Association of British Orchestras


Milly March

Arts Marketing Consultant

What makes a good marketer? What sort of things do marketers do?

Marketing orchestral concerts is very rewarding, particularly if you’re passionate about the value of orchestra music and sharing it with as many people as possible. Of course, getting to see so much live music is fantastic; concert days can be long, busy and tiring, but even six years into my career they rarely feel like ‘work’.

I think working for a relatively small organisation in my first marketing job allowed me to gain a lot of experience across many areas of marketing and communications very quickly. To fare well in a job like that you need to be adaptable and a quick and eager learner.

Mostly, marketing is about communication - you need to write well to really connect with the audience. You also need to be able to change that style to speak to different audiences. In your first marketing job, you might not be writing all of the copy from day one, but you’re probably going to be asked to proofread quite a lot, so attention to detail is a great skill for a marketer to master.

Marketing is also about trying new things and seeing what works - as marketers we’re constantly evaluating what we did and whether it worked. You’re going to want to keep up with trends too - whether that’s joining in with the latest Twitter hashtag or upskilling during a pandemic to make more video content, you never stop learning new things.

You might also be interested in data; collecting, interrogating and analysing data are all intrinsic skills for marketers. That might be something as simple as deciding which ‘segments’ of your database you want to contact with details of your upcoming concert, or it might be surveying recent attendees to find out what they thought about the orchestra. It could even be noticing trends in ticket booking patterns to work out whether the Facebook adverts you’ve been running have actually paid off.

Digital marketing is here to stay, so day-to-day a lot of the work I do is at my computer: social media, website, writing email mailings and using a database all require good computer skills. You don’t have to be the kind of person who builds computers for fun, but if working at a computer makes you shudder, you might want to think again.

Having a creative flair is never a bad thing for a marketer. I’ve done a lot of design, videography, audio recording/editing and photography in my work - orchestras love someone who can bring expensive things like that in-house because even the larger organisations are probably on a very tight budget. For me, these kinds of jobs are the most enjoyable, and it always feels like a treat when someone asks me to design a flyer or edit a video.

No two days are the same when you’re doing marketing for an orchestra - one day you might be going to photograph a rehearsal and the next you might be writing copy for next season’s concerts ready to send them to the box office, so flexibility is a must. You also have to be an organised, strategic thinker (even in the entry-level jobs) because you will likely be working to multiple different deadlines and priorities. You might be balancing working on selling tickets for next week’s concert, getting ready to announce next year’s season, all while having one eye on the overall profile of the orchestra and what you can do to raise it.

A bit about me and my career

After graduating with a BMus in Creative Music Technology from the University of Surrey, I knew I wanted to try and keep music in my working life. Classical music has been in my life forever – the first video tape I remember was Fantasia and my first CD for my 9th birthday was Dame Edna Everage narrating Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf (that and the Spice Girls; it was a potent mix).

ABO Internship – Summer 2016

After putting in several months on the checkouts at my local supermarket, I came across a paid internship at the Association of British Orchestras advertised on Arts Jobs. I applied for the role, which promised four months’ experience of administration, event planning, training courses and networking with industry professionals. I got the job and had a fantastic time working in London, meeting people who worked in all facets of orchestral life and getting hands-on office experience.

Britten Sinfonia Marketing Assistant – Autumn 2016

With the skills I gained from the internship and with support from the ABO Team, I was able to confidently apply for entry-level arts jobs across the sector. I interviewed with several orchestras before meeting the team at Britten Sinfonia, who I immediately felt I slotted in well with. I learned a lot in a short space of time, and I really enjoyed marketing - I knew I wanted this to be my career.

Britten Sinfonia Marketing Manager – Summer 2018

I was promoted to Marketing Manager after a little while at Britten Sinfonia, which is when I really knew I was doing something right. This built on the Assistant job in different ways, giving me more responsibility plus I was able to branch out into creative marketing such as getting hands on with design, video editing and photography. Around this time I joined the Board of Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival, offering my marketing skills to them on a voluntary basis.

Freelancing – Spring 2022

After the pandemic, I decided it was time for a new challenge, and I have recently gone freelance, which I’m absolutely loving. I am currently working with NW Live Arts, a Cambridge University college and am about to start working with City Music Foundation on a range of marketing, fundraising and events management projects.

It’s a varied life, and it can certainly be pretty full on, but ultimately I think arts marketing is a very rewarding career for the right kind of people.

Annual Conference

The next ABO conference will take place in Bristol,
hosted by Bristol Beacon, from 24-26 January 2024.