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Audience-Building


drb

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While checking ABT's site this evening to look for more casting info (none found), I discovered that the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is subsidizing $11 tickets for families attending ABT City Center performances:

http://www.abt.org/performances/family_tickets.asp

This is just one of a number of recent very positive moves to help build audiences for ballet in NYC. Last Spring NYCB offered bargain-priced subscriptions in honor of Lincoln Kirstein; too bad that could not be continued (I wonder if some might be offered in future to first-time only subscribers?). Moreover, it is obvious that City Center's annual $10 Fall for Dance is also exposing many newbies to the art. This week audience members got to fill out a demographic survey (and I felt guilty for giving all the answers that they don't want, yet happy that so many around me could give the right ones). I gather that Fall for Dance is expanding to at least one other city.

Are audience-building efforts going on around the country? These three all involved ticket pricing; are there other kinds of efforts as well (that really seem to be working)? Sunday's Times mentions that Mr. Wheeldon is trying to reach the MySpace and YouTube generation (yet when I checked him out on MySpace, there were few hits, a minimal vid and even less content, generating only one response--a good idea, perhaps, but I'm sure he's too busy to do this all by himself). Have other companies tried ways to interest those individuals?

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While checking ABT's site this evening to look for more casting info (none found), I discovered that the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is subsidizing $11 tickets for families attending ABT City Center performances:

http://www.abt.org/performances/family_tickets.asp

This is just one of a number of recent very positive moves to help build audiences for ballet in NYC. Last Spring NYCB offered bargain-priced subscriptions in honor of Lincoln Kirstein; too bad that could not be continued (I wonder if some might be offered in future to first-time only subscribers?).

Isn't this the presumed function of NYCB's Fourth Ring Society? Get them coming somewhat regularly at low cost and then reel (at least some of) them in as Ring or Orchestra level subscribers. I wonder if the marketing gang has tracked the subscriber roster to see if former (or even present?) 4RS-ers are among them. I'd be interested to know how many were relatively new to ballet before becoming 4RS-ers and have since upgraded.

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Isn't this the presumed function of NYCB's Fourth Ring Society? Get them coming somewhat regularly at low cost and then reel (at least some of) them in as Ring or Orchestra level subscribers. I wonder if the marketing gang has tracked the subscriber roster to see if former (or even present?) 4RS-ers are among them. I'd be interested to know how many were relatively new to ballet before becoming 4RS-ers and have since upgraded.

The fact that City Center distributed a well-designed questionnaire (that cleverly found a way to do some direct follow-up--good old email offers) is a good sign. I hope they will also do something of the kind when companies that performed in FFD have their own City Center seasons. As you point out, research is crucial. If these sorts of promotions can be shown to work, that in itself could inspire further outside support for building audiences in this way.

Did NYCB survey people sitting in the Fourth Ring last season? Would anyone know whether NYCB did any follow-up research on the effect of last season's "Kirstein-bargain" on this season's resubscriptions? It would have been relatively easy, what with everything being in the computer... But this is not a computer-savvy company (as seen in their continued inability to sell seat-specific tickets on their website). My impression is that many of the low-priced subscriptions came via the company's telephone solicitations, so perhaps may have found some people who had not been aware of the Fourth Ring Society. But nothing beats knowing: I hope NYCB asks its computer the right questions.

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Because in the PNB mixed reps there are rarely sell-outs, when the cheap tickets were in the Second Tier sides, that meant a group of people in the upper left and right and a big gap in the middle. When I went to get a ticket to tonight's performance and asked to sit in the Second Tier, I found out that the cheap tickets had been moved to the front of the orchestra. There were only a couple of dozen of us in the first two rows of the Second Tier, but the front of the house looked full.

I don't quite understand why this All-Balanchine program didn't sell more tickets, but hopefully the younger audience that Peter Boal is cultivating will show up for the next program.

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National Ballet of Canada is trying a targeted approach to audience development as well. They just announced DanceBreak, a membership program that provides $20 tickets to audience members age 16-29. I'm glad to see this age group targeted, as others have mentioned, their parents may no longer be taking them and often they can't afford higher priced tickets.

