In The New Normal—our interview series—we speak to the musicians and staff of Tafelmusik, to ask how working and performing in new ways has changed our routines, and our operations as a performing arts organization.
In our latest, we spoke to Sarah Baumann, our Marketing Director, to understand how she lead our organization through this pandemic; the rewards and challenges of working from home; and what she's most excited about next season.
As our Marketing Director, you lead all aspects of Tafelmusik’s marketing—including our content, branding, and messaging—and steer all of the ways this supports our organizational growth and goals. Broadly speaking, how have your individual duties shifted or changed during the pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic times?
Sarah Baumann: Many arts organizations experienced the need to quickly become digital content producers when COVID hit and Tafelmusik was no exception. It has been a journey to figure out how best to support that throughout the entire staff, and luckily we have a great and creative team. For me, it was an opportunity to introduce aspects of our branding and storytelling of baroque and beyond that are not necessarily as possible within our usual hall-based concert series. We introduced Tafel Magazine, with long-form written articles; Tafel Talks, panel discussions via Zoom; and Musik in Motion, a video series shot like music videos with artists of other genres interpreting Tafelmusik's music. All of these are ways to explore baroque and beyond and how our art form is relevant to diverse artists and thinkers locally and around the world.
What trends have you noticed, in terms of the ways the marketing industry has changed and adapted during the pandemic?
SB: In addition to the above, there is a growing focus on licensing. This is of course not new in the for-profit world, but we've been a bit more analogue in the orchestra world. What video and audio material existed of Tafelmusik previously that we could highlight again or showcase in new ways? Who holds the rights to that content and how can we partner? How should we approach distribution of our content moving forward, both for our new recordings, which are currently distributed by NAXOS but whose rights are held by us, and our brand new, full-length video concert content.
In terms of your role, what have been some of the biggest challenges—whether in regards to working from home, or adapting to new kinds of marketing tactics and content creation?
SB: Personally, I have a four year old son who did virtual school last year, so juggling taking care of him with my work was definitely challenging. I am incredibly appreciative of the approach of Tafelmusik, which is that as long you get your work done, you can still manage family and other responsibilities. A lot of parents were required to be present, either online or in person, for full days of work regardless of their home situation, and I think that forced many professionals to have to step back from their work, which is a loss for everyone involved.
It might be that I have selective memory, but I honestly think the team was exhilarated by adapting to new marketing tactics and content creation. It gave us license to try, very quickly, a lot of approaches that we'd been interested in for a long time.
Due to the pandemic, our marketing department has shifted away from primarily marketing live performance experiences, and towards creating in-house digital content. One great example is our Musik in Motion series you mentioned earlier: creative videos which employed local artists to explore the theme of “baroque and beyond”. Can you speak a little about this series in particular, and how it came to fruition?
SB: We had been running a live concert series called Haus Musik for a few years, which combined baroque music with other musical genres and set the concerts in an accessible space like a bar. We wanted to try that kind of approach within a creative video context, and I asked our wonderful design agency, Puncture, to think about a series of videos that might work.
I had also been speaking with The School of Toronto Dance Theatre about an in-person collaboration that I thought could work on video as well. Puncture came back with a proposal for four "music videos" highlighting how local artists of various art forms interpret baroque music through their own work. The last episode of the first series, featuring three students from The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and choreography by Hanna Kiel, is actually coming out in September, and I am so proud to finally be able to share it with everyone! Plus we're dreaming up new ideas for the series this year – honestly this series is one of my favourite parts of my job!
If you had to choose just one: what’s one Tafelmusik success you’re most proud of from the past 16 months?
SB: I have two: one is our Spring Social, Café Counterculture, a filmed version of a former Haus Musik concert that combines baroque and folk music. We offered it for $10 for four days in the Spring and doubled the number of single ticket patrons who had been typically attending our main season digital concerts (we think this was a combo of Marco Cera and Andrew Downing's fantastic program, and the lower price point, as well as our lovely partners the TD Toronto Jazz Festival).
The other is the re-release of The Music of Joseph Bologne, the brilliant recording spearheaded and directed by our late Music Director Emerita Jeanne Lamon. We recognized that the former title of the project, Le Mozart Noir, did not properly centre Bologne and his achievements, and took the feedback we received from our community on this to heart. For the re-release, I got to work with Bologne specialist and American conductor Marlon Daniel, as well as local painter Gordon Shadrach. It was an honour to work to better showcase Bologne's legacy, Jeanne's early work in championing him, and the work of other wonderful Black artists in this process. I hope that lots more people find our recording when the Disney movie about his life comes out!
On a personal level: what are some socially distant activities or pandemic-friendly activities you’ve been enjoying?
SB: Lots of walks, solo and with friends. The TV shows Ted Lasso and Schitt's Creek were important for bringing me joy and laughter. And I also attended a few Zoom magic shows, which I REALLY got a kick out of. Look out for one of the programs on our new season and you'll see how Tafelmusik decided to explore this COVID-19 trend of digital magic shows!
Here in Toronto, we are starting to reopen many businesses and activities. Whether Tafelmusik-related or otherwise, what are some activities you’re looking forward to as things open up?
SB: Travel, theatre, and hugging friends and family!
Earlier this year, we announced the Digital Season Pass. Can you share a little about this product, and what makes it exciting?
SB: After the success of last year's all digital season, we realized this is something our audiences have an appetite for and that we can do really well! We've evolved it so that those who buy the pass can watch their concerts anytime from September 2021 to August 2022, which means you can watch or listen over and over again if you like. It's also exciting because it opens up the Tafelmusik season to more music lovers than ever before – audiences around the world can try out Tafelmusik's full season for just $226 and see what they think.
If you can tease, what can Tafelmusik audiences expect from next season? What are you most excited about?
SB: Well I already teased the magic show, so I think I'd have to say people should look out for LOTS of Bach, a little Messiah, a celebration of our Choir's 40th anniversary, and some guest artists that are going to knock your socks off.