blockbusters
blockbusters
Jul25

 Keri Mesropov, 
VP of Client Services, TRG Arts

ALERT: Arts administrators in your area have been overtaken by a new obsession. Believed to be a relative of the mania induced by Pokémon Go, symptoms include an insatiable desire to find brand new patrons for your organization.

If you’re not obsessed with new audiences, you are really behind the trend. You’re missing out on spending hours and big bucks curating and searching for those you don’t have and yet, want with delirious desire. Some might judge you in quiet. To you, I say:

Good. Bravo. Standing O. You may be on to something.

Yes, we will always need new people to buy tickets to our art in order to ask them back and ask them to commit more through a membership, a subscription and one day, a philanthropic donation. It’s the evolution of an arts patron.

But, before we go spending beyond our means to find new fish for our pond, let’s explore a few facts.


Posted July 25, 2016







Jun27

Record-breaking Nutcracker: $1.3 million increase in two years, breaking $8 million for the first time

 

Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

“What’s the big deal about a ballet company having a successful Nutcracker?” you may be asking yourself. “We all know that holiday programming practically sells itself.”

It’s true that holiday programming attracts a large audience and has huge revenue potential. It also means that the stakes are high. Holiday events often make or break an organization’s revenue budget. In many cases, holiday programming can account for over 50% of annual earned income so even a one percent achievement over goalor an equally “small” misscan add up to big dollars.


Posted June 27, 2016







Jun14

Turn up the heat on the holidays


Forget about Independence Day. Start thinking about Black Friday.

If not, you could be missing out on your biggest opportunity of next season.

The holiday season starts NOW for arts managers. Don’t let the heat of summer lull you into thinking holiday shows sell themselves—there’s a lot to do. It’s time to dust off and refresh your marketing plan for The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, your holiday concert, or whatever hot ticket event you have this December.

In this free one-hour webinar you’ll hear from arts marketers like you who have maximized their holiday programming and gone on to break revenue records. Just when these arts administrators thought their perennial programming couldn’t garner any more, new highs were reached. These experts as well as the consultants from TRG will share the newest best practices for turning up the heat on the holidays.


Posted June 14, 2016







Jan11


Lindsay Anderson
VP of Client Development
Think audience development is marketing’s job? Think again. All departments play a critical role in retaining and cultivating patron relationships. In order to make a patron-centered business model work, all departments—including ticketing and patron services, artistic staff, development, and executive leaders—must align their objectives with that of patron loyalty. 

In this session, presented at the 2016 Chamber Music America conference in New York City, both executives and staff members will reexamine how they lead and collaborate on initiatives that create lasting patron relationships. TRG's VP of Client Development Lindsay Anderson looked at how cross-departmental campaigns build loyalty, how a sales orientation in the patron services department can bolster marketing-development collaboration, and how artistic programming can also factor into loyalty-building.

Posted January 11, 2016







Nov04

This post is part of a series of collaborations with Doug Borwick and is cross-posted to his Engaging Matters blog on Arts Journal.

Photo: Dean Hochman (CC BY 2.0)

A year or two ago a mentor introduced me to the concept of “polarity management.” It sounds like just another business buzzword, but—stick with me—it gave a name to something that I and many of us have experienced and struggled with.

The concept is this: every challenge you encounter, in business and in life, is either:

- a problem you need to solve, or

- an ongoing “polarity” you need to manage well

A polarity is made up of two interdependent factors that are at odds with each other. While a problem has a correct solution or a set of independent solutions, a polarity is an ongoing challenge where you will need to continuously address and manage both solutions.


Posted November 4, 2015







Nov03

Photo by James Jordan (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A year and a half ago I was invited to join TRG’s bi-annual Executive Summit in Colorado Springs. Taking the time away is always difficult but I decided to take two days to make the journey. I was grateful to reconnect with and be re-introduced to many things I already knew and some I didn’t. The session was a good reminder of what I should be focusing on. The distractions of running an organization tend to take you down distant trails into the wilderness.

There was one thing that really grabbed my attention. TRG’s President & CEO Jill Robinson reported on work that they had done with the Guthrie Theater, examining loyalty as it related to genres of programming. The genre breakdowns were pretty typical, i.e. blockbuster musicals, dramas, new works, Shakespeare, etc. There were also no surprises that blockbuster programs generated the most revenue, had the highest price point, and, of course, the highest attrition rate. Like pouring water into a funnel, most of the blockbuster patrons had flushed through and right back out again.


