1st Annual Adaptistration Orchestra Website Review

What makes a good orchestra website?  Is it pretty pictures, a nice layout, or color scheme that makes you feel warm and comfortable?

All of those things are worth considering at some level but they’re also subjective. An orchestra website should focus on two basic principles that are not subjective, one major and the other minor: generating revenue and disseminating information…

Given the industry-wide fall off of subscription ticket sales the past several years, single ticket sales have become crucial in the short term struggle to raise revenue.  But it’s expensive to market single tickets and as a result, orchestras don’t earn as much profit on each ticket they sell.

This is where the internet comes in. Compared to print, radio, and television media internet marketing is still cheap; especially after you recoup initial investment expenses.  Orchestras should be bending over backwards to promote online ticket sales as well as online donations (remember how well that recently worked for the Howard Dean campaign?).

Once that revenue generating mechanism is established, everything else you do is gravy. Promoting the orchestra musicians, offering patrons access to the orchestra in ways that haven’t been available in the past, and providing a conduit for interaction all help promote the previous activates of selling tickets and getting people involved.  It turns into a cyclic resource that renews itself.

To determine how well the industry is achieving these goals, I took three days between 9/5/04 and 9/7/04 and examined 70 (well, 71 but more about that later) American orchestra websites in exacting detail. Some orchestras performed well, but most didn’t.

Using a 0-100 base scale, the average score was 62.9; or if you prefer to look at it from a scholastic point of view, that’s a D-.

All orchestras examined were based in the United States and have an annual budget of no less than approximately $2 million.

Starting 9/16/04, you’ll be able to view the details for all 70 orchestras, but for right now you can examine the five orchestras with the highest scores and the five orchestras with the lowest scores.  You can also view the rankings for all 70 orchestras as well as review the criteria utilized for the evaluations. You just might be surprised to find out where some of the bigger budget orchestras are on the list!

Top Five Orchestra Websites

1.  Chicago Symphony  91.8
2.   National Symphony  89.2
3.   Minnesota Orchestra  85.5
4.  Dallas Symphony  85.0
5.  Oregon Symphony  84.9

Bottom Five Orchestra Websites

66. New Jersey Symphony  42.0
67. Colorado Symphony  40.3
68. West Virginia Symphony 37.8
69. Honolulu Symphony  35.2
70. Colorado Springs Phil. 28.4

Come back tomorrow where you’ll be able to examine the details for the remaining 60 orchestras.

You’ll also get to hear from Kevin Giglinto, V.P. for Sales and Marketing at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He’s the man responsible for putting together the only orchestra website that scored over 90 points (or receive an “A” in scholastic terms) and the winner for the 1st Annual Adaptistration Orchestra Website Review.

Friday’s article will focus on some of the uniquely wonderful and ridiculously awful items I ran across while wading through these sites. We’ll also examine the all important revenue vs. expenditure ratio for some of the 70 orchestras that were generous enough to share their details.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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