Back in June, I wrote about how the Metropolitan Opera snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the marketing of Satyagraha–how when classical music organizations employ the right kind of marketing (or any marketing at all) they see much better ticket sales than they are accustomed to. This year the Nashville Symphony is further reinforcing that point with their new marketing strategy for their season, which seeks especially to improve single ticket sales to younger audience members and other audiences they haven’t been effectively reaching in the past.
I e-mailed the Symphony and got some more of the story from Ronda Combs Helton, Nashville’s Senior Director of Marketing. Last year, they ran ads in TV, print, and radio, “but about halfway through the season we found that we were not getting the return on investment we needed, so we pulled our TV ads and put that money into more print and radio placements. We thought that the TV spots we had produced last year just weren’t striking the right chord with our potential single ticket buyers, which is the target audience for the bulk of our advertising campaign.” This year they decided to overhaul their strategy, producing better TV spots which leverage their new conductor Giancarlo Guerrero’s sense of fun, and making use of new-media tools YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook.
This is one of the four 15-second spots produced by Locomotion Creative for the Symphony.
The other three show Guerrero conducting fountains while kids play in them, playing drums with a band, and offering advice on a game of dominoes in a local taqueria. They’re fun and effective, and to me one of the ways in which they’re the most effective is that by showing Guerrero in his tuxedo doing these things they subtly undermine the idea that the formal trappings of the concert hall are signifiers of Importance and Seriousness–Guerrero’s tuxedo is just the costume that he wears.
Elaborating on this year’s marketing strategy, Helton told me: “We thought these spots might appeal to a broader audience than our old TV ads, so we thought YouTube would be a great, free way to get them in front of more people. We’re also expanding our placements on WNPT, our local public television station, and expanding our online ad buys this season.”
It’s hard to say how effective the web marketing blitz has been–the ads posted to YouTube have, as of today, gotten an average of only 510 views each–but whether it’s attributable to the better TV spots, the web marketing, or both, something is working. On July 19, the first day of single ticket sales, they sold $130,000 in single-concert tickets; last year that number was $80,000. And this is part of an overall trend–with this marketing overhaul and a modest 5% increase in the marketing budget: “After 29 weeks of sales, we are 12 percent up in revenue over last season.”
One final note, which relates directly to one of my final notes on the Satyagraha advertising: it’s encouraging to see that rather than investing their effort and resources into reviving the subscription model of ticket sales, Nashville is focusing on improving single ticket sales and broadening the audience of single ticket buyers. In my opinion, that’s the only sustainable way forward.