Like most performing arts groups, budgets are tight at the Pittsburgh Symphony, so projects that can be done by volunteers, or as part of someone’s day to day job, or require limited funds, have been the primary focus. This is not to say the senior staff is not interested in social networking tools. Larry Tamburri, the PSO President, is strongly in favor of exploring activities like blogging. A number of basic projects have been undertaken including podcasts, blogs, MySpace Page, video posts to YouTube, as well as some more unique projects like web talk shows, and blog fests.
A strong team atmosphere as well as some key volunteers has been crucial. Says Jeff Tsai, Director of Corporate Support & Special Projects, “A wonderful resource in the orchestra is horn player Bob Lauer. He’s accustomed to bringing a camcorder into places we go or when interesting things are going on.
"For instance we recently played Messiaen's Turangalîla featuring the weird and wonderful instrument, the Ondes Martenot. Bob filmed this whole behind-the-scenes video for YouTube, with a good portion of the brass section and the Ondes Martenot player talking about what it is, and how it works.
WEB TALK SHOWS
“Bob’s also been involved with our web talk shows. We use a technology called ‘Talkshoe’, developed by a former Pittsburgh Symphony Board member, which allows people to host web-based talk shows. After a recent concert, the horn section remained on stage and hosted the show. People could call in, email or use a ‘chat’ function to pose their questions. At the end of the show, an MP3 of the event provided a ready-made podcast. The Talkshoe model also includes a revenue sharing feature that generates ad income for the host, based on traffic to the site.”
BLOGS and VIDEO INTERVIEWS
“We also have four blog hosts for our site. When we originally started our work, we wanted it to be a little different - not just having voices from within the orchestra, but invite outside opinion. The original purpose was to drive more web traffic, and therefore more foot traffic to the symphony. We had this naive idea that the involvement of volunteer writers would somehow duplicate the role of newspapers - magically at 1:00 am after a concert, blogs would appear about the concert, people would flood the site to read and comment, and ticket sales would soar. In reality, blog posts are often a week or more after an event, too late to drive traffic. If one takes away the ‘volunteer’ aspect it derails the purpose of having the blog. In the abstract we hope that the audience wants to read everything, but ultimately it’s the author’s individual voices that are interesting, not the organization.
Other projects have included hosting “blog fests” where members of the local blogging community are invited to come to concerts and then write about them on their blogs. IT Manager, Kevin DeLuca created short videos of upcoming events featuring musicians in the orchestra. For example, Principal Bassoonist, Nancy Goeres talks about the special role the bassoon plays in the Rite of Spring, both the genuine excitement, and real fear, around the unusual solos.
While there is not “risk capital” available for more extensive social networking activities at this time, there do seem to be some openings falling into place within the framework of their overall institutional goals. One of these goals is to build loyalty and create value through life long relationships (from the point of first contact, to their bequest). Key elements include: combining all the institutional relationships with a given household into one unit, building commitment, and creating easy and intuitive ways to connect with the symphony.
Social networking activities could be a perfect fit.