Defining Arts Audience Issues and the Way Forward

I recently attended the Arts Marketing Conference in Bristol, UK.

Ben Cameron notes how MONA has broken through cultural barriers

MONA, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Just as in  Australia, the need to continually find a new audience is an issue in the United Kingdom. The opening keynote for the AMA conference was presented by Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which allocates $13 million of grants to the arts. Cameron’s presentation was a reference point for many of the presentations at the conference.

Cameron’s dynamic and inspiring presentation started with a statement on the present state of the arts industry. He noted how attendance was decreasing, with fewer people subscribing to seasons; problems in attracting people to attend single shows; and increasing ‘churn’, where the majority of people only attend a single event and do not return. People are now saying that they are too tired to attend events, and they prefer a good night’s sleep to dinner and theatre with friends. Audiences are ageing and declining in numbers, meaning that raising ticket prices in response to this revenue shortfall exacerbates this decline.

Cameron also noted that technology presents problems for arts companies. The net was greeted as being able to provide a cheap marketing tool for the arts, but now online marketing is increasingly sophisticated and widespread. While arts companies found early success with social media sites like Facebook, this marketing is harder to replicate. Cameron said that the typical American now receives thousands of marketing messages per day. So technology is now a competitor for the time of the educated woman, who was a key source of arts goers. ‘By the time a young woman graduates from University, she will have spent more than 20,000 hours on the Internet and an additional 10,000 hours playing video games’.

Cameron also asserted that the Internet has allowed us to get what we want when we want it, and at reduced cost. People can now spend money when they want, and they can download a TV series for free (although it is illegal, the law is hardly enforced). People are not restricted by normal trading hours, whereas a theatre company might be restricted to showing a production for a limited schedule at, say, 8 pm at night.

Given these circumstances, arts companies must look to marketing to satisfy the demand for artistic products presented in a new way. Organisers in the arts realise that their products are tremendous, and they recognize the importance of sharing them with the world.

Cameron looked at a new participatory culture as the basis for more effective marketing and, moreover, for a deeper relationship with the arts. For example, he described a theatre in Harlem that hosts a series of public readings, then allows the audience to vote on which should be part of the program. For another example, thousands of people auditioned online to sing Eric Whitacre’s ‘Lux Arumque’ in a virtual choir piece. Cameron cites many such cases in which the resources of major arts companies have been given to the people to empower them to create their own art.

Of interest to Australian arts organisations is Cameron’s experience with the Trey Cameron Project, a contemporary dance company located in the relatively small city of Boise, Idaho (with a population of under 200 000). In this town, they get the attention of the public through spontaneous urban events or ‘spurbans’, using the techniques created by flash mobs on YouTube. Fans interact with an audience of everyday people, performing at football games¾thus moving away from the traditional theatrical context of curtain times. These efforts won the hearts of the city’s residents, who appreciated having such a world-class program in their town performing on the terms of the local people. This extended to their first performance in a local drive-in theatre. The company remains committed to a strong dance program, performing all over the United States for 30 weeks per year.

Cameron also discussed arts companies using artists in the marketing of the events. The Cedar Lake Ballet used 52 one-minute videos to promote all aspects of the company. Likewise, The Wooster group, an experimental theatre company, produced The Dailies, 2- to 3-minute videos on all aspects of the company. The company increased traffic to its primary website by 77% and increased theatre revenues by 40%.

In Australia, Cameron examined the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart. As he reported, and the writer knows from his own experience, MONA is a key talking point for visitors to Tasmania. The trip to the venue is by a very modern catamaran ferry, full of art and comfortable lounges. Cameron noted its individual use of iPods to guide the experience. He said,”I was happy to subsequently respond to a survey and sing their praises¾Yes MONA was the reason I had gone to Hobart! Yes MONA would be sufficient reason for me to return! And on reflection, I realize that my future relationship with them will reflect what they know about me”

What Cameron makes clear is his overriding belief that marketing now must be relational, not broadcast to the public.

Marketing starts with articulation of the value that you will deliver at every moment – value that will permeate the lobby, that will live in advertising, that will live in the major productions as well as in the educational programmes and classes, that will live on stage or in the exhibition hall, and that every person in the organisation¾from CEO to performer to usher and janitor will exemplify, making them marketers as well¾and then brokers relationships between that value and those who wish to participate in it.

