CMU School of Music Tries Tweet Seats

On January 26, 2014, Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music offered a little something extra to its audience both in Pittsburgh and afar: tweet seats. Last summer I wrote an article about tweet seats that provides an overview of decisions that need to be made before implementing this heavily debated audience engagement technique. With this advice in mind, the School of Music set out to define how and why tweet seats might be a good idea for live performances.

Tweet Seat.jpg

Here is what worked and why:

  • The online engagement during the concert was overseen by Lance LaDuke, Artist Lecturer in Euphonium and Music Business, Daniel Nesta Curtis, Music Director for the Contemporary Music Ensemble, and me, an Arts Management Fellow with the School of Music. Each of us were focused on specific tasks during the concert: Lance oversaw the flow of the conversation and retweeting; Daniel knew the music, conductor, and musicians, and oversaw specific information regarding the concert; I oversaw general tweeting logistics like asking people to dim the backlight on phones. Playing to the strengths of those who volunteered to work on this initiative facilitated a smooth implementation.
  • The goal of tweet seats was NOT to be a tool for trending or gaining followers but to be a means of engagement and discussion.  The language used when promoting the event helped to reinforce this notion. Using social media, the School of Music website, our weekly e-newsletter, and interviews, we were able to convey what tweet seats are (seats in which tweeting is encouraged during a performance) and why we were using them (as a way for the audience to engage in an online discussion about the performance they are experiencing).
  • Live webcasting offered an alternate mode of participation, enabling individuals to tweet along from the comfort of home.
  • The January 26 concert featured a guest conductor who was willing and able to answer questions via Twitter during intermission and after the concert, adding another level of engagement for the audience.

Here is what we will be doing differently next time:

  • A pre-concert tutorial on how to use Twitter and get the most out of tweet seats will be provided in the lobby of the Carnegie Music Hall.
  • Program notes will include information about how generally to use Twitter, in addition to how specifically to use tweet seats.
  • Greater activity on Twitter leading up to the concert will engage followers via photos, videos, and tweets from rehearsals.

When asked what he thought about the tweet seat initiative following the first concert, Artist Lecturer Lance LaDuke said:

The experience of tweet seats caused a sense of community to happen for the people that were there. It changed the way the audience participated in the music for the better. Plus, no one got hurt the first time, so why not do it again?

If you are interested in what a tweet seat conversation looks like, here is the conversation from January 26 using Storify. The School of Music is encouraged by the results of this initiative based on the live action of 25 participants and by reviewing Storify. The School of Music received positive feedback and encouragement to continue this initiative and will offer tweet seats again for its concert featuring the CMU Philharmonic and Choirs on February 20, 2014, at 8pm. Join in the fun from anywhere by watching the webcast and using #CMUSchwarz to tweet along!