Writing

MOST POPULAR

The Long Haul Model

In 2014, the California Symphony changed its approach to audience development, employing a long-term strategy that resulted in increased concert attendance, audiences getting younger, and more donors…

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OTHER TOP READ ARTICLES

Developing An Audience That Likes Classical Music [Programming]

In a time when a lot of orchestras, or at least a lot of music directors and artistic personnel, argue that pops (or film concerts or collaborations with Ben Folds or whatever) is the “money maker that detracts from the real music,” it is possible that we as administrators are in fact creating this dichotomy, this tension… 
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Content Marketing: Why Every Arts Organization Should Be Doing It

Marketing is changing. Even in just the last year or so, it’s been changing: people don’t want to be overtly sold to, one-size-fits-all copy doesn’t capture attention, and traditional call to actions are no longer effective. All three of those tactics are now definitively out of the old school playbook, are out of touch…
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A Public Commitment To Diversity

Most people don’t want to hold preconceptions, adhere to stereotypes, and employ biases, whether conscious or unconscious. The vast majority of us want to make progress in our field, want to advance our art form, and want to represent our communities in our work. And most of us know that research shows that diverse teams lead to better decision making…
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ORCHESTRA X PROJECT

Orchestra X: Chapter Two

In the summer of 2016, the California Symphony put out the call for people who “should” go to the symphony but don’t… The following covers the Orchestra X findings we addressed or up-leveled since the original post in 2016, the still-remaining want-to-address items, why all this matters…
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Orchestra X: The Results

Arts organizations must change the way we think about new audiences, and specifically, must change our willingness to have hard conversations about the things newcomers hate, are turned off by, or are just uninformed about. We decided if we at the California Symphony are serious about...
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Introducing Orchestra X

If you don’t know a lot (or anything at all) about orchestras, you are exactly who we’re looking for… The problem is that as a species we often rely too much on what we already know, and that’s precisely what makes change so hard. For orchestras though, we can’t continue to shy away from creating the change we need…
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FUNDRAISING

Once & Done

How one tiny checkbox resulted in 17 times more donors when it should have done just the opposite… Just about every arts organization runs a donation campaign as they approach the end of their fiscal year…this is among the worst times and reasons to raise money…
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Never Say “Gala”

How the California Symphony killed (and resurrected) its special events, and how one banned word resulted in tripling attendance and having a lot more fun… In fact, the ROI per each returning patron was 1403% in just one year.
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Patron Courtship

Over the last three seasons, the donor base has nearly quadrupled and total dollars raised from individuals increased by 51%. This love affair isn’t a one-night stand… Arts administrators, get ready for this: we do not solicit first year subscribers for a donation. Ever…
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DIVERSITY, EQUITY, & INCLUSION

Multiculturalism: It’s Not About Serving Mexican Food to Mexican People

If food can appeal to multiple ethnicities and cultural groups other than those of its origin, then classical music — specifically our core product in the Western European tradition — can appeal to multiple ethnicities and cultural groups if we properly set people up to feel invited and to understand and enjoy it.
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A Public Commitment to Diversity

Most people don’t want to hold preconceptions, adhere to stereotypes, and employ biases, whether conscious or unconscious. The vast majority of us want to make progress in our field, want to advance our art form, and want to represent our communities in our work. And most of us know that research shows that diverse teams lead to better decision making…
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All She Wrote

Eliminating unintentional gender bias in our composer selection process.“It’s not easy,” wrote The New York Times recently about women who compose classical music (in this case, opera) for a living. And they were right. We decided to face the music (pun very much intended) and address this issue head-on in our selection process…
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LEADERSHIP

11 Must-Haves For Growth at An Orchestra

The arts are a hard business. From Baumol’s cost disease due to being in a highly labor-intensive industry, to deep and long running emotions between management and musicians, to being under fire for lack of diversity, to a limited administrative talent pool, managing an arts organization is no cakewalk. But enough of victimizing ourselves…
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Talent Development

