Entitlement and arts audience development

Last Friday I blogged about some of the reasons why arts organizations succeed and some reasons why they are failing.  I hinted at the big elephant in the room, but for this Monday Moment, I will come out and declare it!

One of the biggest reasons arts organizations are failing is due to the feelings of entitlement.  We have gone through centuries of feeling that the arts are supposed to be supported, and in many cases have rested on this laurel.  We have forgotten how to do the good old fashioned work that results in successful arts businesses.

I am not meaning that we have become artistically lazy, although in some cases, we could cut back on offerings to ensure that each program is a true winner in terms of quality.  In regard to how we are running our businesses, we have become a little lazy.  Boards are not raising as much money.  Staff are falling back on measures that do not offer top quality customer service.  Individual artists have turned to complaining that they have to do the work.  Our marketing is lazy since we create the same tired marketing in the same tired ways that no longer get results.  The creativity for fundraising has almost gone out the window.  We mostly continue with the same old events, annual asks, etc.

We are artists.  Most of the arts administrators are artists as well.  Instead of feeling entitled, maybe it is time to finally use our artistic savvy and roll up our sleeves to become creative again.  It is time to connect again with our patrons on all levels.  It is time for the artists and arts administrators to act as a team again where we all work at audience development.  It is time for all of us to learn new ways of selling an event instead of relying on our tired ads, same old marketing copy and misplaced energy and money on other energy-less efforts.

Many organizations do have the amount of staff needed to turn everything around.  They also have the amount of money to reallocate to new efforts.  The fact that older, established, and well staffed organizations are going bankrupt means that they are, or had been, suffering from entitlement issues.

If you really want a well functioning arts business, you have to do the work.  For the smaller organizations and individual artists, this also means building a team of volunteers to help you do the work.  No one has to do all the work alone.  Everyone can build a team to work with.

We are entering the age where authenticity is going to be attractive, especially since there are more people on this planet that are clamoring for attention.  In many locations, we are saturated with arts offerings.  The competition is fierce for audience, for grants, for donations, for sponsorships…

So, if you want to be successful in this atmosphere, entitlement is not the way to go.  Good old fashioned hard work and audience development is!

PS  This is a general observation, and I am happy to report that there are some artists and organizations that are working hard, being creative, and seeing some fantastic results!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists



“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

Although we are not a non-profit, if you would like to support ADS to continue our work, you can donate here.

My eBook

New eBook!  The How of  Audience Development for the Arts: Learn the Basics, Create Your Plan

1 Comment

Filed under Arts, Arts funding, arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development, Fundraising

One response to “Entitlement and arts audience development

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s