It’s About Trust
James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CCEP
Last month Jim Lukaszewski spoke with a dozen of us on crisis management at the League of American Orchestras Conference in Dallas. While he spoke off the cuff, every sentence followed a clear narrative. He preached a generosity of information with a generous spirit.
The Issue is to Settle People Down
Lukaszewski segmented the public into a rainbow of emotional types and interest levels in a crisis. A small number of people, those feeling themselves to be victims, wield power for a simple reason: they’re 24/7, obsessed with getting back at someone. Their questions are predictable—so answer their questions! It’s not that that will satisfy them; a victim is intellectually deaf. Continue reading
No one marketed pops performances better than my friend Steve Cook when he was at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. These days his firm, The Cooking Group, offers a full range of pops offerings, unlike any other provider. Steve has put his marketing expertise and his experience as a creator of entertainment in the service of the orchestra industry. Merely looking at his roster of performers lays out the ABCs of programming a pops series. Continue reading
This blog has been neglected for more than a year, set aside by the demands of my work at the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. As the League of American Orchestras Conference begins I’ll resume posting material.
Today I flew the last leg of my flight from Qatar, through Houston to the conference site Dallas. Both the Texas cities have been cited by GQ Magazine among The Worst Dressed Cities in America. Dallas is listed at 23. Having lived in Houston for a decade, it hurts to see my former city rated even worse at 21.
As I waited to board my flight I saw plenty of evidence our cities had earned this distinction. One traveler wore that most recent expression of bad taste in America, an elaborate cross of rhinestones and glitter on a T shirt. Continue reading
Week after week, orchestra marketers and communications professionals try to get stories about their music director, guest conductor or guest artist in the media. Is this wise? Yes, of course. Guest musicians are news. They can talk about the music being performed. Yet we’re out of balance when we concentrate on using their star power to get space in the press. And as we all know, there aren’t many stars in classical music today.
We’re like the beggar who asks passersby for help who doesn’t realize he is sitting on a chest full of treasure. Our orchestras hold one hundred musicians who can tell their story, our orchestra’s story and the music’s story. Continue reading
Much music-making today is about commerce. Famous artists regularly play chamber concerts after one or two rehearsals. Veteran orchestra players sit back in their chairs while they play, bored yet holding on to their income until retirement. Tonight I heard music that matters: Daniel Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO) here in Doha, Qatar.
I hasten to say that I’m privileged to work for another orchestra that matters, another orchestra that plays with passion, the Qatar Philharmonic. Continue reading
The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in the Opera House
Recently a colleague and I visited three primary schools in Qatar on behalf of my employer, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. The experience was the highlight of my six weeks in Doha. Continue reading
Arts management mavens are always touting the benefits of collaboration among performing arts groups. And foundations love to reward grants to those good citizens who collaborate.
Often, though, collaboration is skin deep or limited to marketing alone. A dance group needs an orchestra, any orchestra, and the orchestra wants the dance audience to sample its work. Two performing arts groups give each other ad space or inserts in their programs. And in what is still a valuable process after half a century, marketers trade mailing lists.
A Deeper Relationship
Last weekend I heard extraordinary music-making born of a true partnership. Continue reading
Music Is Like Candy
I spent my early years in marketing in candy: Brach, Andes, Toblerone, Cote d’Or, Milka and Suchard. One of the great things about candy is that buyers consume it immediately. So you can sell them more the next day. It isn’t like soap or other products that get stockpiled because consumers use them at a steady rate.
Music is like candy. Music lovers cannot be sated. A great concert only increases the hunger for the next one.
Always Within Arm’s Reach
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This week I heard an expert on reputation, IBM Distinguished Professor Daniel Diermeier from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, speak to a few dozen fellow Kellogg alums in Houston. The orchestra industry can learn from his years of research in crisis management for major corporations. Excepting my added comments about orchestras, the words below summarize Professor Diermeier’s talk.
1.Trust in institutions has eroded dramatically, yet it remains higher for NGOs.
Polling over time by Harris shows low numbers of consumer trust for most industries and companies. Many industries have single-digit measures of consumer confidence. Nonprofit organizations are held in much higher esteem. We’ve all seen how the loss of this prized asset for any orchestra typically threatens its existence.
2. Reputation is less and less a function of direct experience.
Do you have direct experience dealing with Goldman Sachs? Probably not. Do you have an opinion of Goldman Sachs? Almost certainly. Continue reading
Today musicians frequently talk from the stage. Don’t you wish they’d get to the music? Last weekend I heard a voice recital with superb music—and superb silence.
Julia Fox, Soprano
I always expect great music-making from accompanist Keith Weber, the conductor-organist-harpsicordist-coach-and-yes-pianist who is artistic director for Grace Song. Soprano Julia Fox, whom I hadn’t heard before, brings not only a great sound but also high expectations for performance. This was a well-rehearsed recital with meaning.
