Using Data to Connect Audiences to the Performing Arts: NAMPC 2014

Posted by Ariel Fielding On November - 24 - 2014
Ariel Fielding

Ariel Fielding

How does a marketing director with an audience-centered approach reconcile the growing primacy of data and digital marketing? Would it be possible for such a person — me — to collect, analyze, and mobilize data without reducing patrons to strings of zeros and ones? Would the things I love about my work — using images, language, and design to entice people to join the audience, and to give them a larger context for understanding the performing arts — would these things become less important in the headlong rush towards data? These are a few of the questions I brought to NAMPC2014, and the answers I found were more compelling, nuanced, and heartening than I expected. Read the rest of this entry »

Grinding Gears for the Arts

Posted by Kyle Dlabay On October - 21 - 2014
Kyle Dlabay

Kyle Dlabay

When you think about the performing arts, the first image that comes to mind probably isn’t thousands of cyclists. But in Milwaukee, bike riding and the performing arts have been connected since 1981 when the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) started the UPAF Ride for the Arts, sponsored by Miller Lite. Back then it was known as “Arts Pedalers,” then it grew immensely as “Uecker’s Ride for the Arts” and “Miller Lite for the Ride for the Arts.” The current name, which our title sponsor graciously agreed to in 2010, ensures the focus of the event is on its reason for being–to support the performing arts in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Founded in 1967, UPAF is an umbrella fundraising United Arts Fund with a threefold mission: 1) to raise much-needed funds to ensure entertainment excellence, 2) steward the dollars our donors so generously give, 3) promote the performing arts as a regional asset. As the single largest funder to 15 of the largest performing arts organizations in our region, including the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Ballet, and Milwaukee Repertory Theater, UPAF is essential to sustaining the valuable asset that we have in the performing arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Unpacking Shared Delivery of Arts Education

Posted by Talia Gibas On December - 18 - 2012
Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

When some brave soul writes an updated history of arts education in the United States (any takers?) I think he or she will describe the early-to-mid-2000s as an ambitious era. The arts education sector, mirroring the broader arts field and the constantly reforming field of education, is having larger and broader conversations about impact, outcomes, and sustainability. In the process it’s moving toward large and broader models of best practice such as the idea of  “shared delivery” (also known as “blended delivery” and the “three-legged stool model”).

Shared delivery has been in vogue for the last few years. It was a central topic of conversation at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference in 2008. Americans for the Arts identifies shared delivery as a key component to a broader approach called “coordinated delivery”—which, in turn, was identified as a major arts education trend in 2010. My own initiative, Arts for All, upholds shared delivery as integral to the vision of ensuring high quality arts education for all students in Los Angeles County.

In the K–12 public school setting, shared delivery envisions students receiving arts instruction from three distinct parties: 1) generalist elementary school teachers, 2) arts specialists, and 3) teaching artists and/or community arts organizations.

Under this model, the three collaborate to provide visual and performing arts programs to children. The generalist teacher integrates the arts throughout daily lessons across subject areas, the specialist hones in on skills and content specific to his or her art form, and the teaching artist supports one or both while engaging directly with students and providing the perspective of a working arts professional. The model posits that each of these three roles is of equal importance…

(Editor’s Note: To read more of Talia’s post (reprinted here with permission), visit where it was originally published on December 3, 2012.)

Planning Your Marketing Mix

Posted by Jennifer Hubbartt On October - 3 - 2012

Jennifer Hubbartt

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I shared a hobby with other Generation X-ers: I made my own mix tapes. Simply pop a cassette in the dual tape deck, and tape songs heard off the radio, from compact disc, or even vinyl.

Younger generations would find this procedure outdated. Dead, even. Yet the art of the mix tape isn’t dead, entirely. It is the technology that’s changed.

Now instead of tapes we use playlists generated from sources like iTunes that are synced with iPods or other such devices. Music lovers today simply need to grasp the new tools at hand to make your own mix tape.

The same can be said about the Marketing Mix. I’ve been in the arts marketing field for over a decade, and in recent years I’ve heard variations on a theme. Advertising is dead. Direct mail is dead. Subscriptions are dead. Even Marketing itself is dead.

However, it is also the case that technology has evolved, giving us marketers even more ways with which to communicate the products we have to offer our audiences, test new tactics, and analyze the results. One individual marketing tactic may not make or break your ticket sales as they once had; it is all about your Mix.

The trick is to figure out the tools best suited for your audience, find the right beat, and strike the appropriate balance for your organization’s Marketing Mix, taking advantage of the new tools at hand.

