Print Vs. Digital Program Book Survey Results

Last week, I asked readers for some feedback on whether they were considering replacing print program books with a digital alternative when concert events start up in the Fall. We had just under 150 responses and the results were fascinating.

If concert activity resumes in the Fall, does your organization plan on using print program books?

Exactly half of the respondents indicated they weren’t sure what they were going to do. At the same time, a third of organizations have already decided against using them while only 19 percent have decided to move forward with traditional print books.

Has your organization explored alternatives to print program books?

I was surprised to see such a large ratio of respondents confirm they had already investigated digital options. More than 2/3 indicated researching options while only 25 percent have not explored anything outside of traditional print options.

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I was especially glad to see that among those indicating they had explored alternatives to print program books, nearly all of them provided more information.

Having said that, only two provided permission to publish their remarks so I’ll have to summarize the rest. About half decided to use an existing digital program book platform or service while the rest were a mix of creating custom solutions.

Regardless which of those options a respondent indicated, most of those were also looking into distributing program content to ticket buyers via email the day of their respective concert event.

Two groups indicated replying exclusively on existing in projection systems inside the main concert hall and on screens throughout the lobby.

Here are both responses respondents gave permission to publish:

Our semi-annual program magazine includes the traditional program book content as well as (in the fall) our Annual Report and other articles and features. As of this moment (May 2020), we are proceeding with plans to design the piece in full but will not do the print run until the absolute last cutoff date.

Have experimented with mobile app to deliver performance related content during performance.

I’m going to leave this survey open for now and perhaps revisit again with a new post at the end of month as quite a few groups will begin making decisions about concert activity. In the meantime, feel free to add your feedback.

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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