Cameron finished his presentation with a passionate plea for marketers to examine the nature of the work and the importance of the work. They can articulate the core of the enterprise by answering these three questions:

  • What is the value of my organisation or my work for my community?
  • What is the value my organisation alone offers or offers better than anything else? In this competitive world, duplicative or second rate value is unlikely to survive for long.
  • How would my community be damaged if my organisation closed its doors tomorrow?

Once these questions are explored fully by the individual and the organisation, Cameron believes the organisation and the individual can find the power to keep on pushing the limits and more effectively market the product. He wants arts marketers to become ‘activists’. He drew a standing ovation from an audience of seasoned marketing professionals with his final words: ‘I salute you and thank you as activists, transforming communities where you live’.  Australian regional theatres/galleries/arts companies have to find the place where they are deeply engaged and serve a purpose, whether that be art at the mall or a football game, or a state-of-the-art complex. They really need to make products that matter and affect the community, and marketers need to communicate to bring the audience in.

 

Arts Marketing beyond 2015

S0472420The Arts Marketing Conference in Bristol, UK provided some unique insights into future marketing.

Just as in Australia, the need to continually find a new audience is an issue in the United Kingdom. The opening keynote for the AMA conference was presented by Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which allocates $13 million of grants to the arts. Cameron’s presentation was a reference point for many of the presentations at the conference.

Cameron’s dynamic and inspiring presentation started with a statement on the present state of the arts industry. He noted how attendance was decreasing, with fewer people subscribing to seasons; problems in attracting people to attend single shows; and increasing ‘churn’, where the majority of people only attend a single event and do not return. People are now saying that they are too tired to attend events, and they prefer a good night’s sleep to dinner and theatre with friends. Audiences are ageing and declining in numbers, meaning that raising ticket prices in response to this revenue shortfall exacerbates this decline.

Cameron also noted that technology presents problems for arts companies. The net was greeted as being able to provide a cheap marketing tool for the arts, but now online marketing is increasingly sophisticated and widespread. While arts companies found early success with social media sites like Facebook, this marketing is harder to replicate. Cameron said that the typical American now receives thousands of marketing messages per day. So technology is now a competitor for the time of the educated woman, who was a key source of arts goers. ‘By the time a young woman graduates from University, she will have spent more than 20,000 hours on the Internet and an additional 10,000 hours playing video games’.

Cameron also asserted that the Internet has allowed us to get what we want when we want it, and at reduced cost. People can now spend money when they want, and they can download a TV series for free (although it is illegal, the law is hardly enforced). People are not restricted by normal trading hours, whereas a theatre company might be restricted to showing a production for a limited schedule at, say, 8 pm at night.

Given these circumstances, arts companies must look to marketing to satisfy the demand for artistic products presented in a new way. Organisers in the arts realise that their products are tremendous, and they recognize the importance of sharing them with the world.

Cameron looked at a new participatory culture as the basis for more effective marketing and, moreover, for a deeper relationship with the arts. For example, he described a theatre in Harlem that hosts a series of public readings, then allows the audience to vote on which should be part of the program. For another example, thousands of people auditioned online to sing Eric Whitacre’s ‘Lux Arumque’ in a virtual choir piece. Cameron cites many such cases in which the resources of major arts companies have been given to the people to empower them to create their own art.

Of interest to Australia is Cameron’s experience with the Trey Cameron Project, a contemporary dance company located in the relatively small city of Boise, Idaho (with a population of under 200 000). In this town, they get the attention of the public through spontaneous urban events or ‘spurbans’, using the techniques created by flash mobs on YouTube. Fans interact with an audience of everyday people, performing at football games¾thus moving away from the traditional theatrical context of curtain times. These efforts won the hearts of the city’s residents, who appreciated having such a world-class program in their town performing on the terms of the local people. This extended to their first performance in a local drive-in theatre. The company remains committed to a strong dance program, performing all over the United States for 30 weeks per year.

