administration programming the orchestra world

orchestral real estate

I was talking with a friend and riding partner today who is now one of the top residential real estate photographers in the country. He has broken many records for earning in his regions of coverage (Portland, Oregon and the East Bay Area) by looking at the old paradigms in his field and seeing new ways of looking at them. Consequently, he does very well, because, in the words of Apple, he “Thinks Different”. He said that he was asked to give a talk after he posted the single largest jump in earnings for the Portland region after he took it over. The gist of his message to the realtors who hire him:

“You aren’t hiring me to sell this house. You’re hiring me so you get more future listings.”

This has ramifications in the orchestral world, especially as regards fund raising and increasing both donor and earned income. Think about it. We often put on concerts that will ‘sell’ so that we can improve our bottom line. And sometimes these concerts do, in fact, sell. But how many of these concerts (many of which are specials that attract very little in the way of crossover audiences) actually end up bringing more repeat customers into the concert hall? It seems like the paradigm needs to be upended a bit, in the orchestral arena:

“You aren’t programming just to sell tickets/fundraising just to survive. You’re programming/building intimate relationships to engage people in a life-long journey with your organization.”


By Charles Noble

I'm the Assistant principal violist of the Oregon Symphony.

5 replies on “orchestral real estate”

In the new world of online, on-demand & DVR-able media “one size fits all/big bang” programming is increasingly less viable. The old paradigm of “build it (ie. program it) and they will come” is no longer valid. Simply put – an organization needs to leave the concert hall to connect with the community to initiate the life-long journey. There is a lot of talk about “if we program this we’ll get more patrons” but the bottom line is that classical music (let alone live performance) is struggling to be relevant in this emerging landscape.

Charles – I am glad to see you have arrived to this enlightened perspective. Organizations have Development Department to develop relationships for the organization. Every member of an organization needs to be part of development team effort to create relationships. We are working toward lifetime commitment that connect patrons to the mission and ask for their investments to support evidence of that work. More people developing meaningful relationships to advance the mission of the organization = more, long-term support. You might find this article interesting.

I absolutely agree. The successful organizations are the ones that are dedicated to truly serving the community. The community can sense when an orchestra has a clear and exciting vision. Focus on great programming, exciting guest artists and making each concert a meaningful and exciting even and the money will probably be there.

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