I Figured This Was Highly Unlikely. What A Difference A Month Makes

Early last month I bookmarked an article by Jeremy Reynolds in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette intending to come back to address it in a blog post in some manner. In the article, Reynolds was arguing for shorter classical music concerts.  At the time, I figured it would never happen broadly due to the inertia of tradition.

Now with public events shutdown and artists and organizations streaming their performances, I strongly suspect a lot more people are going to be open to exploring the basic concepts Reynolds espouses.

If concerts were shorter, the quality of musicianship could increase significantly. I often chastise classical groups for bloated, unnecessarily long recitals. An hour of tight, balanced, in-tune playing is vastly preferable to a two- or three-hour slog of mediocrity.

While some organizations say a program should fill an evening, offering quantity over quality is a poor strategy even if funders tend to favor inventive and diverse programming.

He also accuses ever lengthening intermissions of impeding the momentum of the experience. Since his article opens with him advising friends to go home at intermission, I imagine he would be all for a short, intermissionless performance which would solve two problems at once.

He addresses the idea that you have to give people their money’s worth:

I realize that the cost of ticket prices (which I recently argued are too expensive given how little revenue tickets generate) causes some groups to feel they need to hit a minimum threshold of time, but this is arbitrary. Maybe it’s not about the length of the program, but what an organization does with it that matters most.


The New World Symphony, a forward-thinking training ensemble in Miami, rolled out a series of concerts years ago that ran for 30 minutes and 60-75 minutes.

“The trick is not to think you have to fill an evening,” orchestra President Howard Herring said. “The question isn’t just: What music do I want to bring forth? but What is the uncompromised artistic experience that only we can provide?”

Now that groups and individuals are streaming their performances, they are almost certainly getting a lot of exercise evaluating and providing a highly focused uncompromised artistic experience. If things ever move back to the former semblance of normal, I think it would be a safe bet that those who continued to employ the “muscles” they developed while focusing on delivering an uncompromised experience will be on a firmer path to success.

Not Only Is Marketing Everybody’s Job, It Has To Be Done All The Time–Even Now

I highly recommend watching Collen Dilenschneider’s Know Your Own Bone site over the course of the Covid-19 epidemic. Every Monday she is posting data about intention to visit cultural entities in as the epidemic unfolds. She says her company is receiving data in real time. I am surprised to learn people are taking the time to respond to surveys.

In any case, it appears people anticipate going to cultural entities in the next 3-6 months. That didn’t significantly change between March 16 and March 23, but she warns we may see a shift in the next week as the reality of the situation begins to sink in.

With this in mind, she is cautioning people against letting their marketing efforts flag during this period of time and offers suggestions about how to shift the focus of those efforts from “visit now” to keeping yourselves on people’s radar.

Because there can be pretty large time gap between when people decide to visit an entity and when they take action to visit, marketing you do now is informing people who will arrive months down the road. She also points out that it often costs more to re-engage audiences than it is to retain them.

At the end of her post, she offers 4 suggestions for re-focusing marketing efforts:

A) Strategic deferral in paid media to local audiences

In response to the observed decline in immediate-term intentions to visit among local market members, it makes sense to selectively defer campaign spending for paid media that targets audiences with relatively short lead times….

To be clear, this does not at all mean ceasing all marketing and not communicating with local audiences. It means strategically deferring select paid media efforts for this market, and holding these funds in abeyance for deployment at a more opportune moment.

B) Replace investments aimed at immediate activation (“visit now!”) and focus instead on maintaining top-of-mind status and broad awareness

…However, the current environment suggests more of a “maintenance” approach that intends to preserve awareness of what your organization does and stands for in order to keep your cultural institution at the forefront of people’s minds.

Unaided awareness and top-of-mind metrics are measurable –… Organizations want to be ready to immediately reactivate audiences when they reopen, and that means maintaining high levels of awareness and being top of mind in the meantime.


C) Meet people where they are right now: Online


There is a terrific opportunity for creative connection right now that proves relevance far beyond your walls – from providing resources for parents aiming to home school or keep children busy, to conducting events with staff experts on social media, to sharing penguins exploring their empty aquarium to give a sense of what’s still happening behind the scenes. The opportunities for creative and engaging ways to execute our missions and connect with our communities are seemingly endless. They are a good idea right now.

Finding ways to execute missions, support communities, and stay top of mind are strategic initiatives that position organizations to better succeed when their doors reopen.

