Audience development – Shift from monetary goals to connecting with people through your art!

I joined a forum that is addressing audience development head on.  I am realizing more and more about the shift that is needed.  The encouraging news is that there are some people on this forum that seem to get it, people like Kelly Tweeddale of Seattle, WA.  I have been admiring her comments due to the fact that they are pointing to the need to build relationships and the time that is necessary to do this.

Here is her most recent post that I admired:

“This may seem counter to traditional marketing theory, but we have just gone through an exercise to purposely de-monetize the discussion of audience development.  Too many times we let the real and pressing budget and financial needs drive the strategies.  If we are really earnest about attracting, engaging, and connecting, we must exercise the patience to let a community develop without the almighty transaction being forced down their throat.  As much as the naysayers of the early internet said that free content would never monetize, it has proven that over time it has.  In our organization’s case we have begun to define what behavior and impact we are looking for and measuring that.  As a complementary adjunct, we are also making access to transaction and sales as easy and seamless as possible.  It is currently a leap of faith, but it does allow different thinking to occur when you make the financial transaction an outcome rather than the goal.”

I completely agree with Kelly. Patience is needed to allow a community to build. Relationships are not built overnight.

“It is currently a leap of faith, but it does allow different thinking to occur when you make the financial transaction an outcome rather than the goal.”

This is such a wonderful statement. It’s almost as if many of us are forgetting why we are in the arts in the first place. Is it simply about making money or is it about connecting with people through our art (with the financial transaction being along for the ride)? I understand that it takes money to produce art, but people are not going to support art due to the monetary needs. They are going to support it due to the emotional and spiritual connections, the relationships with the art and the artists. I do believe a major shift needs to occur. We need to find a way to make the arts valuable again.

The reason the arts were valuable in the past (pre-19th Century especially) was because people did feel connected to it. It wasn’t about the money in those days. It was about the participation, the value of the arts for our culture, the community feel between the audience and the artists. We were in it together back then. The audience was not in the dark. Instead, they were a major part of the production in every part of the production. It wasn’t a solo for us to view, it was a concerto for all of us to perform.

So the shift from artist vs. audience to artist working with audience needs to happen. The shift from monetary goals to the goals of connecting with our art needs to happen. The shift from mass marketing to audience development (relationship building) needs to happen. These shifts will help create the win-win situation that we vastly need to keep the arts healthy and alive.

We are in an age where people crave to connect and participate. Engage this need and the arts will thrive.

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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Filed under arts advocacy, arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development

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