Cameron also discussed arts companies using artists in the marketing of the events. The Cedar Lake Ballet used 52 one-minute videos to promote all aspects of the company. Likewise, The Wooster group, an experimental theatre company, produced The Dailies, 2- to 3-minute videos on all aspects of the company. The company increased traffic to its primary website by 77% and increased theatre revenues by 40%.

In Australia, Cameron examined the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart. As he reported, and the writer knows from his own experience, MONA is a key talking point for visitors to Tasmania. The trip to the venue is by a very modern catamaran ferry, full of art and comfortable lounges. Cameron noted its individual use of iPods to guide the experience. He said,”I was happy to subsequently respond to a survey and sing their praises¾Yes MONA was the reason I had gone to Hobart! Yes MONA would be sufficient reason for me to return! And on reflection, I realize that my future relationship with them will reflect what they know about me”

What Cameron makes clear is his overriding belief that marketing now must be relational, not broadcast to the public.

Marketing starts with articulation of the value that you will deliver at every moment – value that will permeate the lobby, that will live in advertising, that will live in the major productions as well as in the educational programmes and classes, that will live on stage or in the exhibition hall, and that every person in the organisation¾from CEO to performer to usher and janitor will exemplify, making them marketers as well¾and then brokers relationships between that value and those who wish to participate in it.

Cameron finished his presentation with a passionate plea for marketers to examine the nature of the work and the importance of the work. They can articulate the core of the enterprise by answering these three questions:

  • What is the value of my organisation or my work for my community?
  • What is the value my organisation alone offers or offers better than anything else? In this competitive world, duplicative or second rate value is unlikely to survive for long.
  • How would my community be damaged if my organisation closed its doors tomorrow?

Once these questions are explored fully by the individual and the organisation, Cameron believes the organisation and the individual can find the power to keep on pushing the limits and more effectively market the product. He wants arts marketers to become ‘activists’. He drew a standing ovation from an audience of seasoned marketing professionals with his final words: ‘I salute you and thank you as activists, transforming communities where you live’.  Australian theatres/galleries/arts companies have to find the place where they are deeply engaged and serve a purpose, whether that be art at the mall or a football game, or a state-of-the-art complex. They really need to make products that matter and affect the community, and marketers need to communicate to bring the audience in.

 

Return on Investment in the Arts

Measuring return on investment in the Arts can be a straight forward process if done with the right tools.

I recently attended  the Australia Performing Arts Centres Association (APACA) Conference, ‘Harvest’ (Hobart, Australia).

Assigning a value to art is essential when justifying grants, which often ask for an estimation of the return on investment (ROI) that would be the result of funding. The ROI is an important measure for the value of marketing costs and production costs. However, in the arts, the value of an output cannot be measured solely in terms of monetary profit. The criterion for assigning value might not be the number of tickets sold or the amount of financial gain. Consequently, arts organisations must find a more appropriate method to measure ROI.

At the Hobart APACA Conference, a way of measuring ROI was presented that went beyond revenues and attendance. In his presentation ‘Culture Counts,’ Chappell  argued that ‘no consistent definitions’ existed to measure the value provided by works of art. Two people may both buy tickets to see a play, so both would have invested the same amount; for one, the experience he or she gets for the price of admission may have a profound impact, while for the other, it may not.

According to the Department of Culture and the Arts of the Government of Western Australia, impact in the arts should be measured in terms of (a) ‘the intrinsic value relating to the value of the culture to the individuals, which centres on how the experiencing arts and culture affects us in an emotional sense’; (b) the instrumental value relating to the economy and social goals; and (c) the institutional value that society collectively places on culture now and in future generations

The presentation by Michael Chappell showed the regional venues a technique for measuring impact by asking audience members to complete surveys using iPads. The ease of use the Ipad survey makes them a reliable tool for use and Culture Counts is investigating the best possible survey tools. These suCapturerveys can be distributed by foyer staff and art exhibition attendants at strategic moments as people depart or visit events.

Gathering the results electronically allows the companies to gauge the events’ impact immediately. Companies may find that some events may draw a smaller audience but have a higher intrinsic or instrumental impact. These data are all important when the marketers analyse ROI statistics on show and attempt to justify bringing certain shows to market.
The diagram in  shows how value is calculated and is an important consideration when considering ROI, especially in the context of allocating funds to a project. The system is relatively inexpensive and can easily be assessed by the companies.

