How to Hire an Orchestra Marketer

Hiring for any position is as much art as science. Choosing an orchestra marketer can be especially difficult. Understanding the dimensions of that choice can frame the decision within our orchestra’s true needs.

Wanted: Wide-Ranging Skills

I’ve previously written in three posts Why Orchestra Marketing Is So Difficult. If you haven’t yet read them, step back to them first; they’re corollaries to this entry. The qualifications detailed are:

  1. Mastery across a range of marketing disciplines.
  2. The ability to manage a year-long subscription campaign while fielding a new promotion every week.
  3. A dual temperament of salesperson and marketer.

Should You Hire Inside the Industry?

I personally joined the Houston Symphony as head marketer after many years in business. Houston was looking for new ideas from outside the orchestra world. Yet my bias for senior positions is to recruit from the performing arts. Why is that?

I know no business that encompasses all the disciplines listed in the posts I cited above. To my surprise, I had a steeper learning curve at the Symphony than for the four industries I’d worked in before. Unfortunately few in the staff I inherited knew much about marketing orchestras. If you’re hiring for a larger orchestra you may be in a better position. I recommend that orchestras large and small document their processes for every aspect of single-ticket and subscription marketing.

What About Other Performing Arts Marketers?

Many orchestra CEOs will only hire from other orchestras. I’m not sure why they distrust marketers from theater, opera, presenters and ballet. The functions are the same, and the quality of the marketing discipline in those fields is high.

How Important Is Musical Knowledge?

Knowledge of classical music is essential to writing great copy. Without such knowledge, marketers are dependent on artistic personnel at an orchestra.

That said, in many orchestras pops is as important as classical. A broad base of pops knowledge helps immensely.

Marketers who consider themselves to be an expert in a category can be dangerous, however. The marketer’s task requires freeing oneself from opinions in favor of facts. I initially assumed that what motivated classical ticketbuyers was what motivated me personally. About pops I knew nothing: before working in the orchestra world I’d never attended a pops concert. In both categories the research we commissioned is what truly informed me.

A Path for Small Orchestras

The smallest orchestras have the toughest task in filling marketing positions. The marketer may also have to cover development, yet another specialized craft. And there’s little chance of hiring someone with orchestral experience. In many cases the best prospects are recent graduates of arts administration programs, who want to work in the industry and have been trained for its needs.

Developing Marketers at Larger Orchestras

At the Houston Symphony I set up a product development structure. New hires rotated up through positions of marketing assistant, assistant manager, associate manager, product manager and director as they mastered skills. Promotions came as quickly as one a year. Many of our hires were from excellent music schools such as Rice or Eastman. I looked for intelligence, writing skills and high energy. Then they learned marketing on the job. The system worked well. My first hire succeeded me five years later.

Choose With Confidence

Considering how challenging these positions are to recruit for, orchestras nonetheless tend to make good hiring decisions. The best marketers I know work for orchestras, and I’ve worked in travel, education, oil and the traditional home of the best marketers, packaged goods. May your next marketing hire succeed beyond imagination.

What considerations do you have when hiring a marketer?

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