Do Preview Clips Sell Tickets?

I had a fascinating conversation yesterday with someone in the business about whether or not preview audio clips have any impact on selling concert tickets. Conventional wisdom would dictate that giving people a sample of something before they buy is usually a good thing and clips via an orchestra’s website has any measurable impact on ticket sales one way or another.

Do audio clips help sell tickets
Do audio clips really help sell tickets?

We’ll be exploring this issue in much greater detail this month but I wanted to put out a general request to all of Adaptistration’s readers asking if they have or know of any study (or even rudimentary box office tracking) that measures the impact of providing audio clips on ticket sales. If so, please post a comment or send an email and I’ll incorporate that material into the upcoming article.

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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3 thoughts on “Do Preview Clips Sell Tickets?”

  1. As a musician I don’t really use them for purchasing tickets with other groups but I have used them for my own group when new/obscure works are programmed and there are no recordings available. The obscure pieces are often the most expensive to buy for the underpaid musicians so I also use the sound clips at online music retailers. They’re too short for much help other than tempo and a quick essence of the piece but they have helped. I’ve also used the online retailers for helping my students get an idea of how each movement goes for band and youth symphony programs.

  2. While I was at the Nashville Symphony, we did two things.

    One, we offered a “classical sampler” CD for the upcoming season that consisted of roughly 10-12 tracks of one movement/piece each. We tried this route for a few years, both mailing the CD with the brochures and then later, allowing people to pick them up at concerts/events. We often found we received quite a reduced rate when buying in bulk (at normally the same equivalent of the smaller number) therefore we ended up with ALOT of CDs. These became great promotional pieces – hand out at parks concerts, education events, marketing events, conferences, etc. While I don’t think we can directly tie sales numbers to these sampler CDs, we definitely got on people’s radar, had great conversational pieces, and when we no longer produced these, we certainly heard the complaints.

    Secondly, I added an audio player component to our website that had over 25 selections, with full movements and/or pieces. There were many good elements to this because of the agreement I was able to negotiate with Naxos.
    1. It was fairly cheap – about $100/work.
    2. Because of Naxos’ extensive catalogue, I could often times find works that most people were not familiar with but yet coincided with our American Encores programming. It showed them that “scary 20th century work” really wasn’t so scary.
    3. Once again, due to Naxos’ catalogue, I was able to add some Pops/Jazz/Special tracks to the player. Opening up the sampler, and thus, mass audience appeal.
    4. It opened up the door to more multimedia on our website. Because I wasn’t producing a CD, I was unlimited on the number of things I wanted to offer, with the exception of how much money I could put into it. Ultimately I could end up with what would be “double and triple disc” offerings! And seemingly from the tracking numbers as well as the lauded comments we heard from patrons, brought people back to view more.

    Overall, while I don’t think sales numbers can be specifically tied to these type of things, it is an incredible marketing and communications tool. It’s like having the ability to hear a 30 second soundclip of a CD on iTunes before you buy it. It gives an expectation about what you may hear as well as a small sample of the emotional impact you may experience from hearing the orchestra live. I say – totally worth it.

  3. Hi Drew,

    You should review a report produced by the research group WolfBrown called “Assessing the Intrinsic Impacts of a Live Performance”:

    Although this doesn’t directly answer your question, their research was assessing the various artistic and emotional impacts that the audience receives and what factors influence those impacts. One of the main points in their conclusion is that “anticipation leads to captivation, which leads to positive impacts on the audience.” In other words, the better prepared the audience is before a performance, the more they will enjoy it. Clearly, sample clips would help build this preparation.

    Thanks for pointing out that study Darren and I think you’ve touched on one of the key issues here with regard to preparation. A number of folks have written in on that topic via email as well and it seems the focus of preparation breaks down into some additional details. For example, how long of clip provides adequate preparation, is it equally effective for new, casual, and core listeners, etc. Although conventional wisdom dictates that offering a sample before buying is beneficial, does that apply to a handful of under 2 min length clips and if the listener isn’t well versed with the music, does a clip by itself provide an adequate level of comfort. There are a number of great discussions to have at each level of detail and this is a good representative example. ~ Drew McManus

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