The performers divided the program into six sets, three each before and after intermission. Sets 1, 3, 4 and 6 consisted of Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson. The interior sets of each half leavened the mix with songs of Bernstein, Monteverdi, Purcell and David Evan Thomas, as well as an improvisation by Mr. Weber.
At the end of each set the performers paused and sat down, perhaps sixty seconds each time. Did they need rest? No. Did the audience? Absolutely. Continue reading
Updated count: 32 (see comments below)
Beatles producer George Martin famously called the gigantic crescendo of the Lennon-McCartney song “A Day in the Life” an orchestral orgasm. Last month Rolling Stone named it #1 of the top 10 Beatles songs. By any standards it’s wonderful music, which at the moment you can hear on YouTube if you don’t have the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
24 hours ago I thought I’d make a list of the top 10 orchestra orgasms. It quickly grew to 20. And I dropped “top;” this isn’t something to rank. With your help, kind readers, I’m sure we can get to 50. Please add your favorites in the comments box below.
20. Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs, from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. What an explosion of energy! They didn’t need Viagra at the French court. Continue reading
Sure, there are easier things to do. I’ve marketed candy, cigars, nuts, lighters, gasoline, travel and education. All were easier.
But music can change lives. It has thrilled mine. Music carries deep, otherwise-inexpressible meaning. 35,000 years ago our species was making music on a flute carved from a bird’s bone.
We are like Abraham, blessed beyond imagination. “Pray look toward the heavens and count the stars, can you count them? So shall your seed be.” Such is our inheritance with music. Not only its past, but its present and future have no limits as well.
We have more orchestras with better-trained musicians than ever. Yet these marvels of precision bleed anxiety over the future. Most of that anxiety centers on revenue. In my view, possibly because of our focus on commerce, the artistic product needs reinvention. Orchestras are like General Motors in the early 70s, still humming along but with the seeds of destruction long sown.
Over the next ten days I’ll list ten things I believe audiences don’t get from their orchestras. While I’ve already made up that list, please feel free to add your own things.
1. Art (Last Word, for September 2)
The art of music.
Clive Gillinson, formerly of the London Symphony Orchestra and now at Carnegie Hall, says, “Follow the music.”
Over the last two years orchestras have cut costs repeatedly and deeply. Let’s cut costs, not ambitions.
Michael Kaiser of the Kennedy Center and The Art of the Turnaround reminds us constantly to plan meaningful artistic projects rather than get caught up in the short term. With today’s financial pressures his advice is more important than ever.
Look at the excitement this year when the New York Philharmonic staged György Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre. Our audiences hunger for meaning. Let’s create it for them. That’s our mission. Continue reading
It’s always a challenge to bring in new single ticket buyers, isn’t it? Let alone broaden your subscription base.
Extend Your Reach
Your house list is your best source for audiences. And trades with other arts organizations can supplement that list. Are there other ways to boost your mail campaign? I asked Tom Holm, Vice President of Enertex Marketing, who managed my lists for many years.
Even though your own customer list might be large enough to achieve your direct-mail quantity objective, it is very risky not to market to fresh blood as part of each direct mail campaign. Orchestras and other arts organizations around the country are reaching out to new audiences from sources such as the following:
Obtaining lists from such national non-profits as Sierra Club, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Nature Conservancy—obviously names only within your market.
Finally, nationwide music lists. These examples range from members of BMG CD Club with a classical music interest, to the Metropolitan
Opera, to the New York Philharmonic, again only selecting names within your market.
Direct marketing to people who have seen Broadway shows in New York City. This is most helpful in marketing Pops events and of
course Broadway shows or concerts with Broadway artists. Continue reading
An Age of Puffery
Adam Sherk has statistically catalogued The Most Overused Buzzwords in Marketing and Press Releases. Gregory Sandow has satirized the language of classical music press releases, saying he hopes they die. And the anonymous blog Proper Discord has laid out 10 Cliches of Classical Music Journalism. Why do I find these columns delicious? Perhaps because they sting when I recognize my sins in them.
A Corpus of Corpses
We orchestra marketers have amassed an impressive number of words that no longer mean anything to our audience. We lean toward classical-music jargon, huckstering, and synonyms for perfection which we strangle with overuse. Or we write “magisterial” and other words that we’d never use in spontaneous conversation. May these 50 words and phrases rest in peace.
- Ambassador [such as "ambassador of the flugelhorn"]
- Back by popular demand
- Collaborated with [rather than accompanied]
- Critical acclaim Continue reading
In this day of social technology there’s little attention paid to the ABC’s of advertising. Yet developing an effective ad will always be a useful skill, whatever the medium.
Learn from The New York Times
My first newspaper ads in the orchestra industry were display ads, heavy on visuals and low in detail. Meanwhile, the ads I saw in the Times were heavy in detail, more like listings than billboards. I reasoned that I could learn from the best marketers in performing arts how to make use of expensive space. Indeed, as I consulted existing market research studies and commissioned others, I found their insights pointed me toward a similar style. Continue reading