CLASSICAL ARTISTS: MARKETING YOUR
San Francisco Opera | Photo: James Mowdy
(San Francisco) - In 2014, I received a Google Alert for a Barron's article entitled "The Business of Opera." It linked to a short interview of LA Opera CEO Christopher Koelsch, conducted over a business lunch at Michael's in midtown Manhattan. This, in itself, was a very cool find. Writer Harold F. "Rick" Pitcairn II not only captured the ambiance of the room, the moment, and the personality of an "impeccably dressed" Koelsch, but highlighted Koelsh's passionate advocacy for his company and the art form itself. What struck me most was Koelsch's assertion that "running an opera has a lot in common with running a fixed income portfolio." Pitcairn also describes the risk management and diversified portfolio-like aspects of building a successful opera company, in both financial and critical terms.
From LA to Santa Fe
While working with Santa Fe Opera on a strategic storytelling plan in 2015, several untold aspects of SFO's business story emerged as must-tell. The most amazing item was that the company had been in the black for all of its 60 years due to a super-energized donor base (which is still true in 2017). SFO's newly expanded, cutting-edge facilities build five operas from the ground up - dressmakers, technicians, costumes, sets, welders, carpenters - which is unique in the USA, where many companies rent costumes and sets from others. Working with SFO Media Director Daniel Zillmann, I cited the aforementioned Barron's article, as well as pertinent bullets from a company-wide listening tour. My recommendation was that SFO business storytelling was the "right here, right now," low-hanging fruit that could achieve several SFO media goals. At that point, it became Daniel's job to formulate the right pitch for the best writer/publication/channel. It was thrilling to see Ray Mark Rinaldi's piece in the Denver Post a few months later. Rinaldi did a wonderful job describing the $200MM per annum economic "Opera Factory" that is Santa Fe Opera. Rinaldi's story also received significant traction from Albuquerque Business First EIC Rachel Sams.
Michigan Opera Theatre
In Detroit last month for Michigan Opera Theatre's Rigoletto, I caught a wonderful piece from TBD magazine, a Detroit-based, digital and print publication. In the form of a short, but wildly informative profile of the Michigan Opera Theatre's costume shop, I learned about the origins of the company, important families and businesses that have supported MOT over the years, significant capital improvements and financing, and how the company depended on this network after corporate funding fell off after the 2009 financial crash. TBD's focus on MOT costume design spoke to the greater, premium and well-funded product produced by this particular opera factory.
Opera, with all of its unique artistic and cultural merits, is still an industry. Revenue, profit, profitability, investment, re-investment, and growth all come with the territory. LA Opera's story connected dots beautifully, making the subject of opera instantly palatable for the Barron's readership. The same can be said for Rinaldi's Santa Fe Opera piece, which likened SFO's operation to a self-sufficient "factory" creating economic benefit for New Mexico in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In a slightly less direct manner, TBD's profile showcased Michigan Opera Theatre's resiliency during a national economic downturn, in a city that is known for its long-term economic challenges.
Business storytelling that showcases a solid financial picture, a bright business outlook, or results-oriented leadership is not only attractive to potential investors, but also to the development leads who seek them. Is your story investment grade?
(San Francisco) - Allen Plummer, the host of the Head, Heart and Hustle "podcast for creatives," contacted me this spring to gauge my interest in discussing #Operatawk, as well as the creative journey behind my social media and brand consulting work. A Philadelphia-based, digital marketing strategist, Plummer and I were already connected via Twitter, so I was happy to accept his kind invitation; we reconnected in May 2017 to record our conversation via telephone. Allen made the entire process a joy, our discussion covered why every opera singer is a brand, the "why" behind #Operatawk on Periscope, BrandStoryNow marketing trainings, why Twitter and Periscope are still social media secret weapons, work/life balance, career evolution, and how I define creative success right now. Excited to announce that our podcast is now live and I couldn't be more thrilled. It's a quick 36 minutes, and I welcome your comments! *LISTEN HERE*
Our podcast is also available via iTunes and Radio Public!
Excerpted from HeadHeartandHustle.com:
"'Every opera singer is a brand.' - James Mowdy | In this episode, I interview James Mowdy, a brand consultant and creative analytic who helps opera singers build their own brands in the 21st Century. James not only helps professional creatives learn storytelling and social media skills to build awareness, but he runs #Operatawk, a live-streaming Q&A show about opera on Periscope. Given his unique approach to creativity and ability to merge brand consulting with the performing arts, James was a great fit for the podcast. If you’d like to learn more about how you can build your brand as an artist, this is the episode for you!"
