The beginning of a tipping point for audience development?

I have to tell you, I am on fire with excitement from the National Innovation Summit for Arts & Culture.  I have been attending virtually (weird since I’m in the same area, but I digress) for the past few days, and the topics and speakers have been incredibly inspiring.

I am most excited about all the buzz and buzz words that are all about audience development.  Remember the four C’s of audience development?  Connection, Collaborations, Community, Care – they are being tossed around like a brand new frisbee during a holiday gathering.  Everyone seems to be catching this fever of passion for building relationships, listening to your community, becoming a part of your community, partnering with people in the community, being at the table for your city meetings, etc!!!

I have been advocating for this type of movement for about 7 years now.  It’s a new/old way of running an arts business.  It’s not about the numbers and the money, it’s about the relationships to build the people energy that you want and need to support the arts.

The case studies presented, although not complete in follow up information, have been extremely inspiring.  There are artists and arts organizations that are working with and for their communities to build a symbiotic relationship that benefits the whole.  This is what I have been advocating for.  It’s time to connect again, to become a part of our communities, to show we care, and to collaborate and build partnerships with new and interesting businesses, industries, people.

Could this be the beginning of a tipping point for audience development?  There was a comment yesterday “We are waiting for a Paradigm Shift to occur.”  I say, why wait?  You can be a part of creating this shift now!

The word “now” has been refreshing to hear.  The action that these artists and organizations are presenting is making my heart sing with joy.  I am happy that there is a sector that is finding that relevance to our communities is an extremely important philosophy to live by and use for strengthening the arts.  The, “we are all in this together” mentality can catapult the arts back into everyday awareness, which is what we desperately need right now.

So, again, I hope this is the beginning of the tipping point for audience development, because I have come to believe that audience development could very well be the tipping point for arts advocacy, the bringing the arts back into our mainstream thinking and living.  Wouldn’t that be delicious?

Thoughts?

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

Please consider supporting ADS so we can continue our work.  Donate here! 

***Purchasing my book will help support ADS and our mission.***

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Collective voice for arts advocacy?

I have voiced this before – is it possible to find a way to have a bigger collective voice for arts advocacy rather than smaller private efforts? I think we all come from the same place of wanting the arts to be a part of our shared human culture, to be fully valued and funded. All across America I see so many separate efforts. Maybe as artists, it might not be possible to be collective since we mainly are unique individuals that enjoy creating. Perhaps all the smaller efforts will help the entire movement, or would it be better to find a way to build something bigger we can all be a part of? I know there are plenty of groups doing something in regard to advocacy. Who would champion a bigger effort? What would this effort look like? Or is it simply better to have people do their own efforts? What are your thoughts?

-Shoshana

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What new services would you like to see from ADS (Audience Development Specialists)?

Can you spare a quick moment for a quick survey?  I could use your help.  Thank you and Terrific Tuesday to you!

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October 15, 2013 · 10:08 am

The disvalue of the arts…when did it occur?

Yes, it might be strange to hear from me over the weekend.  I had something on my mind I wanted to share.  I have come to the conclusion that we in the arts are attempting to solve a puzzle without the actual background knowledge needed to solve it.  We are fighting an uphill battle to have people value the arts again.  We have our talking points that have been proven over and over again, yet the majority doesn’t seem to be listening, or they have come to not care about the arts the way we do.

Has anyone stopped to consider when the breakdown actually occurred?  I liken this to using medicine for the symptoms instead of figuring out the root of the illness.  What is the root of disvalue for the arts?  When did it first take place? 

I recall research on the transition of the audience from the light into the dark.  Is this when it happened?  The invention of the light bulb increased the light for the artists yet put the audience into the dark. Is this what did us in? 

The arts used to be a “sports” of the time.  It was part of the Olympics once.  It was a main event in people’s lives in parts of history.  What made this all change?

The only thought that comes into my mind is that during the transition of the artist being in the light and the audience being in the dark, it might shed some light on the fact that we pushed our audiences away and disvalued them in the process.  What occurred during and after the transition: the entitlement for money (instead of the humble ask from our patrons), the ego of being better than the audience and choosing for them (instead of working with them), the refusal to engage instead of being engaging like we once were in our communities. Perhaps the light bulb changed the value of the arts due to all of these other changes that came with it. 

