Copy and pasting for arts audience development???

I hope you had a nice weekend!  I found this weekend to have a common theme that I wanted to share with you.  The concept of copy and paste and how it is affecting our artistry, audience development, and the future of arts administration.

I started off the weekend reading The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamine Zander.  I am about 2/3 into this book, and it offers a fresh perspective on how to relate to people with a broader mind and more creative agenda.  It starts out with an example of 9 dots in a box formation, and you are asked to connect all the dots in one line (without lifting your pen/pencil).  The solution is not forthcoming if you confine yourself to this box.  You have to go beyond the borders in order to accomplish the task, and the line (spoiler alert) does not form a box in the end, but a triangle.

I also went out to dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  She is a professor at our local university.  She was mentioning the challenge of presenting her work without using a PowerPoint presentation and instead relaying the information in a more visual way.  She is a believer that her students will learn more with this visual aspect, that they will absorb more by really listening and paying attention.  She received complaints on her feedback from the students.  60% wanted her to go back to her typical PowerPoint.  They wanted everything point by point.  They wanted the .pdf of the presentation. They do not want to “waste time” listening and attempting to create the lesson in their own words.  They are afraid of missing what will be on future tests.

We had a big discussion about how education is becoming a copy and paste function instead of a creative learning process.  With all the standardized testing formats, the PowerPoint bullet presentations, there is no outlet for students to take a concept and run with it.  Instead, they feel uncomfortable going beyond the box and would rather copy and paste the content to get the grade.  Getting the grade and graduating is the objective, not learning and creating for themselves.

If graduate level education has resorted to this copy and paste mentality, we are certainly heading toward a slippery down slope for propagating the next generation of creative minds. This also will most certainly present problems for the up and coming arts administrators in our future.  We are already starting to see the Arts, in terms of audience development and marketing, falling into this same copy and paste mode, despite the fact that we are the creatives in our world.

There are still a few among us that are generating new content and new ways of outreaching to our audiences, but I see a great deal of “buzz words” and “buzz programs” being copied and pasted.  Despite the original idea being sound, this will not increase our audiences because one size does not fit all.  You can take a program from one area, and it may not work when recreating this same program for another area.  Copying and pasting will not work for us.  We all have different audiences, unique people that are attending our events.  We need to get beyond the copy and paste mentality to create our own specific programs in order to build our individual audiences.

To me, this is a slightly worse scenario than the templates I had mentioned before.  At least with a template, you can tweak it a bit to fit your own needs.  With copy and paste, there is no individuality at all.  Our audiences are being subjected to another audiences’ ideal, not their own.

So, yes, I am concerned about the future of arts and education if the copy and paste mentality becomes the norm.  The only way we can get out of this box is if the arts leaders of today start creating outside of this box themselves.  I do hope that they will!


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, arts marketing, Audience Development

6 responses to “Copy and pasting for arts audience development???

  1. Hi Shoshana, 1. Art of Possibility is next on my reading pile! What coincidence. 2. I think what you suggest is happening in education started about 20-30 years ago but it’s just becoming obvious now. We are way behind the rest of the world in “Education”. Not just in the arts, but here’s a clear example: Every music student in the UK must pass a music theory exam (known as “Grade 5”) as part of their college *entrance *auditions (composition students must pass Grade 8 music theory), whereas a European teacher now working at Manhattan School of Music is using the same exam materials to help her Phd piano students learn about music theory (She’s happy getting paid 5x more than in her Armenian University but is now teaching what is to her, high school material!). Many of our current middle & high school teachers were copying when they were students, so what else can they teach if that’s all they know? Discipline is also an issue – far too many teachers don’t know how to engage their students in order to maintain good discipline. Why would anyone [rightfully] let teenagers “out of their control” and encourage them to use their own creativity if they can’t even maintain a focused environment under normal circumstances! Consequently, as those kids get older they bring the same bad habits/ expectations to college. It’s why the US education system is now nicknamed “Grades K-16”

    OK, rant over… SPB

    • Wow, Stephen, your example is quite alarming. Not only are we copy and pasting and then teaching in this manner because it is what is being handed down, but we are that much behind in curriculum? Whoa, I say! It is quite lucky when teachers are not made of the same mold, and often we sight these teachers as being our favorites in the future. It will take more than luck though if we want future leaders that can think beyond the norms. It is also why the arts are more important than ever, and I hope we as an industry can learn how to set a better example of going beyond by extending ourselves to new levels and ways of thinking.

  2. Pierre-Arnaud

    Didn’t read the post yet but the dots suggested me you read the Art of possibility! [update] Yeah! I’m right 😀

  3. Siyabulela Heshula

    Good Day Soshana,

    Thank you for you recent newsletter on cutting and pating,I find it very insightful and it raised my ears on being aware I always use my original ideas with help from referring to your stratergies from time to time.

    I’m a gentlemen from the community of Khayelitsha Township in Cape Town South Africa and audience development has always been my area of interest.I enjoy being a helping hand in an original or rather big idea.

    I would like to send a proposal to Cape Town Opera suggesting that they should hire me on a mentorship programme on Audience Development and I have already found myself two Mentors which are;you and Jill Waterman,I’m subscribed to your news letters.

    The reason why I have ineterest in Cape Town Opera is I have seen them wrestling in trying to get black people to theatre and it has never worked not because they are not interested but I have discovered that the problem is always communication hence they never get to the potential customer,yes they have employed someone from this community but the person is an aspiring Opera Singer which they believed employing him would be hiting two birds with one stone as he would do community outreach then he’d be a house soloist for them,I now believe 5 years later they have realised that the gentlement is only interested in singing and nothing else.

    The reason I’m writting to you is,I want to send them a proposal for them to put me on a salary structure while I find my ways through audience development stratergies and I beleieve I will acheive greatly but I just need ways to convince them I have what it takes.I’m in a circle of Opera and Choral loving friend and we love having fun,should I come up with an idea to them I know I can drive them to the theatre,now I need your expertees on how do I write this proposal and what points to remember when writing to them as I don’t want to sell myself short while i don’t want to sound too confident.

    I would highly appreciate you help,


    Siya Heshula

  4. Pingback: Copy and pasting for arts audience development??? | Audience Development for the Arts |

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