Here’s another success story, about new ways to promote what otherwise
was a standard (though evidently quite wonderful) classical performance.
This was a semi-staged production of Gluck’s opera Armide,
done by Opera Lafayette in Washington and New York, and reviewed
by my wife Anne Midgette in the Washington Post:
Lafayette celebrated its 15th anniversary on Monday night with a
gesture that, before the fact, seemed almost quixotic. The company,
which usually performs in the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater —
seating about 500 — rented out the Concert Hall, which holds more than
2,000 people…In honor of its anniversary, the group charged $15 a
ticket, a quarter of what it regularly charges.
And it sold out
the Concert Hall….
The company sold 2,100 tickets, filling the
hall to the upper
balconies. There was even an ad on Craigslist, offering $25 for a
How did Opera Lafayette do that? Anne told me some
things that weren’t published in her review.
Lafayette didn’t do:
an advance feature in the media.
- Contacted patrons of Washington
National Opera, which was happy to help. They offered these patrons a
“patron’s discount,” lowering the ticket price to just $10.
tickets to schools of all kinds. Two board members bought the tickets,
and then donated them to schools.
- Contacted the French
embassy, and the Maison Française. (French opera is a niche within the
operatic repertoire, and of course French people will be the ones most
interested in it.)
- Passed out leaflets at other
And they sold out their
New York performance (in a smaller space, admittedly) “in part,” as Anne
says, “by sending volunteers to New York by bus to hand out fliers to
people attending the movie-theater broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s
Good for Opera Lafayette. They wanted an audience,
and they went right out and found one. Which took a lot of hard work, of
course. But it paid off.
The moral of this story? The way you
market something, really market it, is to figure out who might be
interested, and contact them in every way you can. If this means you
create your own audience, go for it!
Far too often, people
presenting classical music don’t do this. They rely on the media. Last
week I had an exchange with a publicist, who hoped that I’d write about
some new music events he was working on, because (as he told me) if they
didn’t get media exposure, they’d never grow and thrive.
think it works the opposite way. Yes, media exposure can be part of a
full marketing plan. But media exposure isn’t always efficient. A
newspaper story, for instance, may not target the people who’d actually
come to your event. You’ll do much better reaching out directly to the
people in your potential audience, even contacting them individually, if
you can find a way to do that. (Like handing out leaflets at other
events they already go to.)
And then, once you build your
audience on your own, media exposure may well follow, because people in
the media will be impressed. But above all, you’ll have your
audience, which no amount of media exposure can guarantee for you.