"Anyone with a side hustle or creative outlet can feel isolated from friends, family, and others around them who just don’t get their passion. That’s why Head Heart and Hustle exists – to help you feel motivated, to learn, and to get a pick-me-up of creative energy from other people like you. In every episode, we interview a creative individual who doesn’t just pretend to be creative. They’ve rolled up their sleeves and are producing great things because they need to; they know that being creative is part of who they are."
Again, an honor to join the Head Heart & Hustle stable of creatives, be sure to check out their full podcast catalogue here. Connect with Allen on LinkedIn, as well as Twitter. Thanks for listening! 🎧😃 JM
(San Francisco, CA) - #Operatawk, a live storytelling project, returns to Periscope and Twitter this fall, launching a second season of organic conversation with opera professionals. Select #Operatawk conversations are now live on YouTube and BrandStoryNow, with future, live conversations launching later this month.
#Operatawk began in 2016 while attending Santa Fe Opera’s 60th anniversary season; my first broadcast shared positive, personal thoughts on productions seen that week. I quickly realized that a monologue driven by my opera POV probably was a good start but not my Periscope destination. After that first chat, #Operatawk evolved into a loosely outlined conversation with individuals working somewhere in the opera universe. Then as now, “opera professional” includes everyone onstage or in the pit performing, as well as members of the various opera armies who make a production, season, or company possible. Concerning those first few #Operatawk conversations, my sincere thanks to mezzo-soprano Diana Tash, soprano Kelli Butler, tenor Jonathan Blalock, and Lieder Alive!'s Cristin O'Keeffe. All remain generous, engaging, delightful, and critically important #Opertawk partners. Video highlights from these conversations will also be launched in October.
The following #Operatawks were originally broadcast live via Periscope and Twitter from WeWork Transbay in San Francisco (535 Mission Street). Click hyperlinks to watch now via YouTube.
#Operatawk | 5 with Opera Critic Paul Selar, September 23, 2016.
It was a great pleasure to chat with Twitter’s @OperaChaser aka Paul Selar. A once-upon-a-time architect who changed careers to pursue opera criticism, Paul is lucky enough to experience 80+ operas a year at some of the world's greatest houses. Paul and I discussed the genesis and day-to-day of his career, his ongoing training, and how we met on Twitter and then in real-life. Follow Paul on Twitter at @OperaChaser and visit the Operachaser blog here.
#Operatawk | 6 with Vocal Pedagogue Heidi Moss, November 1, 2016.
Science really is fun! A pleasure to discuss the physics, physiology & psychology of singing, Heidi's career in science, her life and career experience with Bell's Palsy, and San Francisco Conservatory of Music voice faculty work with adults and children. Fun Fact: Heidi's helped Googlers to sing! Follow @heidi_moss on Twitter and visit HeidiMoss.org.
#Operatawk | 7 with Scenic & Costume Designer Daniel Harvey, February 7, 2017.
Newly arrived in San Francisco from Melbourne, Australia, Scenic and Costume Designer Daniel Harvey shared his international body of work and creative process, discussing selections from his portfolio, including productions with Melbourne Opera, as well as those in collaboration with designers Leslie Travers, Tobias Hoheisel, and Christopher Oram. Daniel works, designs and collaborates in the Bay Area with San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts and Opera Parallèle. Connect with Daniel on LinkedIn and visit his website for a full bio, CV and portfolio.
#Operatawk | 8 goes live this month, please look for #Operatawk alerts via @jamesjetsoften on Twitter. We look forward to showcasing more unique, authentic, and organic storytelling from the professionals who power opera in the Bay Area and beyond. JM
BrandStoryNow is a marketing training experience for classical artists and the C-Suite. Presented by James Mowdy, founder of BSPOKE LLC, with guest collaborators and presenters. BrandStoryNow empowers The Small Business of You through strategic brand storytelling and marketing ROI.
(Santa Fe, NM) - Such a delight to get to know soprano Jacquelyn Stucker a bit better this summer at Santa Fe Opera. I first encountered Jacquelyn when she was among 2015's SFO Apprentices; we've been connected via social media since then, but real-life catch up happened this year. Jacquelyn made her main stage debut as Oberto in this summer's production of Handel's #SFOAlcina, and we're thrilled for her success - she even made the company's postcard with Alcina herself (soprano Elza van den Heever)! Also excited for Jacquelyn as she joins the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artist program for the 2017-8 and 2018-9 seasons, one of five young artists selected from 365 applicants from 61 countries. This season, Jacquelyn will sing in ROH's productions of Semiramide, Carmen, and Falstaff. A huge accomplishment and I sincerely hope to see her perform on the ROH stage during her time in London. Brava Diva! | FOLLOW @gonzosoprano on Instagram and visit JacquelynStucker.com. JM
Original version published August 19, 2017 on Instagram.
