Yesterday I read a slim but interesting book called Marketing for Millennials, by Jeff Fromm and Christie Garton. It verbalized a lot of my gut instincts, and especially the gut instinct that most orchestras suck at marketing to millennials.
Roughly speaking, millennials are carbon-based human life forms aged 18-35. (For a point of reference, I’m 24.) It’s tough to generalize about an entire generation, but I’m about to do so.
- use the Internet a lot
- tend to be more politically progressive
- are extremely well-educated
- value companies with consciences
- frequently live with our parents thanks to the recession
- possess larger social networks than any other generation
And here’s an interesting factoid: there are more of us than there are baby boomers. Yup, you read that right: we’re the largest generation in American history.
You would not know any of these things based on most orchestras’ marketing efforts.
So here, without further ado, are seventeen suggestions for orchestras to keep in mind as they think about how to attract young people.
Well, before the story moves on and my memories become completely irrelevant, here are my thoughts on the 2013 Symphony Ball – or, to be more precise, the rally that Save Our Symphony Minnesota planned and executed during the 2013 Symphony Ball.
To my intense irritation, the media played up our gathering like they were expecting a second Haymarket Riot. The New York Times sported the headline MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA PLANS GALA; DISSONANCE IS EXPECTED. One local television station warned of an upcoming “tense protest.” WCCO called it “a situation.” People on Facebook said that things could “get ugly.” A politician even Tweeted that he was excited to mock us. It was ridiculous, especially since I’d sat in on conference calls with my fellow SOSMN volunteers, and I’d heard firsthand how they’d spent untold hours planning the event and mapping out messaging. They could not have made it any clearer in their media advisories and press releases that this was meant to be a peaceful celebratory rally led by audience advocates. Of course, this angle was the focus of approximately none of the mainstream media’s coverage.
Jon Stewart once said in an interview:
The bias of the mainstream media is toward sensationalism, conflict, and laziness.
There may be something to that.
I chose to wear evening dress (albeit with leg warmers, two layers of socks, and long underwear). After I got dressed, a friend brought me to the hall, and my mom and I walked around the block, taking in the scene. A large crowd had already gathered around Peavey Plaza, which looked like a combination circus, prison, and ShopKo garden center. There were tents, guards, and shrubberies. A tented sidewalk extended out from the hall’s main entrance, made a sharp turn to the left, and drained down to the empty Peavey Plaza fountain, which now was the location of a Symphony Ball tent, in which exciting activities would no doubt take place (dinner? dancing? dozing?). The tents didn’t have any windows, but there was a plastic French door on the Twelfth Street side that bravely attempted to add elegance to the proceedings. Generators buzzed near the sidewalks with massive cords leading into the great white tent. What were they for? Lighting (a blue hue eventually began glowing from the ceiling)? Heaters? A DJ booth? Endless possibilities! Parked next to the generators were trucks full of wine bottles. Caterers were unloading them. They were dressed like stewards on the Titanic.
I was interviewed for the WQXR Conducting Business podcast yesterday! Take a listen here.
The incident is the latest example of political-style web advocacy that’s moved into the realm of classical music and the arts. In this podcast, we get three views on the trend, including that of Hogstad, who writes the blog Song of the Lark.
A Minnesota Orchestra spokesperson told NPR Music‘s Anastasia Tsioulcas that the organization reserved the URLs to protect the orchestra’s name, knowing well that the labor talks would be contentious. Such purchases are a standard business practice, although they’re usually masked by a third-party buyer so that it’s not quite so obvious what’s taking place. Even so, the revelation drew a wave of negative commentary and the orchestra had to acknowledge Hogstad’s blog, which she said it had previously ignored.
This is the start of a really important conversation that everyone in the arts world is going to need to have sooner or later (and preferably sooner). It was a fascinating discussion, and I was honored to be a part of it. I’m heartened and humbled by the immense power of blogs and social media.
My next entry was going to be about the extraordinary Tuesday night we had at Orchestrate Excellence’s forum with Dr. Alan Fletcher. And there’s still a part of me that wants to cover that.
But, um. Something happened on Wednesday. Namely, I posted an entry about the MOA cyber-squatting, and then went to a doctor appointment.
Here’s a reaction GIF of what it felt like to get back home:
WHAT – IS – HAPPENING? I JUST WENT OUT TO A DOCTOR APPOINTMENT AND GOT SOME PIZZA; THAT WAS IT!! AND THEN I GET BACK HOME! AND SUDDENLY EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE!!! I CAN’T LEAVE YOU GUYS ALONE FOR A SINGLE AFTERNOON, CAN I??
Stats! Going through the roof!
Facebook likes – by the thousands!
Lame jokes about The Fifth Estate!
Coverage on NPR and MPR!
Plus: Alex Ross!
The failure to mark these purchases as private seems indicative of the general level of competence in the current management.
Yesterday was quite the day: the Young Musicians of Minnesota made metro-wide news.
