Proactive, that is, with anyone who buys a concert ticket.
Momentary digression. Note that the solutions page has been updated, as will happen every Monday. This is where you find a growing catalog of ideas and projects that help to define classical music’s future.
What follows came by email from David Ezer, who formerly worked for Chamber Music America, and now is Conference Director of the Jewish Funders Network. I’m putting this in the blog with David’s permission:
Each group/orchestra/opera house/whatever needs to be asking themselves: what’s the #1 reason people come to our performances? I’m not convinced they can answer that question with any definitiveness. Mostly it’s probably anecdotal responses, which they overstate how meaningful it is. But if there’s real survey data, it’d be interesting to see how people who never or rarely come to a performance answered.
I’d be willing to bet the main answer for that group is simple: because someone asked me.
Not that the group/orchestra/opera house asked, that some friend of theirs asked.
So I say, incentivize! Build a loyalty program just like the airlines. Do some sort of Bring-a-Friend program. After you enroll in the program, every time you bring a new friend to a performance, visit a hospitality desk in the lobby to ‘register’ them and their connection to you. You get points towards rewards, your friend gets on the mailing list and perhaps a nice welcome gift. And a 30-second conversation between a savvy person at the hospitality desk and the new friend could help identify which 3 upcoming performances should be pitched to that new friend. To the new friend: do a customized thanks-for-coming, thought you might like these things coming up. And rewards for you could be free/discounted tickets for future performances, or as you build up “points,” access to the sponsor/contributor room, the sorts of lower-end benefits that normally come from making a contribution, but here you only had to pay for a ticket for your friend. Maybe not even that, if your friend paid you back.
Good for people who like to take dates to performances.
And very low cost…
I hope David won’t mind if I say there are two ways to look at what he’s saying here. First, we can look at his specific ideas. But second — and, maybe in the larger scheme of things, more importantly — we can look at the response orchestras and other classical music institutions give, or don’t give, to people who come to their concerts.
By normal marketing standards — I mean normal in the rest of the world — I suspect they don’t do much at all. Suppose you buy a ticket online for an orchestra concert. Suppose it’s the first time you’ve gone. Now the orchestra has you in its database. How often will you hear from them? Will they immediately, after the performance, email to thank you, to ask you what you thought of the concert, to note upcoming concerts you might want to go to, to ask if there was anything about the experience that could have been better for you?
And, I’d think, also to offer you discounted tickets to upcoming performances. That’s important, because orchestras notice a phenomenon called “churn,” in which most people who come for the first time — an amazingly high percentage, approaching 70% in some places — never come again. There could be many reasons for this, but do orchestras do enough to try, at least, to get people to return?
The larger question, of course, would be whether the concerts are interesting enough. Whether they feel like true events, rather than feeling merely like yet another classical music performance. Do people going for the first time tell their friends, “Yes, it was nice,” or do they say, “I’ve never seen or heard anything like this! You’ve got to go”?
I have two HP printers, and HP deluges me with email, promoting new products, and just generally keeping in touch. This might or might not be too much. Maybe I don’t need to hear from the makers of my SonicCare toothbrush as often as I do, but maybe a software company whose products I use is welcome to email me.
Where would an orchestra stand? What kind of regular email — once a week, even? — could they send, that would entice the people who get it?
Thanks, David, for getting me to think about all this! And of course what David and I are saying applies to any classical music institution, not just orchestras.
(Another solutions post.)