From time to time, we will be interviewing performers, presenters and marketers of the performing arts to get their stories about the challenges that they face and how they have successfully marketed themselves or their shows.

We also hope to have avid audience members (we know you’re out there!) weigh in with their perspectives on the performing arts. So … want to have your say? Don’t be shy. Drop us a line (info@bemusednetwork.com). Easy as pie.

Check out the first of these Q & A sessions with BeMused’s very own marketing expert, Tim Crouch.

Profile picture: Tim Crouch

Tim Crouch, Flutist & Arts Administrator
MMus, BMus, ARCT and Art. Dip.

What is your background in marketing or music?

All of my schooling after high school was in performance, specifically flute performance. Once I started my Masters at the University of Toronto, I received funding to do research on the accessibility of classical music in Canadian society, and this led me to get more involved with administrative work. I can’t say I knew what my role would be in that field, until I became involved with a wonderful group called the Sneak Peek Orchestra, and they let me try my hand at marketing. Haven’t looked back from there!

So you have been involved with the Sneak Peek Orchestra in a marketing capacity. Can you describe your role with the Toy Piano Composers?

I got to know the team at the Toy Piano Composers (including Monica Pearce, one of the co-founders) when we did a joint project between the Sneak Peek Orchestra and TPC. I was then too confident for my own good and asked them if I could help out in any way for my own experience, and they were generous enough to say yes! I am now their Director of Marketing and Fundraising. It is a fantastic group with the right mix of forward thinking, ambition, and genuine humility and humour that make them a joy to work for.

What is an example of a successful marketing campaign that you worked on? What challenges or obstacles did you face, and what strategies, tools or techniques did you use?

I can let you know of a few tricks I’ve learned, though not necessarily connected with any campaign. One is understanding the power of viral campaigns on social media. These platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) have been designed on the basis of sharing, and it truly is revolutionary. Videos are particularly useful (and easy to make now), and so I got in the habit of creating “trailers” before concerts, just like movies. The timing has to be right, and the tone changes with different groups (Sneak Peek Orchestra tended to have epic trailers in nature, and the awesome team at Toy Piano Composers have come up with some very humorous ones), but it really helps draw excitement. I’m hoping to employ the idea of having trailers ready to go during performances for the next concert, so people can get excited and purchase their tickets right then and there at an advanced price.

I also think any good marketing strategy involves a mix of mass media and personal invites, and so we get in the habit of sending personal letters signed by the team to certain individuals whom we’d really like to attend our shows. It just goes that extra mile at making others feel welcome.

Marketing doesn’t end before a show though, as can be demonstrated by Peter Oundjian, whom we are lucky to have as head of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He speaks directly to the audience during a concert to help them appreciate the music even more (it’s amazing how many conductors will not do this!). In our last few TPC concerts, I’ve gotten into the habit of speaking in front of the audience with the composers to help the audience get to know about what they are going to hear. With the right amount of humour and interesting facts, these have been incredibly engaging endeavours.

Can you describe an example of a marketing campaign that was not as successful as you would have liked? What were the circumstances? What lessons did you learn?

For my own performing group, the Blythwood Winds, we had a concert at the end of last year. I was very certain it would work, considering I did our own marketing, marketing for the other group performing, and marketing for the venue.

But I left everything much too last minute and did not prepare enough, which was unfortunate in a business where timing is a lot of the game. There was simply an overflow of information right at the end, and people were confused about where to find the venue. I learned to not take anything for granted, but also to not undervalue the idea of branding. The fact is, we were too small, and I set some really unrealistic expectations for a group that simply wasn’t in people’s minds.

Then again, you can only do so much! You have to start somewhere.

If an artist or artists’ group approached you for words of advice on how to improve their ticket sales, what would you tell them?

To get to know their audience! Don’t assume that by putting a million posters up and constantly selling something on Facebook that you’ve made any kind of connection—it’s that connection between audience and performer that really will bring people back.