Opera North Blog

Quirin Gerstenecker, tells all about his role as HAR Marketing Officer

Quirins head 2 One of the things I really like about the Howard Assembly Room is the sheer range of different events we host in the space. Over the last ten months we have hosted cutting edge chamber opera, jazz from Poland, recitals with French and Russian singers, talks about Stalin’s cultural policies and cultural hybridity in medieval Andalusia, throat singers from Tuvan, films about Swiss alphorn players and a world-famous philosopher from Slovenia specialising in Lacanian poststructuralism – and that’s not even mentioning the more obscure events. While I love this variety and the opportunity it gives me to discover new artists and learn aesthetic languages, as a marketing officer variety makes my job rather difficult. It was little surprise therefore that I wasn’t as enthusiastic as my colleagues in the programming department, a few months ago, when they raved about this Malian griot with an electrified ancient African lute that they had just booked for our autumn season. Good marketing, the way I understand and was taught it, should always start with the needs and wishes of audiences. This starts with a lot of research. We have to find out what audiences are interested in; what kind of events, what they expect to gain from them, how much they are willing to pay for them and, of course, how they prefer us to tell them about it. With the Howard Assembly Room being such a new venue, that still has to establish itself firmly on the city’s cultural scene, this is a difficult task. Starting at scratch for almost every event we do, is even harder. For Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba, on Saturday 24 October, we aimed to target regional world music lovers primarily, people that like rock’n’roll and people eager to embrace new experiences. We quizzed friends and analysed Arts Council England statistics to establish where people with an interest in world music live and what they are like. We briefed our designer to create a poster that would speak to these people, without off putting anyone else. We highlighted the concert in selected ads in our advertising campaign. We asked our team of distributors to go to certain concerts, venues and neighbourhoods to hand out flyers and information. And we monitored the weekly sales updates to see if it would all pay off. It did! As everyone who came to see Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba know. In fact I believe that Bassekou’s gig is a perfect example of the kind of rewards anyone working in arts marketing can gain for their endeavours. Truly great and inspired artists with smiles so big and warm to light up the greyest and wettest of English October nights. A diverse, exalted audience ready to party, filling our beautiful venue with life, laughter and dance. And most importantly for any marketer like myself: a full house! If only I could say it was all because of our hard work. The truth however is that a lot of it came down to that big nemesis of most art lovers: TV. While sales had been promising from the moment we first announced the show, it was just after Bassekou’s live-appearance on Later with Jools that they became really remarkable. Indeed so big was the effect that we are now determined to get all our upcoming acts on TV. So far we have been quite successful. Last night The Unthanks appeared on Jools. If you want a ticket for their concert in the Howard Assembly Room in December you better book now.

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