MARKETING YOUR OPERA AND CLASSICAL MUSIC
BRAND FOR SUCCESS
A LIVE MARKETING TRAINING EXPERIENCE FOR CLASSICAL ARTISTS & C-LEVEL PROFESSIONALS
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?
BrandStoryNow is a marketing training experience for opera and classical music artists and C-level professionals. Presented by James Mowdy, founder of BSPOKE LLC, with guest collaborators and presenters.