Metroplex Symphony Orchestra is a non profit organization based in Metroplex, Maryland. This business report shall focus on the development of marketing strategy focused on marketing communications that would enhance ticketing sales and at the same time, to look for ways to fund the development of the organization.
Providing good great music to their community is a part of the tradition of the Metroplex Symphony Ochestra. However, professional marketing and communications have not been a part of their business. As a result, they are finding it hard to improve their organization in terms of ticket sales and looking for funds that would facilitate their development.
The Metroplex Symphony Orchestra, Inc. is a nonprofit organization. It basically has two branches, the Metroplex Symphony Orchestra (MSO) itself which is basically dealing with the presentation of classical music while the Metro-Pops (M-P) orchestra caters those patrons who are into lighter music. It was established in 1962 and was based in Metroplex, Maryland, between Baltimore, Frederick and Washington DC. It has a mission and that is to bring fine instrumental and vocal music to the suburban communities of west central Maryland.
The orchestra falls under the category of a regional orchestra and is said to be placed among a large number of second level orchestras in the United States. The orchestra is composed of 78 full-time musicians that renew their contracts annually together with 18 part-time musicians that are contracted for individual performances as needed, depending on the needs of the organization.
The organization is noted for its two musical groups – The Metroplex Symphony Orchestra and the Metro-Pops. The MSO is the premier group of the organization which is composed of 78 to 96 players, depending on the demands of the music being played. It performs a number of classic music in fourteen concerts each year, which are usually held on Saturday nights, running from October through March. On the other hand, the Metro-Pops is composed of 78 musicians from the MSO who can perform light classical and popular music. The format of its performance is patterned to that of Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops. However, the pattern by which the Symphony Hall is constructed is in theater style unlike that of in Boston where tables and café service have been added to the main floor of their own Symphony Hall. M-P’s season consists of seven concerts, running from November through February, during Friday nights.
The MSO and M-P, however do not hire guest instrumental performers for their concerts. This is because the annual budget of the organization is limited, thus not being able to provide funds that could cover the fee, travel and lodging of the guests artists that they would want to hire. However, both orchestras always feature solo performances of the different section leaders.
The management of the Orchestra consists of the following: Executive Director, Operations Managers, Sales Managers (now replaced by a Director of Marketing), Controller and an Administrative Assistant. The Executive director then reports to a Board of Governors, serving for three year terms, consisting of business, education, public officials and civil leaders of the communities in the area.
The advertising program of the Metroplex Symphony Orchestra is relatively simple as it only consists of small space advertisements in the Baltimore newspaper as well as the daily and weekly newspapers in the cities of central Maryland. Using the program content, they announce the concert a week before it is staged. There are also quarter-page newspapers which then contain the schedule of their concerts or the entire season. At the same time, the public relations program involves the issuance of press releases for the upcoming concerts. Press releases are also issued in the summer announcing the concerts of both the MSO and the M-P for their whole season. It is in line with their lack of funds that the organization have not also developed fund raising activities that could help them in the generation of extra money that could be used in the improvement of the Metroplex Symphony Orchestra.
Generally, the organization is running very well in terms of general operations and business systems. However, they are very well aware of the fact that they have to improve their ticket sales, development (fund raising) and total marketing effort. They are in need of the development of an effective program so that they would be able to support their operations and at the same time, transmit the views of both the MSO and M-P to their patrons and supporters, past, present or future. Table 1 shows the summary of attendance for the average concert for each September through May season. It covers the actual attendance of the 2006-2007 season, the projected attendance for the 2007-2007 season, and finally, the next 2008-2009 season.
ORCHESTRA LAST CURRENT NEXT
SEASON SEASON SEASON
2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
actual projected estimated
MSO (14 concerts)
Main Floor 900 850 800
Dress Circle 420 400 360
Second Balcony 360 390 390
Total 1680 1640 1550
M-P (7 concerts)
Main Floor 890 940 950
Dress Circle 540 550 570
Second Balcony 380 385 390
Total 1810 1875 1910
The areas where the organization laid their particular interests focus on how to address the following as they are currently experiencing problems in these areas: (1) marketing and sales planning, (2) the benefits to the orchestras of a planning program and finally (3) where to obtain industry and competitive information. At the same time, the organization is currently in need of help in identifying the key issues that they face, establishing objectives for their business together with the identification of strategies that could help them in carrying them out, and finally, to measure their marketing performance.