(Santa Fe, NM) In case you've missed it, Operamusica.com may be the latest must-have tool for those working in the opera and classical music worlds. If you're an established artist (or lucky enough to count yourself among the Santa Fe Opera Apprentices, or any other Young Artist Program like those at Glimmerglass, Merolaor Fabricca | Opera di Roma), you might consider joining this exciting new social network built just for you. Based in Paris, France, and with global reach, Opera Musica aims to be the first social network dedicated to the opera and classical music industry. Celebrating 3K followers in late July, as well as a recently launched 2.0 version, it's currently free for artists, fans, presenters, companies and industry professionals to join. OM also features the latest opera news from major global sources and partners, as well as deep search capability for videos, artist profiles, and up to the minute opera and classical music events around the world. My assessment: Opera Musica is similar to an early version LinkedIn. Consider Twitter circa 2009, remember that? If you're working across the opera and classical music spaces, join today. You heard it here first. I've had the pleasure of connecting with Opera Musica's Pablo and his business partner Mathieu Abelli. Their passion for their product, consistent goodwill across social, and infectious entrepreneurial drive comes through - I hope to meet them in person the next time I'm in Paris. Operamusica.com isn't a client, but we love their startup tech + social media innovation, helping artists tell their brand stories here, now, and into the future. Bravi. JM
VISIT Operamusica.com, and their Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.
(San Francisco, CA) - Glad to have been connected to soprano Courtney Ruckman via Twitter and Instagram since 2015. Florida-based and a Nashville Opera Young Artist, I connected with Courtney through her weekly #singchat tweetups with opera singers from around the country and world.
So pleased to come across Courtney's recent video performance of 'Caro Nome' from Verdi's "Rigoletto," a favorite opera in my ongoing opera journey. My first exposure to this particular piece was through Santa Fe Opera's 2015 production, but I'd love to see Courtney in a fully staged production as Gilda; Courtney has already sung this role in Pacific Northwest Opera's 2013 production, Entertainment News NW saying, "you cannot help but fall in love with Courtney Ruckman as Gilda. Her voice quality was superb...her solos were magnificent." Courtney has also performed this role in preview scenes for Seattle Opera Guild (2014), and covered Gilda for Opera Coeur d'Alene (2013), respectively. Reached by direct message, Courtney added: "(Gilda) is a beloved role, I'm dying to sing it again! I offered (Caro Nome) for auditions, but hadn't performed (this particular piece) in almost two years. This video was a return after a break from singing it."
In June 2017, Courtney took her world-premiere role as Jessie in Nashville Opera's and American Opera Project's co-production of "Three Way" to New York City, for four (4) performances of this new work by composer Robert Paterson, with a libretto by David Cote. Described as "'Sex and the City' meets 'Black Mirror'...this new opera imagines the present and future of sex and love." Next season, Courtney's engagements include a solo turn in Handel's 'Messiah' with the Walla Walla Symphony. Brava, Courtney! Connect with Courtney on Twitter and Instagram, and visit CourtneyRuckman.com. JM
Original version published May 23, 2017 on Instagram.
(Santa Fe, NM) We always expect opening night at Santa Fe Opera to be spectacular - a beautiful evening sky, happy people, a buzz in the air, seeing opera friends from seasons past and present. But this season opening of "Die Fledermaus" was different from the moment the orchestra starting playing our National Anthem. Whether it was MAGA or RESIST, we all felt deeply, the eyes of many, including mine, filled with tears.
#sfoFledermaus was presented in English, which completely worked - a huge win for those unaccustomed to opera (hello, visiting dignitaries). This gorgeous Ned Canty-directed production is the perfect gateway to more traditional repertory looking like a million bucks onstage (thanks to scenic designer Allen Moyer, costume designers Zack Brown/Christianne Myers, & lighting designer Duane Schuler), with Maestro Nicholas Carter expertly driving his orchestra. In case you don't know already, this operetta plays like a clever Broadway comedy, so if considering SFO this summer, especially if you have kids, look no further.
