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A new digital presence for Celebrity Series

The benefits of a new Tessitura-powered website

Jonathan Carpenter

Jonathan CarpenterTechnology Operations Manager, Celebrity Series (Boston)

TitleA new digital presence for Celebrity Series


Read/View Time5 min

The Celebrity Series has a unique challenge in that we don’t own our own venue,”

says Jonathan Carpenter, Technology Operations Manager at Celebrity Series of Boston. “So while we are all over Boston, we don’t have a permanent home within the city. As a presenter, we rent all of the venues that we present in.”

He describes a typical patron’s thought process. “First, someone will look at the artist brand: Alvin Ailey, Audra McDonald, the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Second, they’ll think of the venue: Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory, Sanders Theatre at Harvard. These are places that have strong associations to people who live in Boston, but those associations aren’t with us. And then third, if they get that far, they’ll understand that this is an event that the Celebrity Series of Boston is bringing to the city.”

“And that’s a real challenge, because we certainly wouldn’t want to step on the toes of that strong artist association,” he notes. “These are artists with strong fan bases, [and] loyal patrons who want to see them. And we want to bring them in, to make sure that they are able to enjoy this experience that they care about so much.”

Photo courtesy of Celebrity Series Boston

A new digital presence

Celebrity Series decided to rethink their digital presence. As part of that project, they redesigned their website using Tessitura’s flexible integrated web solution. “Given these challenges that we have as a presenter, and not wanting to get in the way of people enjoying these experiences,” Carpenter says, Tessitura “has been so critical.”

In the redesign project, “Our web design firm did a number of clever things to make sure that, while our brand wasn’t overpowering the artist brands that we were presenting, the Celebrity Series — our logo, and our brand colors, and our brand identity — was really present throughout our website. To make sure that, even if people weren’t conscious of it, they knew that the Celebrity Series had their mark on this presentation, on this concert, on this lecture-demo that was happening in a neighborhood.”

“And what’s been so fantastic,” Carpenter continues, “is that we’re able to carry all of that branding work right over” into the purchase path. Tessitura offers an unprecedented level of flexibility: not only can organizations style individual elements like fonts and colors, but they can customize the layouts of templates and pages. For Celebity Series, “All of these subtle things that we’ve done with our design have carried through seamlessly into our template, and that same wonderfully branded experience carries right on through the purchase path.”

Improved purchase path

On some websites, there can be a jarring disconnect when the end user enters the purchase path. But with Celebrity Series’ new Tessitura-powered site, Carpenter says, “It’s a really fluid transfer going from our marketing site” to the transactional site, “because we have so much control over our templates, because we’re really able to customize.” He adds: One thing that I’ll ask people when they look at our website for the first time is if they’ll notice that moment when they’ve been pushed over from the marketing site, and essentially no one is ever able to identify that moment.”

A series of three screenshots of the Celebrity Series website

At the same time, Tessitura also allows organizations to tailor the way an individual production or event is presented online. This is especially helpful when working with such a broad variety of offerings. In addition to a focus on classical music, jazz, and dance, Celebrity Series also presents several other genres, from speakers to American songbook artists to folk music.

Beyond that, Celebrity Series has been creating “a robust community engagement and education program, which we call Arts for All,” Carpenter says, and over the past several years they’ve also begun presenting public performance projects, which he describes as “large-scale citywide projects that bring the people of Boston to the art.” These include initiatives like placing 60 street pianos all around the city of Boston; Let’s Dance Boston, a five-night social dance festival; and a “walkable concert” called Jazz Along the Charles. “And with such a diversity of programming,” he says, it can be difficult to represent all of those offerings “in a cohesive way on the web.”

Tailored online presentation

Since Tessitura allows the user to edit the online presentation at multiple levels — whether for a series, a limited run, or a one-up event — Celebrity Series can tailor the way each offering is presented on the web. Carpenter notes: “We have a lot more flexibility in terms of how we’re editing that content. So we’re not trying to sell people a symphony orchestra concert the same way that we’re trying to sell them a ticket to hear David Sedaris do a book reading, or to see Alvin Ailey [American Dance Theater].”

“I think my favorite feature is the admin portal,” Carpenter says. “It’s so easy. We have a WYSIWYG editor. People can see what things are going to look like before they and publish, and that has made such a difference.” The improved usability has even led to changes in how this work is staffed. “Before, when we were working in system tables, we had to be restrictive about who could go in and work on that content.” The new process, he says, “has allowed us to let more staff members get invested in the way that we’re presenting our content on the web.”

One of Celebrity Series’ goals from the outset was to “make sure that we had a fully responsive web experience for all of our patrons,” Carpenter says. “Previously, we were working on a site that was hard-coded in HTML. It was not mobile responsive; it was a pretty terrible patron experience.” With the new site, “we’ve really made tremendous strides. We really did lead with a mobile-first design, and it’s amazing how fluid that transfer has been.”

The new site, he reflects, has been “such a tremendous improvement.” There are so many different ways that it has helped us.”


Photos by Robert Torres, courtesy of Celebrity Series Boston

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