As a marketing guy, one thing I hear a lot from clients is the need for good Customer Relationship Management - or CRM for short. The concept can be summarized as follows: the more you give your customers, the more you get in return. Performing arts organizations are no different - we might think about it as Subscriber Relationship Management, or SRM. As a performing arts subscriber, I am constantly bombarded with both snail mail and email from just about every performing arts organization in town (they all share their subscriber lists with each other). But what they send is usually meaningless: a concert calendar with some hyped-up language and a postage prepaid envelope in which to send back your order.
City Opera, on the other hand, has fully embraced the concept of SRM this season with their Big Deal program, which I wrote about here last week. Their patrons are all 21-39, and largely new to opera. Take the following email I received from them just today:
"Okay, so we may not have Johnny Depp, but we've got sexy Pirates, hilarious hijinks, and songs you won't be able to get out of your head. Don't miss the boat to Gilbert & Sullivan's classic farce: The Pirates of Penzance."
Okay, you may think this is cheesy, but I actually love the down-to-earth way this is written, particularly the Johnny Depp reference (on the eve of the Oscars, no less.) Not to mention the fact that they're unafraid to use the word "sexy" in official correspondence. Can you imagine ever seeing that in a Met press release? (More on the Met in a minute.) Granted, Penzance may not be to everyone's taste (including Your's Truly), but they make it sound like so much fun, I'm actually now considering going. Now, that's good marketing.
But, just in case you weren't sufficiently enticed, the email also included an invite to a pre-curtain open bar at Providence on March 7. I went to one they had in the fall there, and it was not your typical opera crowd: lots of 20- and 30-somethings, coming from all sorts of occupations and backgrounds. Basically, the dream of just about every performing arts organization, because if they play their cards right, these young'uns will someday want to be subscribers, if not full-fledged patrons.
By contrast, the Met offers a Young Associates Program for 21-40 year olds which, for a $500 donation, you get exactly... nothing. Well, not exactly nothing: you do get invites to cocktail parties and backstage tours, but they're all at the Met, not an outside venue more familiar to sociable young New Yorkers. And, there are no discounts on tickets, no Time Out New York subscriptions - basically, nothing that's really targeted to this demographic. For all his talk about opening up the house to a wider audience, you'd think Peter Gelb, the Met's General Manager, would get this better than he does. Let's just hope he figures it out before it's too late.