Special Events, Fliers, Group Sales, Artistic Partners

4/29/2010 Thursday 8:53 am

In the run up to our giant international festival a lot of people have been asking about our marketing approach, and I’ve been itching to write some of it down.  Much of it doesn’t “feel” like marketing.  I think when most people think about marketing they think about branding, advertisements in papers and online, newsletters, and PSAs on TV and radio.

We’re doing all of that, of course, but there is much, much more involved.  My most recent post, for example, referenced our special event at Lynn and Wayne Morgan’s house.  That is one of many special events we’ve done designed to reach out to new people – and its working.  Then there’s the reference in that post also to media sponsorships – we’ve got a bunch ranging from 2 radio stations and 2 TV stations, to a radio show, a media company, a newspaper and several magazines!

We’ve got volunteers passing out fliers in local shops, but also customized fliers going to special events: For example, this weekend the texas Early Music Project has a presentation and they are a partner with us.  So we created a custom flier promoting Ronn McFarlane’s (lute player) appearance at GFA.  Then a few weekends ago we were invited to be present at the Biscuit Brothers Family Music Fest so we created a color-custom flier advertising the children’s show at the fest.  Next weekend the Miro Quartet plays in Austin, so, at that event the presenter has offered to let us stuff programs with a flier highlighting the Miro’s performance at the fest.

Group sales may play a big role.  We’ve arranged discount coupon codes with the Long Center, and we’ve approached large employers and communities with discount offers.  Only this week I learned that the Long Center has an employee who does just that, and we’ve enlisted her, Susan Griffin, to help us on that side as well.

One of our most powerful tools has been artistic partnerships.  We’ve got 12 of them, and they’re major-deal partners like the opera, symphony, and more.  They have each agreed to a simple quid pro quo arrangement: they tell their constituents about our upcoming deal, and we’ll tell our audience members about their upcoming seasons at the deal itself!  This has been hugely effective in reaching audience-going members of the public.

This on top of a new site, special localized branding, and social media all designed to make a very complicated event as attractive as possible.

On the international side we’ve crafted a very different message and added very different programming elements.  One designed to serve youth and teachers in schools that resulted in nearly 200 additional registrations, and another that attracted 40 decision makers from presenting organizations who will now arrive and create one of the most fertile networking environments ever for our instrument – a fact we are leveraging in our personal outreach to potential registrants.

This is all combined with tons of direct, personal outreach to journalists and other community influencers in an effort to get people talking!  People are certainly talking!  Whether or not its enough remains to be seen, but you can bet we’ll continue to fire on all cylinders until this thing is done!

These are all vehicles for dissemination of info.  I should write a separate post about the info itself… the messaging… that has been interesting also!

Waialua Soda and more!

4/29/2010 Thursday 7:50 am

Monday I had a great coffee with Ben Finklea – founder and CEO of the wildly successful internet marketing firm Volacci.  Ben and I met when the guitar society did a special event at the gorgeous west Austin home of Lynn and Wayne Morgan, who own the Austin School of Real Estate. Ben and I talked about many things, but focused on education at the guitar society and the future of GuitarCurriculum.com.  As an entrepreneur, and a marketing guy, and an internet guy, Ben had a mazing insights and it looks like he just might shine his bright lights on our education program going forward!

Tuesday held a meeting with my new favorite person in the world: Helena Escalante.  Helena is another dynamic individual I had actually met that evening at Lynn and Wayne’s.  She and I met again when she attended our Lorenzo Micheli concert and, through our talks, she offered to help us with out outreach to Austin Hispanic Community.  This has been a specific goal of ACGS for some time and she’s a perfect fit, plus she’s imminently capable and effective and amazingly generous.  So we had a wonderful meeting Tuesday with the Executive Director of Univision Luis P., and their Community Relations Director Fely G. and, in one meeting, we went from introductions to having a new media sponsor of our giant upcoming festival.  Thank you Helena!

Wednesday morning we garnered our first beverage sponsor for the festival: Waialua Soda!  I am so excited about this!  We’re working on some others, but the idea here is that we will be providing free drinks on the Long Center City Terrace for the opening reception of the festival.  So this is a great occasion for me to say thanks to the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Rose Reyes and her team there are amazing!  They have been helping with all kinds of things as we’ve prepped this whole deal, and they’ve been incredible resources in finding prospective drinks donors among many other things.  Thank you Rose and Austin CVB!

