The Best Orchestra Website Is In Chicago

After the dust settled from the evaluation process, it was clear the winner was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

They didn’t win because they’re one of the “Big five” orchestras or because they have a big budget, there were plenty of big budget orchestras that received low scores ( {cough, cough} New York {cough} L.A. {cough} Pittsburgh). They won because they designed the core of their website from the right point of view and built out from there.

I spoke to Kevin Giglinto, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Chicago Symphony, over the phone to find out why the CSO has such a winning website. 

Kevin came to the CSO for the sole purpose of overhauling their website back in 1999.  When I asked Kevin about how the project got started he said,

“The impetus to change the CSO website really came from the board.  I came on board because they wanted to make a new website with e-commerce ticket sales the core.

So we started from there and gathered a cross departmental team to determine other content that would support that core mission.  That helped us establish the website architecture.

We also gathered a great deal of patron feedback about what they wanted to make buying tickets easy.

After that, we simply wanted to make sure that the website was an extension of our onsite facilities and represented the orchestra as such.”

When Kevin arrived in 1999 his title was the Director of e-commerce but in April of 2004 he was promoted to Vice President of Sales and Marketing. 

I asked Kevin how much of a difference the redesigned site has made to increase ticket sales and what it costs to maintain the site, he said,

“Before September 2000 we sold about $220,000 worth of tickets.  Last year, we generated $2.5 million in ticket sales.  We spend anywhere from $30,000 – $100,000 annually plus the full time staff salary for our web manager, Sean Happ. Not counting the salary, that’s about 3% of our annual marketing budget.

In addition to Sean, we also utilize the third party services of IA Collaborative and Lynch

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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