The Power of FREE: New York Historical Society Hosts Concert Series
I would bet that most of you reading this saw the word “free” just now and said to yourselves “wait a second…free? I better check this out.” Why? Because we love things that are free; most of us have a hard time turning down a deal. This is why you might have 175 tubes of toothpaste in your garage (thanks, Extreme Couponing) or why I have five 12 packs of Coke Zero in my pantry. Do I really need that much soda? Definitely not, but it was buy 2, get 3 FREE! How could I resist?
New York Historical Society has tapped into this idea with their New York Coolmusic series. These free concerts feature musical history makers, past and present. Well-known and emerging artist from a variety of genres will perform at the Robert H. Smith Auditorium, a new state-of-the-art facility that features a 75-foot-long, high definition screen. With seating for 420, this room offers an intimate feel and the eclectic mix of artists will attract a variety of fans.
“A unique combination of live music, art, history and culture, New York Cool will attract a young, cool and dynamic new audience to the New-York Historical Society.”
The Historical Society has been offering “pay as you will” on Friday nights to visit their gallery, but the concert series takes it one step further, adding a free portion to this holistic experience. Visitors can come early to view the gallery, snack on small plates at Café Storico, and enjoy live music. With the concerts running from 6:30-7:30, visitors can start their late night out or end an early one at New York Cool. Jennifer Schantz, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer, anticipates capacity crowds; “This is an open and welcoming space to come with your family or to come alone. You can learn a great deal here, have fun, enjoy history and at the same time, enjoy some music.”
Concertgoers will also have a pre-performance chance to view the Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History, a 3,400 square foot space featuring New York Rising, a permanent installation centered on the themes of America’s and New York’s founding. Source
Having worked in live music, I have seen venues fear the free event; will there be enough concession sales to offset the cost? Will people come if they haven’t financially committed? The New York Historical Society was able to avoid these concerns with two strategies: sponsorship and marketing. Bank of America sponsors New York Cool, alleviating some of those financial worries. Additionally, they took advantage of social media, featuring Facebook event pages and tweets that tag the artist and sponsor, encouraging several sources to promote the events. They also used their in-house resources: email blasts, e-newsletters, brochure mailings (to over 20,000) and grass roots marketing – posters and flyers.
Investing in your free event brings returns in the long run. The idea is that if you can get a new patron to attend a free concert, they’ll be impressed with the experience and return for a paid event. Just getting a new person in the door is valuable.
One more reason to wish you lived in NYC – free music. Now if I could only find buy one, get one free flights!
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
New-York Historical is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions, such as Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America; Slavery in New York; Drawn by New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society; Grant and Lee in War and Peace; Lincoln and New York; and The Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs is one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States and New York.
Have you hosted a free event? What was the reaction? What level of ROI have you seen?
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