When’s Your Season Announcement Party?

Many of you are about to start your new season in the next month, so, I want to ask: How much hoopla are you making about it? Years ago, local newspapers would cover a press announcement of a new season, as they still do here in New York City with the Metropolitan Opera or New York Phil. However, in most of the rest of the country it’s up to you to make the most of your season announcement.

Many organizations simply send out a traditional subscription renewal package by mail, or more frequently by email, and that’s pretty much it. However, given that we are all in the live event production business, why not turn your season announcement into a live event?

When I ran the American Symphony Orchestra many years ago, we partnered with WQXR, the local classical station here in New York, and we produced a five-hour “subscriber-thon” in which we played excerpts of the music we were performing that season, invited guest musicians and our conductor to come to the station, and had phone lines open where people would subscribe. If memory serves, we signed up over a third of our subscribers in one day with that event.

There are lots of other creative ideas. All of you are running organizations with artists you could engage, from actors to a choreographer, conductors and members of the orchestra, or the curators of the art. I’m not suggesting an actual performance, but rather having an event (with the appropriate food and drink—even a cash bar will do) with your artistic team talking about the works you will be doing this coming season. Last week, Apple released the next version of its iPhone. As we all know, Apple has turned these releases into worldwide media and live events even though all they do is show pictures of the phones. Nobody (except for the early press demo) takes one home.

For cultural organizations, continually building relationships with your most ardent subscribers is job number one. These are the people you invite, and I bet they will come. Not only that, but they may also bring their friends. You can also invite first-time ticket buyers from last season and offer them some type of incentive, whether that is a reduction in a subscription price or some other perk such as free parking if they subscribe that day.

You can also use this event to invite funders, local government officials, and/or partner with local restaurants or stores. It’s up to you to say to your public, “What we are doing is important, and we are excited to show it off” and do it in a highly public way.

And a final benefit is that this could be a new individual fundraising opportunity. This could be a new pre-season moment to approach reluctant or lapsed donors to support your organization. Typically we wait until the end of the year or the end of the season to ask. But there’s no reason not to kick off your season not only by renewing subscribers, but also by motivating donors (and I’m talking about individuals as well as foundation execs and corporation executives) by inviting them to an exciting event, demonstrating the vitality of your organization. Why not try to find a sponsor for next year’s event by priming the pump?

Here’s to a great start for your new season, whatever that means for your organization. If you’re already doing one of these kinds of events, or know of an organization that is, please comment below and share!

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