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Growing loyalty at the Cleveland Orchestra

Successful programs include a student Frequent Fan Card and a monthly membership program for young professionals

Jim  Sector

Jim SectorAssistant Director of Loyalty Marketing, Cleveland Orchestra

TitleBuilding loyalty at the Cleveland Orchestra

Published1/13/2017

Read/View Time4 min


“We've increased our student attendance from 1.8 times per year to five-and-a-half times per year. We've built a program for young professionals that gets them coming 12 times a year. And our subscriptions and our other programs have grown as well."

Growing Loyalty at the Cleveland Orchestra

The Cleveland Orchestra had success in growing attendance by students and young professionals. Using Tessitura’s powerful marketing tools, they initiated programs for each group that succeeded in driving increased annual frequency of attendance - an important marker of loyalty. Jim Sector, Assistant Director of Loyalty Marketing at the Cleveland Orchestra, discusses how they did it

Loyalty marketing to cultivate new donors

We know in the marketing department that we are in charge of getting people to concerts. We know that the more frequently we can get you to the institution, the more likely you are to become donors. So we need to make sure that we're doing all the right things from the frequency side in order to make good prospects for development. Our philosophy is: if we do everything right, the donations will come. And we're seeing that working.

“We've increased our student attendance from 1.8 times per year to five-and-a-half times per year. We've built a program for young professionals that gets them coming 12 times a year. And our subscriptions and our other programs have grown as well.”

Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Orchestra

Reaching young professionals: The Circle

The Circle is our young professionals’ program, which we built and launched in 2014. Today, it's become the fastest-growing young professional organization in Cleveland. Circle is a monthly membership program, and as a member of the Circle, you come to one concert or event per month per year. Six of these events are concerts, so they're engaging with our core product quite frequently, and the other six events per year are other events like networking events, professional development. We've done breakfast with the board members, we've done tours of our hall, we even did a Trivia Night Showdown with our friends at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

We have grown over the past two-and-a-half years to be at about 300 members. It's very successful.

Growing student attendance: Frequent Fan Card

Back in 2011-12, we did an analysis of our student programs at the Cleveland Orchestra. And we found that while we had about 8,000 coming each year, we dug a little bit deeper and we found that students were attending about 1.8 times per year. And we know that good things start happening when we get you attending more frequently. So we designed a special program we called the Frequent Fan Card. The Frequent Fan Card is a $50 card that you buy and you get to come to an unlimited number of concerts throughout the year for our core classical season. We launched this in 2012 not really knowing what to expect, but hoping to have an impact on the frequency of our attendance, and the program has exploded.

The students who have frequent fan cards attend 5.5 times each year. That's an increase from 1.8 times back in 2012, and it's been a big reason why our student programs, our overall student attendance for the year has grown to over 23,000 people. That's an increase over 8,000 in 2011-12. And actually, to put that in perspective, that's about 20% of our audience on any given concert.

That's a big deal that has huge impacts on the perception of the hall. It has a huge impact on the way trustees and donors feel about our organization. And I think most importantly, it builds the orchestra into the lives of young people in a way the traditional student programs just don't do.

Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Orchestra

Tessitura’s flexibility

Tessitura really forms the entire process in which we can do all this. One of the great things is that Tessitura allows us the flexibility to build these [loyalty] programs how we'd want to. It allows us to push the boundaries of what we're able to do from a ticketing standpoint and from a packaging standpoint, in order to create unique things that we can experiment with, to see what works and what doesn't.

Tessitura is a pretty critical part of my job. I'm constantly combing through the data, pulling lists and slicing and dicing them in any way that I want in order to really target the people that I'm trying to get at and deliver the right messages at the right time.

Benefiting from a unified system

There are obvious benefits of having tickets and donations and the whole customer relations aspect under one roof. I came from an organization which at its start didn't have all those things under one roof; the tickets were over here, donations were over here, and we couldn't look holistically at the patron, and that's very, very, important. Although I work in ticketing, I'm the pipeline to sending people to our development department for donations. So that is a critical element.

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