#TBT Counterfeit Moneyball

Since we’re on a roll this week with the idea of Moneyballing the orchestra sector, it’s worth pointing out that there’s no shortage of examples where attempts to apply data driven analysis to conventional wisdom decision making can end in tears.

For example: using historic repertoire sales data for future artistic planning.

Mahler Meets Moneyball? Probably Not.

Now, one area I would love to see some artistic planning data mining is the revenue performance for pops programming. You can dig up all the positive reviews around but in the end, was the program a big positive revenue winner?

Having the ability to consider everything from marketing spend to music and equipment rental to artist fees would be genuinely useful. To that end, one thing I routinely look at when reviewing pops program promotional material is if they list any sort of social media pull and/or marketing support they bring to the table. When legit, it serves as a serious marketing force multiplier.

At the same time, I know many of those groups don’t enjoy the luxury of having access to sales data from the organizations so their ability to quantify their impact is hindered. Nonetheless, this is exactly the sort of thing the League, or a Foundation, could invest some resources to properly track.

And imagine how much easier that could make artistic planning decisions. Imagine getting rid of 90% of the subjective conventional wisdom noise and boil it down to reliable data.

Arts Admin #1: “Why did you hire that pops act?”
Arts Admin #2: “They get on base.”

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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