Some Initial Volleys At The Value Of Free

Regular readers know the issue of ticket prices is a well worn topic here at Adaptistration but some new perspectives on the subject have surfaced from one of the sharpest up and coming journalists in the business…

In particular, a recent article by Marc Geelhoed published at NewMusicBox.com examines the pros and cons of offering free concerts in the new music field. Of course, there are some unique characteristics for new music ensembles as opposed to traditional symphony orchestras, nevertheless, Marc’s article touches on one fundamental truth that runs evenly across both mediums.

If you don’t already know who Marc Geelhoed is, you should take some time and start following what he writes. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Marc become the next Alex Ross, although this isn’t to imply Alex is going anywhere, hands down he’s the linchpin within the American cultural writer "dream team" (I certainly hope Alex isn’t heading out to pasture soon, or at least I hope not because I think we’re about the same age and I’m no where prepared for retirement!). 

Marc’s article should get every manager out there thinking about pricing and the value of free in a way that’s new. If not, then good for you, you’re already on the right path. I still have the big article to write about the value of free but in the meantime, give Marc’s article a read and make sure you tune in to Jim Palermo’s TAFTO 2007 contribution in the month of April. Jim is the General Director for the Grant Park Music Festival, the grand daddy of free classical music festivals in the United States. I’ve read his contribution already but I won’t spoil any of the surprises.

Needless to say, Jim’s TAFTO contribution eloquently touches on this subject in way I think is crucial to how the performing arts business needs to approach the future. Trust me; you’re going to enjoy it. In the meantime, there have been a series of good comments which touch on this subject from last Friday’s Odds & Ends article, give those comments a read  after you’ve been through Marc’s piece at New Music box and see where your mind takes you.

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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