Most of the action centers around Rosalinda (Devon Guthrie), a bored/suspicious wife, her once upon a time beau & intentionally hilarious aria belter Alfred (Dimitri Pittas), Rosalinda's maid Adele (Jane Archibald), Rosalinda's husband, Gabriel Von Eisenstein (Kurt Streit) & a wonderfully wicked Dr Falke, played to the hilt by Joshua Hopkins. Thrilled to see soprano & friend Adelaide Boedecker on stage as Ida, Adele's party girl sister with 'wow' vocal skill, comic timing & the ability to make it all look easy (when it certainly isn't).
Let's talk about Kevin Burdette. Heck to the Yeah. Kevin is Frosch, the inept jailer to David Govertsen's Frank, his prison warden boss (who's also a delight). Kevin doesn't sing much, but his brilliant word play, timing, physical comedy & onstage agility recalls Tim Conway in his The Carol Burnett Show prime.
Star mezzo-soprano Susan Graham's Prince Orlovsky is luxe casting and a LOL joy; she's also delightfully gender fluid and ends up with a fun love match who doesn't sing much (hint, hint). Seán Curran Company choreography and dancers ruled our Russian party pad & jail, incredible talent and innovation. #OnlyAtSFO, my friends. JM
Original version published July 8, 2017 on Instagram.
(San Francisco) - BrandStoryNow reached new heights this month, launching a second live marketing training event at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, as well as presenting a retooled for the C-suite experience for residents of The Harrison SF, a high-rise community in San Francisco's SOMA.
Beginning at the conservatory on March 5th, it was exciting to introduce the classical artist's most important KPIs, a concise exploration of website SEO and its critical relationship to search, social media analytics as related to various platforms, and how all of these elements relate to formulating individual social media, digital and real-world strategies for marketing success. We also covered mission, vision, the power of authentic storytelling, building brand identity and the need for emotional connection. Lovely to meet several first-time attendees, including professional opera singers soprano Cabiria Jacobsen, tenor Kirk Dougherty, and baritone Adrian Rosales - all or whom performed in Opera San Jose's west coast premiere of Kevin Puts' "Silent Night". Our classroom-sized group enjoyed a fun and insightful running dialogue as we moved through the training. Bravi to us, with sincere thanks to SFCM's Seth Ducey and his events team.
Ten days later, I found myself looking down at the Bay Bridge from the 49th floor of The Harrison San Francisco. Opened in 2016, and featuring signature Ken Fulk interior design, #TheHarrisonSF is a luxury high-rise tower located just north of the Bay Bridge, making it a new yet instantly recognizable part of the San Francisco skyline. Luxury Attaché's Aaron Hughes was the driving force who brought BrandStoryNow to The Harrison SF, as part of his larger personal brand event for the community; Luxury Attaché provides exclusive concierge services around the world. With epicurean treats by Ladies Who Lunch Catering and the one-of-kind ambiance of the 'Harry's Room' clubhouse, guests had the opportunity to have their head shots done by Godoy Shots Photography before my discussion of personal brand and brand identity for the C-suite and beyond. After touching on digital marketing KPIs, it was great fun sharing storytelling case studies for Gary Vee, Kara Swisher, a certain ride-share CEO and his competition, Akshay Oberai and Niki Leondakis. Our best Q&A takeaways included the sharing of Instagram Stories secrets, how to blow up Snapchat, and the power + velocity of Periscope and FacebookLive video. My sincere thanks to the delightful and engaging residents of The Harrison San Francisco, and to Aaron, Brittany and the entire Luxury Attaché team.
Upcoming BrandStoryNow live marketing experiences are in planning, we look forward to announcing these events as they are confirmed in the coming weeks. Happy Spring!
(San Francisco) - BrandStoryNow, an independent marketing training experience tailored for classical artists, returns to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on March 5, 2016. Originally launched at SFCM in November 2016, BSN evolved from consultant James Mowdy's 2015 work with client Santa Fe Opera.
BSN's philosophy is simple. Classical artists, like small businesses, are brands. As such, they require the same kind of small to medium size business plan and planning that a brick and mortar and/or start up requires. Mowdy, who has worked with classical music clients Musica Marin and Berger Artist Management, as well as Brian Asawa, Diana Tash, Jonathan Blalock and Kelli Butler, sees these artists as they see themselves - the original-and-still-going-strong gig economy. To that, the global arts playing field continues to become more crowded and competitive, especially in the US. With the National Endowment of the Arts potentially under threat, its disappearance could be a direct hit on small companies and arts organizations who depend on NEA funds to mount their work, productions. This example, coupled with our ongoing, national arts funding crisis, dictates that artists themselves - not management - must know how to tell a compelling business brand story across social media and real-life if any career ROI is to be realized.
