Why Do You Rob a Bank

When asked why he robbed banks, bank robber Willie Sutton answered, “Because that’s where the money was.”

Sounds like a simple plan and simple plans usually work best (unless you’re like Willie and simply want to break the law).  When the orchestra business examines their audience and realizes they need to start attracting a younger demographic they inevitably come to an obvious question, “Where do we find younger ticket buyers?”  The answer is just as simple as Willie’s, “Where they already hang out.”

So where do they hang out?  According to blogads, these people hang out online reading blogs.  A lot of them.  Religiously.  The blogads homepage states,

“Read by fanatics, pundits and journalists, blogs increasingly set the insider agenda. Use blogads to engage where opinions are made.”

They even compile statistical research data.  Their most recent comprehensive survey had over 30,000 blog readers respond.  If you take the time to go over their results you’ll notice that it reads like an orchestra marketing professional’s Christmas List. 

The survey shows that the bulk of blog readers are around 30 something years old and have a healthy history of active participation for causes they feel strongly about.  They read blogs because they contain news and information they can’t find elsewhere and prefer to ingest their news by reading it instead of watching it on television.

They tend to be a bit more politically liberal than not, well educated, work in education and technical industries, and sit squarely in the middle class earning salaries in the high five figures.

So why don’t more orchestras encourage their patrons to write blogs about their ensemble?  Everyone else from computer game designers to politicians have figured out that it pays to give those who take an interest in them all the tools they need to “be a part of the organization” (a.k.a. positive word of mouth promotion; win-win).

However, in order to take full advantage of this medium, the one bit of historical psychosis many in the business will need to get over is their unrelenting need to control everything.

Instead of having the marketing department start a blog (which would tend to come across more like propaganda than anything else, undoubtedly having the opposite effect of what’s desired) they should simply provide patrons with the tools they need to participate. Like starting a message board hosted by the orchestra’s webserver or providing a downloadable template so patrons can start their own blogs (complete with free use graphics, organizational info, links, etc.).

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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