Posted November 3, 2015







Nov04

Two months ago, I watched this TED talk by Dan Pallotta and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong

The back story is this: Pallotta's AIDS and breast cancer walks raised $581 million dollars for those causes quickly, in large part because he used a sizable portion (40%) of their income to advertise for and invest in the event to make it an amazing experience for participants. Because of the percentage of the income he spent on these administrative costs, he was virtually crucified in the media. At the same time, investing in those things is what allowed him to raise so much money for those causes in the first place. In his TED talk and two books (here and here) on nonprofit administration, Pallotta questions the way we think about administration and overhead costs for nonprofits.

Pallotta’s experience was with health and human services organizations, but it parallels and exposes the way we in the arts think about spending and income. The attitudes we have about mission vs. administrative expenses are pervasive… among donors, nonprofit industry teachers and experts—even among the artists themselves.

And, Pallotta argues, those attitudes can undermine the causes these organizations stand for.


Posted November 4, 2014







Oct21

Membership for love or moneyVisitors become members for two reasons—because they love the organization and because they are driven by the value of the transaction.

Research of arts consumer behavior shows that those with a true passion for your museum’s mission can be cultivated beyond membership to long-term, high-value patronage. Visitors who view membership as a transaction may be harder to attract and retain, but some could deepen their relationship with the right visitor development strategy.

But how can membership officers put the right strategies in place to attract members and keep them loyal? Learn more in this presentation, which was given at the 2014 American Museum Membership Conference by Molly Wink of Denver Art Museum and Jill Robinson of TRG Arts.


Posted October 21, 2014







Jun09

Carmen sells out, single ticket revenue 33% above goal


Carmen at Pensacola Opera: Audrey Babcock as Carmen, Chad Shelton as Don Jose, Anne Slovin as Frasquita, Eamon Pererya as El Remendado, and the Pensacola Opera Chorus.
Photo by Michael Duncan, featuring Audrey Babcock
as Carmen, Chad Shelton as Don Jose, Anne Slovin
as Frasquita, Eamon Pererya as El Remendado,  
and the Pensacola Opera Chorus.

Pensacola Opera is a $1.3 million organization which stages two productions a year with two performances each. For the past several years, the company had been focused on institutional stabilization—paying off debts, completing a capital campaign for establishing cash reserves, bolstering its endowment, and making capital improvements. In the meantime, the company was having trouble consistently meeting revenue goals for their productions.

To Executive Director Erin Kelley Sammis, it was clear that the company needed to shift its attention to growing sustainable patronage and revenue. In the summer of 2013, Sammis engaged TRG for a consultancy that would begin by focusing on increasing single ticket revenue and volume. 


Posted June 9, 2014







Nov05

Glass half empty or half full?
Photo via flickr

Our live chat last week with the Foundation Center (see transcript) raised an alarming question: In this time of year when patrons are thinking about us, are we thinking about our relationships with them? 

The holidays are just around the corner. Huge numbers of patrons will be seeking tickets for holiday programming and making decisions about yearend giving.

In an ideal world, arts staff teams would already be implementing strategy to forge bonds with the people they’ll interact with during the holiday peak period. One can wish, but there’s too much evidence to suggest that most marketing, development and box office teams aren’t even talking to one another. Everyone’s busy. There’s no time. Two dozen deadlines are looming. The number of reasons for not focusing here is paralyzing.

That’s why the questions we answered in real time during last week’s chat were so provocative. They reiterated the busy state of arts management today and spotlighted a looming loss: 

You’re about to miss what might be your best patron cultivation opportunity all year. 


Posted November 5, 2013







Oct16

"Pricing decision-making can be subject to emotional, political, and reactive forces within an organization," TRG's Director of Consulting Lindsay Homer said in this week's webinar on pricing. "None of these forces are productive, especially if your strategy is built on fear that your prices are too high or too low or worse yet, based on assumptions about your patrons."

The webinar, entitled "3 New Rules for Pricing Right," focused on proactive ways arts managers can manage pricing strategies based on data for best results with patrons and visitors. Director of Consulting Lindsay Homer distilled two decades of TRG's ground-breaking pricing counsel and today’s dynamic technology-driven trends into a new strategic playbook for pricing right.


