Innovation and International Best Practices Key to Success of Australian Orchestras

Sophie Galaise (photo: Daniel Aulsebrook)

Sophie Galaise, who is also a member of the MMIAM International Advisory Committee, joined the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as its first female Managing Director in April 2016. She is renowned for her extensive experience working with orchestras, not only at the executive level, but also as a professional musician and musicologist.  Laura Adlers met with Sophie via Skype to discuss the business of managing professional orchestras in different parts of the world.

Does being a professional musician make you a better arts leader or do you think one can be a good arts leader without the artistic background?

Well, I am in the category of artist who became an arts manager, and I believe it helps, it gives you an advantage, because you really know the product, you can have more in-depth conversations and I believe, yes, you can be a fantastic manager without being a musician, but you will always have to work harder to gain a full understanding of the product.

For instance, your Music Director comes to you and says he wants to do the Mahler 8th Symphony next year. You would need to know that the Mahler 8th nickname is the ‘Symphony of a thousand’ (1000 musicians and singers), so you could expect a very large budget for the production.  If you don’t know that, you may have a conversation where you say, no problem, it is just one more symphony and you end up having a big surprise. I have seen interesting situations in the past where managers had a big surprise, because they didn’t have that knowledge. I suppose I am on the side that believes it is better to be knowledgeable as a professional musician working as an arts manager.  Finally, I still believe you can be a great manager without being a professional musician, but being a professional musician gives you an extra advantage.

Sir Andrew Davis conducting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Peter Tarasiuk.

Sir Andrew Davis conducting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Peter Tarasiuk.

You are a professional musician who transitioned to a career as an internationally-recognized arts leader and have held leadership positions in Europe, Canada and Australia.  Are there notable differences in the practice of arts management between countries?

Many aspects of managing orchestras around the world are pretty similar. There is one big difference, however. In North America, there is a stronger focus on fundraising, because, for example, in the United States, public funding is so low that it is absolutely necessary to fundraise. Around the world, most orchestras can count on revenue sources from public funding. Everyone relies on earned revenue (subscription, ticket sales, hires) and private revenue (donations, corporate partnerships). The vast majority of orchestras from around the world rely on public funding, private and earned revenues. Everyone is trying to achieve balanced ratios (1/3, 1/3, 1/3).   I have yet to see an orchestra in a country that can do without public funding. Orchestras are helping with cultural diplomacy, showcasing new works, engaging with communities, etc. I believe they are playing an important role in the ecology of the arts.

Fixed costs are the biggest expense in any orchestra’s budget, most notably salaries for all of the musicians and staff.  On average, musicians outnumber staff. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is an exception, with 150 staff and 100 musicians. It is important to note that 1/3 of the administrative staff are in fundraising and development. They are a huge fundraising machine! This is a new tendency in the United States, but I am not sure this will be the model moving forward.  At this point it is the US reality.

In Australia, professional orchestras rely on the three types of revenue. Federal and state funding makes for most of the public funding. They are starting to fundraise and are looking to increase donations more than in the past, but this is relatively new. Historically, the six professional state orchestras were part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. They demerged about twenty years ago and became independent not-for-profit organizations. They are quite new to fundraising, but they are also very keen and very capable.

The big difference between Australia and Canada in terms of orchestras is that in Australia, the government decided to really focus on having one professional orchestra per state and fund them appropriately. This is why there are only six professional orchestras in Australia.  In Canada, a much larger group is funded, including major orchestras, regional orchestras, chamber orchestras, and so forth.

Only 28 major performing arts organizations are actually recognized and funded as “major” in Australia. This includes dance, theatre, opera, orchestras and one circus company. They are funded by a Commonwealth Fund administered by the Australian Council for the Arts.  It is a very finite number responding to very specific criteria that are approved for funding. Once your performing arts organization has been recognized as such, you must comply and meet these criteria or risk losing your funding.  In Canada, it is a different and broader approach.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in Australia which are leading the new wave in cultural management?

