Spoleto Festival board meeting notes early sales success

Memebers of the Spoleto Festival board met Monday morning to discuss this year's success. Photo by Chris Baker/Post & Courier

The Spoleto Festival USA board of directors met briefly Monday morning, wondering why a record-breaking $75,000 was raised from ticket sales in a single day — Thursday — and hoping to replicate the phenomenon in the future.

Last week, the festival experienced an unprecedented surge in ticket sales that overwhelmed its website, causing it to crash and remain unavailable for nearly six hours. Even with such technical difficulties, the festival broke its single-day sales record.

“We have got to figure this out,” said vice president Lou Hammond. “Because if we can figure out what’s making this happen, then we can double it next year.”

The festival has sold more than 30,000 tickets in 22 states, Hammond said, and she attributed some of the national success to a strong social media plan.

“Traffic is up on our website by 15 percent,” said Paula Edwards, director of marketing and public relations for the festival. The festival also raised $31,785 with an online auction in February and has nearly 8,000 “likes” on Facebook.

Just three days into the 17-day event, Spoleto has already reached $2.5 million in revenue. Treasurer Ronald Abramson said he hopes to make it to $3 million by the end of the festival. Last year the festival earned $2.9 million.

In his program update, resident conductor John Kennedy thanked the board for their faith in this year’s “unconventional” opera programming, which includes the Chinese opera “Feng Yi Ting,” and Philip Glass’s “Kepler.”

“These are the kind of pieces that bring international attention to the festival,” he said.

Mayor Joe Riley was present and greeted the 49-member board with a word of thanks for their efforts and contributions.

“Because of you and those who did this work before you, Spoleto is a storied success,” Riley said.

Riley’s comments were followed by a tribute to Nunally Kersh, who stepped down from her role as festival producer this year after nearly 17 years of service. Kersh received a rousing ovation from the board.

“It was a wrenching decision to leave the festival,” Kersh said. “Over the years it’s felt like more than a job — it’s been a calling.”

Most board members said they were pleased with this year’s programming and marketing strategy.

“Everything so far has gone surprisingly well,” Spoleto president Nigel Redden told the board.