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Three Tessitura Conference Takeaways

It was a joy to attend Tessitura Learning Community Conference 2022 (TLCC22)* a few weeks ago and see the arts and culture community gather after two heartbreaking years in the industry. One thing that didn't change was the vast amount of learning opportunities and new relationships made available in just a few days. We made note of three takeaways for arts and culture organizations.

#1 Version 16 is a substantial upgrade. If your organization doesn't use Tessitura, skip to #2.

Many features will change, and functionality will significantly improve in v 16. Here are just a few things to watch for (and look forward to) from a marketing, ticketing, and customer service point of view:

  • Tessitura is moving toward a web-based user interface, including a redesigned Constituent area. Many areas of Tessitura will look like List Manager, with more to come.

  • Much of the language that we use to talk about Tessitura is changing. For example, extractions are now referred to as segmentations, and system tables are changing to reference tables.

Change is challenging in many organizations, and we recommend you encourage colleagues to take some time out of busy schedules and heavy workloads to review documentation and become familiar with the changes and discuss how the team will manage the upgrade. You'll save time in the long run.

When things change, it's also an ideal time to reevaluate your current business practices and rules best fit your organization.

Version 16 comes with many exciting new features, and it's also a good time to prioritize what you want to activate for your organization first. Here are some things to look forward to:

  • Improvements to Analytics - this is the area we're most excited about:

    • Artificial intelligence will be infused in Analytics. You'll start to see exploration paths, which are suggested charts and insights based on what data you're analyzing.

    • V 16 will introduce predictive forecasting and modeling for ticket sales.

    • Tessitura is also releasing a new interactions cube that will track patron activities that aren't tied to money. Examples include opened emails, CSIs, attending a cultivation event, and more. You'll be able to see a series of interactions that people made with your organization (in aggregate) and follow whether it led to a ticket purchase, becoming a subscriber for the first time, or making a donation.

  • Merchant services and payments

    • V 16 will introduce digital wallet integration, meaning that people can add their digital tickets to their wallet.

    • You'll be able to add aliases to billing schedules and fees.

  • A few more updates include

    • The ability to fix reports when you export to PDF within the Tessitura application.

    • Schedule live to test copies without opening a ticket.

    • TN (TNEW) Express Web emails are fully built on Tessitura HTML templates.

# 2 To fully recover from the pandemic, you must develop new audiences and engage with your community.

This is hard, long-term work. The arts are still recovering from the pandemic, and an estimated 20% of pre-pandemic audiences will not return. Creating programming your community wants to see and thinking about how you're describing programming and pricing will take a lot of work. Additionally, you will need to reach out in new ways that do not involve transactions - ticket sales and donations.

Data is key.

The data is there. If you want to thrive post-pandemic, it's essential to invest in using building a data program and using it properly within your organization.

  • Find out why people are attending your events.

  • Learn where they are coming from.

  • Find out when people are buying.

Collecting, analyzing, and using this information is overwhelming, and investing in tools and training is important to make this easier.

Additionally, new data privacy policies and the cookieless internet are upon us. It's time to start preparing for this change by regularly finding ways to collect people's contact information, so it's yours, and you can contact people about your upcoming shows directly. We don't see arts organizations doing this enough. You can start by running a lead generation campaign and exchanging a discount for people's contact information, setting up an opt-in email pop-up box, and more.

Continue the hard work of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

There is still a lot of work to do, ensuring artists, audiences, and employees reflect everyone in your community.

The Washington Ballet has done a lot of work, here are just a few highlights:

  • Many people feel intimidated by the arts and think it's not for them. Use approachable language and imagery and manage out this unwanted and untrue perception. You can tell The Washington Ballet has done a lot of work in two seconds when you take a look at their website. The company shows off their diverse dancers on the street in more casual rehearsal attire instead of in formal costume.

  • Don't make assumptions. Try inviting people you think may not be interested to a low-barrier show. Ask them to attend a show in ways that meet them where they are. This can be as simple as advertising The Nutcracker on a Spanish-speaking radio station.

  • Changing the "give or gets" for joining the board. The Washington Ballet created non-voting positions so different people get a voice at the table. An Ambassador committee was also designed as an on-ramp for potential board candidates who may have a robust network but are not ready for the "give or get" requirements for serving on a board.

  • Adding a "behavioral approach" to targeting audiences instead of exclusively targeting people based on their demographics. This means targeting people who like dance or ballet instead of wealthy, white, highly educated people.

* For those of you who don't know, Tessitura is a customer relationship management (CRM) system that integrates ticketing and fundraising for nonprofit arts and culture organizations.

#3 Hiring is challenging and people are overworked.

Many folks mentioned having difficulty finding good people to fill roles. This problem is not unique to the arts. We believe a few factors suggest not enough people to fill all the available opportunities, making this a long-term issue.

Due to the massive layoffs at the beginning of the pandemic, many experienced people who wore many hats (i.e., unicorns) left the industry. People considering working for an arts organization may hesitate due to the low pay, heavy workloads, and perception of no job security.

The Boomer generation is massive, and many people retired during the pandemic. The challenges of finding quality childcare forced many mothers to leave the workforce.

Because this may be a long-term issue, it may be time to make some significant changes.

  • Work with a consultant on a pay equity audit. As much as we love the arts community, we think the industry is in for reckoning in terms of how lower to upper-middle-level talent is treated in terms of workload and pay equity. Even before the pandemic, the industry was notorious for keeping a lean and underpaid staff to save money, with a significant gap in pay between executive management and the rest of the talent. This "money saving" model leads to an overworked, burnt-out, and resentful staff. You can no longer expect people, particularly unicorns, to accept 50-60 work-weeks (including nights and weekends) as the norm while wearing 17 different hats for $40-50K per year. This one rarely comes up in all the DEI discussions that happen, it shouldn't be an issue.

  • Invest in training your current staff. Management often expects staff to teach themselves how to use technology or adapt to new processes, meaning they spend much more time learning. Spending some money on a few hours or days of training can get someone up to speed much quicker, alleviate frustration, and save office morale.

  • Invest in streamlining and automating processes. What tools can you give your staff that helps automate parts of their jobs so they can focus on the areas that matter or take on more?

* Tessitura is a customer relationship management (CRM) system that integrates ticketing and fundraising for nonprofit arts and culture organizations.

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