Seal the Deal, Break the Barrier, Stop the Churn!

Posted by Alison French On October - 1 - 2012

As the 2012 National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference: Getting Down to Business quickly approaches, we are taking some cues from creative business leaders, entrepreneurs and change agents. And that is exactly how I would describe our keynote speakers – Rohit Bhargava, Eric Ryan, Nina Simon, and the musical collective cdza:

What better way to kick off a meeting about audience engagement, communications, and revenue generation than with an online discussion with you and 25 top marketing practitioners and consultants in the field?

Join us here on ARTSblog for a dialogue on the broad landscape of arts marketing, technology, and audience development. Bloggers include David Dombrosky, Clay Lord, Jill Robinson, Nina Simon, Adam Thurman, and many others.

From October 1-5, join us as we wrestle with and ponder on such questions as:

•    What new strategies are you utilizing to broaden your audience and build business?
•    How are you using ROI analysis in your marketing campaigns? Read the rest of this entry »

Seat-o-nomics

Posted by Rick Lester On July - 19 - 2012

Conventional wisdom: A higher price (P1) results in a lower quantity sold (Q1), whereas a lower price (P2) results in a more sales (Q2).

Harry Truman famously expressed a desire to consult only with “one-armed economists.” Our 33rd president wasn’t fond of counsel that began, “On the one hand, this…” and was followed by “On the other hand, that…” Truman wanted straight talk without equivocation.

So, here is a bit of economic straight talk from the data vaults of TRG Arts. Forget everything you learned in that Econ 101 class you took in undergraduate school. You can also forget what you learned at business school. It doesn’t apply to tickets.

Competitive Freedom

Conventional wisdom holds that higher prices reduce demand. For instance, in the consumer universe of unlimited hamburger availability, McDonald’s will sell many at $1.00 and many fewer at $10.00. And, at $100, demand goes to zero.

But, supply and demand curves do not apply to the world of selling tickets.

Those curves depend upon an “open market” of goods and prices. Corn, wheat, and hamburgers are sold in huge open markets. There are vast numbers of buyers and sellers who are free to compete for the exchange of goods and services.

Price subject to desire.

This condition of competitive freedom does not exist when selling tickets.

For example, nonprofit organizations are run by volunteer boards who set, approve or use their clout to influence prices—prices that these same board members pay when they attend the performances presented by their organization. That’s just one reason why the best seats are frequently undervalued. Read the rest of this entry »

Top Contenders (Pretenders?) to be the Next Facebook

Posted by Tim Mikulski On May - 30 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

CNN’s What’s Next blog recently published a list of current social media outlets/apps that could take over as the “next Facebook” if everything falls into place.

While there has been wild speculation in the past that other products would have replaced the big blue ‘F’ by now, it hasn’t happened; however, I’m pretty sure that I never thought MySpace would be replaced either (p.s. have you checked out what Friendster has become?).

So, here’s a quick rundown that CNN provided with links and my added commentary in bold after each description:

Highlight (number of users unpublished): This “social discovery” app was the buzz at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive, a conference in Austin, TX, that makes or breaks many tech start-ups. Essentially, the app aims to give people real-time information about the people all around them. “San Francisco is a city of 800,000 strangers,” Highlight founder Paul Davison told Time. “You sit on the bus next to each other. You stand in line next to each other. You go to bars and meetups to meet each other. You walk by each other on the street. And you don’t know anything about anyone you see.” This app seems move intrusive than Foursquare, so I’m not sure people will give it a shot.

Path (3 million users) Founded by ex-Facebooker Dave Morin, Path has a couple things going for it that Facebook doesn’t: It’s mobile-first, which is important in a world where people tend to network on their phones more and more than on their desktop computers; and it’s intimate. Path caps users’ friend lists at 50 people, ensuring that you’re actually communicating as the real you with people who you really know in real life. An app redesign won Path a new wave of support from the early-adopting tech public, but a privacy snafu in February, during which it was revealed that Path stored users’ phone contact lists, may have eroded the trust of some people. Morin apologized for that data slip, saying it was accidental and had been remedied. Privacy concerns aside, it seems like it’s what everyone intended Facebook to be—a more limited circle—and that could prove to be a draw for people like me who had to friend his entire high school class for reunion planning purposes. Also, there is an Instagram-like photo feature with Path that adds some value. This might be my pick as the next potential Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

Have you ever wondered if it’s worth your time to start that Pinterest page for your organization or business? Is it important that you know what Digg is?

Thankfully, OnlineMBA.com has pulled together a fantastic infographic that will help you determine if Facebook is better for your message or if you should hurry up and start that Twitter account.

