Reader Response: Concert Companion or ORBIT

After publishing Concert Companion or ORBIT Part 1 I received an email from Andrew Yarosh, Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Development Director.  He was looking at the situation from a small orchestra point of view and that of a patron:

It seems these tools are, in the best of all possible worlds (i.e. when all orchestras have sufficient funds to pursue their objectives) complementary.
I’ve had a personal experience with the Concert Companion in Pittsburgh during the [First National Performing Arts Convention].  Having arranged to use the device, I sat with 3 of our volunteers during the second half of the concert.  The least experienced (and youngest) concertgoer in this group (who also happens to have the most potential to become a major donor to our orchestra) grabbed the device and didn’t let go for the entire concert.  Afterwards she said, “This was the first time I felt like I was doing something more than just sitting in a comfortable chair and waiting for intermission so I could see my friends.  I love this thing.  When can we get it in Madison?”
She lost interest when I called her a couple of weeks later to tell her how much the Concert Companion system would cost to implement even for one concert.
Maybe if the idea had come from a couple of college kids, who would engage other students to write the content and could figure out a way of beaming the information to concert-goers’ own PDAs; this thing could do some good immediately.
At the current pricing structure it remains an impossible reach for even the most financially flush orchestras.

I imagine the folks at Concert Companion here this sort of thing all the time.  During my initial interviews and follow up email messages with Concert Companion’s Roland Valliere about the subject of cost, he had this to say,

“The general idea is for the orchestras to break even on Concert Companion (leasing cost per PDA – hardware, content and software – should be in the $10.00 – $15.00 range), either through charging the concertgoers or getting underwriting.  However, underwriting and/or sponsorship will likely be necessary for the charter group of orchestras.”

I think Andrew (and his colleagues in peer orchestras) may wonder how they be able to make Concert Companion attractive enough to patrons so they’ll want to plunk down an extra $10-$15; especially after already paying $46.25 for a single ticket (the average ticket price for a Madison Symphony Orchestra concert).

I’ll examine that issue along with others in Concert Companion or ORBIT Part 2 tomorrow.

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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