This case study describes the Seattle Opera’s efforts to test which kinds of communications technologies work best in audience engagement. To that end, it systematically tried out different tech tools in a series of four yearlong experiments. The work included simulcasting Madama Butterfly at an 8,300-person capacity sports arena, introducing interactive kiosks in the opera house lobby and posting online videos taking viewers behind the scenes of the opera’s signature production of Wagner’s Ring cycle. Each season employed at least some winning engagement technologies, likely the result of the company’s efforts to gather information before determining which ones to use. Although the majority of the tools were most effective at enhancing the experience of patrons who already had a deep connection with the company, the simulcast, in the project’s fourth year, also brought in opera newcomers. One important lesson from the work was that effective strategies require the involvement not just of the marketing department, but also of the entire organization, including its union representatives.

Bob Harlow, the author of the report, also wrote a summary of the study for the summer 2015 issue of Opera America magazine (made available here with permission of Opera America).

This report is part of a set of case studies and reports looking at the efforts of arts organizations that received Wallace Excellence Awards to reach new audiences and deepen relationships with current ones.

 Points of Interest

  • Ongoing research into and assessment of audience engagement allowed the Seattle Opera to evaluate and improve tactics, including using video to relay behind-the-scenes content.
    Ongoing audience engagement research helps @SeattleOpera evaluate, improve tactics. #arts #opera #Seattle
  • Before seeing the new opera Amelia, at least 80 percent of audience members who viewed “making of” videos or related content on the Seattle Opera’s blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed said the material enhanced their experience.
    80% of online content viewers for @SeattleOpera's Amelia said it made their #opera experience even better. #arts
  • Twenty-seven percent of audience members who viewed Seattle Opera’s simulcast of Madama Butterfly had never attended a Seattle Opera performance; seventy-one percent had not seen an opera anywhere in the past two years.
    71% of attendees at @SeattleOpera Madama Butterfly simulcast hadn’t seen an #opera in the previous two years. #arts