Australian regional arts companies play a unique role in their communities. They can use these tools to determine the value of an artistic event for the local people. Centres have a strong chance to create value for the communities, measure it in reports, and shape programs that best enrich all aspects of the community.

At Arts Marketing Australia we provide ROI information that accurately reflects your entities needs. 

 

Arts Marketing in Australia: Regional Context

What is Arts Marketing? This will be explored as Arts Marketing Australia’s Michael McCallum looks at some key issues worldwide and at home. Arts organisations in Australia generally are classified similarly to businesses; in this context, arts organisations such as regional theatre centres, art galleries, theatre companies, and dance companies can generally be classified as small- to medium-sized businesses. These arts entities are typically not-for-profit intuitions, for which making a monetary profit may not be the primary goal. Some may be government-owned institutions, and others may be operated by trusts or cooperative boards.

This type of ownership and mission means that the arts company must make a marketing plan and devise practices that are different from those of the average company, while still getting what is colloquially labelled ‘bums on seats’, which is the basic concern of show business. What the institutions have in common is a belief that their product, art, has something to give to society and the individual; they believe that art makes the world a better place, makes lives more fulfilling, and increases understanding of our world.

The arts are essentially an idealistic product, and while this product can be hard to define, it does give the arts organisations a unique marketing selling point, as their aims have a purity that distinguish them and attract strong proponents.

Grand Vue

Grand Vue

Arts marketing is about communicating to the audience the voice of the artist. I will argue that the best marketers understand the audience and try to enhance this relationship to build a strong audience that is allowed to have its own voice in the arts organisation.

Marketing is defined a set of institutions and process for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offering that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large. Corporations with a strong focus on satisfying the needs of the customer are the ones that succeed. However, unlike some marketing models that focus solely on customer needs and try to build products from there, arts marketing can be more centred on abstract ideas and ideals. Though this is not a place for an exploration of the nature of art, the question of what is valued within art will be explored.

Art marketers have a unique product, idealistic, yes, but artists have an acute awareness of the audience and try to satisfy their needs while also abiding by their own artistic principles. Communication with an audience is essential to the artist to make meaning in their work.

AMA loves regional Australian theatres. Regional theatre companies’ strength is their knowledge of the local market, while their weakness may be that they rely on doing things the way they have done in the past. Although sometimes the local press is limited, it can provide good coverage if the relationship is developed fully.

The venues sometimes are built by people who do not have artistic skills, making them unsuitable for certain productions/exhibitions. Regional arts entities have opportunities to select from a wide range of productions tailored to suit local needs and desires. Like many arts organisations, they are threatened by an increasingly saturated marketplace, with many forms of entertainment competing for their market (e.g., video games, downloads, music festivals).

Arts Marketing Australia are the expects in cutting edge analysis and delivery of your Arts Marketing needs.

The Future of the Printed Newspaper

Newspaper still have a vital role in the arts industry marketing. I would like to start this entry with a scene from Orsen Wells’ Citizen Kane. The newspaper has an expansive history, from the penny daily of the 1800s to the prestigious broadsheet that brought down a U.S. President in the 1970s. The printed newspaper, like the Wells’ New York Inquirer in the clip, has the power to set the agenda in society. I will explore the dynamic charging role of the newspaper. It will examine the place of the newspaper as an important agenda-framing implement in society. I will look at this from a global perspective before narrowing in on Australian press issues. I will explore the role of the printed newspaper as an advertising and publicity source for the Arts Enterprise. Finally, I will look at the changing nature of the media in terms of a possible digital future.

gatekeeping-1The gate keeper theory relates to the way the media controls the flow of news to the audience. As can be seen in this image, there is a number of possible stories the media can report on, and the newspapers control which event they are to cover and deliver to their audience. They set the agenda by leading the news with detailed local stories and agenda-setting opinion polls. The Australian print media is an influential body as it still has a large control of the news cycle. The radio and television networks comment on the newspaper stories of the day in their morning news programs and in weekly review programs, such as in “What the Papers Say” The newspaper can be found in all types of locations: cafés, medical offices, and many others.

