Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

CASE STUDY: Development of a vision for orchestra management & programming.

Ellis Jones  •  Friday June 12, 2009


The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is one of Melbourne’s most recognisable arts brands, a century long success story and confidently world-class. It is now taking some major leaps forward altering local perceptions of orchestral music with it. The MSO began to explore new directions with a new vision of a broader audience base, expanded player pool and new programming.


MSO commissioned a study to map audience member types and interests. It revealed that a large number of people who don’t fit the common perception of a classical music appreciator are hungry for more but in different formats. They can be intimidated by the stereotypical classical music appreciator (knowledgeable, intense) or by the long programs. While being presented by this opportunity, the company was also experiencing a declining subscriber base. Once as iconic as a MCC membership, the fracturing of classical and other music forms meant new generations were not continuing in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents.

“Rhod Ellis-Jones was an excellent facilitator and provided a balanced and logical approach to the deliberations by our Senior Management Team and the Board, in all our discussions regarding the strategic future of the Orchestra.”
– Trevor Green, (former) Managing Director, MSO


Ellis Jones facilitated a series of workshops with the executive team to create open dialogue and a coordinated approach to tackling the orchestra’s challenges. Using a range of methods, consensus was gained for new program formats, marketing initiatives and tactics to maintain patronage during the closure of Hamer Hall for renovation.

The MSO began to embrace new media. The Miracle Year series, celebrating the music of 1910, was broadcast online. Twitter is being used to connect conductors and audiences, removing the sense of intellectual divide and allowing the music to be the focus. The MSO’s marketers are bringing currency and a human face to the orchestra by building the brand around the performers as well as the name.


With bold thinking and careful planning, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is making sure it continues to be Australia’s premier performer of the classics while reaching out to new audiences by acknowledging new expectations of the concert experience.