Arts and culture experts explore best ways to serve audiences, visitors and donors at 10th Annual Tessitura Conference


More than 900 representatives from 215 arts and cultural organizations, which are members of Tessitura Network Inc. ( and license holders of Tessitura software, met during August 2010 in Washington, D.C. They presented and shared their experiences using Tessitura's innovative software that provides a single enterprise database for all constituents who support and attend events and performances at theaters, arts centers, museums, festivals and other nonprofit organizations.

Tessitura members are executives and administrators, fundraisers, marketers, web and social media specialists, and box office managers for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations with annual operating budgets ranging from less than US$1 million up to US$300 million. According to its licensees, Tessitura software supported tens of millions of ticketing and admissions transactions and processed hundreds of millions in donations during 2009.

Tessitura unites many functions

Tessitura software records, tracks and manages ticketing, subscriptions and memberships, fundraising, marketing, web-based activities and customer relationships for arts and cultural organizations. 'Not only does our software integrate data, it also provides a platform for collaboration among departments at arts and cultural organizations that previously operated in silos,' explains Jack Rubin, president of Tessitura Network since its inception in 2002.

'The goal of our annual meeting is to share insights, knowledge and best practices among nonprofits arts and cultural organizations,' says Rubin.

Licensees report dramatic results

'The Future Starts Here: The Next Big Things on the Web,' 'Finding the Right Balance: Financial Reconciliation' and 'You've Got Mail: Email Redefined' were among the many educational and knowledge-sharing sessions, presented in 14 concurrent tracks every day, focused on areas such as improving productivity, Web analytics and integrating e-commerce into the business practices of arts and cultural groups. Other sessions, including 'ROI or LOL? Measuring Social Media Effectiveness,' explored how social media can assist with capturing new audiences and visitors as well as building their engagement and loyalty. And, conference attendees also cited numerous ways using Tessitura software has had a positive impact on their bottom line.

Lisa Middleton, director of marketing and audience development for Stratford Festival of Canada, which produces 700 performances in four venues annually, is currently comfortably handling a 30 percent increase in call volume without increasing staff. This is attributed to Tessitura software being integrated with a telephone system that tracks and routes inbound and outbound calls for tickets and contributions. The call center handles almost 60 percent of all ticket sales.

London-based Marc Sheppard, head of ticketing services for Royal Albert Hall, shared how ticketing arrangements for BBC Proms this year were revolutionized by developing and implementing new online functionality using Tessitura software that handled as many as 260 transactions per minute. In 2010, on the first day of sale 80,000 tickets were sold compared with 8,000 sold on the first day of sale in 2009. Of the 80,000 tickets sold, 65,000 were sold online and the rest by phone or in person. According to Sheppard, the new arrangement replaced a paper-based request system where customers mailed their ticket request only to learn some weeks later whether or not they had been successful.

Sharon Grayton, director of data standards for Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, reported that processing installment payments for season subscribers now takes about an hour instead of days. 'It was great to run a Tessitura report on the morning of the first of July and see that we had received second payments of US$450,000 before 9 a.m.,' said Grayton.

And Yvonne Bazinet, accounting supervisor of The Granada in Santa Barbara, is realizing a 50 percent reduction in reserve for bad debt thanks to Tessitura's tracking features.

'Tessitura's purpose is to unify customer, donor and community outreach relationship management within an organization on a real-time basis. This way, everyone is on the 'same page' and the organization benefits from an enterprise-wide view of all its relationships, touch points and transactions. Our licensees have reported positive results that have been transformational in nature,' says Rubin.

Significant enhancements planned

'As one of the original licensees, I am proud of Tessitura because it is a stable, trusted platform with a solid organization behind it,' said Alan Levine, chairman of the board of Tessitura and chief information officer for Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 'This conference gives us the ability to entertain a broad array of new ideas because we have a solid platform on which to build for the future of our licensees.'

In addition to numerous instructive sessions on how to leverage the power of Tessitura software for planning, tracking and reporting, Chuck Reif, Tessitura senior vice president, development and technical, conducted with his team a series of fact-finding discussions with network members about the future technology needs of Tessitura users. He also reviewed enhanced software features now available to Tessitura licensees that are a result of the Network mission focus to 'continually innovate.'

'Their ideas and suggestions are more helpful than any traditional focus group. Our members use our software every day and because they're on the frontline of customer service, they best understand the needs of their organization. As we evolve Tessitura's technology for the future, we want to be sure we're focused on the highest value areas,' says Reif.

'While we have fine-tuned many aspects of Tessitura's current functionality and are fortunate to have the leading product in the industry, we have reached a critical point in our software's development. It is time to explore the best ways to add even more new capabilities and open interfaces with other technology and systems, including social media interfaces,' adds Reif, who was project manager of the team at the Metropolitan Opera that developed the initial software now known as Tessitura Software.

The conference's 180 sessions were planned by 103 Tessitura users from 63 organizations located in six countries with the leadership of conference chairman Don Youngberg, Tessitura vice president, consulting and learning resources. 'Our conference participants are dedicated to creating modern solutions for established business practices that traditionally have been time-consuming and fragmented,' said Youngberg. 'Tessitura software is our enabling technology platform for arts and cultural organizations. And as a company, the Tessitura Network facilitates significant advances in the operations of these nonprofit groups. The conference supercharges the sharing of ideas and success stories cross genre, cross geography, cross function and cross organizations of all sizes.'

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