Musical short breaks: Between pleasure and profit

There is a particular segment of the tourism business which is growing: musical holidays and short breaks, organized around a particular event, usually combined with other leisure activities.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

This sector is fragmented, especially in Germany and Central Europe. Small, family-run businesses are as present as large travel organizations, and increasingly media companies too, seeking to capitalize on their audiences’ affinity to classical music. For musical breaks do attract a specific clientele, often retired, well-educated and well-off. Its expectations are high, as are administrative efforts: packages should feel individual enough, non-mainstream events are increasingly sought after, and planning can be tricky as concert halls and opera houses have a different planning horizon from travel organizations.  – The Bayreuth Festival (pictured) is an example for successful international music tourism.

Opera houses and concert halls, on the other hand, see music holidays very much from a distribution and marketing perspective: organized tours can bring whole coach loads of visitors, travel organizations purchase substantial ticket quotas and a listing by select organizers adds to the status and attraction of a destination. For the customers, it is a number of factors that make for a successful musical break, though given the typically upmarket target group it all comes down to attention: to details (like backstage visits), to carefully planned day-time activities (including free leisure time), to friendly service, exclusive offers and high-standard accommodation: the customer is king and wants to feel it.

Musically qualified tour guides are employed by many of the travel organizers. Their expertise is often seen as an integral part of the specific attraction and value of musical holidays. “Celebrity” guides can be a particular selling point, though their input needs to be clearly evaluated – sometimes a one-off backstage meeting may be appropriate, at other times they may accompany the group throughout the trip.

An unique case is the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, which runs its own “tourism department”, organizing and selling its own holiday packages. While the administrative effort is high, the strategy does allow for tailor-made offers and direct contact with a demanding clientele that appreciates a personalized service.

SIEMENS cuts Bayreuth Festival Sponsorship

Rough times for the Bayreuth Richard Wagner Festival. Since a couple of days prosecutors are looking for irregularities in the ticket distribution system of the Festival. Has public money so far not been used in a propper way? Were there too many free tickets?

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Worse now: Over night SIEMENS after four years has stoped  the very successful sponsorship for the popular life screening summer feast downtown Bayreuth. This life transmission from the Festspielhaus had attracted some 10.000 music lovers, families with their children and young people every year. Neither talks, nor information from SIEMENS in advance. This is a punch for the Wagner ladies and the Festival management. And it’s a bad punch for the city of Bayreuth and all music lovers, too. The sponsorship was worth 1 Mio € a year. Anyone at the horizon to step in for 2012?

This is the real danger of financially big sponsorship relations: Imagine the Deutsche Bank would quit its sponsorship for the Berlin Philharmonic, which is 6 Mio € a year. Education department and the Digital Concert  Hall would have to stop operations very soon, if they won’t get a substitute funding. Sponsoship very often is highly acclaimed by politicians when they talk about cuts in the public budget and want sponsors to step in filling the gap. Honestly speaking: no sponsor wants to fill this gap. The SIEMENS case shows some more risks.

On the other hand: Was it a managment failure? Big sponsors want a direct contact to the CEOs. They do want a direct approach and personal involvement. Did the Wagner ladies recognize this enough?