?  We get to hang out with our friends and be a part of the scene.

4. With GenX, loyalty is built when relationships and trust are built.  We are the age group that may have had some exposure to the arts as kids, but it wasn’t pushed as a mainstream activity like it was for the Baby Boomers.  Why do you think typical marketing is not working for this age group?  Audience development is important to get the GenX crowd coming to your events.  Transparency and trust are needed to build relationships, two things that marketing alone isn’t very good at establishing.

5.We tend to listen to ourselves and our friends more than the media.   Find bright GenX’ers to be a part of your team. Getting GenX to become part of the audience means getting GenX’ers as staff and volunteers to help with the relationship building.

Lastly, to address the interesting point of young performers vs. young audience, I feel the big reason GenX may not be attending is the fact that GenX likes to participate.  If you take a look at our generation as a whole, GenX likes to be a part of the action, either as individuals or sometimes in groups.  We like to get our opinions out there; we like to make a difference; we like to tell people about new things that are happening.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at Twitter and Facebook.  I’m fairly certain that the majorityof the users are GenX (and GenY).    Some of the other users are people attempting to get in touch with GenX.

So, with this said, if you add more audience participation to the mix, GenX would really like it.  Going to a concert that forces us to be quiet the entire time is not what most of us consider fun.  Being a part of the concert is more fun.  I do believe there is a way to incorporate audience participation without offending the older generation.The neat thing is, when more audience participation is incorporated, most of the audience, regardless of their generation, has a great deal of fun and the concert will be more memorable, which helps build audience for future concerts and events.    This audience participation element also is good to use at your special events and gala to attract GenX to become donors and volunteers.

All in all, it really isn’t the fact that my generation doesn’t like classical music, it’s more due to the fact that the way classical music is sold and performed is not our bag.  The proof, look at internet sales.  Younger generations are buying classical music online.

If we don’t have a say in what and how we buy, and if there is no avenue for participation, most of us will not spend our hard earned money on a product that does not take our desires into account.

If you want to reach us, it may be time to make the changes that will reach us.

Until next time, may your audiences be happy and loyal ones, and if they are not, feel free to contact me!

~Shoshana~

Shoshana Fanizza is the founder of Audience Development Specialists. Her mission is to introduce artists and arts organizations to their existing and potential audiences and to help them to form more rewarding relationships.

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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YouTube to bring in a new audience for classical music?

Today I caught wind of the first ever YouTube Symphony. What an amazing concept!

“We invite musicians from around the world to audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Your video entries will be combined into the first ever collaborative virtual performance, and the world will select the best of you to perform at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in April 2009.”

http://www.youtube.com/symphony

Here is how the concept works:

1. Renowned Chinese Composer, Tan Dun, (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) composed a piece for the final event.

2. Musicians are invited to download the sheet music for their part to practice. A YouTube of Tan Dun conducting the piece can be used to practice with. Also YouTubes of Masterclasses with members of the London Symphony Orchestra help musicians to tackle their parts.

3. The best will be invited to the main event at Carnegie Hall in April 2009 under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas

4. All videos are posted on YouTube as well to get an idea of the talents that have submitted.

5. This is open for all professional and amateur musicians.

6. The deadline for all video submissions is January 28, 2009

So how does this new phenomenon relate to audience development? This is a brilliant tool to use to bring awareness about classical music and the world of a classical musician. Every orchestra in the world has an opportunity to share this with people in their community. Their audiences and potential audiences will learn what a musician goes through to audition for a position in an orchestra and they will see the end results – the auditions! This brings a great deal of credibility for classical music and for classical musicians. It isn’t as easy as it looks.

The other way this new opportunity can be used is to introduce the different instruments to your potential audience. If you do not have live video samples of each instrument, this is a great way to start such a program on your website.

Lastly, joining in on the thrill of this process can get people excited about classical music. This is as close to the American Idol for the classical music world that I have seen yet! There is a judging panel that will decide upon the finalists, but perhaps hosting a contest for your audience to vote on their top picks and seeing how close they are to the judges final selections could create quite the buzz. Perhaps they could win free tickets to your next performance?

YouTube is becoming the basis of a brand new way of sharing the arts and for marketing the arts. Are you a part of the YouTube revolution? If not, what are you waiting for?

Until next time, may your audiences be happy and loyal ones, and if they are not, feel free to contact me!

~Shoshana~

Shoshana Fanizza is the founder of Audience Development Specialists. Her mission is to introduce organizations to their existing and potential audiences and to help them to form more rewarding relationships.

www.buildmyaudience.com
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