Blog Posts for Arts Marketing

DIGITAL EXTRAS #1: Two Big Reasons Arts Organizations Are Struggling

Posted by Brian Reich, Oct 05, 2010 0 comments

Brian Reich

1) Shiny Object Syndrome. Organizations too often look to technology as the solution to their problems. They suffer from "Shiny Object Syndrome.” Organizations invest in a piece of technology or sign on to a particular platform after reading another organization’s case study, or because the developers/salespeople swear it will deliver a certain result. But the truth is, it is not about the technology -- no widget or tool or database or network on its own will make your audience do anything. Technology can help host a vibrant conversation, facilitate an event, make the delivery of information more efficient (and in some cases compelling), or store all your data. But it won’t raise you money, help people listen, or get people off their couch to attend your performance. Arts organizations need to understand what is changing about how people get and share information and/or how marketing and communications must be adapted through those tools to reflect our more connected society if we are going to drive significant change. The understanding of how people use technology to create, consume, and share information and what their expectations are when it comes to interacting with an organization, or other individuals, is what is most important.

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Product is the first P

Posted by Deborah Obalil, Oct 05, 2010 1 comment

Deborah Obalil

As a consultant and trainer on the topic of arts marketing, so often when I'm contacted by potential clients there is an assumption that all I'm concerned with is promotional planning. And even when reading about the topic of arts marketing or having discussions with otherwise enlightened arts leaders, we seem to often forget a basic tenet of marketing – Product is the first of the Marketing Ps. (For more information on the Marketing Ps visit

Having worked in the arts management field for over 15 years, I know all too well why this happens. Product is the realm of the artists, marketing is the realm of the managers – or so the conventional thinking goes. The problem with this thinking is that it limits the organization's ability to truly think strategically. The product is the core of the customer experience, which also means it is not limited to what they see on the stage or on the walls of the gallery.

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TWC Likes Facebook

Posted by K.E. Semmel, Oct 05, 2010 2 comments

In a time of decreasing marketing budgets, social media platforms (especially Facebook) have become vitally important marketing resources for organizations like The Writer’s Center. When I began actively pursuing an audience for TWC on Facebook two years ago, I confess to having doubts about just what Facebook could do for us. Traditional advertising vehicles—such as TV, radio, and print media—seemed to be, or so I had been told when I was hired, the best means of reaching “our” core audience.  Facebook was, so it was believed, not something “they” would be interested in. Of course, I had no real data supporting or rejecting that belief (until the launch of our new Web site on July 1st of this year, TWC had no real way to track data). During my first year at The Writer’s Center I devoted a large portion of my ad budget to reaching that audience I was told was out there—just waiting to be converted: all we needed to do was put our ad in front of their eyes at just the right moment.

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Where we are different, we are the same

Posted by , Oct 05, 2010 1 comment

Amelia Northrup

As a writer for the Technology in the Arts blog, I am constantly thinking about which topics will appeal to which artistic disciplines, which specialty, which skill level… and on and on. But the more I have to think about the segmentation of the arts management audience, the more I realize how broad many of the issues we discuss are.

A few months ago, I interviewed Alan Cooke of the e-fundraising company Convio, and we talked at length about the problem of organizational silos. In arts organizations, as in any company, conflicts often arise between different departments and may develop into an “us against them” mentality. As arts organizations become more prevalent in the social media space, it becomes easier to see which organizations have truly good internal communication between marketing, communications, box office and development departments.

We also tend to think that orchestra problems are unique to orchestras, theatre problems unique to theatres, and so on. For example, a few months ago I was at an opera conference listening to a presenter from another artistic discipline, when a colleague leaned over and whispered, “Ok, but what does this have to do with opera?” Unsure how to respond, I sort of nodded in agreement, but later, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. True, it didn’t have much to do with opera, but, I would argue, the point of the conference was to learn new things, not to be told about things we already know.

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Arts participation and the bottom of the pyramid

Posted by Mr. Ian David Moss, Oct 05, 2010 4 comments

Ian David Moss

I have to admit it's a little strange to be part of this excellent blog team on the subject of arts marketing. I've never pretended to be any kind of expert on the practice of marketing; though I've done a lot of it, I've frankly shot blanks a lot more often than I've hit gold. (Among my more brilliant ideas was to advertise that there would be no alcohol provided at my twenty-first birthday party. One person showed up.) What I do know is how to look at the big picture when it comes to the arts. And I know from having done a whole lot of that over the past few years that all of you arts marketers are way more important to the future health and success of the professional arts than you may realize.

One reason for this is that the live professional arts have always appealed most to a relatively small niche of society. The recent NEA Survey of Public Participation in the Arts shows that in the year leading up to May 2008, less than 35% of Americans participated at least once in "benchmark arts activities," which collectively cover the bulk, though not all, of the disciplines and genres we have traditionally considered to be part of our field. That means that nearly two-thirds of American adults went the entire year without seeing a single classical music or jazz concert, attending a single musical, play, opera, or ballet, or visiting a single art gallery or museum. Let me repeat that in case it wasn't clear: 65% of American adults did none of these things at any time in 2007-08. (By contrast, fully 99% of American households have at least one television, and there are actually more TV sets than people in this country!) Lest you think this is a recent phenomenon, in NEA surveys stretching back to 1982, equivalent arts activities never reached more than 41% of the population, and a landmark 1966 study of the economics of the performing arts by William J. Baumol and William G. Bowen found that audiences for classical music, theater, and dance in the early 1960s were similarly unrepresentative of the general population in both the U.S. and Britain. Then, as today, participants in the arts and culture are disproportionately socioeconomically privileged: almost half of arts attendees made at least $75,000 a year in the 2008 NEA survey, compared to 30% of the overall population, and arts attendees were nearly twice as likely to have a college degree as the general public.

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Your level of use of technology by your patrons is totally OK

Posted by Ron Evans, Oct 05, 2010 4 comments

Ron Evans

A year or so ago on another blog post I mentioned that there was a coming war, between the “traditionalists” or people (both patrons and arts producers) who want to produce and experience their art in a traditional style and the “new mediaists,” who want to bring out their cell phone in the performance, video it, and engage with it in a variety of different ways. That prediction has come true – I'm hearing a lot of stories about these two groups clashing, and it is still growing (and will be for awhile I'd imagine). Twitter and text messages seem to be in the middle of the fray, with sharp opinions on both sides. Let's consider for a moment the different sides and arts organization can be on, in trying to cater to all patrons (a very difficult task).

The “traditional” presenting arts organization

The traditional presenting arts organization is usually led by an experienced leader/board, who has been running the organization for a long time (most likely before the advent of Facebook/Twitter/Text messages). Traditional behavior is expected from the audience – you should come in, sit down, read your program, clap when certain things happen, not clap when other things happen, and generally sit and watch and be entertained. It's not cool to bring out your phone in the theater any more than it would be in church – the theater is a sacred space, where the art happens and you are there to see it by yourself, in person. You don't contribute to the art being created – that is the mastery of those presenting. And to be clear, this format of experiencing arts and cultural events is TOTALLY OK.

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