Looking At The Business Through Merlot Colored Glasses

I’m all for finding ways to infuse wine into the live concert experience. But while my own interest tends to start and stop at the actual consumption, others are giving the subject it the attention it deserves.

Case in point, violinist Holly Mulcahy recently published an article at Neo Classical that casts an eye toward lessons our field can learn from the way the wine industry began to pivot 20 years prior.

 Selling wines and experiencing wines is like selling orchestral concerts and experiencing those concerts, so let’s compare those:

  • Both can have a snootiness or snobbish stereotype.
  • Both have jargon-rich words and phrases associated with them.
  • Both disappear after they are enjoyed.
  • Both are considered a luxury.
  • Both can offer an enjoyable or memorable experience.
  • Both can make the consumer feel a part of something.

What can the orchestra industry learn from some winemakers? Plenty. Specifically, Yellowtail wine. Yellowtail was created 20 years ago after a considerable amount of research. Everything from learning why people would buy a bottle, to what the taste trends in entry level wine drinkers were gravitating to. That information helped navigate Yellowtail to becoming one of the best-selling wines in America. There are a lot of marketing studies if you would like a deeper dive into the data and strategy, but a few key points stuck out that would help the orchestral world freshen up our brand.

In a nutshell, a lot of the success hinges on letting empathy triumph over elitism and credentialism. But I don’t want to spoil the discovery fun.

The Merlot Effect

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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