$8,000 arrived from a Georgia Family Foundation on Monday – the same foundation that has been a supporter of our education program from the beginning.  We’re putting the finishing touches on our City grant due this week.  We had a marathon conference call yesterday with GFA to put the big wheels in motion about volunteers for the festival.  And I’m practicing wherever I can since my first of 5 concerts in 6 days begins Saturday night at the home of Tim and Karrie League (owners of the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin).

Seriff, Micheli, Dempster, Bustos, GFA

4/25/2010 Sunday 10:20 am

We had a marvelous time last night at Carolyn and Marc Seriff’s lakeside home in Horseshoe Bay (Marc is one of the founders of AOL).  Their home is magnificent, the view out the window is so close to the water that you feel almost as if you are in a boat.  Their negative edge swimming pool melds into the water behind it, and Marc’s indoor full-size racquetball court (off of the living room and bar) made me want to strip out of my fancy duds, put on sneakers and grab a racquet immediately!

Carolyn and Marc had about 80 guests, mostly friends, but also family, including their grand-daughter Maya, and we put on a great show.  Marc gave an intro, then I talked about ACGS in general focusing on education and introduced Vincent Turner.  Vincent, a student of mine and superb 16-year-old player from New Braunfels, wowed everyone with Ponce’s Preambulo followed by the 1st and 4th movements from Koyunbaba.  Then following another spiel from me about our giant summer festival in June, my friend and colleague Isaac Bustos (who is nearly finished with his DMA at UT and is now a prof at Texas A&M) played an amazingly beautiful concert of about 35 minutes.  This was followed by desserts and wine and a nice chat.  We got home shortly past midnight.

Across Texas, Lorenzo Micheli was wowing about 1,000 people with the Aranjuez concerto with the Victoria symphony (see my earlier post about how that came about!).  He arrived in Austin around 2am and was up and functioning as his usual spritely self this morning at 8am when Glenda and I arrived to take him to breakfast and the airport for what we hope will be his long-awaited return home.  We had a marvelous time – again returning to dine at Cafe Crepe where we had a chance run-in with Doug Dempster and his wife Cathy.  Doug is the Dean of Fine Arts for UT.  We had a great chat, made introductions all around, and then tucked into some delicious breakfast crepes, followed by a nutella and strawberry crepe for the table.  Mm, mm, good.

Now its time for an hour in the garden before the Guitar Foundation of America board meeting which I’ll attend by phone (I’m on the board – chairing development – in addition to this year’s convention host).  Then this afternoon has 4 hours of teaching scheduled followed by dinner with our dear friend Kain and his great girlfriend Brandee – she’s hosting!


4/24/2010 Saturday 8:25 am

Weeks are flying by.  Just 8 left before GFA.  The weeks themselves seem to be packed – this week, in addition to the usual, had the presentation at Leadership Austin Wednesday, Tx Young Masters the same day, Lorenzo has been around, and yesterday finalizing meetings with KLRU for their festival documentary (so cool) and KUT for their sponsorship (so cool!).  This week was also grant week and we finished the city grant and an Ameriprise financial grant.

Last night it was Kim’s performance.  Tonight we have a special event at the home of Carolyn and Marc Seriff – Marc was a co-founder of AOL.  Tomorow, after breakfast with Lorenzo, there is a GFA board meeting that should last three hours.  Next weekend, on Saturday night, begins the first of 5 concerts I’m doing in 6 days!  And May includes my marathon studio recital, the wedding of my director of education, some travel, and much more.

Upcoming public performance!  I’ll be playing a 10-minute set at the Alamo Drafthouse South for the Dionysium on Wednesday, May 5th at 7PM.  More on that soon.

Perlak and the Holland Project

4/24/2010 Saturday 8:18 am

Last night I attended the final presentation of Dr. Kim Perlak’s Justin Holland Project.  It was a great presentation for which she tapped the considerable talents of colleagues in various guitar disciplines to talk about the guitar in America in its many forms.  Bringing it all together was a discussion of the fascinating historical figure, Justin Holland, an African-American guitarist born free during the time of slavery who lived in Boston, became interested in classical guitar, attended Oberlin Conservatory of Music in the mid-late 19th century, came across the great Spanish methods of guitar study, went to Mexico to learn Spanish so he could translate them, came back to Ohio and settled in Cleveland where he had a long and distinguished career as a teacher and published author!

Yale (where Kim went for her Masters) funded the project.  Our role was to connect her and her colleagues with our school programs so they could go around and present the project to students in the area.  By all reports the students loved it, and, from talking with Kim and her buddies last night, they really loved it as well.  They said they’ve never seen such a wide spread and/or high quality series of school based guitar classes, and they said the kids were amazingly attentive and asked great questions.  So congratulations Kim!