Texting for Beethoven: The New York Philharmonic Goes Mobile

Posted by CorinneRamey on Jul 22, 2008

A few weeks ago, audience members at a New York Philharmonic concert in New York City's Central Park voted for the encore. Given two options -- Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee," the audience members texted in their votes. About 74% of respondents voted for Hendrix, so that piece concluded the concert.

Vince Ford, the Philharmonic's Director of New Media, told MobileActive a bit about the orchestra's first steps into mobile marketing. "We have offered ringtones on our website for two years now, but beyond that we haven't done much with mobile," Ford said. "This week was our first step in that direction." In addition to the SMS voting, the orchestra offered concert status SMS alerts on their website. "Not many people signed up initially, but once it rained on Monday the alerts really took off," he said. Ford said that 5,000 people participated in the concert alerts or SMS voting. About 61,000 people attended the outdoor concert.

The orchestra used Kodime, a company based in the UK, as its mobile vendor. Ford said that they choose Kodime because of the positive experience the London Philharmonic had with the vendor for its mobile program. The London Symphony has marketed through mobiles -- including offering ringtones, special text offers, and other features -- for the past two seasons. "A great thing about this technology is the low cost to entry, so there's not much on the line in terms of investment," Ford said.

Ford said that the Philharmonic is looking for ways to integrate texting into its overall communications strategy. He said that some people who attended the concert couldn't hear the audio loop announcing the text message voting. "We're looking for ways to communicate better, but we don't want to use paper flyers that would pollute the park," he said. The goal of the program is to engage audiences in new ways and to be more interactive. "We want to attract new audiences and reach out in a simple, convenient, and friendly way. And we want to engage our existing audiences even more."

The Philharmonic is considering a variety of options for text messaging in the future such as more ringtones, text message promotions for discount tickets, asking people to sign up for their email newsletter, and subway or traffic alerts before the concert. "As an incentive for future voting, we'll offer a download for a free track from our digital download series," Ford said. However, as the organization is considering how to use texting to promote the orchestra, a conversation about whether texting fits the "brand" has emerged. "A traditional classical concert might not fit as well as a series that's targeted to being interactive," Ford said.  "It's interesting how excited everyone is about what these technologies offer, but there are some interesting conversations whether mobile fits in with what we do. We think yes, and we've had nothing but excitement and positive feedback during our concert."

Photo credit to pfly.

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