Post Election Confidence Poll

Now that the country has spoken and Barak Obama is the president elect, I’m curious to know if this has any impact on your economic outlook for orchestra/opera/ballet organizations. Since we started tracking these issues a month ago, the economic outlook has been quite grim; however, can these election results change attitudes?…

Question #1:

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Question #2:

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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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4 thoughts on “Post Election Confidence Poll”

  1. So, I guess not then.

    Drew, speaking of financial situations at arts organizations, I wonder if you’re interested to know that my local orchestra (the Cincinnati) have quietly engaged in a de facto price increase. Again.

    Essentially, they’ve messed around with their formerly-established discount structure, changing the rules on student tickets (increasing day-of pricing), senior discounts (they’ve disappeared), and a program they called Zip Tix, where for two hours on the day of the show starting at noon one could purchase half-price tickets (it’s now a 25% discount).

    With the well-documented declining attendance (down over 20% since 2004, I think), does this make any sense?

  2. Tonerl: Without knowing more about the situation you are referring to, I can’t offer much along the lines of a worthwhile opinion. However, the rising cost of tickets is a long-time issue here at Adaptistration. In general, increased revenue from ticket increases at the risk of losing audience members is a slippery slope.

    On one hand, some marketing professionals in the business attest to maintaining “the inherent value” of a ticket, meaning, if you price yourself too low then the public will perceive your product as low quality. In and of itself, that’s not a bad perception although I don’t think it universally applies to the orchestra business. Instead, given the fact that the business doesn’t support itself on earned income anyway, then artificially inflating ticket prices won’t do much good.

    I don;’t think there’s a perception among the general public that orchestra concerts are of low quality. Here in Chicago, a free summer concert series in Grant Park attracts over 12,000 listeners at each concert w/o having to do much advertising. People wouldn’t show up in those numbers regardless of how nice the environment is if they didn’t hold the product in esteem.

    It would be interesting to see when the original ticket discounts were instituted and if the organization conducted any worthwhile research into whether or not they had any positive impact on bringing in or maintaining an audience. Likewise, learning more about any planned research on changes in ticket prices would be useful.

    If ticket prices are merely being raised as purely a revenue generating device then I would hope it is a temporary strategy.

  3. I seem to remember some discussion of the “inherent value” idea surrounding The Met’s (if I recall) dizzyingly convoluted subscription policies a little while back. I have to agree with your assessment of the idea, and I would be shocked if the Cincinnati Symphony has any data to back themselves here given that whenever questions are asked about marketing strategies or ticket pricing, answers rarely follow. After the longtime President announced his retirement (almost a year ago now) effective June 30, we can’t even get any news at all about the search for his replacement.

    This all just seems to be more of the same kind of audience mistreatment that has gotten the business where it is, and threatens to drive it into irrelevance.

    For what it’s worth, these particular discounts have been in place for as long as I can remember. I would guess at least 10 years. As far as your last sentence, I’d say that is exactly what they’re doing (although it’s tough to tell because they’re not super into transparency…or even forthrightness). It’s a shame, too, because it’s a hell of an orchestra right now, but nobody ever hears it.

    By the way, thanks for the great blog! And sorry for the rant.

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