D) Be responsive – not reactive

…This is not the time for knee-jerk reactions and short-sighted “gut instinct.” This is the time to think through opportunities and the current condition so that cultural entities are in a position to succeed when their doors reopen. This may be especially difficult as executives field calls from fear-driven board members demanding speedy, unfounded, and feelings-based actions.


In regard to marketing investments during this time, an immediate instinct may be to achieve significant short-term savings. Some may even consider going dark. Be careful. Data suggest that doing this without considering how these cuts are likely to increase costs and reduce attendance revenue upon reopening may be a financial problem rather than a solution.

Your organization has likely worked hard to show how you elevate the community. You’ve cultivated a level of awareness. You’ve worked hard to achieve top-of-mind status for certain audiences.

Now is not the time to let people forget that your organization exists.

Now is the time to show people how effectively you stand for your mission and your community – both when your physical doors are open and when they are closed.


Leaders Call For Disarmament Of Weapons Grade Elitism

I think there is probably enough overlap between my readers and Drew McManus on Adaptistration that I am not bringing anything new to the table when I point to his most recent post.

But man! It is so much in my wheelhouse that I wish I had written it. And with a title employing the phrase, “Weapons Grade Elitism,” it is hard leave it alone.  It pushes all the right buttons.

Drew had an encounter with program notes for a concert that were so dense, even as an orchestra insider with decades of experience wasn’t quite sure what the author of the notes was referencing. I think some of the content was worse than anything Trevor O’Donnell has criticized.

Long time readers know that I often cite findings of the 2017 CultureTrack survey and frequently discuss how the language in promotional and informational materials can be alienating to people who are just starting to be curious about different creative disciplines. I was pleased to see Drew invoking both ideas in his final paragraph summarizing his experience with the program notes:

In the end, these program notes do far more harm than we probably realize. When the CultureTrack ’17 report showed the number one barrier to engagement is people feeling like “it isn’t for someone like me,” we should actively revolt against practices that result in program notes like this. If someone with a music degree feels alienated upon reading them, imagine how the rest of our patrons will react.

Weapon’s Grade Elitism In 800 Words Or Less

Don’t Ignore “Can’t Use My Tickets” Posts On Your Social Media Page

I wrote a post that appeared on Artshacker today about ticket scams occurring in the comments section of performing arts organization social media accounts.

Essentially, what happens is that a short time out from an event, posts start appearing in the comments section of your organization’s Facebook page apparently from people who need to get rid of their tickets because they have a conflict with the date.

The biggest, most immediate tell-tale sign that this is a scam is realizing there are more tickets offered for re-sale than have been purchased. In the screenshots I posted as examples, the $5 movie we were offering only had 16 advance tickets sold but there were at least 54 tickets being offered for sale. This doesn’t count all the offers we deleted.

You also need to wonder about the promised heavy discounts people were offering on a $5 ticket that made it worth texting or sending a direct message to a stranger.

Another thing I see if I don’t catch the fake post in time is tickets being offered for free that suddenly have a price attached if someone responds with interest.

The answer, of course, is that most of these accounts were bots.  If you follow the link back to the poster’s account, you might find pictures of the person with family and friends which make it look legitimate (and I suspect some were real accounts that were hijacked) but others you notice some big inconsistencies like the fact their residence is in Sweden and they work for a company in Spain.

As I note in my Arts Hacker post, the simplest solution of shutting down commenting or requiring every comment to be approved can impede spontaneous reactions and conversations that create a sense of trust and community. Not to mention, it is difficult to conduct engagement campaigns if people are limited in their interactions.

Additionally, if people do get caught in a scam, it is likely to result in a negative association with, and perhaps distrust of, the organization on whose social media page the scam appeared.

If you knew you got a virus on a website or had your credit card number stolen on a gas pump skimming device, you would probably avoid returning, right?

One thing I didn’t mention in my original post but won’t probably come as a big surprise to many is that it is nigh-impossible to get the social media site to shut the scams down. We had a recent case where a person/bot posted their ticket offerings on their own page and tagged our page. I have to think this was a mistake and couldn’t have been effective because when we visited the page, there were more than 50 identical posts from a “woman” whose husband was deathly ill and couldn’t make dozens of monster truck rallies, concerts at bars, events at performing arts centers, many of them occurring at the same time across Canada and the United States.

We reported the page to Facebook. Even if it wasn’t a scam, a personal page was being used to conduct commerce. The response we got was that it didn’t violate any rules.

Anyway, check out the post on Arthacker, if nothing more than to see the screenshot examples of the type of posts you might encounter. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same names popped up on your social media pages.

Scammers In Your Social Media Community

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