Australians are aware that they are very far from the rest of the world, here down under. It is a relatively young country. Australians are keen on best practices. They follow what is happening in other countries, particularly in the United Kingdom. They feel a close historical association to England and European countries.  Every year, the association of Australian Orchestras invite arts leaders from international orchestras to come to Australia. We regularly get major orchestras to tour Australia. When they do, we meet with management to learn about their business models and best practices.  In my opinion, there is a burning desire to accomplish great things, perhaps because Australia is a relatively young country.  They are not afraid to innovate, and ideas seem to evolve faster than in Canada, for example.  They are very attuned to what is happening in other parts of the world, and this perhaps gives them the confidence and drives them to take calculated risks.  Australians are very positive people and the country has not seen a recession in over 25 years, so there is a distinct trend towards innovation and bold new ideas.

Personal and professional transformation lead MMIAM graduate to new career path in Hawaii

In addition to his work at the theatre, John stays active creatively as an independent filmmaker. Check out his latest work at facebook.com/islethemovie

jw-headshot-john-wells-smJohn Wells was an arts educator at a high school in Los Angeles, and a freelance script supervisor at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, California before joining the second cohort of the MMIAM program.  He graduated in 2015 and is now the Operations Coordinator at the Kennedy Theatre at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in addition to working as an independent filmmaker.  As someone coming from a teaching background, why was he drawn to this graduate program? Laura Adlers interviewed him via Skype at his new home in Hawaii to learn more about his experience with the program and his new career path.

As someone coming from a teaching background, why were you drawn to this graduate program?

I had always been passionate about the arts, but wanted to develop a solid foundation in arts management which would allow me to help others in achieving their artistic goals.  This, combined with an incessant desire to travel and explore different cultures, seemed like a great fit for me to expand my horizons and gain valuable experience.

What aspect(s) of the program were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

There was a turning point for me – professionally and personally – in Montreal. Our final project for Wendy Reid’s class Leadership in the Context of Cultural Organizations involved going out into the field and conducting interviews with organizations that we were most interested in. The initiative that this project required was crucial because it got us talking to the people we envisioned ourselves working with one day. When you’re in a classroom for most of the year, you don’t really get experiential learning opportunities like this. So the whole process was a breath of fresh air, and it catalyzed a networking growth spurt for me, for lack of better words.

We ended up taking a group trip to Toronto where I interviewed more organizations, and it really got me feeling comfortable walking into rooms and talking about the work that’s being done in the arts. I also landed an internship during this time (outside the program), and I credit that largely to the confidence that came from putting myself out there, failing, and doing it again and again.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

In many ways, I learned more from my classmates than I did from the classroom materials. And that’s not a knock on the instructors, it’s just that when you live and work so intimately with the same group of people for a year, you forge relationships that help you discover things about yourself and other cultures.

It’s not a walk in the park, though. Sometimes we like to think that we live in a utopian, globalized world where we’re all connected and harmonious. The truth is that engaging with other cultures and developing relationships takes sensitivity, tact, and hard work to make things happen. We’re all human, and what bonded us in this program was our common mission to enliven the arts, innovate in business, and inspire for the good.

In addition to his work at the theatre, John stays active creatively as an independent filmmaker. Check out his latest work at facebook.com/islethemovie

In addition to his work at the theatre, John stays active creatively as an independent filmmaker. Check out his latest work at facebook.com/islethemovie

Which campus was the most memorable for you and why?

The stay in Italy was such an invaluable experience for me on every level. I interned at the Milano Film Festival, and the experience of being immersed in a completely different culture was at first pretty alienating. But as I began to show through my work how much I cared about the mission of the organization, I began to forge relationships and share in the beauty of the festival.