Some points to consider the balance of your Marketing Mix, which has helped my many campaigns move and groove into ticket sales and audience development:

Who is my audience? Who else could we/should we be serving? This can help you make decisions for your price, packaging, and messaging throughout your advertising and social media engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Index: The Performing Arts and Arts Education

Posted by Randy Cohen On August - 8 - 2012
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

This post is one in a series highlighting the Local Arts Index (LAI) by Americans for the Arts. The LAI provides a set of measures to help understand the breadth, depth, and character of the cultural life of a community. It provides county-level data about arts participation, funding, fiscal health, competitiveness, and more. Check out your county and compare it to any of the nation’s 3,143 counties at

Nearly 50 percent (!) of the indicators in the Local Arts Index are now available for viewing. Haven’t stopped by lately? Take a moment to check out the “Where I Live” page to see what is new, and take a few minutes to see how where you live compares to other communities.

We’ve been releasing indicators in a series of groupings of related subjects, museums and collections-based organizations for instance, and most recently the performing arts.

Newly released this week is a group of arts education measures. And soon we’ll be releasing the ability to generate mini-reports, grouping specific indicators that you may find valuable.

But first the performing arts…There are two windows into the performing arts in these recently released indicators: popular entertainment and the lively arts. How do they describe your community, and how do they compare and contrast to other communities like yours?

Do some members of your community spend their dollars on attending popular entertainment (the national average is $20.43 per capita) and do others also attend the live performing arts? These two do not necessarily conflict and they may well complement each other, so the answer to both questions is very probably “yes.”

There is a long-held practice of associating “active arts participation” with the traditional live arts—ballet, symphony, opera, theater—which are normally produced and presented by nonprofit entities. But we can also gain a sense of local engagement through attendance and expenditures on popular entertainment that includes rock, hip-hop, and country as well as comedy and other forms of stage entertainment. Read the rest of this entry »

Camille Russell Love

There is an undeniable compatibility with the arts and the City of Atlanta local economy. According to the newest evidence provided by the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report on Atlanta, our nonprofit arts and culture organizations are a $300 million industry.

This calculation is a combination of the expenditures of these organizations ($168.1 million) and that of the attendees to cultural events ($131.9 million), excluding ticket prices. This local spending by residents and visitors to arts events benefits not only local business but local government as well.

Local government revenue from the above mentioned cultural expenditures, according to the AEP IV study, are $14 million. Proper distribution of these above mentioned government funds, in support of Atlanta’s booming arts industry will continue to heighten the city’s economic standing—without question. A good example of this cyclical relationship is a 2011 project of the Office of Cultural Affairs, Elevate/Art Above Underground. Local businesses, ranging from mom and pop shops to large hotel chains, gathered in support this downtown contemporary art and culture initiative.

Downtown Atlanta received a rather bold, immediate, and affirmative reaction following Elevate’s implementation. Elevate/Art Above Underground, a 66-day performance and visual arts exhibition in 2011, filled vacant properties, street corners, and plazas to showcase artwork ranging from 13-story murals to contemporary dance, video, installation, and poetry.

Although public funding allocated through our percent for art program was the direct source for the artist commissions, additional funding to execute an exhibition of this caliber was provided through local Atlanta businesses. Donation of art space, hotel rooms, theatrical lighting, food, advertising, and cash support nearly doubled the exhibition’s initial budget. Read the rest of this entry »

Investing in Successful Partnerships

Posted by Mandy Buscas On March - 13 - 2012

Students take part in Mesa Arts Center's Culture Connect program.

I spent the past 10 years touring the state of Arizona working for the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Along the way, I saw quality arts education partnerships in action from county attorney’s offices collaborating with urban elementary schools to create murals with an anti-drug message, to rural school districts working in tandem with presenting organizations to provide live theatre to students.

I met partners who brought a unique contribution to the table and partners vested in ensuring their programs were of quality.

However, I also encountered estranged, forced, and tired partnerships that were no longer contributing quality experiences to students.

I’ve also made a career change. In my new role as the education director of outreach for the Mesa Arts Center, I’m charged with providing authentic arts experiences and finding unique, quality partners to deepen the impact of arts education in our community.

While I had numerous examples in the field to draw from, like many colleagues, I found there was never one program I could model from or one solution to “how do we make this work?” Each community, art center, school, teacher, and artist had their own unique contribution and impact to make. Read the rest of this entry »

Quality Education Must Include the Arts…and Partnerships

Posted by Joyce Bonomini On March - 13 - 2012

Joyce Bonomini

Arts education is my passion and I believe a solution to most problems in the world.

I could stop there, but I won’t.

I am fortunate to lead a team of arts educators and administrators that are committed to a vision and definition of arts education that insists on quality, engagement, and partnerships to sustain.

We believe:

  1. Arts and arts education are essential to human development.
  2. Arts are vital to the life of the community.
  3. The measure of our culture lives in the art we value and pass on to our children.
  4. Art is personal; art changes lives.

Through professional leadership, adherence to standards of excellence, responsiveness to our constituents, and uncompromising dedication to principals of inclusion, The Hoffman Institute provides a dynamic resource to all segments of the community for life-long experience, exploration, discovery, and mastery of the performing arts.

