Third in a series of conversations with Charlotte-area nonprofit execs about
the pandemic takeaways making their organizations stronger
WDAV Classical Public Radio builds community focused on classical music. WDAV is leading the industry in new-audience outreach and evolving the medium, with such initiatives as Concierto, a weekly program of classical music presented in Spanish and in English that features music by Latin American and Spanish musicians; the Small Batch Concert Series, small-group classical performances launched at Free Range Brewing; and Noteworthy, a 2021 concert series that pairs gifted Black and brown artists from Charlotte’s music scene with classically trained musicians.
Thanks to the pandemic, WDAV’s events-driven marketing efforts took a sharp turn into the digital space. Director of Marketing/Corporate Support Will Keible and Marketing/Digital Communications Specialist Mary Lathem have tested a lot of new ideas since the pandemic took hold. They share some of what they’ve learned.
Reach Out to New Audiences
Noteworthy grew out of Will’s participation in ASC’s 2020 Race & Equity in the Arts workshop. It certainly wasn’t the first new-audience outreach the station had undertaken, but Will still felt anxious about getting it wrong. His solution: Partner with someone you trust.
Will’s original concept was to create a grant program for BIPOC artists to produce concerts in their communities. WDAV would create marketing materials, use the station to amplify the concerts, conduct musician interviews, and co-stream the concerts. He took that idea to David “Dae-Lee” Arrington, Charlotte-based GRAMMY Nominated producer, recording artist, creative entrepreneur, and founder of FAIR PLAY Music Equity Initiative. FAIR PLAY advocates for a fair music ecosystem in Charlotte by establishing new equitable music platforms. Will recounts the first conversation with Dae, who basically said “OK – but what do you think about doing this instead?” After numerous conversations, they landed on what Noteworthy is today.
Let Your Partner Lead
There are so many ways Will cites Dae’s influence over the final concept and reinforces, “This is not WDAV driving the bus. It’s a partnership with FAIR PLAY’s artists, and we’ve had to learn to relinquish control.” For example, “I kept pushing for doing these concerts in the communities we wanted to serve, and Dae said ‘no no – you don’t have to do it that way.’ He encouraged us to bring these artists into spaces where they hadn’t been heard before.” Season One of Noteworthy has taken place at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s Stage Door Theatre.
Will’s eager to make it clear: the partnership doesn’t end with the music. Noteworthy directs funding to the featured artists, as well as a supporting network of Black creatives. “We’ve hired Hue House, a Black-owned marketing/PR firm. They in turn have contracted with Black videographers, directors, photographers, and graphic designers to bring Noteworthy to life. I credit Dae-Lee for challenging us to think bigger. NoteWorthy is bigger and more impactful because of him.”
While virtual concerts are not a proxy for in-person events, they have their own benefit: they are viewable anywhere, anytime. Each of the three Noteworthy events has garnered 4,500-5,500 views so far – and not just via WDAV’s channels. Mary notes, “For Noteworthy, we sought co-streaming partners. When we went live on our stream, it also went live on the Facebook pages of the Blumenthal, ASC, Music Everywhere Charlotte, and Neighborhood Theatre. And when it went live, Facebook automatically sent a going-live notification to every follower those pages had.” That’s new-audience outreach.
The new-audience metrics on Noteworthy are encouraging. For three virtual non-Noteworthy streamed concerts, 63.5% of its streaming audience was 55+ years old. With the Noteworthy concerts, 89% of the audience is in the 25-54 year-old bracket. Mary adds, “…and we’ve still retained most of the 55+ viewers from our previous streaming efforts.”
Bring The Fun
In Spring 2020, Mary started a weekly 5-question classical-music Tuesday Trivia quiz on Instagram Stories. “It was purely for fun – to give folks a break from the news.” In the beginning only 5-10 people participated every week. “But one week I didn’t do it, and I got messages asking ‘where’s Tuesday Trivia?’” she explains with a laugh. Then WDAV also made the quiz available via email subscription and brought on OrthoCarolina as a sponsor. Says Mary, “It took months and months to build an audience of 50 on Instagram, and it took no time at all to build to a couple hundred subscribers via email.” The quiz runs Tuesday-Thursday, and the winner is announced on Fridays via Instagram and WDAV’s weekly eNews. In addition to fame and glory, the winner receives a Tuesday Trivia Champion mug co-branded with WDAV and OrthoCarolina logos.
For those interested in sponsorship ideas, WDAV gives OrthoCarolina lots of visibility in the Tuesday Trivia quiz. The last slide of the Insta quiz encourages the reader to swipe up to see OrthoCarolina’s branded content. That branded OrthoCarolina content is also promoted in the weekly eNews announcement of each week’s Tuesday Trivia winner.
Try Themed Newsletters
Mary also highlights the early success they’ve had with themed newsletters. “Noteworthy has its own subscriber base, which started as a new platform for promoting Noteworthy concerts and community DEI efforts.” Open rates for the Noteworthy communications, which the station sends intermittently, are more than 50%. Tuesday Trivia also has its dedicated newsletter, and 70%+ of that subscriber list opens its weekly emails from the station. Mary wishes she could divide herself into five other people and dedicate all their time to experimenting with niche newsletters! (I may have talked about emailing your supporters before – like here and here.)
Are you inspired by WDAV’s entrepreneurial moves — but uncertain where to start to innovate for your nonprofit? Let’s talk about it!