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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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Questions of Musical Engagement

Posted by Susannah Greenwood, Oct 05, 2010 2 comments has a somewhat unique charge in their local community that involves two very distinct groups of folks; Arts Organizations and Audiences. Collaboration and technology are key parts of our mission and we’re always looking for ways to creatively bring artists together with other artists as well as lead audiences to artists/arts organizations. We are constantly asking ourselves “Is there any group or groups of artists that we aren’t reaching?”

Susannah Greenwood

Due to their large numbers, the short “shelf-life” of a gig (as opposed to say a four week run for a theatre) and the one-man-show-type setup of their marketing efforts, local independent musicians are where we saw a consistent gap in our communication and representation.  So, then we asked “what would a musician want that they don’t already have, that could help them to market themselves appropriately within this community?” The answer came back as… another question, “what if we had a vehicle for listening to mp3’s from local bands and linked that “player” directly to the existing events calendar? What if I could listen to a bunch of bands and when I heard one I liked, I could see who it was and search immediately when they were playing? And what if it was free to post the songs and free to listen to them? How awesome would that be? (We ask a lot of questions over here.)

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What's Your Motivation?

Posted by David Dombrosky, Oct 05, 2010 3 comments

David Dombrosky

In a world where we are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day, our society has grown hyper-aware (and hyper-wary) of advertising in all its mutated forms – from magazine ads to product placement in television shows, from celebrities dropping brand names during interviews to Facebook pages used solely to increase ticket sales.  When it comes to using social media, motivation is a key factor in forecasting whether an organization’s efforts will succeed or fail. 

With motivation, I’m talking about the “why” not the “what.”  Often we confuse the question “why are you using social media” with “what do you hope to achieve with social media.”  Our answers tend to revolve around increases in attendance, ticket sales, registrations, donations, etc.  Many of us mistakenly perceive our desired outcomes as the reasons motivating our social media participation.

I say “mistakenly,” but for some people there is no motivation for using social media beyond increasing the bottom line.  Now, I know it is counterintuitive for me to proclaim this in an arts marketing blog salon, but here goes.  Social media sites are not marketing tools, they are engagement tools.  (Wait!  Don’t call me a heretic yet.)  When social media sites are used with a motivation for engagement rather than self-promotion, they often lead to those desired marketing outcomes of increased sales and brand awareness.

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The Creative Economy Has Our Attention. Now It Needs a United Voice. (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Stephanie Hanson, Sep 29, 2010 3 comments

Stephanie Evans

There has been a lot of talk about the creative economy coming out of Washington, DC, lately—from the NEA’s recent panel discussion last week on Creative Placemaking, to the Center for American Progress’ panel which discussed The Creative Economy:  How to Keep the Fuel of Creation and Innovation Burning (If you have an hour and a half, I highly recommend watching the video of this panel). Also last week, Partners for Livable Communities hosted a forum on Building Livable Communities:  Creating a Common Agenda. 

I was lucky to have snagged a seat at the sold-out and standing-room-only Center for American Progress Creative Economy panel, which took place on September 21. There were some key takeaways and important points that are worth repeating and sharing.

It’s also interesting that within the span of less than two weeks, three separate organizations (a federal government agency, a progressive think tank, and a national nonprofit) felt it important to invest the time and energy into the topics of creative economy and livability. I believe this is a reflection of the years of hard work and advocacy put in by many artists, arts administrators, advocates, journalists, and citizens who have pushed to get arts and culture to the center of the discussion around how we can begin to solve the economic and social challenges that are plaguing our country.  It’s uplifting to note that in some corners of our world (and U.S. government) that there are those who “get it.”

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Happy Birthday, NEA!

Posted by Tim Mikulski, Sep 29, 2010 0 comments

Lyndon Johnson signs into law the act that created the NEA

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts as on September 29, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the law that created the cultural agency.  

 Here is a list of facts regarding the Endowment that they provided in honor of the event. For more information, visit

A compendium of statistics on the National Endowment for the Arts on the occasion of its 45th Birthday

September 29, 2010

Total dollar amount of NEA grants awarded to nonprofit organizations
in 45-year history: $4 billion (>130,000 grants)i

Economic activity generated by the nonprofit arts sector Ueach yearU: $166 billionii

Number of cities participating in NEA's Mayor's Institutes on City Design since 1986: 600iii

Average ratio of matching funds to NEA awards: 7:1iv

Rate at which arts participants volunteer compared to non-participants: 2:1v

Languages translated into English through NEA Literature Translation Fellowships:  61vi

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