Thinking About 21-22 Season Planning

The 11/17/2020 edition of NPR broadcast an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci where he talked about impending coronavirus vaccines and timelines.

While he was quite clear that plans can change at any moment, the general population rollout will occur at some point toward the end of April or later.

“By the time you get to, let’s say, the end of April, the beginning of May, June, July, as we get into the second quarter, it’ll be much more likely that you’ll have, ‘the general population’ that’s not on the priority list will be able to get vaccinated,” [Fauchi] said.

Given that’s smack dab in the middle of the traditional season announcement window, Dr. Fauci’s current estimate means orchestras and operas are going to have to begin making decisions relatively soon.

Within that context, we have some remarkable variety.

On one hand, there are groups that shut down their entire season and haven’t spent much time working on the type of short notice event rollouts we’ve seen from groups that decided to continue mission driven activity. If those groups expect to return to the old normal, losing that traditional season announcement boost, and corresponding subscription revenue dump, is something they may be ill-equipped to handle.

I don’t think it should come as any surprise to see those institutions announce cancellations for the first half of the season. The lack of experience with the new normal of short-term planning, promotion, and revenue generation will probably be enough to scare most away from anything that takes them out of the old normal comfort zone.

For those with some degree of experience rolling with the punches, how many punches they’ve taken will impact their effectiveness.

For example, groups that are already eyeball-deep in holding socially distanced events will be better prepared to launch a full season announcement knowing full well what their capacity is to pivot if vaccine rollouts or public confidence stumbles. Moreover, they will have a history of building trust with their core audience and training them to be empathetic if things turn south.

Time will tell but between now and then, it’s time to start thinking about decisions.

Listen to Fauci’s Interview

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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