Sell Out Like This Billion-Dollar Arts Venue — Without Spending a Dime

Photo Credit: Maxim Schulz

Location, location, location — of course, that’s just one piece of the puzzle to run a successful arts venue. This past January, the concert hall Elbphilharmonie opened in Hamburg, Germany. It has made headlines because of its grandeur, cost — about $850 million — and the fact that almost every concert is sold out.

The Washington Post reports, “Subscriptions for classical concerts have doubled since the hall opened, tour operators are pressuring the organization to make more tickets available, and more than 1.5 million people have visited the public plaza since it opened last November.”

So, why do we bring up this arts venue? Well, not every venue has to be as expensive as this one, but there are certain characteristics that can help contribute to any arts venue’s success — and they are:

The Acoustics: “The acoustics, designed by the renowned Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, are a marvel of clarity, precision and cool objectivity.” Your acoustics don’t have to be a marvel, but how does your performance sound to your audiences?

Photo Credit: Iwan Baan

The Lobby: “Tourists flock to ascend the Elphie’s long escalator, rising through the old warehouse in a tunnel of white glass and plaster to visit the rooftop terrace, which bustles with activity before and long after evening concerts.” Cool features in your lobby can entice people to arrive before the show and stay after.

The Location: Elbphilharmonie is “located in the geographical heart of the city, on a site that demanded some exceptional public use.” Is your venue easily accessible? Is it in a popular or up-and-coming neighborhood?

The Architecture: You might not have a grand plan for your building’s design, but a few interesting touches can make all the difference. For Elbphilharmonie, it’s “the way it floats like a giant ship above the old brick factory, the drama of how one enters and moves through its spaces, and the way it situates people in relation to each other in the soaring auditorium, that makes this building truly extraordinary.”

The Seating: Elbphilharmonie’s is “in the round, or ‘vineyard’ style, with the audience arrayed close to the stage in a set of shallow, interconnecting balconies. … It’s not a democratic seating plan with all seats being equal, but it is one that fosters an exciting sense of community during performances, with the audience aware not just of the music, but of its own presence in the space.” Many venues try to vary their seating plans depending on the performance.

The last reason why the Elbphilharmonie may be achieving such success is because “it reaffirms values essential to Germany.”

The Washington Post concludes: “The design of this building takes the idea of listening to serious music seriously, it posits the experience as an event to be relished, and it celebrates a species of aural attention that is in danger of extinction: collective, attentive, in communion with the musicians and the audience alike. This building, high above the city and its industrial waterfront, suggests that music can still stop time for a few hours and extinguish the triviality of the world, seen for a while only as a blur of lights, twinkling in the distance and reflected on the turbid water far below.”

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