Food For Thought: Post-COVID Curtain Speeches

I want to toss out a short academic exercise in the form of thinking about how the ubiquitous curtain speech will fit into post-COVID concerts. Even before the shutdowns, curtain speeches were pushing the envelope of ticket buyer patience and starting to have a negative impact on the overall concert experience.

At the same time, we all know why they exist. Those reasons will only be exacerbated in the wake of COVID-19.

Yes, there are no shortage of critical COVID related items orchestras will need to address before they can open safely. Having said that, I hope orchestras don’t let themselves get overwhelmed by those big issues to the point where they stop thinking dynamically about how patron expectations may be changing.

For example, commercial free providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and the rest have made consumers far less tolerant of interruptions. Even traditional television networks like CBS and NBC have rolled out ad-free versions of their programming to remain competitive.

Ticket buyers are going to bring those tolerance levels with them when they get back into the hall. Putting some thought into how your organization will incorporate that into how/if you approach curtain calls will be time well spent.

To that end, I’m curious to know if anyone is already considering these variables and if so, how are they impacting your planning.

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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