Yeah, unbeknownst to the locked out Minnesota Orchestra musicians, the Young Musicians of Minnesota brought their instruments to Nicollet Mall to play a concert of Tchaikovsky 4 in front of US Bancorp. Their mission? To send a message to Richard Davis to end the lockout of their mentors and heroes. YMM members deliberately didn’t tell the musicians what they were up to. I’m sure there are rumors floating around the upper floors of US Bancorp and Wells Fargo that those damn musicians put ‘em up to it, but to believe that would be to succumb to the worst kind of cynicism. (Hear that, Minnesota Orchestral Association monitors? Good.) Sadly, Richard Davis didn’t acknowledge the crowd, nor did he send anyone down to say hello, but they did get an awful lot of attention on the Mall.
Some of YMM at the US Bancorp gig
I couldn’t be there, but I was tipped off about the show beforehand, and so I shooed some dedicated Twin Cities Larkers to downtown Minneapolis, and I heard a couple reports of how the afternoon went. Well it turns out there was press there, and US Bancorp couldn’t really do much about any of it except watch uneasily and talk to people on cell phones.
Consequently the following three videos aired last night on KSTP at 4:30, 6, and 10. Kudos to YMMer Emily Green, who has more composure in a major interview than any other teenager I’ve ever seen.
I did notice, though…. There’s something in the first video that got snipped out of the second two. See if you can spot it!
I hate to rain on your Fourth of July parade, but I was part of a rather gloomy MPR article yesterday, along with Bill Eddins, Drew McManus, John Budd, and Norman Lebrecht. (Pretty heady company there.) An excerpt…
No union musician will play at the Minnesota Orchestra as long as the lock out continues, Hogstad said, and one shouldn’t forget what she calls rage among some audience members who feel their concerns have been dismissed by management.
“I would like to send a very clear message to the MOA and anyone who is planning on renting out the hall, that as long as there is no resolution of this there will be picketing and leafleting by patrons,” Hogstad said.
So. The cat is out of the bag. If the dispute is unresolved within the next few weeks, there will be picketing. Period. Anyone that books that darn hall will have to answer to angry patrons. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what day and time various events are likely to be scheduled. You want to book the hall for a wedding? Know your guests will have to deal with picketing. You want to have a Christmas party? Know your guests will have to deal with picketing. You want to have a corporate dinner on stage in Hall? Know your guests will have to deal with picketing. Symphony Ball? Know the board will have to deal with picketing. Yes, come Symphony Ball time, the board will either have to engage in meaningful conversation with patrons, or ignore us and watch our waving signs and wonder what we’re up to. I imagine that more than one banker or lawyer will wish the old blue tubes were up blocking the view of the streets. (Is it too late in the renovation process to install curtains…?) Picketing picketing picketing. Picketing. Peaceful picketing, and respectful picketing, but picketing nonetheless. Firm picketing. Resolved picketing. Picketing.
I have a commentary in MinnPost today. Check it out. It raises questions we have about the Minnesota Orchestra’s past and future fiscal performance. Thanks to MinnPost for printing it.
The management and board of directors of the crippled Minnesota Orchestra have repeatedly stated that their financial plans are sound. Unfortunately, many outside observers are not so sure…
Edited: MinnPost has recently begun accepting “original letters from readers on current topics of general interest” that are 300 words or less. Would you like to submit one?
Forty-two percent of the Minnesota State Legislature wants a state audit of the Minnesota Orchestral Association.
In the great tradition of Song of the Lark British reaction GIFs, here’s Benedict Cumberbatch giving the thumbs up to accountability.
Here’s the full letter from the legislators…
Awareness of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout grows daily. However, if you’re just tuning in, I imagine it’s tough to know where to start. So to make things easier, I tagged some entries “merge lane.” These are entries that don’t require any background knowledge about what’s been going on. Pick a few merge lane entries to read, and soon you’ll be up to speed!
Welcome to the Minnesota Orchestra lockout information highway!
However, if you prefer to tackle things chronologically, I do keep an extensive “table of contents” here. And you can always explore topics using the tags in the right-hand column of the blog.
For this particular “merge lane” entry, I gathered 25 quotes that contradict the narrative Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson has been selling the last couple of years…in other words,”What Michael Henson Doesn’t Want You To Read.” Enjoy!
An orchestra does not recover easily, from such drastic cuts, if ever. – former Minnesota Orchestra music directors Edo de Waart, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Neville Marriner, Star Tribune editorial, 6 October 2012
While we await news from St. Paul…
Here’s a link to the PDF presentation that Save Our SPCO gave to St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Interim CEO Dobson West and various SPCO board members yesterday. I don’t really have much to say about it besides it’s absolutely fabulous, and I hope that eventually Minnesota management will agree to a similar kind of meeting with Orchestrate Excellence.
This should be a watershed moment in both these conflicts. Are Dobson West and Michael Henson more interested in actual problem-solving…or pouring gas onto the fires of their own ideologies? For too long, too many of us have feared they’re really more interested in the latter. But their responses to these passionate well-educated audience advocacy groups should let us know for certain.