Orchestras have the best talent on stage. Our players have been to the best music schools, studied with the best teachers, and must bring their absolute best — nothing short of perfection, really — to ever hope to win an audition in this intensely competitive field. And then they must perform their best again and again if they hope to gain tenure. And on the admin side, we often don’t measure up to that…
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Changing the Narrative

In 2013, the California Symphony was about to close its doors. Donations and ticket sales were down, concerts were half empty (or filled by papering the house, i.e. comping tickets), the original founding music director and the Board parted ways, and the organization was without an executive director for about a year. Then the Board did two very smart things…
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Biases We Don’t Know We Have That Make Our Jobs Harder

If you’ve ever thought it was difficult to see the concert experience through the eyes of a newcomer, or wondered if hiring for “culture fit” is the right approach (hint: it’s not), or noticed that colleagues often listen to anecdotes over data, there are psychological reasons why. And they are holding us back…
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What Does “Relevant” Even Mean?

Arts organizations talk a lot of about “being relevant,” but I’ve yet to hear any arts leader define what they think that means. It’s not an overused buzzword—it matters a lot if we get it right, so much so that one company, global consultancy Prophet, goes so far as to say that relevance is the most reliable indicator of a brand’s long term success…
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AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT

Audience Development: The Long Haul Model

In 2014, the California Symphony changed its approach to audience development, employing a long-term strategy that resulted in increased concert attendance, audiences getting younger, and more donors… There is big money on the table, which in turn allows us to better serve our mission…
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The Long Haul Model: Where/How to Begin

After you have worked through internal changes to be made before implementing the Long Haul Model and sorted out your staff structure to support this work, you’re ready to put pen to paper (or shall we say, put the pedal to the metal?!)! So where on earth do you begin? This final post in our three-part series is the most tactical, walking you through step by step.
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The Long Haul Model: Challenges of Implementation

The emphasis on the short term is understandable when you consider that almost all of our board members, whether they are actively working or now retired, come from for-profit companies, and corporations — especially publicly traded companies — have an incredible pressure to serve the short term…
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The Orchestra Myth

There is a big myth in the orchestra world. In the entire arts world, really. A falsehood so ingrained and so believed that seemingly everyone — staff, board members, journalists, and even the general public — spout it like gospel. The trouble is that continuing to factualize this fiction is to our own detriment. It is a myth that we need new audiences…
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How The Long Haul Model Scales to Bigger Organizations

This post covers questions on scalability — in other words, how The Long Haul Model can be implemented at organizations of varying staff and budget sizes — as well as the HR component of this work (e.g. answering questions on staffing structure and why company culture matters in this discussion). If you’re truly serious about implementing this model…
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BOOK REVIEWS

2018 Book Review

We must become ever more savvy leaders (no matter our title or role or place in the org chart) if we are to meet these challenges — if we are to change the narrative — in any industry....
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2017 Book Review

Here’s to continuing to push ourselves as leaders to learn and grow… Titles consumed with a brief review of each through the lens of an arts administrator…
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ARTS ADVOCACY

Fact: The Arts Industry Is Bigger Than Agriculture

The arts and culture sector represents 4.2% of the nation’s GDP — a larger share of the economy than transportation, warehousing, or agriculture. In 2015 (the most recent reporting year), the arts added four times more to the U.S. economy than…
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Arts Advocacy Day Tool Kit: Fast & Easy Ways for You to Participate

In March of 2017, the NEA and NEH first became under threat of elimination, so this post was created with tools that can still be used for any arts advocacy efforts today, including sharable images and sample letters to elected officials…
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WRITING FOR OTHER PUBLICATIONS

101 Biggest Mistakes Nonprofits Make

Published March 2019
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UX Research: How One Organization Spent Almost Nothing to Learn Something Priceless

Capacity Interactive, July 2018
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