Getting Heard: Lead by Example (with a letter to Orchestra's Senior Management)

Start from the top if you want to get something done

The actual letter is toward the bottom

I posted an article the other day that pi**ed a fair number of musicians off. It seems many of them felt I was saying they were lazy for not getting involved in the social media revolution. My sincere apologies... I didn't mean to suggest anyone was lazy.

Worse thing about the whole affair is I may have shot myself in the foot (although this wouldn't be the first time). You see, I'm a composer, not a composer/performer; I need musicians in order to get my music played. Since I write primarily orchestral music, I need a lot of musicians, a whole orchestra full of them! Pi**ing them off isn't a great way to get my music played.

All the furor over my comments got me to thinking. The problem isn't about having passion - I KNOW musicians have passion - it takes far too much effort to be involved in the modern classical world - you would never do it if you were not passionate. I think the orchestral world has just been slow to adapt to the new landscape of communication that social media presents.

After much thought, I still believe the audience would benefit from musicians who got involved in promoting the ensembles they play in. But if musicians are being treated like corporate employees that must 'stick to the script', who should be responsible for setting the tone for social media engagement? Senior management.

I sincerely hoping I'm not shooting myself in my other foot for what I'm about to say (i.e., if an orchestra's senior management doesn't like me, I'm still not likely to get my music played), I believe the people involved in bringing orchestral music to life should be willing to share their passion in words over the internet via social media.

This means: Senior management, who are the people whose job it is to talk up the orchestra, to meet with people and highlight what the orchestra is doing, should be tweeting at least once a week. People in senior management positions don't get to these positions without knowing people, LOTS of people. These are the same kind of people who can make or break an organization. They are donors, artists, other managers and influential people in the community --exactly the kind of people who should be getting regular updates (reminders) how important the symphony is to the community. They should be getting updates on what's going on, what guest artists are performing and how amazing these performances are when they're done.

Senior management is already doing this, but are they using all the tools available too them? i.e., are they using twitter and facebook?

I did some looking and was pleasantly surprised to find there are a few who not only have twitter accounts, but are actually tweeting about what's happening in the organization they work for. YES! Unfortunately, there were only about 20% of the Senior Staff I could find (out of the nearly 100 I looked for) and only about half of those are making comments. Ok, it's a start.

To see if we can increase that number, here is my letter

Dear Senior Management

You work for an organization that plays amazing music. You know it, I know it and even some of your community know it. Still, every year you struggle to balance the budget, some concerts play to filled halls, but not many and your musicians are frustrated because they feel they aren't getting the appreciation they deserve for all their hard work and practice.

Classical music is still popular with people, as is evidenced by the number of classical music downloads. Naxos and Classical Music Library make their entire living off just this industry. Yet, our concert halls and symphony orchestras are struggling. We need to find a way to get the people who download our music into our concerts. Lots of suggestions have been made, but there's one I think you should employ, right away --Social Media.

You, and your fellow administrative staff members, should each create simple facebook and twitter accounts (Google+ accounts if you really want to cover your bases, write to me and I'll invite you), spend half an hour connecting these social media outlets with people in your email address book (you'll be surprised how many people you know who already have these types of accounts) and then ONCE or TWICE a week, tweet (use twitter) to let your "friends" know what's going on with the symphony, your job, your organization. Once the setup is done, we're talking about 3-5 mins of your time every week. Yet, each of these comments will reach potentially hundreds of people. And the more you do it, the wider this circle will grow.

You can add a step to this process: Get a social media manager in your organization to follow these twitter accounts and re-tweet comments that highlight your organization. Suddenly your comments are not just getting to your friends, but all the fans of your organization as well. This will provide a personal, passionate touch to your outreach. Showing the passion will help the people who are interested in you get more passionate too. Passionate people attend more concerts!

If you really want to be enthusiastic, contact the staff you know at other orchestras. Get them to do the same thing. Follow their tweets and have them follow yours. You'll not only get to see what else is going on, what other people are saying (which might give you ideas about what to say), but they'll be listening to you - and potentially sharing your "good news" with their friends. Imagine for a moment how huge this kind of simple communication could be.

This isn't a perfect solution and it won't solve all your problems. But it's a small step that can have a huge impact on not only your organization, but classical music as a whole. Social media works because it gets people talking. The more people who are talking about your orchestra the better.

Start using social media. Get your staff to use social media. Get the word out. You deserve sold out concerts.


Chip Michael

PS my twitter feed is #ChipMichael. Let me know your twitter and I'll follow you and re-tweet relevant comments. That will add to your exposure

I believe in classical music. I believe it deserves to be heard live! I am passionate about sharing this belief with everyone I know. Believe with me!


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