Thursday, January 30, 2014

If It Ain't Broke....

Have you bought your tickets yet to the Minnesota Orchestra's Homecoming Concerts the first two weeks of February?  If you haven't yet, get going!  And be warned: it'll take a LOT of time, be stressful, difficult, frustrating.  Those of you who have already bought your tickets know what I'm talking about.

Let's backtrack: When the Minnesota Orchestral Association (MOA) announced these special concerts after the contract settlement, I was excited.  But when I went to the website, I thought I'd been re-routed by some nefarious hacker.  It wasn't the MOA's website.  Or was it?  The logo has changed dramatically.  There seem to be two versions: one spans the top of the website page (example here) and the other looks like this --

From MOA website

A friend has described the "circle" that appears in both versions as looking like the settings button many websites put in the upper right corner of their website pages.  It made me laugh, but then I looked at it again and she's right.  My BIG question: What was wrong with the other logo?  And what does the new logo have to do with music or Orchestra Hall?  (Hint: Nothing)
The old logo that plays on the Orchestra Hall cubes

Once I'd established that I was indeed at the MOA website, I proceeded to try to buy my tickets.  Everything worked fine until I clicked checkout, and then a message popped up that I wasn't allowed to leave a single seat open in the row.  I tried several times to get beyond the message but the website refused to cooperate.  So, I clicked on the ticket services link, and then I called the box office phone number which hasn't changed since I worked for the MOA in the 1980's.  I was the 21st caller in the queue and it moved along quite well.  Finally, Carmela came on the line.  I explained that I'd been trying to buy tickets at the website and Carmela said, "And it's not working, right?"  I laughed.  Here was someone I could work with.  I told her the location of the seats I wanted and she processed my order.  I am now waiting for their delivery in the mail.

My experience wasn't too bad, but I've been hearing some real horror stories since then.  The big issue is the website.  Along with the new logo, the website is also new.  On first viewing, I found it pleasant to look at, cleanly laid out, easy to read.  But where is everything that was there before?  This is a website focused on money, not music.  And yet, the MOA could not have made it harder to buy tickets!

What do you mean?  Well, the website ticket sales area is not working well at all if not failing completely when used.  Calling the box office results in long hold times, as reported to me by others.  And then there's the matter of buying tickets in person.  If you want to do that -- and I used to love to mosey on down to Orchestra Hall to the box office right off the lobby and buy my tickets in person -- you need to trek to the MOA's Administrative Offices at the International Center, 5th Floor, 920 Second Avenue South.  What about the box office at Orchestra Hall?  Well, it's not open until two hours prior to each concert start time.  What?  Where is it in this fancy new lobby?  They should be plastering photos of it all over the place!  But then, if you want to buy a ticket on a Saturday, forget about it.  The box office is closed, both by phone and in person.  They're closed on Sunday, too.  On weekends, in fact, the box office is open only two hours prior to a concert start time, whether phone or in person.

Gone are the days when a person could just bop over to Orchestra Hall and buy tickets.  Why has the MOA made it so difficult to buy tickets?

Rumor has it that the new website and logo are part of a "re-branding" campaign.  Really?  The MOA chooses this particular time to launch a re-branding campaign and a new website when it's absolutely crucial that people can find them and buy tickets?  Why a "re-branding"?  There was nothing wrong with the Minnesota Orchestra brand.  They just won a grammy, after all.  There is absolutely no rational reason on earth for a re-branding campaign. 

Ah, it's really about the Orchestra Hall renovation, you say?  Ah, that's the reason for the "settings button" logo and the new website.  The "re-branding" is about creating a brand called Orchestral Hall?  What does that mean?  I suspect there was probably much more to the scheme than we're seeing that would flesh out the details and explain what's going on because it really doesn't make any sense as is.  I don't want to sound disrespectful to current MOA executive management, but focusing on a "re-branding" rather than on keeping things simple for ticket buyers is just stupid, in my opinion, and it's Business 101 to make it easy for your customers to find you and buy your product.  It makes me think that MOA executive management is still focused way too much on Orchestra Hall and the renovation that was.

So, if it ain't broke....  My suggestions for the MOA and their new website?  On all concert pages, fix the problems! and include an e-mail button under "share" so people can e-mail the concert details to friends to see faster than on Facebook or Twitter; and a prominent link to the contact us page so ticket buyers can easily find the phone numbers they need to get help.  Also, consider moving the box office from the Administrative Offices back to Orchestra Hall.  Other missing pieces at the website: no photos of the orchestra or logo available in the press section; no Showcase online, not even past, archived issues; and no blog.  Why not add a forum for patrons where they can leave their messages to the MOA and the musicians about concerts, the website, and suggestions for future concerts?  Keep it simple, keep it easy....


Anonymous said...

I agree, the new logo is an "O" for Orchestra Hall. Notice that the word "Minnesota" is smaller (on one version of the new logo) than the word "Orchestra" -- eventually, I imagine it will say just "Orchestra Hall" -- they want to run a building, not an orchestra. Nothing has changed.

The new mission statement says something about "representing" the orchestra. I thought they managed it?! The musicians should have hightailed it away from the association when they had the chance -- they had the audience with them, practically eating out of their hands. We would have followed them anywhere, except maybe back into Henson Hall.

The website is a disgrace. Seems bland and probably designed by some youngster for iPad/iPhone users, I guess. Definitely downscale and without any character whatsoever. Have you looked at the Side Tiers ticketing sections? Impossible to tell what tier or section you're buying by looking at that chart, unless you're quite familiar with the hall. Just a bunch of little seat icons on a page. Newcomers would be totally lost.

George (Jake) Jaquith said...

In addition to the disturbing problems you mentioned about the box office and ordering by phone or on line, the web site has been censored of anything that might be controversial. The old site includes the MOA annual report for 2013 which mentions spending $885,000 on attorney fees in the negotiations, only 14,000 in income last year, etc. The patron comment line number is gone and there are no email addresses of the administration. All the clean, open space is part of white wash job.

I still want to know if Henson took the same percentage cut at the muicians. No Board member of Mr. Henson has responded to my emails.

We have a long way to go before obtaining transparency and open communications.

Any word on OSMO returning, and why hasn't the MOA acted immediately to extend the invitation?

Gina said...

@Anonymous -- thank you! I did not think of it as an "O" at all, especially after my friend's comment. Now it makes some sense. Yes, I think you're right that it would have eventually become just Orchestra Hall.

Here is the current Mission Statement:

Mission Statement

Our mission is to enrich, inspire and serve our community as a symphony orchestra internationally recognized for its artistic excellence.

Our mission will be implemented by:

-- Enhancing the traditional core of concerts with innovative approaches to programming and format;
-- Providing the finest educational and outreach programs;
-- Representing and promoting the Minnesota Orchestra and the State of Minnesota to audiences across the state, across the country and around the world through tours and electronic media;
-- Maintaining an acoustically superior hall with a welcoming environment;
-- Delivering this within a financially sustainable structure.

My only objection to this statement is the final item in the list. That belongs in the Board's job descriptions and the President's but not as part of the mission statement.

Anonymous, I hope you've bought concert tickets, yes?

Gina said...

@George -- I believe a lot of people would like to know if Mr. Henson took a pay cut. Don't hold your breath!

As for Osmo, the Board needs to get organized again -- they've lost 2 officers and members -- and serve the community with concerts first. They now have a new Chairman, Gordon Sprenger, so I wouldn't be surprised if he were to at least open the communication channel with Osmo. Patience!

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Gina said...

Dear Ms. Sparrow: Yes! I've been following Daughter Number Three for a couple years now.... Thanks for posting!