My wife, Holly Mulcahy, published an article at The Partial Observer in the beginning of this week which examines the value in orchestras going green. There are a number of worthwhile hurdles to the notion but at the same time I think there are equally worthwhile considerations…
I’m intrigued by the one comment posted to the article (at least the only one at the time this article is published) where the reader mentions he would rather an orchestra spend more time focusing on building an audience as opposed to finding ways to make orchestras literally less wasteful. As for me, I don’t see any real differences between the activities of becoming more environmentally friendly and audience development.
In fact, I think they could easily work hand-in-hand. For example, people in this business spend a good deal of time talking about attracting a new audience. At the same time, orchestras have an arguably self-centered "what can you do for me?" attitude that wears on donors after time.
Why not kill two birds with one stone and approach the problems with sincerity: reach out to environmental groups by letting them know you want to help their efforts and in turn, your organization needs advice on how to overcome some of the economic hurdles associated with becoming more environmental. I think there is some real potential here to attract a new layer of donors who may be interested in becoming more involved with classical music but that interest doesn’t trump their desire to become involved with environmental issues. This fits in well with a popular topic regular readers will likely remember from an article at beginning of May entitled Making Stronger Connections Through Sincerity where sincerity and intent are proven to be more worthwhile attributes than a sense of entitlement.
To me, it seems the real challenge of going green is associated with eliminating or drastically downsizing program books. Meaning, finding ways to replace lost earned income from program book advertisements. Exploring alternative efforts for advertising on website and/or newsletters and email messages seems to be a reasonable (and growing) option.
Another option could exist in imprinted advertising on napkins, plastic drink glasses etc. that are a common staple in any pre-concert and intermission scene; however, this option is limited to those ensembles with control over catering supplies. Nevertheless, I’m willing to bet that if orchestras could connect with those who are passionate environmentalists who also have experience solving the problems related to these issues, they could arrive at some remarkable solutions capable of making the organization greener and simultaneously grow their audience.
If nothing else, look at it this way:
reduced environmental impact x [increased audience + improved community relations + new influential board members] = bright future
maintain wasteful habits x [burry our heads in the sand + hope for the best + miss out on a worldwide social movement] = same old problems that continue to get worse.
Which one would you select?