The Charlotte MSO today is led by a senior marketing executive with a full-time staff of 10 plus one part-time employee and a commissioned sales representative. The mission of the MSO is to improve the overall quality of marketing, increase revenues and build audiences for each of the four participating organizations — Opera Carolina, Charlotte Repertory Theatre, North Carolina Dance Theatre (NCDT) and the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
A specific objective of the Knight-supported project has been making market research and audience analysis an ongoing part of marketing campaigns. Another is improving marketing effectiveness through integrated mailing lists, improved graphic design and increased use of in-kind marketing support. A third is increasing the array of marketing services available to each organization. Whenever possible, the MSO attempts to leverage outside resources and reduce expenses from advertising media and other vendors by taking advantage of economies of scale.
The AMS research showed that the MSO has had a positive impact on earned revenue for the participating arts groups. Ticket revenues grew for three of the four groups, and the fourth company is now gaining subscribers after a period of decline. Other measures, such as audience awareness and percentage of seats sold, show more mixed results.
Implementing the MSO has not been an easy task for the participating groups. Making the transition from individual marketing programs to a cooperative approach has required effort, flexibility and a high level of trust in relationships that continue to evolve. In both concept and implementation, the MSO has required reinforcement along the way. But the very existence of the MSO, now well beyond the experimental phase, demonstrates the groups’ continued commitment.
The MSO has improved the quality of marketing for its member arts organizations and has fostered collaboration among the groups. The marketing team has created new sources of revenue, such as the outside clients and a successful Playbill publishing operation. The member groups continue to work together in ways they never had done before and almost certainly would not be doing today without the MSO. For the members, the benefits of the MSO collaboration continue to outweigh any real or perceived difficulties of the partnership. [Executive Summary p. 4]