Audience development for the arts community – time to open up and share

I’m working on a juicy blog for the future.  In the meantime, I have been thinking about how challenging it is to get people to talk about audience development, yet everyone seems to have questions.  So why is the arts community as a group shying away from major audience development discussion?  Here are my thoughts:

  1. People are afraid to speak up.  One reason may be that they do not want to appear like they have any issues.  Another reason may be that they are afraid their idea will be stolen.   I believe that if you are too closed to sharing, you won’t be open enough to receiving.  Also, if the idea is truly yours, only you will be able to establish it with your own style, which will make it unique no matter who tries to implement it.  Remember, we have nothing to fear but fear itself (thank you Roosevelt and Thoreau)!
  2. Maybe we do not know as a group where to go to discuss these issues.  I at times get DM’d on twitter asking a specific question about audience development.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an entire community helping each other out with these problems?  Here are a few places you can ask our community:
    • On twitter, I am attempting to use the hashtag #auddev to post great articles and to share fabulous ideas.  Maybe we could use this hashtag to ask and answer questions about audience development.  Then we would have a place to not only centrally ask a question, but to find some amazing answers.
    • I have started a LinkedIn Group, for the same reasons, and you have more characters to use for your post.  Please feel free to join the group and post your questions and advice for others.  This board can accommodate numerous discussions at once.
    • If you are located in Chicago, there is a group called Arts Engagement Exchange – A Network To Build Chicago Arts Audiences. They have included a discussion board on various audience development topics, an easy way to work with your peers on new ideas.
    • Your local arts alliance may have discussion groups to join.
    • I will post more as I find them.  Please comment if you know of an arts group discussing audience development.
  3. We do not collectively have the perception that everyone can be successful and instead have a competition mentality.  This might fall into the fear category, but I feel it is a point that needs to be addressed separately.  I see groups afraid to collaborate due to this mentality.  We can keep viewing each other as dog eat dog, but wouldn’t it be better to view each other as resources for support?   The choice is ours.
  4. We don’t have time to talk about audience development since we are busy people.  This seems like a catch-22.  We don’t have time to discuss audience development which is an important issue to each and every one of us?  Maybe we need to make some time or look at our priorities so we can find this new support for the arts, our very own arts community.
  5. This point could get me in trouble personally, but in general, we need to stop attempting to rely on experts for all the answers. Audience development is about building support through relationships.  This means as an arts community, the biggest audience development ideal is to communicate and support each other.
  6. We aren’t used to looking wide and far enough. It would be good to start viewing the world as our oyster.  In terms of the next best audience development idea, this idea can come from anyone, anywhere!  Of course you need to evaluate every idea with a grain of salt.  What may work for you and your audiences may not work for someone else and their audiences.  But just think, we would all have a better chance of finding what is best for us if we are all willing to keep our eyes open and share ideas, drawbacks and successes.
  7. Last point, maybe some people in our group do not know what audience development really is.  If you have questions, please remember that there are no stupid questions, only people too dumb not to ask (is there a softer way to put this?).

We can learn from each other the best practices for audience development.  I am a firm believer in you get what you give too.  If you are in need of advice, perhaps it is time for you to help someone else to get the ball rolling.  So, go out there and share! I am here and hear to help.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
http://www.buildmyaudience.com
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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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Filed under arts advocacy, arts management, Audience Development

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