2005 Canadian Orchestra Website Review: Detailed Ratings

With the exception of one less subcategory, the Canadian orchestra websites were evaluated on the same criteria as their American counterparts. They were examined on how well they presented their concert schedule, sell tickets, provide organizational information, facilitated making donations, and on their overall content and functionality…

At the core of every good orchestra website is the ability to generate revenue and create awareness in a way which is more efficient than traditional methods orchestras currently employ.  An orchestra website should be constructed with a core function supported by five primary components which are delivered in an outer cover of straightforward functionality.

Although each aspect of the surrounding components (website content & services) and the outer cover (server platform, navigation structure, & aesthetic components) will be unique to each orchestra, they should never replace the core function of finding a renewable, less expensive, vehicle for selling tickets and connecting with their audience online and offline.

Generally, the Canadian orchestras were comparable to American orchestras in all but category four and five, where the Canadian’s lagged behind in the former and excelled in the latter. The following graph illustrates the differences:

One noticeable weakness among most Canadian orchestras is the inability and/or limitations on making online donations. 64% of the orchestras reviewed had no ability to make donations online and only one orchestra provided for more than one method of giving. This is likely to be a direct result of having a state supported system but according to budget information provided by some of the Canadian orchestras regarding revenue streams, they still rely on more than 30% of their income from donations and sponsors.

As the Canadian economy forces most of their orchestras to feel a similar financial strain as most American orchestras do, the Canadian orchestras will need to improve how they create a culture of individual philanthropy and reaching out to individual donors.

The one category where Canadians outperformed American orchestras was in “Content & Functionality”; however, this difference was largely due to the removal of the subcategory “Institutional Transparency”. If the Canadian orchestras were subject to this same requirement their score in that category would drop to 14.05. This would have put the Canadian average for this category only slightly ahead of the American average of 13.65.

Detailed Ratings
Orchestras below are listed in alphabetical order. While surveys seeking detailed information about their respective website revenue and expense structure were not distributed to Canadian orchestras this year, there are plans to develop a survey for 2006. Clicking on an orchestra will open up their detailed score in a pop up window.

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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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