Unobstructed Rewind: Episode 33 with Aubrey Bergauer


By: Jason Austin

Using analytics and audience journey modeling, Aubrey Bergauer has become a household name in the performing arts industry. She’s best known for her results-driven, customer-centric, data-obsessed pursuit of changing the narrative for symphony orchestras.

Aubrey’s big ideas, eschewing of the status quo and encouraging people to embrace change has had a great impact on the organizations she’s led.

Aubrey recently joined AudienceView CMO Mike Evenson on episode 33 of the Unobstructed podcast to talk about her experiences and the unique challenges that performing arts organizations face coming out of closures forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While I emphatically encourage you to listen to the full episode, here are my 6 takeaways:

(1) Identify and remove barriers. A big part of the work that Aubrey has done in her career is focused on exploring (and improving) the concert-goers experience. By taking a critical step back and looking at the complete experience – from buying tickets to leaving the hall at the end of the performance and everything in between – she’s been able to identify turn-offs, barriers to buy and harmful stereotypes in the orchestral world. You can learn more about the results of her Orchestra X project here.

(2) Focus on diversity.  Whether you’re talking about your concert audience, senior leadership teams, board members or the artists on stage – representation is an essential part of running a successful business. Making a commitment to programming music from composers of all genres, orientations and corners of the globe has become a keystone of her strategy. The idea of breaking down the silos that exist in a really traditional marketplace, allowed the California Symphony to double its audience and nearly quadruple its donor base.

(3) Invest in tomorrow. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, arts organizations were investing at least 15% less than other arts and entertainment entities in digital media. This inequity was quickly visible as orchestras, operas and ballet companies scoured their archives for performances that could be shared, streamed or broadcast. Digital offerings must also be as unique as the in-person events were – whether that’s through digital adult learning, or smaller performances – finding content that doesn’t require 80-90 people on stage allows a quicker return on investment.

(4) Develop a streaming strategy. It’s safe to say that streaming from arts organizations won’t replace ticket sales revenue. It can, though, be a vital component in activating your audience, your donor base and any prospective audiences as part of a value-add strategy. Using every click on your website, or every transaction to collect leads will allow you to build an audience that is willing to return to the screen – and eventually the concert hall.

(5) Make a good first impression. Your home online is the most public facing ambassador for your brand! To quote Aubrey, “it’s the first place a consumer goes to learn about your brand.” It’s important to evaluate your website and remember that it can be a great acquisition tool, or it can drive people away. Similarly, take a moment to evaluate the purchase flow on your website – any areas of friction can lead to a decrease in converted sales. (Recommended reading: Micro-Moments Marketing)

(6) Depend on your biggest fans. As arts organizations prepare for their re-opening, there will be a heavier reliance on individual donors and government support than ever before. The work that progressive arts organizations have done to keep in touch and retain their existing supporters and audiences will pay huge dividends as they restart or reimagine their annual campaigns. The best way to make people more interested in a product is to give them a look at how it’s made.

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Aubrey Bergauer, CEO of Changing the Narrative, joined us for episode 33 of the Unobstructed podcast. Listen to the full episode: