Current Affairs

Where Should Classical Music Be Performed?

Current Affairs
© IvicaNS - If you follow the classical music world as I do, you’ll know that there’s a lot of innovation going on right now around where classical music should be performed. I use the word “should” because the prevailing wisdom for the last few decades is that classical music should be heard in a concert hall where there are no distractions and you can hear a pin drop. However here in New York City innovative venues like SubCulture and Le Poisson Rouge are challenging that assumption, and doing so with a lot of success. And this article from Mother Jones about an all-volunteer run classical music program in San Francisco, “Classical Revolution,” provides a full description of what’s going on there, and why it’s working.

I’m not suggesting that classical music should abandon the concert hall. Rather I’m for the “and” approach. Forward thinking classical music organizations ought expand their thinking in terms of where they perform and under what conditions. The Brooklyn Academy of Music puts on casual concerts (some classical and some pop) on the second floor lounge above their opera house. And, at Lincoln Center, there is a small venue where late-night concerts are performed along with wine in an intimate setting. So, could you repurpose some portion of your venue to do something like this? How about a pre-concert casual concert or a late-night event?

I’m not giving this as a recommendation or prescription. I’m only saying that there seems to be a new audience that wants to hear classical music in another setting. How and where you take advantage of that trend is up to you, but it seems like it’s a trend worth paying attention to.

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Even First Timers Want Information

Current Affairs
© uwimages - There's something profound about the results of research sponsored by TDF and Theatre Bay Area. This article is well worth a deep read.

Many of us believe that only our most devoted ticket buyers and subscribers are interested in learning more about the play, the playwright, and/or discussing what they have just seen. But it seems to be more universal than that. People in general want to know more.

The trick is how to engage them. The playbills are seen as advertising heavy, the pre-event website isn't looked at enough, and the post-show "talk-back" arrangement is too formal. There's lots of talk now about downloadable apps — but if you offer them will people actually download and look at the content you put up?

This study fascinates me because it shows that people really do yearn for an experience that makes them think. How we satisfy that itch is the tricky part.

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Mobile Artists

Current Affairs
© Delphotostock - We all know that the smartphone is changing the way nearly everyone interacts with each other, buys things, and gets information. But what about how we make art? It seems clear to me that a new generation of mobile artists is about emerge, and this article from the Guardian in the UK is on it.

Whether the technology is augmented reality (as Adam Weinart wrote about last week) or an Oculus Rift, or Google glass, it really doesn’t matter. The exciting thing will be to sit back and watch what happens. Though some may hate the idea, I can easily imagine a 3-D virtual visit to an art museum. And no, I don’t think it will spell the end of musuems. I think it will only enhance the experience of the real thing.

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Crowdfunding Hits the Mainstream

Current Affairs
© Ivelin Radkov - Now that crowdfunding is a word everyone knows, many arts organizations are considering doing it. And just like most things that seem like a “shiny new object,” the hype around certain amazing success stories is now blotting out the realities of what’s actually involved. Guess what? A Kickstarter or Indiegogo fundraising campaign is still a campaign and goodness knows we know how to run campaigns. They take planning, resources, time, and attention. And sometimes they work and sometimes not. Quoting from this excellent article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review:

Crowdfunding isn’t a quick fix for the social sector’s funding issues, but it is an increasingly critical component of the fundraising toolkit; allowing nonprofits to connect with and solicit support more efficiently than ever before.

If your organization is thinking about a crowd-funded campaign then this contains an indispensable checklist.

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Toward an International Consensus on Audience Development

CRM & Ticketing, Current Affairs, Newsletter2
International CRM & Box Office Ticketing ConsensusDuring the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to give presentations about arts marketing, audience development, CRM, and box office ticketing in Argentina, Chile, San Francisco, and Seattle. I’ve shared the spotlight with some of the best consultants and executives in our field, from South America, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States; relevant links to many of them are at the bottom of this article.

Though none of us pre-screened our presentations for one another, what amazed me was that all of us validated and reinforced what the others were saying. It’s clear that there’s wide agreement about where audience development in our industry is headed and what organizations ought to focus on in order to grow. Here are a few of the more important insights.


The move to a customer relationship management (CRM) approach to audience development and customer service has become a central point of agreement internationally. We’ve moved to a time in which the “transaction” (a ticket sale or a donation) is no longer an end in itself. Rather, the transaction now represents the beginning of a customer relationship. Using digital technology, your job is to embark on an ongoing series of two-way communications, to target and personalize your marketing efforts, and to document all your interactions to create a 360-degree view of your relationship with that patron.

Those of you who follow my blog and this newsletter know that this is the central idea in our book Breaking the Fifth Wall: Rethinking Arts Marketing in the 21st Century, so I am heartened that these ideas are truly becoming international.


“Data-driven marketing” is a phrase I’m hearing over and over. The reality is that your organization already has a lot of information about your customers. But you either may not have the ability to access it, or you haven’t yet tried. In either case, when you start to “interrogate” your data and use it to creatively slice and dice your patron database into meaningful segments that you can track and measure, marketing suddenly becomes less about guesswork and more about measurement and refinement.

When it comes to marketing tactics, I like to say that if it can’t be measured, you shouldn’t do it! For most arts organizations (click to read more...)

We Need Your Vote! - Part Two

Current Affairs

Last week I posted here asking you to help us be eligible for the Chase Bank Main Street Grant competition. We needed 250 votes, and thanks to you we’re over the top now and we’ll see how we do in the next round. Though it may not surprise any regular readers, you know what worked the best in getting people to respond? Email marketing. Yup, with one email we doubled our votes within a few hours!

How, here’s the next thing I’d like to ask you to vote on. (click to read more...)

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