18 December, 2014 Michael McCallum

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).

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