Operatic Analytics

Updating Opera for the 21st Century: Onstage and Off

It is easy to see the ways that the production and consumption of opera have changed to match the needs of the 21st century consumer.  However, it is difficult to identify similar changes reflected in the way that opera is managed.

Since the 1980s, the opera industry has seen a significant increase in attempts to “modernize” opera--hoping to increase ticket sales by breaking from the traditional productions that have been seen for hundreds of years. Artistically, production teams have made strides to embrace 21st century culture on stage, producing classic operas in modern settings.  For an example, look no further than the Metropolitan Opera's 2013 production of Verdi’s Rigoletto set in Las Vegas circa 1960.  Commercially, the Met has found financial success by reaching 21st century audiences in movie theaters through the launch of their HD Broadcast series.  The success of these broadcasts can be measured by the three million ticket buyers spanning 64 countries in 2013.

Opera companies have altered their products and their distribution channels, but have they come up with new metrics to measure and manage their success?  In the digital age, are opera companies making the most of data analytics to measure the success of their marketing efforts?  What are the strategies that marketing departments are using to build audiences and how has social media changed them?

In order to understand the practices of A level opera houses, a review of basic data practices can be useful.  The following addresses general techniques for social media engagement of specific audiences. 

A First Example: Measuring of Social Media

A common pitfall for companies is to merely measure the success of their social media by counting the number of likes or follows. This results in a superficial analysis of data that provides minimal valuable insight. To understand this process I have looked to social media and compiled a list of significant opera houses in the United States to display the number of their “likes” on Facebook alongside their “followers” on Twitter. 

While the presentation of this information alongside each other is interesting, it provides a shallow understanding of what the organizations are truly gaining from having online connections with their audience. The data points tell the manager nothing with respect to who the organization is reaching on the platform and how they are engaging with the online content or how their content is driving ticket purchases. To make this data useful, the opera industry must determine a set of goals for digital programs and social media.  

Networked Nonprofits

Measuring The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine gives great insight on this topic, with an abundance of case studies on “networked” nonprofits who have found success by measuring data and using it to inform their decision making from a managerial level.  In the author’s words, “a networked nonprofit is an organization that uses social networks and the technology of social media to greatly extend its reach, capabilities, and effectiveness.”

A major focus of the book is the message that nonprofits must be actively networked with their audience online, but also that merely collecting likes and followers on social media is not an effective way to increase audience engagement.  The authors place priority on measuring data so that it can be used in decision-making: “an organization with a data-informed culture uses data to help make decisions and uses measurement to continuously improve and refine its systems.” 

Kanter's advice to achieve this goal involves relating data acquired from social media directly to the organization's mission statement. Instead of reporting numbers of likes, arts managers should be reporting the ways that social media helped to achieve the greater mission. Below are quotes from Kanter, that provide examples for how to report social media data in a way that connects to mission statements:

  • "Our latest social media outreach program supported or goals to change policy because it generated increased web traffic and greater exposure of our message." 
  • "We found that podcasts generated 50 percent less engagement among our target donors than we achieved with video, so we are shifting our sales accordingly."

Consider the ways that your organization reports social media data- does it follow these examples suggested by Kanter by connecting the data back to a mission statement or organizational goal? If not, consider a new reporting strategy that is more aligned with these examples.

Opera companies must develop a more nuanced way to measure their goals with data. Understanding the concept of a “networked nonprofit” and relating the data to a mission statement is the first step for managers of opera to improve their data strategy as it applies to social media.

Be sure to check out Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media for more examples of strategies that nonprofits can apply to maximize the use of their social media data.