Monthly Archives: August 2010

Audience development and quality

Today I would like to focus on quality and how it affects audience development for the arts.  I will not name names, but over the weekend I did partake in a few art events in my town.  The marketing for these events grabbed my attention.  I also happened to be personally invited to one of the events.

At these events, I was extremely disappointed.  Despite the brilliant marketing spin and the positive outreach efforts, the quality of the productions were lacking.  For a regular arts patron, aside from maybe not wanting to see another one of their productions, I will still go to arts events.  But consider how bland productions could actually hurt the arts in general if it was a non-regular patron that had the same opinions.  The lack of quality, especially since the marketing spin promised quality, made me feel lied to.  Would a non-regular patron want to try another arts event? Of course the arts are subjective, but most people would be able to establish something superb from something ordinary or less than.

The arts world is changing.  We used to look to benchmark organizations and artists to supply us with art, but now we are in a world of self-proclaimed artists.  Some may be kidding themselves as to whether or not their art is quality.  I agree with their right to create art, but how does it affect the arts world in general if they claim they are professional or quality, when maybe they are not?

I blogged about saturation a while back.  The saturation point can be taken one step further when we consider that we may have become saturated with self-proclaimed artists and organizations.  Again, everyone should have the right to create art, but perhaps not everyone should be considered quality art.  How does this saturation of sub par artistry affect our funding system too?  Some funding sources do not have a component to decipher quality so the quality artists can be left underfunded due to funds being distributed to the sub par artists and organizations.

Have you ever wondered how an “artist” may think they are all that and a bag of chips when they really are not?  I liken it to the American Idol phenomena.  People do not realize what they are until they are in front of an audience that can give honest feedback.  There were people auditioning on American Idol (or insert other audition shows here) that had a concept in their mind that they could sing, but the auditions proved that they couldn’t.

Maybe there needs to be more scrutiny when it comes to allowing an artist or organization to dub themselves with the terms “professional” or “quality” in their marketing, funding and outreach efforts.  Right now we do not have a system or seal of approval in a way similar to how we stamp “organic” on food products.  There are no guidelines established.  And, can we establish guidelines for the arts when taste is subjective?  What would these guidelines look like?

With the arts facing the saturation point, we do need to focus on quality instead of quantity.  The amount of artists and organizations can hinder obtaining an audience base necessary for the support we seek.  There simply may not be enough audience to go around.  This is the problem I am seeing in my area, and I suspect it is a concern around the world.  If you have too many people claiming to be artists or arts organizations, it makes it that much more difficult for the quality artists and organizations to gain the right amount of support.

To date, I do not have the ultimate solution to this challenge.  I understand that if a production is not quality, people will not want to support further productions.  However, these artists and organizations, instead of bowing out like we may think they would after some time, they instead keep plugging along.  Their productions can ruin it for the rest of the arts world.  The quality productions will continue to get less funding due to the saturation.  A patron could turn themselves off to all arts offerings after being snookered one too many times.

Less funding and less audience due to this situation can force quality artists and organizations to fold.  If we do not start focusing on quality in some fashion, our arts world may continue to have audience development challenges.   My one hope in this consideration is the fact that quality arts will eventually overcome the obstacles due to their quality.  I sure hope so.

What do you think?

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
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