A tradition of playing great music to their patrons, the Metroplex Symphony Orchestra in Metroplex, Maryland is in need of a broader knowledge with regard to communication strategies and public relations to enhance their ticket sales and at the same time, be able to generate more income for the development of their organization. Just like any other nonprofit organization, marketing is absent in this particular organization although they are well aware of its importance.
This report generally focuses on the development of a marketing strategy that would help in the enhancement of the organization through various activities. At the same time, it also aims to develop a well enhanced communication strategy that could help so much in transmitting their message to their patrons whose ages vary from 18 years old until the late 60s.
In relation to advertisements, however, the advertisement concerns of the organization shall also be addressed as the advertising agency they hired to do this fail to meet their expectations.
Furthermore, it shall analyze the trends of recent times concerning the preferences of the people with regard to music. As rock bands and popular music begin to take center stage, do orchestras still have a place in the people’s hearts?
BACKGROUND AND TRENDS
Marketing research is now beginning to play a very important role in orchestras as it helps them in finding more about their current audience and their potential audience, their customers. This is very important for nonprofit organizations such as these orchestras as it helps them understand the behavior of those who are already patronizing them. In the same manner, it also becomes of vital importance as they find new customers through the identification of new markets.
Traditionally, symphony orchestras have been characterized as organizations promoting performance excellence and at the same time, ignoring ethnic diversity, and often clinging to exclusivity.
The twenty-first century is often characterized by a period of diversity, globalism and pluralism. For those who are considered as shepherds of the arts and education, these trends pose major challenges. However, these major changes in the twenty first century society, could also bring about major opportunities that would benefit these orchestras. However, they must be able to nurture and develop the role of the arts in the American Society for them to seize these opportunities (Rosser, 1995).
In the American society, the arts are seen as something exclusive to the privileged and those with the ability to purchase when it is supposed to be one of the foundations of a pluralistic society.
Kozinn (2006) on the other hand describes that the classical music is already facing its decline as it fails to attract younger audience, decreasing record sales and finally, the rising cost of live performance as ticket sales decline. At the same time, music education in public schools is also starting to disappear and with this, seventeen orchestras closing down.
The MSO had been in the business for quite some time.
They have established contacts with patrons who are continuously present in their concerts.
They are affected by the decline in classical music listeners
Lack of funds to develop their organization
Organization has not incorporated marketing strategies
Has not been able to establish a broader base of private organizations who could help them.
Competition with other orchestras in the same geographical area
The vision of this business report is to increase the ticket sales of the Metroplex Symphony Orchestra and at the same time, be able to find other activities that would help in funding the activities of the improvement of the organization.
The goal of the Metroplex Symphony Orchestra is to develop their organization in such a way that they will be able to cater to the needs of the patrons. It is in line with their vision of increased ticket sales that the organization also aims to make the message of their business clear to future patrons.
The objectives of this strategic business plan are the following: first, is to develop a website of the Metroplex Symphony Orchestra where key elements of their organization shall be posted together with their commitment to social responsibility and other messages that they would want to transmit to their present and future patrons. Second, be able to come up with outdoor advertising strategies that could easily catch the eyes of future patrons to increase ticket sales by more than 20%. Finally, to look for other sources of funds that could be used in the development of their organization.
To address the three objectives, the following strategies shall be considered: first, the incorporation of public relations strategy that would include a website shall be developed in order to make the message of the organization clear. It is also through this that they will be able to advertise to the people in a more accessible way. At the same time, they could also include here a statement of their vision and mission and their responsibility to the society so that these messages could reach future patrons, which is one of the aims of this organization.
In the age where information technology has undergone a lot of advancements, the internet has surely become one of the most vital tools for organizational communication, as Sullivan (1999) clearly mentions. Studies made, such as that of Hill and White (2000) and Kenty and Taylor (1998) show the importance of the World Wide Web, especially corporate websites as tools for public relations. In addition, it has also become an avenue through which communicating organizational responsibilities are transmitted through their patrons (Esrock & Leichty, 1998).