Posted October 16, 2013







Jul17

Photo via flickr.
Photo via flickr.
Arts practitioners are good at meeting deadlines. We have to be—every time there’s a down beat, the curtain goes up or the doors open to another day’s events. 

But, launching marketing or major campaigns is another story. Too often there’s too little urgency around timing and meeting deadlines for consumer action. 

Many organizations aren’t aware or don’t believe that they are missing revenue opportunities by getting campaigns out too close to an event or action-needed date. The result often is uneven revenue blamed on the economy, the programming or supposed later buying habits of their audiences. 


Posted July 17, 2013







May31

The Wall Street Journal didn't tell the whole story


Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Terry Teachout, the drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, suggested a few weeks ago a correlation between regional theater’s “play-it-safe” programming strategies and the collapse of the American theater subscription.

 He wrote: “(T)here seems little doubt that the [subscription] model itself is going bust.” Citing Theatre Facts 2011, Theatre Communications Group’s (TCG) annual study of industry financial and business trends, he noted, “nationwide revenues from subscribers plunged 18% between 2007 and 2011.”

That’s just one number, but it’s not the whole story.


Posted May 31, 2013







May23

This session, presented at the 2013 AAM conference in Baltimore, explored an established enterprise model—loyalty through customer relationship management—and reimagine it for our museums. Designed to provoke thought-leadership for museum CEOs, COOs, department heads, as well as across functional areas, this presentation will spotlight practical steps for increasing museum loyalty and reaping the results. Presenters included: Jill Robinson, Suzette Sherman, and Heather Calvin, Associate Vice President, Visitor Services and Membership at Boston's Museum of Science.

Posted May 23, 2013







May20

$1.5 million two-year admission growth


EMP Museum EMP Museum (formerly known as Experience Music Project) mounts exhibitions related to music, pop culture and science fiction. In 2011, EMP planned two exciting new exhibits: Avatar: The Exhibition and Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. EMP leadership saw the exhibits as a way to build a more sustainable business model, funded by the community and less reliant on gifts from a few generous donors. 

Posted May 20, 2013







Aug16

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” --Albert Einstein
Data from a registration survey for our Christmas in July webinar recently reminded me how valid and valuable Mr. Einstein’s definition is.

We had asked everyone to compare their marketing budget for last season’s holiday events with the year before. Most (76%) said they had about same amount or less to spend on holiday events – generally a sure revenue producer for arts and entertainment organizations.

We also asked them to compare their revenue expectations for holiday’s breadwinning events. And that’s where it got interesting. The majority (52%) said that they were expected to bring in more revenue.


Posted August 16, 2012







Jul19

Photo: Marja van Bochove
This article is cross-posted on Ticket News and Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog.
Harry Truman famously expressed a desire to consult only with “one-armed economists”. Our 33rd President wasn’t fond of counsel that began "On the one hand, this..." and was followed by "On the other hand, that..." Truman wanted straight talk without equivocation.

So, here is a bit of economic straight talk from the data vaults of TRG Arts. Forget everything you learned in that Econ 101 class you took in undergraduate school. You can also forget what you learned at Business School. It doesn’t apply to tickets.

Posted July 19, 2012







Jul18

It’s summer—the time of year when an arts manager’s thoughts turn to poolside fun, family vacations and—of course—planning for A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, yuletide concerts and other holiday blockbuster events. Not on your calendar yet? Then you are missing a major opportunity.

In partnership with TRG Arts, New York City Ballet found ways last summer to increase revenue from The Nutcracker in December 2011, and as a result it generated an additional $1.1 million. In this webinar, NYCB’s Director of Marketing Karen Girty joins TRG’s Keri Mesropov and Lindsay Homer to detail how they did it—and how you can get your organization on track for big holiday season success.

Posted July 18, 2012







Jul03

Photo by Gabriel Saldana
For most non-profit arts organizations, a surge of revenue comes reliably twice a year:
  • during subscription campaigns,
  • and again during annual holiday blockbuster events like A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, and yuletide concerts.
Blockbusters boost annual revenue from time to time, but holiday events consistently and reliably provide sustaining revenue for the rest of the year.

Therefore, an organization’s annual holiday productionand the marketing campaign and box office operations surrounding itis one of the most important things to get right. In TRG’s consulting experience, starting early is a key factor in a successful holiday (or any) blockbuster. For holiday shows, the time to start is NOW.

