Kevin Giglinto, Director, Client Development & Marketing at Tessitura Network, Inc. discusses his time as an arts marketer with Chicago Symphony Orchestra. AMA Conference 2016 is sponsored by Tessitura.
I began my life as an arts marketer in September of 1999, when I joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s staff as the orchestra world’s first ecommerce director. From that time and throughout my 10 years leading the CSO’s Sales and Marketing Department, we maintained a constant focus on audience development.
This is certainly nothing new to arts marketers. Something that I always admired about our field is the remarkable energy expended and experimentation explored to turn over every stone in order to find the next new audience member. That commitment to our arts organisations and the role they play within the cultural landscape of our communities is found everywhere. This illustrates the deep passion that will certainly permeate the sessions at the AMA conference in Edinburgh.
Back in the late 90s and early 00s, there were still fresh memories of hundreds of concerts sold out on subscription tickets from earlier in the decade. The realities of a more selective audience and increasing competition in the market created challenges and shrinking attendance. Marketing budgets hadn’t completely been shifted to address the new market realities.
As we dealt with those issues, we wanted to make sure that our strategy was on the right course, and we always felt strongly that we had to ground ourselves in sound data to help us analyse and diagnose a situation before following a path or an assumption that might be misleading.
One of those assumptions that was being propagated in the news media and even from some within our own organisation, was that Classical Music was not creating any new audiences and we were faced with the ultimate demise of an ageing base. By challenging that meme with real data from multiple years, we actually showed that each year, over 40% of our audiences were new to us. It turned out that popular programming (Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, etc.) in our core product was our best new audience driver.
Armed with that data, we continued down a different path. We were able to study those new households and found out that 90% of them were not returning for a second time. Add that to the math that it cost four times as much to bring in a new audience member as it did to retain one and we had created the seeds for the beginning of our strategy to build lifelong patron relationships.
We partnered with other orchestras, and found that our collective research pointed to the same thing. We didn’t have a new audience issue, we had a retention issue. The collaborative research was extremely powerful, arming us with even more data to feed into important strategies to bring people back into our hall. If we could get one of those first-time buyers to come one more time within twelve months of their first purchase, their likelihood to return for a third time doubled.
My colleagues from the other orchestras and I continued our relationship exploration and found direct correlations between the relationship paths we were rolling out for our audiences and the impact it has on long-term contributions and philanthropic support of our institutions.
By the time I left to join the Tessitura Network staff this year, the CSO had experienced five straight years of subscription renewal rates of over 90%. That, and a well-defined new audience development strategy helped us grow ticket sales and established the CSO as having the largest subscription base of any orchestra in the United States. Given that there is an extremely high correlation between a subscriber or multi-buyer and a donor, the overall institutional strategy took shape and helped us grow total donors over a five-year span, correcting a downward trajectory that had been going on for years.
This is why I was excited to see the theme of this year’s AMA conference, On a Mission to Matter, and building meaningful and lasting relationships with our audiences. I have seen the impact that a strategic focus on audience relationships can have on arts organisations, and have been deeply involved in it. At the heart of my experiences are core principles of the Tessitura Network, which includes the power of a unified platform to understand the holistic relationship you have with the people coming through your doors. Additionally, having access to robust data analysis and marketing tools that can enable you to build more meaningful relationships with those audiences are critical components to your own audience development strategy today and for the future. In the end, that is what sustains our art forms and allows them to continue to play an important role in the culture of our communities.
I hope you can join me for Breakfast at the AMA conference on Wednesday 13th July, when I will share more detail around my experiences while I was at the CSO, as well others from the Tessitura Network. I will be joined by Becky Loftus (Head of Audience Insight, Royal Shakespeare Company) to share ongoing work she has been leading to more deeply understand the interest of their audiences.
Don’t forget to check out the Tessitura Lounge in the exhibition area at this year’s AMA conference.