By gathering social media demographic info and putting it together in an arts-friendly way (a solar system of social media info), you can take a quick look at the social media universe and then decide if you’re on the right path or if you should be heading toward another orbit.

Here are some facts I gleaned from the resource (as posted on Mashable):

  • FACT: Facebook users visit the site 40 times per month and average over 23 minutes on the site per session.
  • OPPORTUNITY: That creates an opportunity to really engage with Facebook users. If you can get an article or link to your site on a Facebook user’s newsfeed at the right time, you will have them hooked…for at least that day. A study covering 2007-2010 Facebook use says that the peak use time is Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. ET and daily it is at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. ET.
  • FACT: 82 percent of Pinterest users are female.
  • OPPORTUNITY: The arts are already female-skewing, but if you want to reach out further into the demo, you’ll want to sign up for an account and try it out soon.
  • FACT: 71 percent of Google+ users are male and 43 percent are single men.
  • OPPORTUNITY: The arts are already female-skewing, but if you want to reach out to older, single men who may bring dates, girlfriends, and/or mothers to your gallery or performing arts center, you might want to dabble and see where Google+ takes you. Read the rest of this entry »

Tossing Small Stones to Change an Entire Landscape

Posted by Kacy O'Brien On April - 3 - 2012

Kacy O'Brien

Change starts small, right?

We have seen time and again that small pockets of people, when seized with an idea, can come together and with the right leadership, momentum, and tools can affect change.

Change often starts with one person and a vision. If we want to be part of the “cultural zeitgeist, actively addressing the social inequities in our country” and reach “exponentially greater numbers of people,” as Diane Ragsdale suggests, then we need to do it in our backyards.

That may sound counter-intuitive—“to reach more people stay close to home”—but in my experience thus far as an early-career theatre producer, it seems to be the only way we’ll stay relevant to our respective communities.

In addition, cultural institutions need to have the room to try out ideas that are related to our missions, but not bound by them. That is not a new idea, by any stretch, but I think if we’re able to consider programming—not funding (though we could use that, too!)—in terms of venture capitalism, we may see large equity returns by way of audience growth, community partnerships and social relevance.

We talk a lot about relevance to our communities in the arts sector, particularly in regional institutions, and I think that the future of arts institutions and artists would benefit greatly from pursuing high-potential, high-risk programmatic change—what I’ll dub “venture capital projects.” Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping It Simple in a Jargon-Filled World

Posted by Chavon D. Carroll On April - 3 - 2012

Chavon D. Carroll

Have you ever tried to explain why the mirror fogs up in the bathroom when the shower is on to an inquisitive five-year-old? If so, you’ll quickly realize it’s not as easy as you’d think.

It’s one of those processes where you understand exactly how it happens and why, but explaining it in simple enough words to a child who has absolutely no idea or reference point is much harder than you would first think.

I’m often faced with this conundrum in two completely separate roles in my life—as a mother of a five-year-old daughter and as a donor marketing officer for the Arts & Science Council (ASC) in Charlotte, NC.

As odd as it may sound, those two jobs often require some of the same skill sets.

I won’t go into too much detail about my motherhood responsibilities (another day, another blog), but in my position at ASC, I’m often tasked with taking our jargon-filled massive amounts of facts and supporting statements and translating it to donors and potential donors.

It’s not exactly what it says in my job description but in a nutshell, it’s what I do. Read the rest of this entry »

The Brunch Conversation (or 2030 Vision in Arts Leadership)

Posted by Jonathan Elliott On April - 2 - 2012

Jonathan Elliott

This post began as a series of thoughts on the future of human resources in the arts, and opened up into a personal conversation gone global.

Also, it involves something I am deeply passionate about: brunch.

Once a year, my friend and I—let’s call her Kay—get together for brunch. It’s important for us to check in with one another, to swap ideas about careers, arts management dilemmas, and our Netflix queues.

Kay and I have been friends for twelve years; we’ve both just turned thirty, we both hold MAs in Arts Management, and we both work in jobs we love, for arts organizations on opposite coasts.

Kay took a big bite out of her bagel and lox and said to me, “I’m leaving the industry.”

I blinked three times, as she took a deep breath and told me that, while she loved working in arts marketing, and while it was a fulfilling and affirming line of work, she had desires in life that she and her husband couldn’t reconcile against the current job offerings and future of the industry. I leaned back in my chair, which is the universal sign between the two of us for “game on.”

What happened next was a long debate about what we have in our lives and what we want, and our accomplishments and what’s going to happen next. Read the rest of this entry »

Clayton Lord

In four days, I have spoken to over 500 people in Boston, New York, DC (which was Livestreamed), and Philadelphia about Counting New Beans and it has been an amazing set of conversations.

