2009 Canadian Orchestra Website Review: Trends and Detailed Scores

With only a few exceptions, 2009 was a good year for Canadian orchestra websites. Overall, the higher half of scores moved up while the lower half managed to maintain previous levels…

Grades

On the positive side of things, the number of orchestras to earn a grade of C decreased from seven in 2008 to five in 2009. Of those orchestras, one moved up a tier to earn a B while the other slid a bit down to a grade of D. This meant that the number of orchestras that managed to earn a grade of B was the highest it has ever been while the number to earn a failing grade of F remained steady at an all-time review low, as illustrated by the following chart:

Canadian Orchestra Website Results By Grade

Canadian-Trends-and-Detailed-ScoresAverage results by category were mostly improved for 2009. Of the categories that garnered higher average scores, the rate of increase was higher than previous years while the two categories that experienced declines did so at marginal rates. Of the five review categories (Performance Schedule, Purchasing Tickets, Orchestra Information, Making Donations, Dynamic Content, and Functionality) the categories to improve the most were Performance Schedule and Functionality.

The former enjoyed increases in the quality and quantity of orchestras that provided current event information and an interactive concert calendar on the home page while the latter category demonstrated improved navigation structures and a significant reduction in the numbers of bad internal links. The other category to show improvement was Dynamic content. Much like their US peers, the average Canadian orchestra made much better use of social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. when last year they offered none.

The decrease in Making Donations category was due mostly to problems with questionable secure processing features but on the upside, more Canadian orchestras offered increased giving options as compared to last year’s review. The slight drop in Orchestra Information score was due exclusively to a decrease in the amount of board information posted at most websites. The following chart illustrates the change in category scores since the onset of the Canadian reviews in 2005:

Canadian Orchestra Website Results By Category

Detailed Scores

In order to view any orchestra’s detailed category scores, just click on their respective chart below to enlarge (TIP: Orchestras are listed alphabetically and the orchestra’s name will pop up when you drift your mouse over the chart).

Calgary Philharmonic Edmonton-Symphony Kitchener-Waterloo-Symphony National-Arts-Centre-Orchestra Orchestra-London-Canada Orchestre-Metropolitain Orchestre-Symphonique-de-Montreal Symphony-Nova-Scotia Thunder-Bay-Symphony Toronto-Symphony Vancouver-Symphony Victoria-Symphony Windsor-Symphony Winnipeg-Symphony

Survey Responses

Returning to the 2009 reviews are the individual orchestra review surveys. The optional surveys are designed to provide readers with information about each orchestra’s website that go beyond the items included in the review, such as ticket sales information and design details. But perhaps the most valuable component is the open-ended essay question that provides the opportunity for orchestras to include any additional information they feel is relevant to their organization’s website. As such, the essay responses are presented unedited. [As a personal aside, I would like to thank each group that completed the survey and indicated they would allow the full results to be published alongside the reviews. Kudos to each orchestra for taking the time to participate in improved transparency, especially at a time when life in the office is busier than normal for most professionals!]

Edmonton Symphony

  1. What percentage and dollar amount, less employee salary, of your marketing budget is allocated toward all website activities? 6% – 10% and $30,000 – $50,000
  2. How much single ticket revenue did your website generate during the 2008/09 season? $500,000 – $1,000,000
  3. How many single tickets did you sell through your website for the 2008/09 season? 10,000 – 25,000
  4. How much subscription ticket revenue did your website generate during the 2008/09 season? $10,000 – $25,000
    1. Unfortunately we can’t process renewals online with our current ticketing system, and purchasing new subscriptions is limited and cumbersome.
  5. How many subscription tickets did you sell through your website for the 2008/09 season? Less than 5,000.
  6. How much contributed revenue did your website generate during the 2008/09 season? $5,000 – $10,000
  7. How much other revenue (merchandise, recordings, etc.) did your website generate during the 2008/09 season? Less than $5,000.
  8. Is your website designed on-premises or by a contracted developer/firm? contracted developer/firm
    1. If so, who: x-edes
  9. Do you have the ability to make changes to your website directly? Yes.
  10. Which box office software/arts enterprise software management products do you currently use at your website? ticketforce
  11. Open essay: We’ll be launching a new site in late 2009 or early 2010!

Symphony Nova Scotia

  1. What percentage and dollar amount, less employee salary, of your marketing budget is allocated toward all website activities? Less than five percent.
  2. How much single ticket revenue did your website generate during the 2008/09 season? $100,000 – $250,000
  3. How many single tickets did you sell through your website for the 2008/09 season? Less than 5,000.
  4. How much subscription ticket revenue did your website generate during the 2008/09 season? we do not sell tickets through our website
    1. Comment: Subscription tickets are currently not available through our external box office. They are working on it and plan to have subscription ticket sales available for the 2010/11 season.
  5. How many subscription tickets did you sell through your website for the 2008/09 season? we do not sell tickets through our website
    1. Comment: see above.
  6. How much contributed revenue did your website generate during the 2008/09 season? Less than $5,000
  7. How much other revenue (merchandise, recordings, etc.) did your website generate during the 2008/09 season? we do not sell merchandise or other items through our website
    1. Comment: We currently do not sell merchandise directly from our office on our website, but are actively working on it and will be within the month.
  8. Is your website designed on-premises or by a contracted developer/firm? contracted developer/firm
    1. Comment: A bit of both. Our general layout and content management system are provided by a sponsor, Immediac. All other content and design within that framework are done in-house by me. Our external box office (the Dalhousie Arts Centre) has a website powered by AudienceView.
  9. Do you have the ability to make changes to your website directly? Yes.
  10. Which box office software/arts enterprise software management products do you currently use at your website? AudienceView
  11. Open essay: Your website reviews are much appreciated, and we really value your focus on content rather than bells and whistles. That said, we are finding our current capabilities to be quite limiting, and are looking into creating a new, possibly flash-based, website within the next two seasons. (Provided the budget is there, of course… we have spent basically nothing on the site for at least five years, which is both excellent and ridiculous!) Thanks again, Heidi

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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