Tom White, Assistant Digital Manager at City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra talks about his early involvement with the Digital Lab
New audiences are pretty much the arts marketer’s holy grail – it’s no secret that getting people’s attention and persuading them to come and experience our art for the first time can be a challenge. But something we’ve been thinking about lately at the CBSO is the importance of keeping that attention, and how we can stop those hard-won attenders from ‘lapsing’ after they’ve taken their first steps. So my first discussions with my AMA Digital Lab mentor focused around the ‘visitor experience’ – not necessarily a concept we deal with too regularly as a performance-based producing organisation – and ways we could enrich our concertgoers’ experience digitally.
Digital video is a format that we are already quite comfortable with as an organisation, so we have started doing some experiments around how we can use it more as a re-engagement tool than a mass-marketing medium.
On any given week, the CBSO will perform between one and three entirely different musical programmes, usually at our Birmingham home venue Symphony Hall but also on UK and international tours. As a result, our production cycle is very tight, with no more than five days between the first rehearsal and the end of the concert – and then maybe only two or three days until rehearsals start for the next one.
As far as generating video content to support concerts online, within that week-long window we can film rehearsals, interview conductors and musicians, and quickly turn around social media videos in time – just about – to publish them on the day, or day before, a concert. We’ve done that quite a few times, using video as a last-minute sales push. Admittedly the content has been very useful in terms of social media engagement and reach – but it’s not necessarily helping us sell seats in the hall. We already know that our core audiences will book several weeks out from the concert, so it’s impossible to get this content in front of would-be attenders quickly enough to make a difference.
So, as part of the Digital Lab, and with our lapsing booker challenges in mind, we’re experimenting with a change of tack. It’s really simple – the plan is to also use video post-concert instead, with the hope of creating a richer experience for existing bookers. A no-brainer, right? Our team already sends post-concert emails after every performance (with press reviews, a social media roundup and recommended concerts), so we were aware of their usefulness. But the Digital Lab has given us the impetus to try video in this context too.
In practice, for a few trial concerts this has meant collecting very short (60 seconds or less) video interviews of musical soloists or conductors immediately after they come offstage – literally the musical equivalent of post-match footballer interview. The clips are then shared directly with the attenders of that particular content via email. Of course, these videos aren’t going to break any YouTube views records – in fact they’re not even visible on our channel – but that isn’t the point. Our hope is that doing this can enrich the audience experience in a way that might increase a first-timer’s engagement in the artform more widely, and make them more receptive to further marketing communications from us in particular.
We’re measuring the responses to the videos, and early results seem positive, with CTR substantially higher on these content-rich emails than on our standard post-concert messaging. The real litmus test, though, will be whether this has any bearing on how those same people respond to the next enewsletters or concert eflyers they get from us. Will the video engagement help to punch through the white noise of marketing in people’s inboxes, or will it make no difference at all? Either way, we’re looking forward to finding out.
Header Image courtesy of Sound and Music © Martin Weiss