You Just Can’t Beat A Personal Connection

A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer caught my attention; it examines the use of visual imagery during orchestra concerts.  The article’s writer, David Patrick Stearns, does a good job with the piece but I think the industry is missing a fundamental fact about the best way to connect to a new audience.

All of the visualizations in the world won’t bring people into concert halls in any great numbers.  At best it will bring in a number of people who are fascinated by visual imagery who also think classical music being played along with those visualizations is a cool idea.

Although these efforts aren’t bad they should be taking the place of interpersonal connections.  That’s where you’ll find your new audience and you won’t have to worry about offending the current core of subscribers either.

I’ve written about this issue at length using a number of different mediums (orchestra docents, ORBIT, tsoundcheck, etc.) but in the end, whichever way an orchestra can capitalize on and create additional opportunities for interpersonal connections, the better.

As Klaus Heymann, the chairman of HNH International parent company of Naxos records, once said there are millions of piano students in the U.S. it’s a built-in audience waiting to be discovered.

Regardless of how MTV oriented or attention deficit afflicted any generation becomes, it doesn’t mean they lack the basic facilities of an imagination. They just need to know that there’s no wrong way to use it at an orchestra concert.

The sooner orchestras begin focusing efforts in that direction the better.

Postscript: There’s a great article in today’s Tacoma News-Tribune by Jen Graves.  In it, she has the following great line:

“Vigorous human contact is the only thing keeping [music] alive.”

I couldn’t say it better myself, bravo Jen!

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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