Following Up On Access And Affordability

Never one to avoid putting his money where his mouth is, Alex Ross posted a follow-up article to his “Cheap Seats” post which highlights some affordable concert offerings in the New York City area as well as throughout the US and UK. Alex also takes a moment to point out the benefit of having centralized concert listings which include affordable options. In a different outlook on this topic, Marc Geelhoed posted an article at Deceptively Simple expressing his dismay over a lack of effort on behalf of those searching for affordable concert events…

access-and-affordabilityMarc makes a number of good points and uses some excellent resources as examples of where to find centralized calendars of performing arts events, such as Time Out Chicago (an excellent resource that was mentioned here previously). Coming from someone who works at an institution that certainly wants to increase exposure and accessibility, Marc’s frustration is understandable; however, I still feel the overriding point here is that NYC and Chicago (and any other US megalopolis for that matter) are unique in that they have resources like Time Out which benefit potential concertgoers. But what about smaller cities such as Omaha, Charleston, Portland, Tucson, Jacksonville, Columbus, or Birmingham?

From an aggregate perspective, larger shares of concertgoers receive their live cultural offerings from performing arts organizations outside of top 20 metropolitan areas. Consequently, how many potential concertgoers located in communities within that larger share are missing out on concert events due to a lack of comprehensive resource tools?

In my previous article on this topic, a reader by the name of “David” left a comment which points toward a probable solution (this version is edited for length, the full comment is here):

“The irritating thing is that there used to be a website…which listed…all classical concerts in NYC, at least at the main venues. So every couple of weeks I would look at that, see the full range of options, and then try to find reasonably-priced tickets for the ones I was interested in.

But in the last year the website ceased to carry a concert calendar, and merely links to the organizations. I can’t blame the owner of the website for this, since it must have been a lot of work to keep it updated, but it was a tremendous public service, and I really feel the lack of it now – merely to find out what is going on takes so much effort, so I tend to confine myself to the tried and true…”

Although the idea of a cultural Good Samaritan taking the time to maintain a comprehensive concert calendar isn’t new, David touches on what is likely the primary reason these sites come and go: the owner becomes overwhelmed with the necessary amount of work needed to keep offerings up to date.

Nevertheless, I expect this is exactly the sort of arrangement where we’ll find future solutions for communities that don’t benefit from larger traditional media outlets like Time Out (or if those institutions go under). In the past year alone, I’m sure everyone has noticed the seemingly exponential advancements in how new media platforms offer tools to aggregate and distribute information with minimal administrative oversight. As a result, it isn’t difficult to imagine that the necessary elements to bring all of this together are right around the corner.

Ultimately, all it really takes is someone with the time to write the template/plugin code that adequately automates the necessary input/output tasks and someone to take advantage of it. All it takes is one successful endeavor and it will snowball to a point of ushering in a new wave of community based cultural calendars that improve accessibility for all arts groups.

So who is going to get the ball stared?


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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5 thoughts on “Following Up On Access And Affordability”

  1. Well, I’d say that a certain (imperfect) model does exist already, but just not in classical music.

    Within pop, Pollstar: http://www.pollstar.com

    Looking there right now, they proclaim:
    “Now Showing: 9,954 Artists | 61,282 Events.”

    They are pretty industry-oriented, in that they also track touring revenue, offer a subscription component that provides contact info for agents & managers, etc.). At the same time, there are lots of features of interest to fans (news, reviews, forums, and the like).

  2. This is a solved problem. The easy solution for arts organizations is to stick their performances on a public Google calendar, which can be done manually or using an API. After that, someone puts up a world-readable calendar that displays all (or a user-selectable group of) public Google Calendars.

    (I’m not just shilling for my company, honestly.)

  3. That’s precisely these sort of solution I think will help bring something worthwhile about sooner than later. The outstanding components on this are some sort of administrative moderation (prevent spamming, filter pop posts, PR shill material, etc.) so being able to use the API to plug something like this into a platform that provides the other material and we have the first generation of a winning solution.

    I think options like this are going to ultimately going to trump existing proprietary systems like the pollstar option Anastasia mentioned. that doesn’t mean pollstar isn’t a good product but the lack of open source structure means it will always be out of reach for a purpose like we’re talking about here.

    And feel free to shill away Lisa, I for one am glad that there’s someone inside Google with your perspective!

  4. Hehehe.

    The redesign of San Francisco Classical Voice is supposed to include an aggregating calendar and a way to buy tickets – whether this means ‘we’ll redirect you to an arts org’s web site’ or ‘we’ll sell you the ticket directly,’ I do not know, but it will be great to be able to see everything being performed at a given time. No, I do not know when we will launch.

  5. Therein lies the problem. The difference between integrating an online box office and merely redirecting to an off site box office is the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.

    My advice is unless they have a great deal of cash availalbe, don’t get caught up in selling tickets directly. they can always negotiate referral fees with each individual presenter/organization and that’s much easier in the long run.

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