Marketing in a Recession

In Virginia, we are seeing wild swings in our single ticket tallies by event. My theory since September has been that people are considering what they want to see at the symphony this winter, for example, and not this particular month. As a result, our mid to low-level grossing classics events are suffering. The pops and more popular classics events are performing at “normal” levels.

Additionally, we have evidence to show that our per capita investment by single ticket patron has decreased this year (either through downgrading into lower-priced seating sections or waiting for select promotions).

We’ve actually sold more single tickets with fewer events this year (up 6%), but the revenue is down. I would agree with Margery’s earlier point about “value pricing.” No matter what the perceived value–whether it is price or seat upgrades or “exclusivity”–consumers are hyper-tuned to the sales message these days.

But in the end, there is no substitution for live performance. We can easily compare ourselves negatively to movie theaters in terms of price, but the experience will always be different. The art created by 50+ musicians on stage who belong to your community is unique. Now is a good time to partner with Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus to take advantage of local tourism and “staycation” pushes. PR is important, and philanthropic moves do work right now to garner positive public opinion.

Chris asked, “Are institutions with strong artistic values more recession-resistant?” Though “strong artistic values” is subjective, I think orchestras who have cultivated “artistic trust” with their patrons are going to be more insulated. From a buyer’s perspective, this means “I may not know any of the works on a given program, but I trust the organization; I always enjoy my concert experience and I will place trust in the fact that I will enjoy future concerts regardless of programming.” The ultimate show of trust is a subscription, so this year’s subscription campaign is extremely pivotal. No need to adjust for demand before you see it in action.

About the author

Ashley Mirakian
Ashley Mirakian

Ashley Mirakian is the Director of Marketing at the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in Norfolk, VA. Prior to her appointment in Virginia, Ashley led the marketing and public relations department of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra in suburban Chicago. She has also held administrative positions with the Brevard Music Center (North Carolina), the Bloomington Area Arts Council (Indiana), and the New Haven Arts Council in Connecticut. In 2005, she coordinated Indiana’s only “Emerging Arts Leaders Creative Conversation” for Americans for the Arts. She holds a M.A. in Arts Administration from Indiana University.

Ashley’s academic background is in music performance and musicology. She is an active bassoonist, having performed with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, IU Opera Theatre, IU Graduate Wind Quintet and Yale Symphony Orchestra, among others. Additionally, Ashley tries to play her bass guitar whenever possible and loves to listen to R&B and funk.

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