This blog talks a lot about change. In the last year, we’ve posted about how the California Symphony is changing patron retention rates, changing how we program, changing how we invest in our staff and how we select our artists, changing cold donor engagement with us, and changing the availability heuristic, among other rife-with-change topics. Which is why maybe it’s no surprise that it’s time for this blog to change, too…only a little bit though.
At the bottom of every post, you can see the author is California Symphony’s Executive Director, Aubrey Bergauer. Starting in the next week, you’ll see that at the top as well. Yep, that’s the change…no big deal really, except we wanted to give a heads up to our followers so that you’re not surprised or confused when the next post goes live and instead of seeing the blue and white California Symphony logo in the top right corner, you see Aubrey’s headshot smiling at you. If you are receiving post notifications through Medium, email, or an RSS feed, you don’t have to do anything and will continue receiving the content in the same way you have been.
The reason behind this change is that while we’ve been sharing once every month about our orchestra’s work in efforts to serve the field, proclaiming since day one this blog is for “whoever is interested” (which remains true), we’ve since realized we have a LOT of other content and stories to share that might be more exciting for our hometown audience and not so much to the orchestra world at large. In case you are among the few industry peers that really do want to know every. single. story. that comes out of the California Symphony, here’s the link to the new, more robust California Symphony blog: https://medium.com/@CASymphony/latest. There you can read the same content reposted from here in addition to stories such as how Carlos, a 6th grader who just graduated from our El Sistema based Sound Minds program, almost dropped out a few years ago until his teachers and peers told him that wasn’t an option. Or how the California Symphony recently had a booth at a community festival next to Star Wars heroes and Disney princesses and held our own with a line of kids waiting to get into our instrument petting zoo. Good stuff, but a slightly different feel than all the nerdy, er, I mean, highly sophisticated graphs, charts, and case studies you get on this blog here. Again, if you already read and follow this blog, you don’t have to do anything. You’ll see the profile pic and username change soon, and that’s it.
A Preview of What’s Next
I’ll continue to share once every month not about the challenges of running an arts organization, but about what the California Symphony is actually doing in response to those challenges. As a preview of what’s to come, the next post is going to dive deep into the California Symphony’s turnaround over the last four years, how it was facing the same problems as most other orchestras, and how a radical change (see, the topic of change continues!) in our approach — moving from focusing on short-term results to playing a long-term game — has brought transformation to our audience and a lot more revenue than we were ever making before. In fact, our fiscal year that ends this month closes the books with a 10% surplus and eliminating a portion of the organization’s accumulated deficit, all achieved while growing the operating budget by 44%. It took 2–3 years to fully see these kinds of dramatic results, and we’re going to tell you exactly how we did it (and how you can too) in the next post.
Here’s a sneak peek at one of the audience metrics, age, which has decreased among single ticket buyers and subscribers during this time:
This is a different story than pretty much every other orchestra in the nation. Over the past year on a blog about change, one thing has stayed the same since the very first post: we are rewriting the narrative for symphony orchestras, and it’s working. Stay tuned; there’s a lot more to come.
About the Author
Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director, California Symphony — Look for my name at the top next month!
Aubrey Bergauer defies trends, and then makes her own. In a time when most arts organizations are scaling back programs, tightening budgets, and seeing declines in tickets and subscriptions, Bergauer has dramatically increased earned and contributed revenue at organizations ranging from Seattle Opera to the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival to the California Symphony. Her focus on not just engaging — but retaining — new audiences grew Seattle Opera’s BRAVO! Club (young patrons group for audience members in their 20’s and 30’s) to the largest group of its kind nationwide, led the Bumbershoot Festival to achieve an unprecedented 43% increase in revenue, and propelled the California Symphony to quadruple the size of its donor base. From growing audiences, increasing concerts, and expanding programs to instilling and achieving common goals across what are usually siloed marketing, development, and artistic departments, Bergauer is someone you want to follow — on the nationally-recognized blog she created to discuss what actually works in a changing arts landscape, and in real life, too.
A graduate of Rice University with degrees in Music Performance and Business, for the last 15 years Bergauer has used music to make the world around her better, through programs that champion social justice and equality, through ground-breaking marketing and audience development tactics on the forefront of technology, and through taking strategically calculated risks in a risk-averse field. If ideas are a dime a dozen, what separates Bergauer is her experience and record of impact and execution at institutions of all sizes. Praised for her leadership which “points the way to a new style of audience outreach,” (Wall Street Journal) and which drove the California Symphony to become “the most forward-looking music organization around.” (Mercury News) Bergauer’s ability to strategically and holistically examine and advance every facet of the organization’s mission and vision is creating a transformational change in the office, on the stage, in the audience, in the community, and going well beyond the industry of classical music.