Posted July 3, 2012







Jul03

$1.1 million revenue increase 

for The Nutcracker


New York City Ballet Nutcracker New York City Ballet (NYCB) was selling out most performances of the annual production of The Nutcracker, but lacked opportunity to grow Nutcracker sales and admissions because the Company was not able to add more performances. Director of Marketing Karen Girty had already built a solid marketing program, but she contracted TRG Arts in 2009 to help her find ways to maximize overall revenues, including Nutcracker.

Need to maximize revenue from The Nutcracker.

Sales were flat for The Nutcracker, which had traditionally been a staple blockbuster year after year. NYCB came to TRG with the question, “How do we make more from what we already have?”

Posted July 3, 2012







Jun27

Update: Thanks to everyone who signed up for the webinar. If you missed it, you can still view the recording here.  
New York City Ballet's The NutcrackerChristmas in July:
Maximizing Holiday Revenue Starts Now
           
Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Time: 2-3 p.m. EDT/11-noon PDT
Cost: Free--register here.

It’s summer—the time of year when an arts manager’s thoughts turn to poolside fun, family vacations, and—of course—planning for A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, yuletide concerts, and other holiday blockbuster events.

Not on your calendar yet? Then you are missing a major opportunity.

Holiday productions equal big money for arts organizations. But how can you get the most out of this once-a-year opportunity?

New York City Ballet (NYCB) wanted exactly that—to maximize revenue. The company had been selling out most of its performances of The Nutcracker. However, NYCB could not add more performances. Growth had to come from the schedule already in place.

Posted June 27, 2012







Apr30

Upgrading Subscribers, Rewarding Loyalty


5th Avenue Theatre Subscribers by Package TypeBeginning in the 2006-07 season, Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong implemented a bold vision to expand 5th Avenue Theatre’s season from four to seven productions so theatre lovers in Seattle could enjoy a broad spectrum of American musical theatre. The 5th’s subscription model, however, had not evolved to support that vision. The Theatre continued to reward 4-show subscribers with the same benefits as 7-show subscribers, fearing that changes could negatively impact their core audience.

Posted April 30, 2012







Apr09

Line to get in to Hirshhorn After Hours.
Photo by Joe Loong via Flickr.
Recently I came across an excellent article entitled “Death by Curation” on how museums have developed an over-reliance on programming special exhibits, as opposed to trusting their permanent collections to make revenue goals. Author Colleen Dilenschneider makes the point that blockbusters can increase annual revenue expectations to often unreasonable levels. The blockbuster-addicted museum then sinks more money into further special exhibits that may not be as successful as the first blockbuster, or even break even.

Over two decades, we’ve seen this pattern play out in performing arts organizations, as well as museums and other membership-based attractions. Of course, the blockbusters themselves are usually not the problem. The way that an arts organization handles a blockbuster can be.

Posted April 9, 2012







Apr06

Making Every Seat Count


Photo by Ian Jackson from Penny Plain
The Cultch (formerly Vancouver East Cultural Centre), is a non-profit organization in Vancouver, presenting contemporary theatre, dance and music performances. TRG Arts began its consultancy with The Cultch in December 2010.

Every seat matters.

The Cultch performance venue is under 300 seats.  Every single seat is critical to achieving revenue goals.  In order to maximize revenues, The Cultch had a constant need to fill as many seats as possible for every performance, especially early in each run when tickets are typically less in demand. Even with small numbers of seats going unsold, goals quickly become unattainable.

Posted April 6, 2012







Jan16

New Subscribers Fuel Sustaining Revenue


Theatre Calgary's 2010-2011 production of
The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Trudie Lee.
Theatre Calgary had seen growing earned revenue for several years, but in 2009-10 the Theatre experienced a sharp decline in both single tickets and subscription sales, due in part to the economic downturn that occurred in Calgary in early 2009. It became clear to the Company that, beyond outside economic factors, achieving sustainable levels of revenue required changing past practices.

Posted January 16, 2012







Oct24

Photo by Glen Scott via Flickr
Museums aren’t getting useful direction from the recent public dialog about the prices they are charging or want to charge for admission.

Admission price increases at some of America’s highest profile museums have made news in major media and online, and that coverage has touched off discussion that appears more emotional than productive. It seems like the further away from free or low-cost admission a museum gets, the more the institution is vulnerable to criticism on grounds of not making their collections accessible or affordable. It’s as if admission price is the only way to express accessibility and that accessibility is the only reason for a museum’s being.

