Orchestra Survey: Budgets, Responsibilities and Time

This is the first post in a series to provide a more in-depth look at the orchestras and social media survey findings. I made the full report available yesterday, to give people the opportunity to take a complete look at the findings in hopes of a better discussion.

Others have chimed in already:
Drew McManus: Adaptistration
Christian Henner-Fehr: Das Kulturmanagement Blog
Guest post on Beth’s Blog

First, I would like to take the opportunity again to express the informative nature of the report, rather than an authoritative nature. The sample is small and must consequently allow for a large margin of error.

In the report, I occasionally switch from raw numbers to percentages and back. The percentages tell a bigger, clearer story, but the raw numbers are perhaps more credible. I ask you to keep in mind that the percentages are based on a number of 15 respondents, and one respondent represents 7% of the total. How did this look for you?

Furthermore, how much do the institutions that responded look like the ones that did not? It is perhaps reasonable to expect a certain bias toward orchestras that are already engaged in social media. The orchestras that received the survey were roughly the 53 largest budget orchestras in the country. As mentioned in the report, seven of those were Group 1 orchestras, four were Group 2 and four were Group 3. Other than the aforementioned bias, I have no reason to believe some other bias to be in place. I’d be interested to hear any other possible issues in the sample.

In the rest of this post, I’ll be looking at budgets, responsibilities and time commitment.


Half of the orchestras (53% / 8 out 15) do not have a budget for social media; a little more than a quarter (27% / 4 out 15) spends more than $1,000 annually on social media.

Budgets exclude employee salary and wages, but other than that, there are no particular guidelines to what exactly is or should be included in these budgets. Differences between each orchestra’s take on what goes in to a social media budget should be expected and is not accounted for in this survey.

The next step would be to look at those budgets. What does it mean if one orchestra spends more than $10,000 per year and another spends $500? What are the differences in their efforts, and most importantly, what are the differences in their goals and results?

Additionally, do those orchestras that have placed an ad on a social network account for that spending in a social media budget? Or does the money come from a regular marketing budget. How do those orchestras that do not have a budget account for costs associated with their social media activities? Again, is this covered in a different or general marketing budget?

Keep in mind that if you’re going to effectively measure your performance, you need to know what your efforts cost.


A majority of orchestras (67% / 10 out 15) divide social media responsibilities among multiple staff members. More than a quarter (27% / 4 out 15) of the orchestras list social media responsibilities as part of an existing staff member’s duties.

Marketing departments are involved in managing social media at an overwhelming majority (87% / 13 out 15) of the orchestras, but at slightly less than half (47% / 7 out 15) of the orchestras it was the marketing department that was solely in charge.

It’s important to formalize the role of social media in the organization. Outside of the implausible hiring of new staff or freelancers, you can update staff positions and job descriptions to incorporate social media. Make it official. Bring these people together, under the auspices of a senior manager who has the strategic oversight and organizational knowledge.

In an earlier article “Social media in a decentralized organizational structure” I offer additional thoughts on how to handle social media responsibilities.

In addition, I received the following comment via e-mail:

For social media to be truly powerful, and for it to change how orgs interact with their “stakeholders,” I think the power in social media has to be better distributed. Conductors, musicians, board members, administrators, etc. – all should be involved. With 87% of the orgs having marketing in charge, that puts marketing in power over of the message. Which is why there is too much “marketing speak” going on with orchestras on Twitter right now.

This touches on a couple of very good points. The first being quality vs. quantity, as I explained in my recommendations: “This survey did intentionally not look at the quality of social media activities by orchestras, yet quality is an important factor in the effectiveness of your social media efforts.”

But also a pressing point I had neglected in the full report: the role of the artistic staff in social media. The London Symphony Orchestra demonstrates the qualitative achievements when musicians get involved in the social media efforts (article by Rebecca Krause-Hardie).

Time commitment

All orchestras spend at least some time on social media per work week. A large majority of the orchestras (80%) spends between 1 and 5 hours per work week on social media.

Clearly, here we see that social media is certainly not a large part of the job, whether scattered among multiple employees or focused on a dedicated staffer.

I received an interesting question via e-mail regarding that specific point and my related recommendation:

You show that only one institution spends as much as 20% of a full-time person on social media, with most spending less than 5% of someone’s time—but then you recommend formalizing social media participation. How do those two go together?

I have to be clear here that formalizing social media participation does not necessarily mean increasing your current efforts. Your time commitment depends on your goal; of course, if you have a lofty goal, you should commit the appropriate time. If you commit 5% of someone’s time, you can only expect a proportionate result.

The same can be said for budgets.

Or do you have some advice for how to formalize an engagement that continues to occupy only a small fraction of anyone’s time?

This, of course, all comes down to efficiency. Formalizing, in my opinion, is all about setting policies, practices and metrics. Those will take a bit of time to develop, but they will increase the efficiency of your social media efforts and operations. For example, a good monitoring system might take a while to set up, but then provides a dashboard of what’s being said about your organization, from where you can direct your engagement with relatively little effort.

Your turn

These are some of the points that came to mind when creating the report. As I explained in the preface, this survey might have raised more questions than answers. And that’s good. But now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts on the findings, on the questions and on the recommendations?

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