Researches made on public relations and the internet show the relevance of the issue on interactivity between the organization and the public. Interactivity is one of the main characteristics and has been one of the main interests in researches made that concerns the field of communications. The previous studies which have been conducted presented the two basic approaches in determining the degree of interactivity that certain organizational websites have. The first of which is the dissemination of information as suggested by Esrock & Leichty (1998). For this first approach, the degree of interactivity is low, the use of the internet is unidirectional and its objective is to diffuse information that could influence the public’s image of the company.
On the other hand, the second approach, which basically deals with the generation of relationships between the different publics and the organization, the interactivity level is high and the internet is used to make bidirectional communication. This allows building relationships by permitting dialogue and interaction between the public and a certain organization.
Aside from this, outdoor advertising will also be prioritized. According to King (2007), outdoor advertising has five important functions and these are:
Outdoor signs develop brand equity of your business by presenting day in and day out, words, graphics and symbols that are related to your business. This then leads to the development of goodwill for the business.
Outdoor signs have phenomenal recall value – if the outdoor sign uses great words and graphics, chances are it will develop a cult status, thereby boosting sales.
Outdoor signs increase sales. An outdoor sign usually works as a silent, but effective, salesman.
Outdoor sings tend to succeed in changing the decision of a potential customer.
An outdoor sign holds a mirror to society – it reflects the community’s character and aspirations and creates an atmosphere that complements society.
Finally, the orchestra should continuously look for support from foundations that could help them in increasing their funds to help in the development of their organization. Without a doubt, private foundations have traditionally been the key sources of support of the orchestras. In order for the MSO to keep the support of the private organizations that continuously fund their activities; they must be able to develop a good relationship with them.
A creative team shall be organized to attend to the development of outdoor signs that could increase the ticket sales of the MSO. These outdoor signs shall be posted outside the symphony hall throughout the whole season. The outdoor signs to be developed should be filled with colors and other pictures to catch the eyes of the passersby. These signs should be able to present the orchestra in another light, to be able to present that they do not only cater to the privileged but also to the people who do not belong to the upper class but are still capable of listening to them.
Another creative team shall be organized to develop the website of the MSO. It should contain, as mentioned, their vision and mission as well as their contributions to the society and their purpose for playing their music. It should also be able to present the concert dates of both MSO and the M-P. At the same time, the MSO should also ensure that their patrons could make reservations and purchase tickets through their website.
Finally, the website could also be used to communicate with the foundations that help them in funding their development. Aside from establishing a relationship with their patrons, they should also establish one with these foundations, considering their importance to the business. A research and development team should be organized to tie up with private organizations who, like Ford in the 1970s, had an objective and that is to improve the quality of American orchestras by enabling more musicians to devote their major energies to performance by expanding the season and paying higher salaries. The funds that the orchestra would receive from these foundations could help so much in the expansion of the season and payment of higher salaries. At the same time, it could help the orchestra attract more young talents and expand their services to the community. The research team must make sure that the grants they will e receiving are designed to professionalize orchestras, support musicians’ salaries, longer seasons, and more concerts.
For the next season, the Metroplex Symphony Orchestra must be able to increase their ticket sales and develop itself through the use of the grants given to them by the different foundations. To increase ticket sales, they must be able to come up with a line up of pieces that could attract more listeners.
Once the profit of the MSO increases, they should be able to hire guest artists, especially those that are very popular today to be able to attract younger artists. A concert wherein classical music would be mixed with the music of today could be a way to attract the younger generation.
Generally, the MSO may have a problem in carrying these strategies out due to the lack of funds. It is suggested that for the first half of the season, they increase the number of their concert nights so as to increase their profit. If they succeed in this, then they could continue on with the strategies mentioned above to be able to increase their ticket sales by 20%.
The renovation of the symphony hall was considered to make it more appealing to the concert-goers. However, the MSO does not have a budget for this, so they must be able to concentrate first on increasing their ticket sales and at the same time, be able to tie up with private organizations to fund their development.
Advertising through mass media is another option, wherein some members of the orchestra could help in the promotion of their group through appearances in the radio and television to increase their visibility. However, this was not chosen as people are no longer attracted to classical music. They prefer MTVs which showcase the music of today.
CONTROL, REVIEW, REVISION
By the end of the season, the ticket sales must increase by 20%. They will compare their figures with that of the last season to see whether or not the strategies have been successful. If in any case they have not, they must consider the contingency plans mentioned above to enhance their ticket sales and at the same time, increase their visibility.
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