Artistic directors, marketers, development people, funders, government representatives—everyone has engaged in a thoughtful and provocative conversation about impact assessment and it’s role in the field.

But I think of all the points raised over the last week, the one that has resonated most with me is around the value and rightness or wrongness of setting artistic goals and then measuring to them.

In Philadelphia, one artistic director admitted to being scared at the implications of being able to measure impact. Alan Brown, speaking from the stage, related a story of an artistic leader in Australia, who upon hearing about impact assessment said, “Great, I’m going to get a 3.5 on spiritual fulfillment this year, and you’re going to expect me to get a 3.6 next year.”

And, just a few minutes ago, I got an extremely well-articulated (and overall very positive and flattering) email from Jason Loewith, executive director of National New Play Network that included a very interesting fleshing out of the fear an artistic leader might have of an outside force, like say a funder, trying to exert control over artistic product through impact assessment. Read the rest of this entry »

The Cracks in the Arts Patron Foundation

Posted by Jill Robinson On March - 27 - 2012
Jill Robinson

Jill Robinson

Ten years into our ongoing patron behavior research and analysis, data is showing us an alarming fact: There’s a huge set of cracks in the foundation of patronage that arts organizations are built upon.

In patron behavior terms, the “cracks” are caused by Tryers. These are households that have infrequent, one-time, or long-ago transactions with arts and entertainment organizations and they are the most prevalent type of patron behavior.

Right now the databases of most arts organizations are likely comprised of 90 percent Tryers. And most of them are patrons you’ve allowed to lapse.

Tryers—TRG Arts research has found—are the least loyal, most expensive to acquire, and most difficult to retain patrons. That most audience or visitor bases are built on Tryers is a real threat to the sustainable future of arts and entertainment organizations. It doesn’t have to be that way.

  • The focus on finding new single ticket buyers is part of the problem. Research tells us that new ticket buyers churn out an alarmingly high rate after their first attendance. Often, organizations lose more patrons than they bring in annually, and that trend triggers institutional decline.
  • Specific patronage programs–subscription, annual fund giving, membership–are escalators toward lifetime loyalty. Patrons who stick with a company over time and through continuing investment—loyalists—do so through these programs.
  • Loyal patrons are made, not found. An organization’s most loyal, most engaged, largest invested patrons rarely if ever arrive in an organization’s pool of supporters fully formed. Research shows that new patrons who do stick with an organization do so by adding specific transactions in an escalating pattern of increased, frequent, current investments of time and money. Read the rest of this entry »

Smart Phones & Theater: Godspell’s Tweet Seats Spread the Word

Posted by Tim Mikulski On March - 26 - 2012

We’ve all been in a play when a phone goes off. Sometimes we see the actors react, while other times the show just continues.

Up until recently, it was forbidden to keep that phone on during a show, but thanks to experiments by local/regional theaters, the idea of “Tweet seats” has grown to Broadway via the new Godspell revival:

We’ve heard all sides of this issue:

Cell phones are just the new “individually wrapped candy wrapper.”

The fad of “Tweet seats” is just a marketing gimmick. Read the rest of this entry »

Clayton Lord

For the next few weeks, I have the good fortune to be traveling with researcher Alan Brown to eight cities across the country as we present the findings from Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of Art, the two year study and resulting book just published by my organization, Theatre Bay Area.

This week, we visited Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul and spoke to nearly 200 artists, arts administrators, and funders about the work. It was energizing, exciting work—as a field, it is clear that we are, many of us, anxious to learn how to talk more effectively and accurately about the power of the art we make, and this research, which attempts to quantify the intellectual and emotional impact of art, was provocative for many in the audiences.

In Chicago, I met an acoustic consultant named Evelyn May who believes that impact assessment (surveying your audiences about how impacted they were by your work) might be an extremely useful way to understand small but important changes you make in the physical space.

While May was particularly talking about things like rattling vents, squeaky floors, etc, I was caught up in thinking about whether you could survey audiences before and after, say, configuring your space in various ways to see what configuration was most impactful. Read the rest of this entry »

To Discount or Not to Discount

Posted by Jeff Scott On March - 9 - 2012

Jeff Scott

In an earlier blog entry, I made note of the fact that so many theatres were turning to discount sites such as Groupon and Goldstar to sell tickets and help fill the house in the face of audiences who are cutting back on their entertainment budgets.

In that writing, I commented that perhaps tickets were priced too high to begin with, if selling them at half-price had become such a necessity to get people in the door. In the past week, I personally have received almost half a dozen calls or emails from discount sites wanting to feature my company, so it seems worthwhile to explore these discounts in a little more detail.

