The complete marketing solution for arts companies

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.

Queencliff Music Festival 2014

Photos by Michael McCallum with Fujifilm XFI
Post Production Adobe Photoshop.
November 2014

Snapchat widens your arts audience marketing reach

Is your arts company using Snapchat? If not, why not?
Snapchat is a mobile app that allows you to send self-destructing photos and videos to your friends. That’s right, they actually self-delete after 10 seconds at the most.
A recent survey of the US college student demonstrated that 70% of college students posted on snapchat once a day. This dwarfed the Facebook with figures of 11% per day.
Australian students, and young people, would have similar usage figures.
One reason Snapchat is so popular is that these groups see it as the most private form of posting.
What to post? You must consider your target audience. It is the younger crowd wanting to see something sneaky and fun. So think about what producions/events suit this marketing strategy.
This may mean surprising backstage pics, unusual stuff. You can have fun with these images, but always working within your brand profile.
Consider sneak peeks, exclusives, maybe a keyword to get a discount for your production preview.
Cheeky images of the actors can work well, and what about some shots in rehearsal of awkward romantic / sexy moments in your upcoming play or exhibition. Have fun and be playful.
The Girls TV series used Snapchat very effectively a lead up to the Emmys. Check out the samples below.
Remember, smart people can copy Snapchat image through a screen capture, so it still can go viral, so have that in mind when you post.

There is a good link Snapchat marketing here. I have included a few key slides for arts companies below.


Smartphone availability more important than ever for Arts Companies

When arts companies are devising a site the accessibility to smartphone and tablet platforms is central. If companies are advertising, they need to address mobile platforms.

This is the trend in the US, and with Australians loving mobile technology its happening here too.

The eMarketer company highlights this issue.

eMarketer estimates thaCapturet daily time spent by US adults with mobile devices—specifically smartphones and tablets—exceeded that spent with PCs for the first time in 2013.  Now, in 2014, marketers and sellers are finally forced to reckon with a world of “always on” mobile consumers. As a result, mobile ad spending will more than double in 2014, topping 30% of digital ad spending.

Companies need to consider this is all advertising plans.



Marketing Initiatives Reported by Arts Victoria

I recently came across a 2012 report by Arts Victoria on the state on the importance of marketing to arts companies they work with. I have the repeated the bulk of that report below. What I would note is that these companies recognise they need to spend more on marketing, just don’t have the funds.  Arts Marketing Australia has the freelance solution these arts companies need.


Respondents were asked to rate the importance of marketing and publicity for their organisation or arts practice.
• Almost nine in ten respondents (89%) rated marketing and publicity as important or veryimportant for their organisation or arts practice. A further 7% rated it somewhat important.
• Only 3% rated marketing and publicity as not very important or not at all important for their organisation or arts practice.


They then asked about the forms of media respondents used to promote their work:
• Over three quarters (78%) specified public relations which includes media releases and media coverage.
• Three quarters of respondents (76%) also selected printed material including posters and flyers.
• Around two thirds of respondents (64%) use advertising through digital (59%), print (52%), radio (35%) or TV(10%).
• 59% said they used direct mail, including e-mail (57%) and post (28%).
• Respondents were then asked to rate the effectiveness of their marketing and to tell us what they thought would increase the effectiveness of their marketing. Of the 398 respondents that indicated they had a marketing campaign:
• 45% thought their marketing was effective or very effective and a further 45% said their marketing was adequate. 8% of respondents considered their marketing to be not very effective, while 2% said they didn’t know.
• Over half of respondents (55%) said that an increased marketing budget would be the top measureCapture22 that would increase the effectiveness of their marketing campaign.
• Skills/expertise/capability was given as the top response by 19% of respondents
• Sharing networks/contact was the top response for 18% of respondents

Smartphone Access to Arts Websites

Just look at smartphone growth

Just look at smartphone growth

In designing a website for a Arts company the responsiveness of the landing page to mobile phone usage is vital.

Most booking nowadays are taken via the internet, so having an easy to access page is vital.

The Belvoir St Theatre’s website would have to be one of the most efficient in delivering customers to the ticket sales.

In times past theatre companies tended to overload their sites with images and information, Belvoir has moved right away from those notion. Those who do want to find out more about the company, can still do that, but its primary aim is to quickly drive uses to ticket sales.

This is in response to the customer desire, the client can easily, thanks to search engines, find out information about a show, but to buy tickets, especially mobile customers.

Belvoir's site and the shrink test

Belvoir’s site and the shrink test

Belvoir’s is a fully responsive website, ie can be easily read on mobiles, tablets and desktops. So when I’m in a cafe in Darlinghurst I can easily check out what’s on a Belvoir St. This is not the case for several other notable theatre companies.

You need your site across all forms as the graph shows the growth in smart phone use.

I easily chartered my way through the ticket payment system on my phone.

To check out the responsiveness of a website simply shrink the window on your browser to that of a phone, if it shrinks, its responsive, if not, they have a non responsive website.