A new case for audience development – more DIY needed now…

My audience development blog this morning is dedicated to my client who just had a concert this past weekend.  Through the final conversations before the concert, a huge thought has come to me.  Audience development is the wave of the future due to the changes that are happening now.  Don’t worry.  This will make sense in a second.

In my area, Denver/Boulder, I have seen a major newspaper go down, our classical radio station switched to a lower frequency, and less and less space/time dedicated to the arts in our surviving press.  One of our most thoughtful music/dance critics is out of work (we do not have a dedicated dance critic in our area), and I know the other critics are a little concerned about their jobs.

Due to these changes, I am seeing less and less coverage for the arts despite the major marketing and publicity efforts that we continue to put out.  Now we are seeing more and more artists and arts organizations competing for the same minuscule,  precious spots.  The typical marketing has become extremely expensive and less effective.  Our typical PR may not give us the same promising results as it has in the past. My client was feeling the decline due to all of these changes, and my reply was that more and more we will see the  world becoming a hands on, do it yourself (DIY) world.  If we want “coverage,” we will need to make our own noise!

We are already seeing the rise of individual news resources online.  My prediction is that the bigger newspapers will start covering the more local scenes too, thus ending the “newspaper in every town” need.   Since world news can be distributed in a matter of seconds via the internet, there really isn’t the same need for local newspapers anymore.

Since these changes are happening all over the world, can we simply rely on the same media coverage like we used to?  Mainly we cannot because it isn’t the same media coverage anymore.  We need to change the way we get the word out too.

What I am finding out is that in order to have an art event become a success, we need to rely more on ourselves and make our own noise using various audience development techniques.  Marketing and PR still work sometimes, but audience development, so far in my case, has worked all of the time.

Through the more personal hands on touch, I am seeing some wonderful increases in both audience and net profits.  I am also seeing that these increases are in direct correlation with how much effort goes into carrying out the program components of an audience development plan.  The more people you have on board to help, the bigger the effort, the bigger and better resulting audience. Also, the efforts that happen after the concert need to be counted.  The more follow-up, the better the audience the next time around.

Audience development, although more work is involved, is less money than typical marketing, more personal than typical PR, and will give you better results in the short term and help develop the best audience for you over the long term.  The building of relationships, innovative word of mouth, exceptional customer service, and thoughtful thank you follow ups are going to make the biggest differences now.  Not to mention the fact that audience development can also increase your connection to your community via collaborations. When you are connected to your community, everything becomes a little easier.

So the next time you find yourself doing the “woe is me” routine due to decreased arts coverage, maybe it is time to join the  DIY audience development movement and create your own tailored coverage.  Your performance, audience, and end results will become more meaningful than ever before.

Until next time, may your audiences be happy and loyal ones, and if they are not, feel free to contact me!


Shoshana Fanizza is the founder of Audience Development Specialists. Her mission is to introduce artists and arts organizations to their existing and potential audiences and to help them to form more rewarding relationships.


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