One of the biggest downfalls that I’ve read about these discount services is that lack of returning customers. The idea is always pitched as, “if you can just get the people in the door with a discount, they’ll see how much they like it and come back at full price.” Maybe, unless they simply can’t afford it. This might be particularly true of younger audiences, whom we seek to fill the place left by our older patrons, but who may not have the disposable income to become regular patrons.

One suggestion would be to continue to incentivize these customers. They first came because of a great discount, so it stands that they may return for another good deal, though perhaps just 25 percent off instead of 50, as a way to ease them into being full-price patrons over time. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Ripple Effect Inspires Cincinnati Filmmakers

Posted by Tim Mikulski On March - 7 - 2012

A poster for "Radius: A Short Film."

A fascinating new project out of Cincinnati just recently caught my attention.

Filmmakers were inspired by The Arts Ripple Effect: A Research-Based Strategy to Build Shared Responsibility for the Arts, a study conducted by local arts agency ArtsWave in 2008.

The study and report were “designed to develop an inclusive
 community dialogue leading to broadly shared public responsibility 
for arts and culture in the region” and “concluded that [their] work with the community through arts and
 culture must be based on a foundation that incorporates a deeper 
understanding of the best way to communicate with the public in
 order to achieve that shared sense of responsibility.”

Calling it “the world’s first game-sourced movie,” Radius: A Short Film, created by Possible Worldwide, a WPP Digital company, with multiple Cincinnati-based partners, “the film was shot in and around Cincinnati during MidPoint Music Festival and other arts events.”

What makes it especially unique is that the film was created by editing “from more than 2,000 unique pieces of crowd-sourced content” gathered using a smartphone app called SCVNGR. Read the rest of this entry »

Put a Little Gaga in Your Marketing Strategy (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 22 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

As I continually seek new information to contribute to our various electronic and print publications, I come across a ton of info that I want to pass along to the field, but they end up sitting on my desk waiting as other topics or projects rise to the top over that information.

In light of that, I thought this blog post can serve as an early spring cleaning (we definitely haven’t had a real winter in D.C. this year) of some of the marketing content I’ve been holding onto.

These two items are from Fast Company, a publication I highly recommend subscribing to if you are looking for different ways to address technology, design, or business issues within your own organization—particularly in the marketing realm.

When it comes to personal branding, an article from early January discusses five steps to building a better personal brand:

1. Have a home base online. While Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are excellent destinations to promote what you do, make sure that you also invest time and energy into your own personal website. Whether you take advantage of easy-to-use tools such as Squarespace or WordPress, a simple and clean online home for all your professional information and social streams is a necessity.

2. Be a better blogger. Although online pundits regularly declare that blogging is dead, such as Jason Calacanis did at a tech conference toward the end of December, blogging has simply become much more diverse. It’s no longer necessary to write multi-paragraph posts (but of course, that’s why you still come to ARTSblog), but instead services such as Tumblr make it easy for individuals to share shorter entries or snippets of text that often include photos and other multimedia. A weekly blog update (or more frequent if you can afford the time) that includes some shareable content is a useful way to drive traffic back from social channels to your website (and to establish yourself as an expert on a topic). Read the rest of this entry »

Wallace Studies Offer 21st Century Answers for Audience Engagement

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 15 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

Late last year, the Wallace Foundation released a series of studies under the banner “Wallace Studies in Building Arts Audiences.”

The series includes four case studies highlighting examples of audience engagement with new and younger audiences without alienating loyal and long-time constituencies.

The four case studies run the arts discipline gamut from the San Francisco Girls Chorus to the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Boston Lyric Opera, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Each study is available for downloading and three of the four include online extras that help further illustrate the organizations’ work.

Here’s a quick rundown on the case studies:

More Than Just a Party – “Senior management gave a team of young middle managers the authority to plan and run an evening event aimed at both attracting more 18-34-year-olds and encourage them to engage with the art. Through a series of inventive steps, from hosting games that enabled exploration of the artworks to using hip, young volunteers, the team created a program that exceeded expectations.”

Cultivating the Next Generation of Art Lovers — “[Boston Lyric Opera] would take its abridged operas used in school programs, and turn them into high-quality productions for families…the family performances would feature not only professionals singers, but also an orchestra and new costumes, props, and sets…Post-show surveys revealed the majority of adult attendees were opera fans who wanted to introduce their children to the art form, thus meeting two of [their] goals—providing children with their first experience of opera and creating opportunities for their busy parents to attend performances.” Read the rest of this entry »