I started the DMA course with an experiment that turned out to be a comedy of errors. My aim was to encourage engagement from audience members on social media during a concert. In my capacity as Marketing Manager at Spitalfields Music, I was preparing for a performance in a pathology lab (Bart’s Pathology Museum) with Langham Research Centre, an ensemble performing electronic music using obsolete technology. We got off to a great start by selling out so that was the first hurdle out of the way!
My idea was to experiment with live tweeting programme notes during the concert. It seemed a good opportunity to test this approach as it attracted a very mixed audience and had an informal set-up: there were no chairs so audience members were encouraged to walk around the space throughout, and, as it was based in a pathology lab, there were numerous body parts in jars (!) to scrutinise while enjoying the music.
In advance of the performance, I scheduled tweets to go out at regular intervals, announcing what was being played and including interesting facts about the music. I also created signs featuring our Twitter handle and questions about the music to be placed around the space, encouraging the audience to engage with us online.
However, upon entering the venue, I came across a vast number of problems:
- The pathology lab was within a hospital with limited signal, so accessing Twitter was difficult.
- The performers asked everyone to turn off their phones as the signal would interfere with the technology they were using.
- Photography was not permitted within the lab, so it was difficult to allow tweeting but no photography.
- The entire venue had glass cabinets around the room (containing medical specimens) and there was a rule banning signs on the glass. I managed to put up a few of my carefully prepared signs but they ended up in places that weren’t very visible.
- Despite telling each audience member when entering that they were encouraged to walk around during the performance, most people decided instead to sit on the ground, and therefore didn’t see any of the signs anyway!
The upshot of all of this was that no-one was tweeting during the concert, let alone reading my programme notes. Afterwards we did have an influx of tweets about the concert – more than was usual – but it’s impossible to say whether that was in any way influenced by the signs.
If you want to try out this experiment, my tips would be to:
- Check in with Production about the venue stipulations and artist requests.
- Visit the venue beforehand if possible.
- Include your Twitter handle in physical/digital programmes, and mention it during the pre-concert announcement.
This is just one of the struggles born out of being a non-venue-based organisation, but at least we learned a few lessons!