A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Orchestra Website Reviews

Regular readers know that along with the beginning of the season comes the Orchestra Website Reviews where more than 80 professional orchestras in the United States and Canada are examined and ranked by how well their respective websites present their concert schedule, sell tickets, facilitate donations, provide organizational information, utilize dynamic content, and on overall content and functionality. But Orchestra Crisis 2012/13 has thrown a particularly large wrench into the works.

In short, the website reviews are a substantive undertaking; in addition to occupying a week’s worth of publication space, they consume several additional weeks of time to update grading criteria, evaluate and compile review data, survey included organizations, compose the publications, etc.

On top of that regular work schedule, this year’s reviews anticipated additional time resources in that it was going to be the first performed entirely by independent evaluators using the traditional grading criteria.

However, early on in the season, it became clear that labor disputes were going to be numerous and contentious enough that removing an entire week of publication space and diverting time resources away from properly researching and examining events that change day to day (and at times hour to hour) would critically shortchange those efforts.

In light of the fact that both the website reviews and in-depth coverage of labor disputes have been cornerstones of Adaptistration’s contribution to culture blogging, a decision was needed.

And since asking orchestras to postpone their disputes until after the reviews were complete is not a practical option (although it’s lovely to think it would actually be that simple), the clear decision is to either delay the reviews until later in the year or postpone them until next season.

Here’s Where I Need Your Insight

In order to select a suitable course of action, I want to solicit reader feedback so we can make decisions that will ultimately provide the most value. To that end, I would be grateful if readers, especially those in orchestra management, would take a moment to complete the following brief poll.

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 “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Orchestra Website Reviews

  1. Author’s note to self: include an option email contact on the “other” option for future polls. To that end, this is a response to the reader who suggested “… reviews on an ongoing basis through the year, maybe with an annual summary.”

    That’s an excellent idea and one that has been played with over the years but ultimately, orchestras included in the review had a legitimate complaint in that it degraded the level playing field concept in that too much time between respective reviews degrades the apples to apples comparison and contrasts.

    However, I have discussed with some of the new reviewers the notion of perhaps breaking up segments of the reviews over the year, such as extracting the mobile version to a different publication quarter.

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