The agenda is still, to a large extent, controlled by the print media, and this will work forward into the future. This agenda-setting nature is celebrated in the newspaper industry’s publicity as it states, “The early morning consumption of newspapers puts them in a unique position to determine what is the key news on any given day”. The newspaper is repositioning itself to set the agenda rather than just responding to it. As the print media suffers from time lag to produce stories compared to online media, it relies on agenda-setting opinion and in-depth coverage. Like in the media regulations issue, the print media can set the agenda. For the Arts organisation, these newspapers can be a valuable source of publicity. The newspaper has gate keeping guides to local artistic events, gallery openings, and theatre events. This is especially true for the weekend papers, and artistic enterprisers needs to exploit the opportunity in printed papers into the future.

Although the printed newspaper still has a powerful position in society, its circulation and revenues are falling. The printed newspaper readership has been in decline for 30 years. A study in the UK found that people aged 15 to 24 read the newspaper 30% less once they discovered the Internet.

The younger the potential readers, the less likely they are to be newspaper readers. These younger people are ignoring the printed newspaper as a source of information. They are the key audience for the Arts. The key audiences for movie goers are the 18 – 39 year olds, but they make up a smaller percentage of newspaper readership. This means that Arts enterprises’ key markets may not be readers of newspapers and that energy expended in gaining publicity from this source may be wasted. The major Performing Arts companies have been stagnating in recent years. Even though theatre audience figures might not directly relate to the declining readership figures of newspapers, they do display that both audiences are seeking entertainment and information in different ways. Arts organisations need to respond to a changing audience if they are going have an impact in both an economic and social sense.

Little-Brown-Book-Group-JK-Rowling-pre-order-post-it-newspaperWhile the printed newspaper form has had circulation and revenue problems, it does have its advantages as a media form. The newspaper has a resilient nature as it has been under attack from other media forms since the 1930s. In the 1950s, while pessimists rallied in favor of television as the dominate form, Lester Markel (1956) revealed newspapers advantages. These advantages included print’s ability to get into depth in a story with multiple-page spreads, its portability and flexibility as a news delivery medium, and its ability to explore an issue over time. The newspaper still leads the agenda, and the tactical and portable nature of the paper means it will be an agenda-setting tool into the future. This tactile nature makes it a relatively cheap object that people can own, and this means promoters can use post-its to grab the attention of the reader. The readers can take the stick-on with them and purchase the product. The fiction writer J K Rowling’s publishers used the stick-on to advertise her new book. This approach is unique to the printed press and is a creative and practical form of advertising for the Arts entrepreneur.

GOMAsurrealismTshapedThe printed newspaper has a number of features that have value to the Arts industry. Being able to insert color advertisement into the flow of the newsprint immerses the reader in the subject matter. People get absorbed into that more than when they take in information over other forms of media. This absorption means a higher retention rate of stories. The immersion of the surrealism image into the story is an attempt to capture the reader’s attention and challenge the reader. This insert into the Arts section of the newspaper means that the gallery is able to reach its intended audience in an eye-catching and informative manner. As people leisurely read these articles, a clear awareness can be created of the exhibition. Likewise, the printed newspaper contains stories that involve the Arts on a daily basis.

There is an advantage in Australia with the major print forms. While the newspaper industry worldwide in most developed countries is in a slump, there are conditions in Australia that make this nation’s conditions unique. The concentration of the Australian media, long the bane of the left-wing media commentators, means these press companies are in the position to address the market needs with large market penetration.  This power position gives the Australian papers value as news gate keepers and advertising mediums. Arts organisations cannot ignore the possibilities offered by the print form.

There is less day-to-day coverage of stories; this means less time to cover stories in-depth to explore issues and uncover events. This does give opportunities to the savvy Arts Media departments. They must realize that they need to produce almost whole news articles for the local papers, even with images. They can offer these exclusively to one printed paper. The Arts professional must realize the time constraints of the modern newsroom and allow for these when producing copy for an exhibition or production. The cuts in media time present opportunities to deliver an interesting product to the newsrooms that may become news stories.

