Nougaty Goodness

by Dwight Newton

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An Embarrassment of Riches?

Marketing an arts organization can be a daunting task. We are usually working on the promise of future revenues from our work—ticket sales for performances or sales of art works—and the amount of working capital reserves is often pretty marginal. When we look at the cost of an ad in a magazine or newspaper, we do the math: How many tickets do I have to sell to pay for that? If we sell tickets for $20 a seat, how do we justify paying $300 or oven $1000 for a single ad? The answer is pretty clear in some cases. If you don’t advertise, you won’t sell as many tickets. And in some cases, it’s much more important to get audiences accustomed to coming to see your events than it is to break even on advertising expenses. But knowing what is the most effective means of getting the word out is always a challenge, whether you are an individual artist or a large performing arts organization.

We rely on so-called “earned media” for much of our public information. People are interested in the arts, so when artists and arts organizations are doing something interesting, it is, we hope, considered newsworthy. So the media sometimes covers the event as news. This benefits everyone. The media gets content that people want to see, thus increasing their audiences and allowing them to charge more for advertising. The arts organizations get much needed exposure at virtually no cost. But the media can be fickle. If we are doing something wonderful but routine, it may not be considered newsworthy. We can usually get listings in events calendars, but if we have a big expensive show like the opera, there’s really no choice. We have to advertise to fill seats, but then we have to charge more for tickets.

Yes, I do marketing for the UK School of Music. I am also an alum. So I am expected to be an apologist for the school. It’s my job. But I have to tell you, I am continually awed by the accomplishments of these people. This is not just my job. It’s my supreme pleasure to let people know about what’s going on here. If I weren’t working here, I’d still be telling everyone I know what an amazing, creative powerhouse this place has become. I hope my enthusiasm is not tainted by the fact that I work here. In this column I often concentrate on a UK music event or ensemble, but as often I just talk about things that I have been thinking about lately. I appreciate the editors of Nougat for allowing me to be flexible and I try in these columns to provide more depth than just a promotional press release kind of read.

Having said that, I really want you to know some important facts about the UK School of Music. This is not hyperbole. We here are in a virtual state of euphoria regarding the accomplishments and national recognition our faculty and students have recently achieved. And we have not gone unnoticed. UK Symphony director John Nardolillo was the featured speaker after the first quarter of the UK-LSU football game (which I am sure is the part of that triple-overtime game the fans will remember). And in reaction to the recent gift of $1 million to the UK Opera Theatre program announced at a UK Board of Trustees meeting, UK President Lee T. Todd is reported to have said, “If you look at our school of music, it's on fire."

Here are some of the recent highlights:

I hope you will come to some of the 200 or so public events the School of Music presents each year. There is almost certainly something going on that will awe you as much as it does me.

-Dwight Newton is a musicologist and is the Marketing Coordinator for the UK School of Music. His web sites are at and