The web page is only a place marker right now, but announces it will launch soon. http://www.dancebreak.ca/

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The met opera is targeting singles. I received an email (not single) which offers a drink mixer before the performance and one at intermission, Didn't read it real closely, but it was $100 per. I guess this is targeting the well heeled singles?

Nice try met.

ABT uses Mellon matching grants for memberships. Should we believe that?

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ABT uses Mellon matching grants for memberships. Should we believe that?
Why shouldn't we? Don't you think the Mellon Foundation people would make a big, public stink if their name was used in vain? That any exposure of fraud would jeopardize the credibility of any future ABT matched fundraising?
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I think Mellon must be funding ABT, but I am suspicious of the one to one matching grant theme. It sounds like BS to me. But what do I know Has anyone out there seen their books? According to the concept the memberships should match the Mellon grant. I'd be willing to bet they don't. I usually lose bets.

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While checking ABT's site this evening to look for more casting info (none found), I discovered that the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is subsidizing $11 tickets for families attending ABT City Center performances:

http://www.abt.org/performances/family_tickets.asp

It is a positive move but from experience (shoot me down if you disagree) I've found that it is hard for most kids to enjoy ballet from the far away seats. I wish there was a way to hook kids up with close to the stage orchestra seats.

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As a chld I saw my few ballet performances from the nosebleeds... It was a fascinating experience to be at the Met (of course, watching curtain call after curtain call for Nureyev was a fascination of it's own)... or the State Theater... all those velvet seats.... Used to love wiggling those beaded curtains and study the descending waves... watching the chandeliers raise... for a child, there's more to going to the theater than just the choreography... it's a whole new world... there's exploring opera glasses... watching the other people in the house... etc. etc... the main thing, probably is to be taken by a relative or friend to whom one wouldn't dare complain.... And the tickets were cheap enough (I think my mother kept comparing them to the price of a movie) to allow it.

... and I still became a balletomane in spite of the poor view.

Possibly it wouldn't have happened if it were recorded music.

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The met opera is targeting singles. I received an email (not single) which offers a drink mixer before the performance and one at intermission, Didn't read it real closely, but it was $100 per. I guess this is targeting the well heeled singles?

Nice try met.

ABT uses Mellon matching grants for memberships. Should we believe that?

I got that email too (I am single). Don't get me wrong, I love my opera and ballet, but the "20-30" range probably won't be able to afford the $110 required. For $20, I can get a lovely DVD, and adding an extra couple of dollars on tea (no drinks for me!) makes the perfect "mixer". Plus, I can afford to buy textbooks!!

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I don't quite understand why this All-Balanchine program didn't sell more tickets, but hopefully the younger audience that Peter Boal is cultivating will show up for the next program.

I think possibly because there was a great deal of dance all over town for those two weeks, as well as several popular theater events. The arts season is starting off with an avalanche this year...

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PNB, like many theater groups in Seattle, offers discounted tickets to people under 25, as well as sponsoring separate "groups" (combo performance watching/socializing) for younger audiences. They've been after this demographic for several years, but the idea of age band marketing has recently got a lot of attention locally. I haven't seen the statistical results yet, though I should look for those.

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Earlier this year I bought a single ticket to have a repeat seeing of the Balanchine program. The seat just happened to be right next to Aya Hamilton who is the President of PNB's Board of Trustees. I struck up a conversation with her (a very elegant woman) during the intermissions. We covered many ballet subjects, but one thing in particular struck me: she was quite comfortable with PNB's financial situation. I am often horrified at the 1/2 or 2/3 full houses I see. She of course wanted to see more tickets sold (in particular subscriptions she said), but apparently the Nutcracker and the full lengths do the job. I expressed my huge approval of the more contemporary ballets Peter Boal is programming, and I was very pleased to hear that the Board fully supports Peter in this even tho they know more money would come in the door if they presented more traditional ballet. I didn't ask her what their marketing strategy was.....I wish I had. We did however talk briefly about PNB's desire to find a younger audience. She mentioned the 2 edged sword of doing additional contemporary works, which they assume would appeal to younger audiences, and of doing full lengths to bring in the cash.