If the Arts organisation is to exploit these publicity possibilities, it needs to recognize the paper’s need to position its masthead as an essential part of its local community.  One of the essential factors for newspaper survival is its strong identity with the community. The Arts enterprise should position itself to exploit this in the local media when devising its own potential news stories. In Newcastle, the two major organisations—the Civic Theatre and Newcastle Regional Gallery—both have corporate partnerships with The Newcastle Herald. While many newspapers were closing, Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most powerful investors, bought newspapers across the United States. Newspapers still have profitable and influential positions in many cities. Buffet said this is especially true in cities where the masthead is seen as the centre of the community. In this position, the paper can be linked into artistic events. The major problem is that these newspapers often have a reduced staff and are not covering local issues in a detailed manner. The Arts organisations can exploit links with the local community, and these stories can be newsworthy for the paper and great publicity for Arts organisations.

The world is changing; the world has always been changing, and the newspaper will change with it. The Arts industry needs to work with the printed medium and use it as the industry sees fit as its influence, though shrinking, is great.

How can your creative enterprise make the best use of the printed newspaper?

Arts Marketing Australia can help update your marketing approach. Contact me to find out more.

The Arc of Audience Engagement

The Arc of Engagement is the way the audience interacts with an arts company in the process of viewing a show or exhibition.

An analysis of this engagement can be seen in Brown and Ratzin’s ‘Making Sense of Audience Engagement’ (2011) and the Australia Council’s ‘Arts Audiences Online’ (2011). Whereas the Arts Council call it the ‘Journey’, Brown and Ratzin call it the ‘Arc of Engagement’, which carry through the essential idea of the passage of audience engagement.

The Arc of Engagement concept will be explored in the case studies in subsequent blog entries. What this arc does is display and compartmentalise the stages a person goes through in engaging in a production. Seeing a play or visiting an exhibition is not just about the event itself, it is a series of interactions that have their own vitality. Through social media and other means, the company can fulfil audience members on the journey and create a richer experience. In fact, it is an experience beyond what an artist can create at the event itself. Social media and website interaction should be a touch points on this journey.

The Arc of Engagement traces from the discovery ‘build up’ phase to the reflective ‘impact echo’, and social media has a role in stimulating people in these stages. The concept is to hook the customer at every point of the process. This can create excitement about a play or production and buzz around the event. In the build up phase, participants may start to look for information about the event. This may mean searching for online videos or reading the actors’ blogs about the event. A 2010 survey found that around 80% of people wanted to do some level of preparation before they see a production. As it gets closer to the production, this can include measures like restaurant locations nearby or parking information. These could be facilitated by Facebook posts and links to appropriate websites. Opportunity exists to link with local businesses to provide food that suits the production’s timing. Many of these restaurant sites contain social media reviews of the meals and venue.

arc_of_engagement_392During the artist exchange, social media can be used again, videos on YouTube analyse of a art works. Without some background knowledge, it is hard to comprehend a piece of art. One could ask how it would be possible to get a real feeling for Picasso’s Guernica with knowledge of the Spanish Civil War. A survey showed that 80% of arts companies used the internet to give media background about a production. Post-production can be dissected through discussion and analysis, which is done by about 25% of people. However, 50% of people like private reflection while others prefer to leave the event without any reflection. Social media may be used so that people may post at the location. This comes from the social need to grasp identity. The simple post to Facebook from the theatre foyer works as a locator of social status. People express who they are by tagging their location. Consider this: A post on Facebook to friends showing a photo with an actor at a small production can signify that: 1. They have friends. 2. They socialize with creative people like actors. 3. They go to trendy or edgy locations to see art. People like to see friends in such locations, and people who identify with the theatregoer may be inspired to see that production or another artistic event to post about. By encouraging arts spending through social sharing, the entire art community benefits as it competes with other forms of entertainment.

Other people will go on to write blog posts with more analysis of the events. While this group is relatively small, they have a notable position in the ‘Traditional Cultural Vulture’ community, which represents a valuable section of the return audience. Blogs such as ‘Shit on your Play’, have a small but passionate audience and form a valuable core for theatregoers.

The impact echo is the long term memory of the event, maybe as a social occasion or a reflective moment about an artwork. These thoughts can be stimulated by photos on the Facebook page.

The best artistic experience will engage on more of these levels as some people demand this feedback and stimulation.

Contact Arts Marketing Australia to see how your company can improve this engagement.