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 »

A Standing Ovation for Clever Branding (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Laura Kakolewski On February - 8 - 2012

Laura Kakolewski

As an arts marketer, I made sure to pay particular attention to the commercials during the Super Bowl.

Although a few stood out from the rest, Twitter helped me discover what I believe to be the smartest Super Bowl commercial that (unfortunately) only aired in Canada.

Before reading any further, take a few minutes to watch this matchless Canadian Budweiser commercial that I found straight from the twitter feed of Scott Stratten (@Unmarketing), author of UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging, and keynote speaker at the 2011 National Arts Marketing Project Conference:

In my opinion, Budweiser Canada deserves a standing ovation from the world of marketing and advertising. Read the rest of this entry »

Warning! An Election Looms in November…

Posted by Rick Lester On January - 25 - 2012

Rick Lester

When I worked as an arts manager, the election season—-particularly presidential years like 2012—-was a time of fear and loathing. Why?

First and foremost, ticket sales and admissions soften or die immediately before and on Election Day. At TRG, we’ve watched this trend play out across the U.S. over the past two decades in client sales results from markets of all sizes.

An inescapable consequence of major election cycles is campaign advertising—-a driver of America’s economic engine that is bad for arts and entertainment.

The flood of campaign advertising every other October sucks opportunity out of our promotional campaigns. (Just ask anyone in Florida right now where the Republican primaries alone are having a major impact.)

Campaign advertising drives up the price and limits—-in some markets eliminates—-the availability of advertising time on radio and TV. Email inboxes, postal mailboxes, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts are stuffed beyond capacity. The normal roar of media clutter hits overload.

It becomes nearly impossible to create a viable marketing message capable of cutting through. No matter the quality of what goes on stage or in the gallery, patrons are less likely to hear about it. Read the rest of this entry »

Hyperlocal Websites Spread the Arts Message

Posted by Tim Mikulski On January - 4 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

Trying to garner the attention of local media for something happening in the arts can be a daunting task — particularly if you live in a major media market with only a few newspapers, a handful of TV stations, and one or two radio stations interested in community affairs.

It’s even harder to find out how your local school board voted on your district’s arts education budget or how your state legislative candidates feel about funding for the arts.

All of that is beginning to change thanks to the world of local blogs and websites that are now becoming what used to be the areas covered by a community newspaper, but with easier access and greater availability to everyone.

Local blog sites are everywhere and should be leveraged for all of the above, particularly the “ist” blogs, as they provide a ton of city/regional coverage for the arts, as well as local government actions, etc.

Large cities like Washington, DC also have neighborhood blogs that serve a smaller niche like Prince of Petworth and Penn Quarter Living.

But, there are two websites (although not quite national yet) that often fill up my inbox when it comes to my numerous Google News Alerts for a variety of arts and arts education news – and Read the rest of this entry »

Social Media Trends for 2012

Posted by Tim Mikulski On December - 20 - 2011

David Armano of the Harvard Business Review recently published six 2012 predictions for social media.

Although he made some inaccurate predictions about 2011, here is what he is suggesting for 2012 (with links added by me):

Convergence Emergence. For a glimpse into how social will further integrate with “real life,” we can look at what Coca Cola experimented with all the way back in 2010. Coke created an amusement park where participants could “swipe” their RFID-equipped wristbands at kiosks, which posted to their Facebook account what they were doing and where. Also, as part of a marketing campaign, Domino’s Pizza posted feedback — unfiltered feedback — on a large billboard in Times Square, bringing together real opinions from real people pulled from a digital source and displayed in the real world. These types of “trans-media” experiences are likely to define “social” in the year to come.

The Cult of Influence. In much the same way that Google has defined a system that rewards those who produce findable content, there is a race on to develop a system that will reward those who wield the most social influence. One particular player has emerged, Klout, determined to establish their platform as the authority of digital influence. Klout’s attempt to convert digital influence into business value underscores a much bigger movement which we’ll continue to see play out in the next year.  Read the rest of this entry »

Does Your Arts Organization Really Need Social Media?

Posted by Jeff Scott On December - 13 - 2011

Jeff Scott

By now, it’s probably a safe bet to assume most arts organizations have at least a Facebook page, and are possibly on Twitter and maybe even Google+, and are using them as part of their marketing approaches.

But do we need these channels, or more to the point, do we understand what these channels can give us?

Here are some points to keep in mind:

#1 Social media is not about selling tickets — While we are all anxious to get more people in the doors at our shows and events, more and more data is coming out about the ineffectiveness of using social media simply to sell a product. Announcing an added performance or offering a special discount is one thing; that’s news and it’s appealing. But simply reposting your standard ticket offer again and again gets old really fast. Your followers want to know when you have an event, but they aren’t looking for a hard sell. Read the rest of this entry »

Partnering Under a Banner

Posted by Wayne Andrews On December - 9 - 2011

Wayne Andrews

Competition is hard. In the business world market share, loss leaders, and incentives are used to drive product loyalty. This does not work in the creative economy.

You can’t coupon a radio listener into supporting your local songwriter’s organization, or celebrate that the ballet has gained market share over the orchestra.

The arts are one of the few business models where we don’t celebrate growth by one organization over another. Never have we heard the Opera Generation is involved in an art war with New Ballet.

There are a host of incentives and promotions arts groups utilize to entice people to try the ballet or opera. Every arts group has tried a “pay what you can night” or “free tickets promotions” hoping to expand their audience.

Still I don’t care that a prune is a dried plum because to many people it is still a prune. Just as opera is opera or modern art is confusing. Most products realize once the discounted price, coupon, or gimmick that lured the consumers to buy their brand of soap is gone, and so is the customer.

How will art groups build a new audience? By merging more than marketing efforts, but by merging their programs. Read the rest of this entry »