Posted October 24, 2011







Oct18

Record-Breaking Nutcracker


TRG made us the hottest ticket in town. -Artistic Director Marco AngeliniTulsa Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker had performed well in previous years, but in 2009, both total tickets sold and revenue dropped by about 20%. As for many ballet companies, The Nutcracker was usually a high-demand show and bolstered the company’s financial health for the rest of the season. So why was revenue on the decline?

Low cost-of-sale.

“Cost-of-sale” refers to matching anticipated revenue to the marketing investment. Tulsa Ballet was investing a disproportionate amount into marketing productions with niche audiences and not putting enough into marketing blockbusters like The Nutcracker, where the Company will make the most return-on-investment.

Posted October 18, 2011







Sep01

Ken Davenport’s insightful August 30th post spotlights the reason why advance ticket buying seems like a thing of the past.  Too many presenters, producers and arts organizations are providing incentives to buy late in the sales cycle.

As readers of this blog know, our patron behavior studies challenge the accepted conventional wisdom in the field that patrons are buying later and later.  Conventional wisdom is no substitute for fact. In a study of late-buying trends of 1.5 million arts patrons in Los Angeles, we found that buying later it is not an inevitable fact of consumer behavior. We summarized these findings earlier in the year on this blog.

In our consulting practice we do see late-buying trends, but more often than not, we’ve found that late-buying is a direct result of late-selling—not making the offer to the market early enough.  This is typically a strategy based on the assumption that all patrons want to buy late. An empty house a week out then spurs a slew of panicked late-minute discounting, or worse yet: comping. When this happens often enough, as Ken Davenport also pointed out, patrons are trained to wait for this “management panic” fire sale. The bottom line is that giving up on advance ticketing only perpetuates the cycle of late buying—and leads to less per-ticket revenue (as well as total revenue!) on an ongoing basis.

Posted September 1, 2011







Mar29

TRG data analysis continues to show ticket sales improvements through mid-term of the 2010-11 season. Through February, two-thirds of TRG’s 2010-11 study group are now experiencing increased sales compared to year-to-date results last season. This represents a small increase (from 60% to 67%) of organizations making sales gains this season. All of the organizations that reported sales gains in the fall continued to see increases at mid-season. 

Remaining companies in the study group were evenly split between those with sales declines and those whose results were mixed or flat year-to-date through February. 

Posted March 29, 2011







Jan10

Blogger’s Note: It’s been a long time, several thousand travel miles, two conferences, a first draft of a new book, and two new grandchildren since my last blog entry. During that time, I’ve seen case and study results that I’ll share via this and future posts. Here’s to a happy, more prosperous, more communicative New Year.
Recently, a very smart entrepreneur in the commercial entertainment industry made a surprising observation. He admitted that he carefully follows the business and marketing practices of not-for-profit arts and culture organizations. Nonprofits, he said, tend to “work smarter -- they have to.” Strategies born of necessity frequently breed cutting-edge ideas that can be applied elsewhere. 

I would agree. In these tough times, the margin for error is so small and the stakes so high that survival for many nonprofit performing arts organizations depends upon the ability to do everything exactly right. 

So when client organizations began posting higher ticket sales in late 2010, we took notice. We also took a closer look to understand what was happening. What were the forces that appeared to drive sales up – or down? Were there organizational or market factors at work? If so, what lessons might we learn? 

Posted January 10, 2011







Jan21

2008 Arts Industry Holiday Performance Report, results of a first-time tracking poll that surveyed arts and cultural organizations about their 2008 holiday performance and event revenues, produced with Patron Technology by TRG Arts, January 21, 2009.

Posted January 21, 2009







Return 

Upcoming Events

Professional Development Workshops

 

Killer Group Sales Campaigns - August 18, 2017; Online


Executive Summit in UK and Europe - September 28-29, 2017; Dublin, Ireland


Executive Summit in North America - October 12-13, 2017; Colorado Springs, CO

LEARN MORE

 

Conferences

Opera Europa Autumn Conference - October 1, 2017

American Museum Membership Conference - November 6-9, 2017; Seattle, WA

Americans for the Arts - National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) - November 10-13, 2017; Memphis, TN



Admin Login