Audience development for the arts – take action!

Happy Friday to you!  Do you have any weekend plans?  I have been looking at a few online calendars to see if there are any arts events I want to go to.  This is my research phase.  I can spend a great deal of time looking around, but eventually, if I want to do anything, I will have to pick and choose and take action.

Audience development also requires action in order to get anything done.  Yesterday, I was looking into the JAI‘s (Jazz Audiences Initiative) recent research.  You may already know that I get my geek on looking at these reports.  However, a repeated thought popped into my head.  Most of the findings were what I naturally already knew since it is personally observable or common sense, and some of the findings are what other research has already focused on and discovered.  I do admit there were a few kernels of new information I was excited about, but for the most part, same findings as before, what we know already.

Now, some people may agree that it is good to conduct more research to absolutely make sure our previous findings are sound.  And no offense to the research guys, they do a fabulous job.  However, there comes a time when we need to stop researching and finally pick and choose audience development programs and go for it.  We need to take more action!

I believe that over the course of the past few years, we have found the data needed to take the next steps.  For some reason everyone feels they need to do more research.  In the meantime, time is ticking by and audiences are not being built.  We are not taking the action to build relationships since we are stuck in the research mode.

For example, we already know that the younger generations rely on their friends and other word of mouth to discover an event.  They also rely on their network to try new music, movies, etc.  Why are we still spending time and money finding out about this again instead of actually putting grassroots programs into place now (rather than later).

I posted an audience development tip of the day about taking this action.  This was posted before reading the above mentioned research.  This means that either I have seen the findings from a previous report, or I naturally had the idea since it is observable in every day life (and you can become observant about surrounding behaviors too).

Furthermore, I had a conversation with a local arts advocate.  She mentioned that there are capacity issues (time and money) that prevent audience development efforts.  I quickly replied that this is more of an excuse than a reality.  I have worked with the smallest of starter groups that are able to pull off audience development successfully.  They had less staff and money than most organizations out there.  The point is, there needs to be a conscious choice to shift gears to action mode and to shift monetary and staff resources to working toward audience development.  We need to get out of research mode, out of excuse mode, and finally put our resources to action oriented endeavors.

Of course this is a generalization.  There are some artists and arts organizations taking the ball and running with it.  I would love to see more running!

I agree that research is necessary, especially if none has been conducted before.  I love research!  I enjoy digging into the findings.  However, there comes a time when pricey research no longer makes sense.  It doesn’t make sense to stay in research mode when action and the resources for action are currently needed.

Thoughts? and Have a great weekend!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists


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

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Filed under Arts, arts management, Audience Development

2 responses to “Audience development for the arts – take action!

  1. Well said, Shoshana. Couldn’t agree more.

    And I don’t buy the capacity argument at all. What’s more tragic than an arts organization failing because they didn’t devote enough resources to selling their product?

    The quest for objective knowledge is vital, but it’s not an excuse for failing to change. Sometimes you just have to get off your butts and actually do something.

    Have a great weekend.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Trevor. Good weekend to you too!

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