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Deep Dive: "Marketing Hybrid Live/Live-streamed Seasons"

October 29, 2020: Hosted by Alan Brown, with special guests John O'Dell of the Cleveland Orchestra, Cari Hatcher of Northrop, University of Minnesota, and Kory Kelly of Pasadena Playhouse.

Below is a recording of the Oct. 29 webinar:

Several additional questions were asked by attendees either before or during the session. We've included those questions and answers from each speaker below.

With a hybrid model, how are you figuring your pricing? For us, subscribers have already paid at four different levels. How do we handle subs and singles pricing with video on demand?

KORY KELLY: We found that pricing of in-person events and online events are very difficult to align. We looked at other streaming platforms and aligned our prices with them.  In order to give subscribers more value, we continue to host private online talks/events for them only.  We are a membership-based organization and also allow our Members to pay a lesser amount for the platform and apply the rest of the cost as a tax-deductible donation.

JOHN O'DELL: We are offering the digital programs as an added benefit of subscribing. You can get the digital access for the same price as our Members Club program for $35/month. This gives you access to all programs online and ability to purchase in-person tickets to $10 each. We are not selling “single tickets” to our online programs.

CARI HATCHER: For our in-person events, we maintained a 3-tier pricing structure for single tickets, and kept the prices roughly the same as what they had been the previous season for similar events. We eliminated all of the various series package options and just sold a "Choose Your Own" package that only had a minimum of 3 events, and those events could be a combination of in-person or online/live-streamed events, all of which is fully flexible and can be exchanged or refunded at any time. The Choose Your Own Package has a small discount. We guaranteed last season's subscribers that they did not need to order a subscription this season (though we encouraged them to) in order to maintain their subscription status and keep their original seats when we are able to reseat people as we used to. For online/live-streamed events, we are charging a per household price, that is much lower than in-person. Since the number of subscribers exceeded the number of seats allowed in our state per current COVID conditions (250), we sold subscriptions in phases based on a loyalty system and then opened to the public for sale after going through those phases. Our presenting season is in dance and pipe organ music and we don't yet have the opportunity to sell those as "on demand" for an extended period of time other than a show or two that are available for 2 or 3 days. I'm happy to discuss pricing more in-depth with anyone who would like to and I welcome the opportunity to learn from others as well. I plan to look at other models as well for the future.

Conversely, if a patron has something like a "Virtual Pass," what price do they pay if they want to come in person if there is an in-person audience?

KORY KELLY: We are currently operating PlayhouseLive as a separate entity than the Pasadena Playhouse.  There is no in-person commitment given to anyone who becomes an online Member.

JOHN O'DELL: The monthly subscription for our online platform Adella is the same as the monthly subscription for Members Club. These patrons can purchase in-person tickets for $10.

CARI HATCHER: We are selling in-person and live stream tickets for the same shows. If someone has a live-streamed ticket and they want to switch to an in-person ticket, if there are seats available we will charge the increased difference in their ticket price and convert their live-stream ticket to an in-person ticket.

Kory, how did you decide on a 48-hour window for rentals?

KORY KELLY: In comparing platforms to other streaming options, we found that a 48 hour rental period was pretty standard across the board.

How have the speakers changed their communications strategies from their individual norms?

KORY KELLY: Our biggest challenge was determining when to communicate sales messaging.  Instead of sending emails to buy a ticket in advance and then attend a show at a date in the future of their selection, we are trying to get messaging to them closer to a time they may watch.  This means emails are sent later in the evening and on weekends more than we did before.

JOHN O'DELL: We are segmenting differently now that online is an option. We are also doing more communications about utilizing the service to those that have already signed up in addition to sales messages to drive purchases.

CARI HATCHER: I feel like this is regularly changing and I actually hope to write a new communications plan in December and January once things slow down just a bit. In general, we are doing a lot of segmentation where we can and prioritizing communications with those in our "family" of donors, subscribers, multi-ticket buyers, sponsors, community partners, campus partners, etc, followed by individual ticket sales communications. We talk about safety, having flexibility for purchasing and viewing in a way that is comfortable to them, and try to stay connected and relevant to our "family" by providing choices. We have been able to launch a 10-year commissioning program and have greatly expanded our campus and community artist engagement opportunities through our transition to hybrid events, and we have presented a couple of other core free series of educational and student music events that have helped us reach new audiences, connect with new partners, and given us content to draw upon to stay connected and relevant where we can. We try to focus on the high production value of our live-stream events (multi-camera, etc). We are trying to focus on hope, positivity, joy, support for artists and Northrop, and increased accessibility (especially to K-12 students who will live stream our matinee performances)

What have you found to be effective strategies around marketing your digital offerings? And are you finding you're generating sales from just your own list, or new audiences outside your list?

KORY KELLY: We have seen results from both internal lists and new buyers across the country.  Because this is a new platform, it is hard to pin down the most effective strategies at this point.  We hope to continue to develop these more before sharing any best practices.

JOHN O'DELL: Our largest response has been from internal lists but we are seeing a good response from outside our traditional audience. Anecdotally we have seen good response from people who are fans of The Cleveland Orchestra but no longer live in the region and from lapsed subscribers who for various reasons were no longer able to attend regularly. We are in the very early stages so more analysis will have to be done to see if these early impressions hold.

CARI HATCHER: We too are in the early phases of this and need more experimentation and analysis. So far, we have generated sales from our own lists, but are seeing exciting numbers from other states and countries. It is very helpful to have the artists/companies we are presenting also promoting events to their lists since we no longer have geographic boundaries for that for live-streamed events (unless the artists have decided to geographically limit where we can market). Segmentation has been helpful for marketing digital offerings. Happy to discuss more in the next couple of months when we know more and to brainstorm with others.


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