What really happened is, we disvalued our audiences during this transition.  We disvalued our audiences when we forgot to price for all types of people like we once did.  We disvalued our audiences when we told them to shut up and become secondary to our art.  We disvalued our audiences when we no longer asked for their feedback.  We disvalued our audiences when we no longer provided them with the customer service that they deserved.  We disvalued them as we went into the light and shut them out into the dark. 

Like all products and services though, when more competition comes into play, and technology changes our society and how people experience their lives, the value of the original product and service (the arts) can change.  The audiences with all the choices they have now , and the ability to use technology to speak their own mind and create their own arts, they have come out of the darkness into the light again. They now have an equal value that they haven’t had in a long time.

Yet, we in the arts industry failed to keep up with this change.  We instead attempted to treat the audiences like we always have, like they were in the dark, and the audiences have retaliated by disvaluing us. 

This doesn’t mean that we can’t get audiences to value the arts again, but it is going to take more than simply the talking points we have created to fight the dis-ease.  It is going to take valuing our audiences again, like we used to before the light bulb.

If you take a good look at the artists and organizations that are healthy and thriving, you will see that this is what they are doing.  The audiences are a part of the picture, not simply told to look at the picture.

This is why audience development is probably the most crucial tool that we have at this time.  Getting the audiences involved again in every aspect of our arts, knowing that they deserve to be in the light as much as we do, this just might be the answer to the puzzle. 

I once read a statement – “The arts are not meant for everyone, but they are meant for anyone.”   I now add, this was our doing, yet we can make the arts meant for everyone again if we can learn to share the light. 

-Shoshana

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GenX Generation – The lost generation needs to be found

Please forgive the slight sketchiness of this think out loud post.  I will dive into these thoughts in the future and attempt to find more solid proof.  Right now, please do view this post as my personal thoughts.

April 7, 2010, I wrote a blog post: Reach out to parents for younger audiences, just a thought…

In a nutshell, I was suggesting that it would be a good idea to build relationships with parents in order to build younger audiences, which to me seems to be a solution that gets to the core of the problem.  Let me explain.

I continue to see articles and blog posts about the greying of arts audiences.  Everyone blames the school systems who are no longer providing arts education (yet if the parents were clamoring for arts education, the picture would be different).  Or, they blame the artists and arts organizations for not offering art in formats that the younger generations will relate to.

Here’s the thought that continues to pop up in my head though, the generations learn from other generations, especially if that generation is their parents.

GenX has mid to younger Baby Boomer parents.  The times were a-changing when these parents were growing up.  Classical music and other classical art forms were not the mainstream for this group, and so the likelihood of passing the love of the classical arts was not very likely.  The school systems during GenX’s time were cutting back on arts education.  However, there is a group of the GenX generation that are very involved in the arts today.  How did this happen?

Some of GenX’s parents did pass on the love of the arts in one way or another.  They either directly influenced or allowed and encouraged their kids to discover the arts on their own.

Hmmm….looking at this statement, it seems like this continues to happen.  No matter what kids say during their teenage years, parents do influence their kids one way or another.

The kids of the GenX generation are now the children we are attempting to reach.  The problem here is that the classical arts did not connect with the GenX generation except at a very small level (through the smaller percentage of parents that influenced their GenX child).  Add to the fact that the classical arts continue to ignore connecting with the GenX generation.  No wonder they are not able to reach their children.  GenX is a generation that is shaping their families more privately than any other generation.  Learning how to connect with this generation becomes important.

The breakdown, when you look at the bigger picture, seems to have happened with the ignoring of the GenX generation.  They are truly the lost generation, the lost piece of this puzzle.  If you want younger audiences, start relating to GenX who are the parents of the children you are wanting to reach and the influencers of the older Millennials (GenX is like their big brothers and sisters).  Plus, GenX is young enough (wink) to qualify as a younger audience themselves, and they have the buying power at this point in time.

