Unless we lose them, most of us never think much about tickets. But they’re going to transform the business of Overture and its resident companies.
It’s not the tickets themselves but the ticketing system that will make the difference. It’s called Tessitura, and it went live at the Overture Center for the Arts on July 1, 2014. Its name refers to a musical term describing the range of notes a musician can perform.
Tessitura is a suite of programs that does far more than spit out tickets. It was created especially to meet the needs of arts organizations that want to develop longstanding relationships with ticket buyers. The new system, which allows groups to identify and reach out to potential new subscribers and donors, promises growth to struggling arts organizations. On the customer side of things, the new program will eventually allow patrons to buy subscriptions online and print tickets at home for all shows at the Overture Center.
Thanks to a grant Overture secured from the Madison Community Foundation, all 10 of Overture’s resident companies will benefit, including Children’s Theater of Madison, Forward Theater, Kanopy Dance, Madison Symphony, Madison Ballet, Madison Opera and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. All the companies are already ticketing with the system, but full implementation isn’t expected until the summer of 2016.
The cost of the software is graduated and based on an organization’s budget. “Since Tessitura has been in existence and been used by arts organizations, not one arts organization has left it,” says Overture president and CEO Ted DeDee. “There’s no other ticketing company that can say that.”
The center’s previous ticketing system, Paciolan, was designed primarily for sports venues. DeDee says when he joined Overture in 2012 ticketing fees for Paciolan were close to $350,000. Overture is not allowed to reveal the cost of using Tessitura, but DeDee says the new system represents a significant savings: “I will say that our upfront cost to buy into Tessitura, and our first-year cost to become part of the membership network was not even equal to the cost of what continuing on Paciolan for an additional year would be.”
By adopting Tessitura, Overture joins a Who’s Who of leading arts organizations, including the Boston Symphony, Goodman Theater, Guthrie Theater, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, New York City Ballet and the New York Philharmonic.
Samantha Crownover, executive director of the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, is looking forward to being able to use the new system to home in on supporters. “One of the more practical functions of Tessitura will allow me to see on my smart phone who enters the concert hall and where they sit so I can greet them personally,” says Crownover. “I know so many names and so many faces, but I can’t always put them together. I want to show appreciation to our fans by knowing them personally.”
Tessitura’s earliest version was created in the late 1990s by the New York Metropolitan Opera. “They had ticketing software, and they were also trying to keep track of their thousands and thousands of donors,” says DeDee. “They said, ‘Gee wouldn’t it be a great thing if we somehow linked our ticket purchasers with our donor records and have one database? And track all interactions with all constituents?’”
The Met spent $5 million doing just that. After arts managers pleaded for the software, the Met created a subsidiary organization to release the suite of programs and set up a nonprofit that essentially serves as a user co-op. This network of Tessitura clients continually upgrades the software and shares best practices.
“This means we can seat our own patrons for subscription tickets and we have access to ticketing information that will help us see patterns in seating,” says Crownover. “We will also be able to use Tessitura as a development and data tool, since the ticketing will be linked to each audience member’s record.”
Madison’s arts organizations are hoping the new system opens up possibilities for deepening relationships with audiences. “It’s critically important for us to link single-ticket buyers to subscribers to donors,” says DeDee. “There’s a progression in your relationship that you want to have with people over the years.”
Adds DeDee: “Power is in the information.”