I don’t mean to get metaphysical or anything, but there’s a certain feeling you get when you’re halfway across the world, as an American interning at a film festival in Milan (they jokingly called me their “illegal alien”), bonding with a Russian co-worker while eating Italian food at a Chinese restaurant. When you find those moments, where you can experience genuine connections with people over something as banal as a bowl of spaghetti, you realize there’s a universality there you may have never seen before. I’m most grateful for this.

The Kennedy Theatre at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

The Impact of Service Elements on the Artistic Experience: The Case of Classical Music Concerts (Abridged)

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By Antonella Carù, Bernard Cova

A trend in the field of marketing is to analyze consumers’ growing preference for being immersed in a thematic setting instead of being offered a finished product.[1] [2] [3] [4]

Ivars Taurins as Herr Handel in Tafelmusik's Sing-Along Messiah. Photo: Gary Beechey

Ivars Taurins as Herr Handel in Tafelmusik’s Sing-Along Messiah. Photo: Gary Beechey

Above and beyond this particular concept, today’s marketing is being driven by a host of new theoretical constructs ranging from experiential marketing[5] [6] to the idea that immersion can be used as a way of designing consumers’ extraordinary experiences.[7] If there is one type of consumer experience where the immersion construct is (and has long been) frequently used, it is the artistic one.[8] In the ideal, this type of experience is akin to diving into the deep end of a pool – it is a total immersion that will transform the individual. In other words, the artistic experience belongs to the category of so-called aesthetic experiences[9] [10] and is a fundamentally embodied one.[11] But as demonstrated so impressively by researchers focusing on the artistic experience[12] [13] and on the appropriation work that must be undertaken[14] [15], immersion can be difficult to achieve – particularly in the case of avant-garde or classical works that from the outset establish a certain distance from the general public, especially if presented within the confines of a designated environment such as a concert hall.

The purpose of the study is to identify those service elements that influence an individual consumer’s immersion in an arts experience.

The “appropriation of space – be it public or private – is tantamount to acting on something that exists outside of yourself, the goal being to make it your own and to recognize your own position within this space”.[16]

Such an approach suggests that consumers summon up certain competencies largely because they wish to become the main builders and co-creators of a given artistic experience[17] and do so by developing a multidimensional (i.e., not only physical but also mental, emotional and spiritual) “home.” Thus, immersion exists when the consumer is able to enact the artistic experience by means of so-called appropriation methods or operations that will allow him/her to minimize or avoid distancing.research-fig1

This metaphorical approach allows us to re-situate the main space-appropriation operations within a theoretical framework capable of accounting for the particular type of appropriation that is at stake in a given artistic experience. The framework shown in Figure 1 can be explained in this way:

Nesting. The individual feels at home because s/he isolates a part of the particular artistic experience, a part that is familiar to him/her because of his/her accumulated experience and foothold in it. The individual will often find comfort in sticking to a single track, instrument or piece of art that s/he tries to control by pushing aside anything else that crops up in the experiential framework.

Investigating. Starting from the nest that has been built in this fashion, the individual explores new elements in order to develop her/his points of anchorage and control (signposts) – for example, by looking through a CD for songs s/he already knows, listening to them again and then listening to the tracks just before or just after them; this enhances knowledge of the context of the particular artistic experience whilst progressively extending one’s territory.

Stamping. The individual attributes a specific meaning to an artistic experience or to a portion of it. This will not be the meaning commonly ascribed to the experience but a personal one, built on the foundations of the individual’s own referents, history and so on. For example, someone invited to a concert by a friend might feel that “for me this is not an 18th-century classical music concert but Toni’s concert, since it was she who invited me to it.” Here, the individual uses creativity to play around with the experience’s context subjectively, whilst imbuing it with his/her own personal meaning.

The consumer is now in a position to access the artistic experience, in whole or in part, thereby becoming immersed.