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NYCB's promo DVD for "Romeo + Juliet" came in the mail today. That "+" in the title is good marketing to younger audiences, of course, even if as a middle-oldster I don't like it. But I find the DVD a really winning, attractive item, even though I've seen the content on The Winger. I don't know what the discs cost to produce, but the narrative aspect really pulls the viewer in, as in, "OK, now what does the finished ballet look like?" So I'll bet these are a terrific marketing tool, and I'd be interested to know how wide of a circulation they are given. Will they be free in the State Theater lobby? Packaged in The New Yorker? Etc.

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This dvd thing certain seems to be a new marketing development. Does anyone know the answer to kfw's question: how much it costs to produce one (and to mail it)?

I confess I don't rush to the dvd player when one arrives in the mail. I sometimes even forget I have them on my desk. What do you think about this kind of promotion? Are you more likely to pay attention to this than to an illustrated brochure?

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Marketing does build audiences. The talented coloratura Anna Netrebko has had quite a meteoric rise and certainly helped the attendance and the buzz swirling around the Met Opera. She is prominently featured at their gala and marketing.

And speaking of DVDs, the Met gave out Anna Netrebko DVDs a few years ago at a performance of Rigoletto I attended. When I viewed it at home - two arias, one for La Traviata and one from Faust, I could see the influence of the music video as both had a very contemporary and "fun" look, and her singing was wonderful and I decided to Go out and get a few Netrebko CDs. (It worked!) And I am now a fan of this talented singer.

Today (dec 18) Ms Netrebko is doing another PR event at the book shop and was also the subject of a 60 Minutes segment about 3 years ago. Stop by and meet her!

The Met Opera also does live broadcasts on radio and recently did a fund raiser on PBS featuring the top 10 performances at the Met (Anna was featured in I Puritani, IRRC). In addition the Met is doing their simulcasts in HD in movie theatres around the world. So what has Mr Gelb wrought with his outreach? A practically sold out season months in advance! Damn, I called for tix to Lucia 4 months in advance and not a seat to be had!

I suspect Ms Netrebko was figured into their audience building strategy and I believe it has worked out even better than they imagined. But, of course, she has talent and can deliver thrilling performances.. and so this is not a case of all hat and no cattle!

I suppose the Met Opera is more flush with cash than ABT or NYCB but I believe that some more "aggressive" marketing, especially of their stars would build audiences. The Kristin Sloan - Tragic Love NYC campaign was very effective (better than the production!) and Ms Sloan has been made director of new media at NYCB. Watch for some interesting audience building from multi-talented Ms Sloan.

ABT, can you hear me? Can you hear me now?

(By the way, I contacted ABT several years ago about an approach and was met with all sorts of nay saying, legal hurdles to big to mount and union "excuses", but I suspect someone with more creds will get to them one of these days.)

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Out of curiosity, is it Sloan dreaming up these campaigns, or is it her SO (husband?) Doug Jaeger, who owns a PR company that has been intimately involved with her efforts from the get-go? It's my problem with The Winger, and why I no longer read it - I felt like she was promoting his clients without adequate disclosure of a relationship.

[edited to add: This was at least a year ago - the site has changed a lot in the interim with multiple authors and may have developed a clearer sense of that. As I said, I haven't read it in a while.]

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Does anyone think The Winger has readers who did not already have an interest in dance?

I've gotten to the point where I just click for posts by four or five members and skip all the rest. So much of that blog holds absolutely no interest for me. But I particularly enjoy Matt Murphy and David Hallberg. David has such a sense of wonder and an easy, familiar tone. He's a fun read. :wink: And I'm glad to have whatever opportunity Carla Korbes gives to see her post-NYCB career. Just wish she'd post more regularly.

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I've gotten to the point where I just click for posts by four or five members and skip all the rest. So much of that blog holds absolutely no interest for me. But I particularly enjoy Matt Murphy and David Hallberg. David has such a sense of wonder and an easy, familiar tone. He's a fun read. :wink: And I'm glad to have whatever opportunity Carla Korbes gives to see her post-NYCB career. Just wish she'd post more regularly.

I feel about the same. I preferred the site when it had fewer posters and more of a focus on ballet, but Kristin Sloan obviously has a different vision for it. I look forward to Murphy's posts once (fingers crossed) he actively rejoins ABT.

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