Beginning with a discussion of brand identity, BrandStoryNow attendees will discover how to tell a strategic brand story about themselves, the critical importance of real as well as pie-in-the-sky business goals, and how to build out online and real-world strategies that connect the moving parts of their brand. An in-depth discussion of KPIs (key performance indicators), social media metrics across different platforms, and relevant classical artist case studies will also be offered, as well as an open Q&A session.
"Presenting BrandStoryNow at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is an amazing honor, " says Mowdy. "My father was a stagehand and sound technician at the American Conservatory Theatre in the '70s and '80s, so I've always had great respect for arts institutions, as well as their actual brick and mortar structures. To physically share BrandStoryNow at SFCM - and hopefully add value - is time wonderfully spent."
BrandStoryNow applies business brand marketing concepts and approaches to The Small Business of You.™ Please register for our March 5, 2017 event from 11AM-1PM via Eventbrite. Classroom space is extremely limited, no waitlist.
BrandStoryNow brings marketing insights, case studies and one-to-one consulting to San Francisco's Conservatory of Music
(San Francisco) - BrandStoryNow, a marketing training for classical artists, launched at San Francisco's Conservatory of Music on Sunday, November 20th. The inclement weather didn't dampen attendance or interest among an activated group, which included opera singers, academics, opera company representatives, startup founders, and classical (collaborative) pianists.
Consultants Cristin O'Keeffe and James Mowdy welcomed and chatted with guests until the formal presentation began. O'Keeffe kicked off things by inviting attendees to pair up and learn their partner's name, profession and a noteable achievement within 3 minutes of conversation. Once time was up, each person introduced his or her partner, which, in addition to being an excellent group ice-breaker, demonstrated the value of unique personal and professional brand story.
Mowdy then launched into the BrandStoryNow presentation, exploring the following:
Once a few spontaneous audience questions were addressed, O'Keeffe took the reins to discuss Active Listening and Social Networking, the latter covering the online and traditional networking perspective. Her points included:
Mowdy continued with several case studies, ranging from cautionary tales like opera's Tamar Iveri and New Balance in the age of Trump, to the cross-platform arts brand success of opera singers Ailyn Perez and Jonathan Blalock, respectively, as well as an examination of classical superstar Lang Lang's global dominance, and West Edge Opera's astute, year-round use of Facebook.
A deeper discussion of social media analytics, goal-setting and true ROI also spurred spontaneous discussion amongst all in attendance, seguing nicely into an extended, post-presentation Q & A.
Some post-event comments:
"Social media is a valuable tool for nonprofit art organizations," said West Edge Opera Marketing Director Kate McKinney via email. "BrandStoryNow taught me how to create social media content that's consistent with West Edge's brand, while also attracting a diverse audience to our various (social) accounts and, ultimately, our performances."
Enchanted Book founder Bridget McGraw via email: "As a digital veteran with a beginner’s mind, I appreciated approaching familiar material with a fresh outlook. It was great to be reminded by Cristin that I need to set SMART goals for the Enchanted Book. Also, James' case studies brought home the critical importance - and balance - of authenticity...in one’s social media presence. "
Soprano Carolyne Anne Jordan - who most recently sang with the San Francisco Opera chorus in "Aida" - kindly direct messaged the following, with permission to share: "Thank you, James! I really appreciated everything you (and Cristin) shared, and I know I can benefit from using Instagram Stories and as well as other (social media tools)...will also share this info with Opera On Tap San Francisco!"
San Francisco-based classical music fan Josh Dougherty via email: "The BrandStoryNow seminar presented a lot of valuable information that's applicable to all aspects of your life. James's case studies demonstrated how simple your brand can be - it doesn't have to be some complicated marketing strategy devised by an expensive team of gurus. Maintaining presence on social media allows your personality to shine while using your most valuable and unique marketing tool: yourself. Cristin's presentation on active listening was a well laid out guide to strategically engaging in conversation instead of just trying to think of the next thing to say. The whole presentation was great, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to develop his or her brand."
BrandStoryNow returns to The San Francisco Conservatory of Music on Sunday, March 5, 2017. More details soon!
BrandStoryNow is a marketing training experience for classical artists and the C-Suite. Presented
by James Mowdy, founder of BSPOKE LLC, with guest collaborators and presenters.