It should be noted that the processes used to access an experience and/or to apprehend the role of antecedents may diverge due to the varying intensity of the different artistic experiences. Visiting a museum, listening to a concert and watching a film are different processes, so the concepts being analyzed can be applied in various ways. In fact, in each of these experiences the individual’s level of participation will vary; it can be active or passive, and thus have a different effect. One’s involvement/participation will vary as well; it can be physical, intellectual or both.[18] Control over the experience will also vary – for example, in terms of the timing of the event – or else there exists the possibility that only some of the stimuli to which one is being submitted will be selected.

Analysis revealed that the three operations making up the appropriation cycle of an artistic experience can be broken into sub-operations that enrich the overall model. In particular, nesting appears to present a wide range of sensations linked to the search for anchors, both before and during a performance. For the investigating operation, all reports reveal a path lying somewhere between the description of events and the discovery of something. Finally, two activities typified stamping: the ascribing of significance to elements in the experience, and the forming of impressions about the experience itself.

 

Twelve years later, this theory is more relevant today than ever before, and can be applied to many cultural settings. The full article can be downloaded from the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 7, Number 2 – Winter 2005

 

[1] Firat, A.F., and N. Dholakia. 1998. Consuming People: From Political Economy to Theaters of Consumption. London: Routledge.

[2] Firat, A.F., N. Dholakia and A. Venkatesh. 1995. “Marketing in a Postmodern World.” European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 29, no 1, p. 40-56.

[3] Firat, A.F., and C.J. Shultz. 1997. “From Segmentation to Fragmentation: Markets and Marketing Strategy in a Postmodern Era.” European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31, no 3/4, p. 187-207.

[4] Goulding, C., A. Shankar and R. Elliott. 2002. “Working Weeks, Rave Weekends: Identity Fragmentation and the Emergence of New Communities.” Consumption, Markets and Culture, Vol. 5, no 4, p. 261-284.

[5] Pine, B.J., and J.H. Gilmore. 1999. The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre and Every Business a Stage. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press.

[6] Schmitt, B.H. 1999. Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to SENSE, FEEL, THINK, ACT and RELATE to Your Company and Brands. New York: Free Press.

[7] Arnould, E., L. Price and G. Zinkhan. 2002. Consumers. New York: McGraw-Hill.

[8] Duhaime, C., A. Joy and C. Ross. 1995. “Learning to ‘See’: A Folk Phenomenology of the Consumption of Contemporary Canadian Art.” In Contemporary Marketing and Consumer Behavior: An Anthropological Sourcebook, J.F. Sherry, ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, p. 351-398.

[9] Csikszentmihalyi, M., and R.E. Robinson. 1990. The Art of Seeing. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.

[10] Denzin, N.K. 1992. Symbolic Interactionism and Cultural Studies: The Politics of Interpretation. Cambridge: Blackwell.

[11] Joy, A., and J.R. Sherry. 2003. “Speaking of Art as Embodied Imagination: A Multi-sensory Approach to Understanding Aesthetic Experience.” Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 30, September, p. 259-282.

[12] Spranzi, A. 2001. “L’innovazione nel marketing dell’arte: Un caso paradigmatico di economia dell’inovazione.” Sinergie, Rapporto di ricerca, no 11.

[13] Weltzl-Fairchild, A., and L.M. Dubé. 1998. “Le multi-média peut-il aider à réduire la dissonance cognitive?” Publics et Musées, no 13, p. 17-28.

[14] Caune, J. 1999. Pour une éthique de la médiation: le sens des pratiques culturelles. Grenoble: Presses de l’Université de Grenoble.

[15] Ficht, B.T. 2000. À l’ombre de la littérature. Montréal: XYZ.

[16] Serfaty-Garzon, P. 2003a. Chez soi. Les territoires de l’intimité. Paris: Armand Collin, p. 89.

[17] Joy, A., and J.R. Sherry. 2003. “Speaking of Art as Embodied Imagination: A Multi-sensory Approach to Understanding Aesthetic Experience.” Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 30, September, p. 259-282.

[18] Pine, B.J., and J.H. Gilmore. 1999. The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre and Every Business a Stage. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press.