In 2019, Made was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra to develop a new Tessitura-integrated ecommerce path, powered by our BlocksOffice platform. The new ticketing, donation, and ecommerce path was due to launch in the summer of 2020. Then COVID-19 hit.
When the world stopped for COVID-19 in April 2020, the Tanglewood Festival was on the horizon.
A BSO tradition since 1936, the event regularly attracts over 350,000 people each year. As the Festival drew closer, the pandemic still raged, and the BSO needed to quickly develop new plans to engage these audiences without an in-person concert season. With 31 days to the scheduled opening of the season, we were approached by the BSO to create the digital platform to support the Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival.
Working with the BSO team, we paused our work on the general capabilities of the new ecommerce path, and focused solely on supporting them in getting Tanglewood 2020 online.
Tanglewood, and the Boston Symphony seasons more generally, attract a loyal audience of concert-goers, subscribers and generous supporters. It was important from the outset that the digital platform for Tanglewood 2020 would plug in to the BSO’s existing architecture in a way that meant these audiences could easily access concert content that is tied to their account with the BSO.
Tanglewood 2020 ultimately consisted of 78 performances over XX days. It was important that users could navigate the program easily to find performances they were interested in watching live, and on-demand. It was also important for the BSO to be able to offer both single video passes, for individual concerts, and package passes, for the entire season.
Finally, with in-person Tanglewood concerts regularly attracting 350,000 people each year, and with some high-profile exclusive concerts by XX, XX, and XX, it was also important that the online platform could handle the expected live demand for these concerts.
What we did
We decided to utilize the almost-complete BlocksOffice purchase path that we had been working to deploy for ticket sales, packages, membership and donations for the BSO, and prepare a slimmed-down interface to support Tanglewood 2020. The advantage of this approach was that we had a platform that had already been tested for core transactional functionality like login and checkout.
By hosting the Tanglewood performances on a platform powered by BlocksOffice and directly integrated with Tessitura, online users could easily log in with the same details that they use to purchase tickets or renew their membership.
Once users logged in, they were presented with a catalogue of videos that they already had access to, as well as a catalogue of videos that were available to purchase.
Videos could generally be purchased either as a single video pass, or by donating at least $100 in order to access the whole season. Both types of transactions were processed by BlocksOffice, utilizing the Tessitura REST API and therefore with the transactions being directly linked back to the constituents’ records in Tessitura.
It was important for the BSO to track not just purchases, but also views and partial views of the video content, so we also pushed video events back to a Tessitura custom table for analysis and marketing purposes.
We worked closely with Brightcove, the BSO’s video service provider, to integrate their player, as well as their in-page live event experience for the concert live streams.
With such a large range of concerts available via the Tanglewood Online Festival portal, it was also important that users were helped to navigate this program, which we did by introducing features such as ‘related concerts’ (“You might like to watch…”) to help users navigate to the next video in a series.
The BSO team also had control over the timing of these videos through their Tessitura. For videos that had not yet premiered (or “doors” had not yet opened), users would see a countdown. This was especially helpful in the case of live streams.
Finally, consideration was given to handling moments of peak demand. We were confident, as a result of the BSO’s partnership with Brightcove, that the underlying video hosting infrastructure would be able to handle the expected traffic. However, there were a number of moving parts to the overall architecture of the application, and the sales structure for the festival meant that validating users in Tessitura was an absolute necessity. This meant sending users via a login page, which was identified as a potential pinch-point in the journey. Through load testing and profile analysis, a detailed caching strategy, and a carefully calibrated deployment of our sister company’s software, CrowdHandler, we protected the underlying infrastructure by avoiding unnecessary load on backend systems.