We love companies that help make the world a better place. So many of the things that we enjoy and that are vital to our lives come from the innovation of business. Some of the more beautiful and inspiring dimensions of our world are the museums, theatres, science galleries and performing arts centers. They are vital to our society. Yet the operations of these wonderful organizations are very complex and must be managed. They may be not-for-profit businesses, but they must be run like any for-profit business as to costs, marketing and efficiencies. Failure to manage a museum or performing arts center properly can lead to financial ruin and closure of these cherished assets.
Tessitura is a unique company making the world a better place by helping our Arts and Cultural organizations operate and thrive. They also have a unique operating structure.
Tessitura Network: A Software and Management System Dedicated to the Arts and Cultural Industry
When I sat down with Jack Rubin, CEO of Tessitura Network, our interview and time flew by. In addition to my fascination with his vision for Tessitura, I found his passion for helping the Arts and Cultural Industry succeed inspiring. Having also spent some significant time myself with a performing arts center I quickly related to their mission and services.
What is Tessitura and what’s the bold idea behind it? Simply said, Tessitura provides the software and management systems for arts and cultural organizations to succeed. Without such systems these organizations would simply fail. Their bold idea? To provide the best systems to help Arts and Culture succeed!
The Birth of Tessitura
In music, tessitura is the most comfortable range of a singer or musical instrument. Tessitura, the company, has also found a “comfortable” range for the arts. Its formation was all about “comfortably” helping initially the Metropolitan Opera of New York City during a time of need.
Circa 1995, the arts and culture community of the Metropolitan Opera of New York City was in tumult, at best, siloed. Ticketing and fundraising systems were not organized; the not-for-profit arts and cultural organizations were at a loss for technology options that could serve the specific needs of the community. It was from this burning need for an integrated and unified system that a solution was born. A project initially named “Impresario” headed by Chuck Reif in 1999 was Metropolitan Opera’s answer to the huge ticketing corporations’ preference to sports franchises and blockbuster concerts over nonprofit performing arts organizations.
Later named as Tessitura, the Metropolitan Opera took matters into their own hands and built a Customer Relationship Management system that does not only take care of ticketing but also allows arts and cultural organizations to connect with prospect donors, reach out and understand their customers, streamline fundraising, serve as a marketing tool, manage and understand data and make art and history available on the web.
Tessitura eventually gained more and more attention.
Unique Operating Structure
In 2001, Metropolitan Opera six other forward-thinking organizations joined the company – Santa Fe Opera, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Opera, New York City Center and Lyric Opera of Chicago. These seven organizations sat down to form a business specifically designed for the arts and cultural sector. A mission was crafted, a handshake agreement was made, and early adopters pledged to share business costs so a nonprofit company could be formed.
This not-for-profit structure was vital in creating an impactful company helping the arts. It would be an important ingredient to their success.
Fast forward to today, the original arbiter of the 2001 first “conference”, Jack Rubin’s initial appointment was as president. He is now the CEO. Those seven initial organizations have grown to over 600 organizations in 10 countries.
Jack’s description of those early years is insightful.
“When we started the company, we thought we might be successful if we reached 50 organizations. We’re north of 620 Tessitura powered organizations now. When we started the company, we started initially with symphonies and operas and Performing Arts Centers. Now we’re serving virtually all genres of arts organizations,” shares Jack Rubin, CEO of Tessitura Network. He further adds, “And we made a bold move about four years ago to do the same thing for, for the museum and attraction sector. So that’s museums, science centers, galleries, zoos, and aquariums. Each had the same needs. So, we serve festivals, theaters, museums, performing arts centers, orchestras, operas, zoos, aquariums, museums, science centers, and I could keep on going on, on and on.”
Disrupt or Be Disrupted
Disruptive technologies and innovations know no boundaries and often moves up the marketspace persistently and relentlessly. An agile organization can be quick to recognize innovations that will change the game. On the far side of the spectrum, some organizations that try to hang on to traditional ways of doing things. They then realize too late that they have become obsolete and irrelevant. But there are organizations that blaze new trails and introduce new ways of looking at and doing things. Arts and Cultural organizations need to blaze new trails and stay up with the times. Tessitura Network is a perfect answer for this – it has completely disrupted the way arts and cultural organizations operate. Yet it did so in a way that made it easier for the organizations to adopt the change. Tessitura was also a not-for-profit formed and managed by the industry it serves. This created a safe environment for the industry to adopt the technology. It was part of the industry.
For all the functionalities that Tessitura Network has to offer, it has allowed cultural organizations to break silos, remove fragmented mentality and encourage organizational collaboration and communication. The platform’s data storage and mining capabilities have also allowed the organizations to understand their customers and donors better, translating to better customer and donor experiences. This helps the organizations achieve their mission of enriching humankind through arts and culture, one patron at a time.
During the interview, Jack Rubin underscored this mission. He asserted, “We have a quest to help eliminate silos and arts and cultural organizations eliminate multiple databases, really essentially no longer just do transactions, but be able to operate in a transformative way and move people along.”
Tessitura Network started with one goal in mind – to challenge the status quo and find new ways of bringing arts and culture closer to their customers. From their initial success of 7 founding organizations, they have kept building and making an impact. From the original seven founding organizations, this nonprofit, member-owned business currently lists 620 organizations from 10 countries in 3 continents.
Their client support list is impressive and worldwide. In addition, their network of museums, galleries, dance companies, opera organizations, performing art centers, ensembles and academic institutions are continuously learning and sharing their best practices through Tessitura’s Annual Learning and Community Conference. Jack Rubin shares, “We’re helping expand learning, we’re helping share knowledge and of course, we continue to innovate the system that we have on many ways.” Indeed, the company continues to introduce enhancements and improvements in their technology in order to cater to the dynamic needs of the cultural organizations that they serve.
Tessitura Network is not showing any signs of slowing down. They continue to rethink, reimagine and transform the arts and cultural sphere. Tessitura’s impact to Arts and Culture is massive yet unheralded. I hope their story becomes better known.