Our educational philosophy follows that vision as we believe that the performing arts are integral to human development and essential to the quality of life of a community. Furthermore, quality programming engages the community as a whole in an ongoing dialogue that strengthens the individual, our organization, and the community at large. 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 »

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 »

The Overlapping Line of Boxing and the Arts

Posted by Tim Mikulski On October - 19 - 2011

Several months ago Merryl Goldberg, a long-time ARTSblogger, wrote a post called “You’re the Arts Department Chair and You Box?!” about her experiences as a novice boxer at her local L.A. Boxing gym.

Not that long after it was published in mid-March, Merryl was contacted by L.A. Boxing about taping her story for their YouTube channel.

This is her video…

Merryl is currently considering a project that connects athletes and artists/arts administrators to speak out together on the importance of both worlds.

Do you have an examples of a crossover between sports and the arts? Post them in the comments below or email them to! We’d love to hear from you.

When a Bigger Audience May Not Be a Better Audience

Posted by Sara Billmann On October - 6 - 2011

Sara Billmann

I’ve been thinking a lot about audience lately, and how we often we fall into the trap of marketing our performances TO certain audiences rather than thinking about what kind of audience experience we can design to attract the ‘right’ audience for the work that we’re presenting.

It’s a very subtle shift in thinking, but one that I’m starting to think can have a big impact on the work we do.

As a presenter, my involvement in the creation of any given work is basically non-existent. While I’m part of the curatorial team that puts together each season for our audiences, I seldom see the work that we present in advance and rely heavily on the press kit, recordings, and YouTube videos to gain a real understanding of the artists we present (ironic, isn’t it, that while we tout the importance of the live performance experience, we rely on digital media to understand it ourselves).

For most performances, that method works just fine – I either have past experience with an artist, or it is a relatively straightforward performance, and I have easy access to understanding the program and the artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Are Subscriptions Dead? Maybe Not (Part 2)

Posted by Chad Bauman On October - 5 - 2011

Chad Bauman

In Part 1, Chad discussed how Arena Stage conducted research to determine if subscriptions still worked for their organization. Below, and in Part 3, he discusses some of the tactical changes Arena Stage has made as a result of that work:

Simplified Pricing.
Our previous subscription pricing strategies were incredibly complicated. I remember spending hours poring over pricing strategy, and at the end thinking that one would have to be a CPA to understand how our pricing model worked. We decided that in order to create an effective value proposition, subscription pricing would have to be clear and easy to understand.

We worked for weeks to develop a simple pricing structure that could be messaged easily, such as “buy 6 plays, get 2 plays free.” The new pricing structure allowed us to easily communicate a value proposition and to eliminate complicated order sheets, replacing them with order forms that could be filled out easily.

Clear, concise and transparent pricing was pivotal to effectively communicating the value of a subscription. Read the rest of this entry »

Butts in Seats: 5 Tips for Event Marketing Using Social Media

Posted by Ceci Dadisman On October - 3 - 2011

Ceci Dadisman

Social media is an important piece of the event marketing puzzle. Unlike most nonprofits that are marketing one product all year long (a charitable cause), a performing arts organization markets multiple different products (performances and events) throughout each season.

It can be challenging to market diverse offerings whilst still under the umbrella of one organization.

Let me share my top-5 tips to marketing events that will generate buzz and improve conversions:

1. Don’t forget about the 80/20 rule. This is a rule that I live by regarding social media marketing, whether it is when I’m marketing an event or not. I find that the best ratio to keep people engaged but not tick them off is to have 80% engagement and 20% broadcasting. Even when you have an event to market, talking 100% about that event is just going to turn people off and they aren’t going to listen to one word that you are saying.

2. Engage creatively. This one goes together with tip #1 about the 80/20 rule. You may ask, why should I waste time tweeting or posting about stuff that has nothing to do with my event when I’m trying to sell tickets? Well, that is pretty simple to answer.

If you are engaging with people, you will be top of mind so that when they do hear something about you or your event, they will remember the interaction and be much more likely to check it out. Read the rest of this entry »

Co-Authoring Meaning

Posted by John R. Killacky On September - 8 - 2011

John R. Kilacky

Online social media has radically transformed news coverage. Tweets, Facebook posts, and amateur videos were essential in the coverage of the Arab spring, Japanese tsunami, bin Laden’s death, and Hurricane Irene. Public radio and local newspapers are now multimedia companies, crowdsourcing listeners and readers in co-authoring content.

Arts organizations, surprisingly, are behind the curve. Audiences today are drawn, not merely to a performance, but to an arts experience in which they participate. The experience does not begin and end at the performance curtain, but long before and after: at home, in the lobby, online, and sharing with friends.

Word of mouth has always been potent for box office, so it is essential that the arts marshal the power of online participatory media. However, this calls for a paradigm shift in thinking about what cultural participation means for audiences, live and viral.

At social media workshops, the conversation still defaults to using these platforms as a one-way transactional marketing medium: pushing out more marketing messages. Totally wrong! Read the rest of this entry »