Forget New Normal, Just Focus On The New

There’s an excellent article by Tim Diovanni and Jerome Weeks in the 10/18/21 edition of The Dallas Morning News that examines the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s (DSO) decision to maintain all of the broadcast equipment they invested in over the pandemic.

They used that equipment to produce virtual events and I’m thrilled to see the organization make the decision to integrate recordings and broadcast as part of their offerings. Ideally, the DSO will be able to build this into a unique earned income revenue stream that will marginalize losses should in-person event ticket revenue be interrupted.

The article goes into details about the decision, how the equipment works, and additional investments the DSO made in professionals.

It also includes some stats from the DSO’s existing video efforts.

According to data supplied by the orchestra, the DSO’s 33 concert videos brought in close to 100,000 views in the 2020-21 season, with viewers from 101 countries.

The orchestra’s data shows the average viewer watched about 40% of the performances, which is a higher engagement rate than the DSO generally sees for videos it shares on social media.

You even get a glimpse into production costs and some of their initial pricing for digital media access.

Each concert video costs the orchestra about $5,000 to $10,000 to produce, and the DSO has brought in a “modest revenue,” [DSO’s president and CEO Kim] Noltemy said. The orchestra charges $10 to watch a single concert and $125 for a digital season pass. Videos typically go online about nine days after the performance.

The DSO was one of the early innovators when it came to larger budget orchestras that decided to pivot during the pandemic instead of shuttering. We covered some of their efforts since 2020 and I’m happy to see that they’ve decided to continue to give the field something to watch.

A Glimpse Into Life Back In The Hall

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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