If you still don’t believe me, think about all those commercials for back to school products.  What music was selected for these commercials?  80’s music, the anthems of the GenX generation.  We can learn from the mainstream industries and learn how to connect with GenX again.

I will write more later on how to woo the GenX generation.  I welcome your thoughts. 

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

Please consider supporting ADS so we can continue our work.  Donate here! 

***Purchasing my book will help support ADS and our mission.***

My eBook

 

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Showing personality is important!

A quick thought for today – showing personality is super important.  If you don’t show personality in all that you do, you won’t be able to attract the right kinds of people.  Who you are needs to be reflected in your marketing collateral.  The personality of the play, music, art piece, needs to shine through.  You want an audience that will connect to and enjoy your art, right?  Show them your unique personality!

-Shoshana

Only $5, which supports ADS efforts and your arts business at the same time:

Top 20 Tips for Increasing Everything – a 38 minute recorded webinar to view at your leisure that is brimming with the top audience building tips.

 

 

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Apathy will not help audience development

I hope you had a nice weekend!  I ended up participating in the Open Studios tour and scored some really great gifts for myself and my family.  One of the artists said to me, “I’m so grateful when people like you will come and pay for art right away.”  I know it sometimes takes time to decide on purchasing a piece of art, however, I think artists these days are seeing more lookers instead of buyers.  Even the people that like art are not valuing art enough to buy from artists.  Buying a print at a big box store is not going to help your local artist.  This story brings me to my main objective:

ap·a·thy (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

noun \ˈa-pə-thē\

: the feeling of not having much emotion or interest : an apathetic state

 Full Definition of APATHY
1
:  lack of feeling or emotion :  impassiveness
2
:  lack of interest or concern:indifference
I think people still feel something for the arts.  The reason we are having such a challenging time is the number two definition of lack of interest or concern.


Apathy is becoming a concern for a slew of social issues, not just the arts.  People are not speaking up and spreading the word about what they care about.  Consider the U.S. government shutdown.  If the majority of Americans wanted healthcare, why have we allowed the minority to shutdown the government?


I had mentioned before how a small percentage of arts folks wrote to Congress regarding the NEA cuts that were on the table.  If we want the arts to thrive, instead of merely survive, we are going to have to address this apathy.


Not having time is an excuse.  With social media’s ability to share something within seconds, that is no longer a factor.  Writing a letter to the editor does take time, but writing a quick email does not.  Technology has made it easy to speak your mind and share information that will advocate for the arts.  Why are the #arts not trending on Twitter?  Why isn’t #artsadvoc?  Mainly due to apathy.


I will say that apathy may not be preconceived.  I don’t think people set out to be apathetic when it comes to the arts.  We simply are going about our lives.  For any issue that matters, it will take people to come out of this state of mind, this state of not minding.


I hear so many complaints.  Not enough funding.  People not understanding the value of the arts.  The fact that grantors continue to ask us to prove ourselves.  Well, we might have created this for ourselves do to our apathetic state.  If we had continued to promote, advocate, spread the word, speak our minds about the arts, we probably would not have such a big uphill battle to deal with now.


We talk about how challenging it is, yet, I am not seeing enough action.  The other “A” word, “action,” is what will get rid of apathy.  It will only work if the majority decides to take action.


Again, a quick, short list of what you can do:
  1. Retweet arts education, arts advocacy and arts news that matters.
  2. Share pro-arts stories on Facebook and other social media outlets.
  3. Send a quick email to your favorite media outlets.
  4. Tweet at your congress representatives about the arts.
  5. Buy from artists you know (or local artists) instead of big box for gifts.
  6. Join arts advocacy organizations like Americans for the Arts and add your voice during calls for action!
  7. Sign up and go to local business of arts workshops.
  8. Become more involved with your arts council or alliance.
  9. Wear arts gear to start conversations with people.
  10. Be a verb!

We can get the arts trending again.  We can put to bed this apathetic state.  It will take a big wave of action.  The bigger picture is worth working on.  It will make the smaller day to day a great deal easier.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Ideas?

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

FacebookTwitterLinkedin

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

Please consider supporting ADS so we can continue our work.  Donate here! 

***Purchasing my book will help support ADS and our mission.***

My eBook

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