Tag Archives: art quality

Audience development, Rocco and the buzz

There has been a good discussion happening since Rocco Landesman, chairman of the NEA, had the audacity ( ;O) )  to point out that arts organizations should downsize or collaborate more due to high supply and low demand:

#SupplyDemand

There of some us in the arts world that will agree and some of us who are rallying behind the reasoning that the arts are about more than simply economics.

Dear Rocco (2amt – Trisha Mead)

I agree that the arts have a kaleidoscope of benefits for humanity, and due to these benefits, it may not be wise to force the arts into an economic reasoning box.  I also agree that if the arts do not find a way to solidify these benefits in the minds of the general public, arguments for cuts, downsizing, etc. will continue to happen.

The arts, despite the human benefits, are still a product.  It is manufactured by creative minds and produced for purchase (if it is for sale).  If art is being created for arts sake, that is something entirely different, but if you are creating to sell, then art is a product.

People want to buy products that add value to their lives.  The arts certainly will add value to people’s lives, but we as artists and arts organizations are not doing a good enough job to allow people to perceive the value.  We have a big pool of artists and arts organizations that are not doing well.  Thus, we are being subjected to supply solutions.

I feel strongly that instead of simply trying to put a bandage on the wound or dealing with the supply end of the equation, we need to talk about what caused the wound in the first place.  Otherwise, we will continue to bleed due to arts cuts caused by low demand dis-ease.  If we had done our part in solidifying in the public’s mind that the arts are valuable, we wouldn’t be in this position since demand for the arts wouldn’t be an issue.

Let us finally see the problem for what it really is.  The demand for the arts is not there to sustain every artist and arts organization.  Does this mean the supply needs to be dealt with?  Maybe.  However due to the needs of humans to create art, we may not really have a choice.  The arts are not like toilet paper.  If a brand of toilet paper doesn’t sell on the market, the brand of toilet paper likely gets flushed out of the market.  Yet, when an artist or arts organization isn’t doing so well, they are likely to continue creating for many years despite money woes because of the need to create. We do need to take this into account.  Again, maybe working on the supply part of the equation isn’t what works for the arts.

Instead, we can work on boosting the demand, which I see as a more positive option and the option that would fix this tottering teeter once and for all.

So why is demand low?  Putting it simply, there are people out there that have no clue that artists and arts organizations exist in their community.  I could become rich from the number of times I have heard, “I didn’t know we had an orchestra in town.”   Or, “We have a theater company?”  I calmly reply, “We actually have 13.”

We also have the issue that the arts expect people to come to them and fit to their presentation style.  Maybe we need to change the product placement to bring the art to people again and change the product presentations to suit what people want today.  The art itself will still be the art, yet people will be able to enjoy it since it will be more accessible to them.

No wonder we are facing these arguments time and time again.  We as an arts team need to step up to the plate and finally create the buzz around the arts that is vastly needed and create products that speak to the people of today.   This is what will increase the demand for the arts.

Here is my list of what truly needs to happen now:

  • We need to stop feeling entitled as an arts community and rather sell the value of the arts so there is no question that it deserves funding.
  • We need to show the world high quality arts.  High quality creates buzz and buzz creates an audience.
  • We need to create our art and present it in ways that are accessible to the people of today.
  • We need to finally give the people an identity with the arts.  This means that each artists and organization needs to find their own identities, their own brands so they can find the right audiences.  The same old same old is not cutting it (more on this next blog post).
  • We need to show why the arts are a good investment and then start asking for the investments.  Yes, this is work, but well worth it. Yes, it is scary to ask sometimes, but if you don’t ask, you won’t get funded.
  • We need to highlight our arts products in ways that will reach people.  If you are a music organization, pass around an mp3.  If you are part of the performing arts, by golly, become part of the YouTube revolution.  If you are an artist, find ways that your art will visually be passed around. I see so many arts sites that do not highlight their art in ways that people can share and pass around.
  • We need to start inviting people personally.  Word of Mouth is becoming the number one reason people attend.  The likelihood for people attending increases when they are personally invited.
  • We need to start following up with people personally.  Patrons are falling through the cracks due to poor follow up.
  • We need to start engaging in two way conversations with our patrons.
  • We need to create ways that the patrons can connect with other patrons.  The arts are meant to be social.
  • We need to address the personal needs of why people attend.  The arts are also personal.
  • We need to address the reasons why people do not attend and actually implement solutions.
  • We need to allow our patrons to communicate their feedback and implement solutions for the complaints received.
  • We need to build a community that surrounds our art, a community that will support us in ways we need support.
  • We need to do all of the above in order to increase buzz and demand for the arts!

It is going to take time and effort to initiate and implement programs that will increase demand for the arts in general, but you as an individual artist and arts organization have the power to start working on solutions now.  I have seen time and time again, that if you do build a team and work on these points, and you put the time and effort in, the demand goes up.  You will have built a better quality audience, a community that is an exact fit with you and will support you.

When you solve the problem from this perspective, increasing demand for the arts, each artist and arts organizations will be able to increase their own supply and demand.  This solution can work for the arts rather than against it.

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

Workshops are available!

Does your arts organization or artists group need some new energy?  Our workshops can generate enthusiasm for audience development.

Contact us for more information!

Hourly Phone Sessions – Do you have a question about audience development or need feedback or advice on a project or challenge?  ADS can help!

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Audience development and pricing

I have been seeing a great deal of discussion on pricing in terms of outreaching to build an audience.  Dynamic pricing has been discussed (think airline pricing with prices being lower with earlier purchase).  Also, Groupons or Living Social, or coupon sales have been discussed.  Both options can build “butts in seats,” but do they build “people in seats” or a loyal audience for your art/organization?  Maybe, maybe not.

I’ve decided to play devil’s advocate in this blog to see the other viewpoint of this conversation:

Here’s the “deal!” Lowering price is  a technique to get people interested.  It is an incentive for them to purchase, perfect for people on the fence since it nudges them to the side of buying.  However, these discounts can give the wrong message to your potential audience.

  1. It can send a message that you are not worth more than these discounted prices.  Your audience might get used to these pricing points.  In attempts to raise the price to more normal levels, you might not see a “return” on your discount investment.  This factor could be accommodated by only having these special deals at rare occasions, but these audience members may become savvy and wait until the sale happens instead. In this case, you may see a return, but at the continued discount prices.  It’s definitely a gamble.  Can you ultimately afford this?
  2. If there is no follow up involved, there is no guarantee that these deal buyers will turn into loyal audience members. Using discount methods may get people in the door, but it does not guarantee them coming back.
  3. Deep discounts could send the wrong message that you can afford selling at these prices.  I understand that there could be an argument that you can’t afford not to sell at these prices to get “butts in seats” with the potential to convert, but I guess it all depends on your bottom line.  In my opinion, there are ways to sell the value of your art/organization without deep discounts.  If people see the value, they will purchase at a regular price.  I can’t be the only one willing to go out of my way or purchase at a higher price if the quality and value are there.  If you really want something, you will pay the price.  Maybe we need to focus on people wanting the arts experience more instead of pricing less.
  4. Discounted prices can be a signal that you may not need extra support.  As I mentioned in a conversation, one of my patrons asked about our discounted subscription: “Why are you discounting? Don’t you need the money?”  Discounts can cause this confusion. Plus, people view their ticket purchase as a means to supporting the art/organization.  If you ask for a donation on top of this discounted amount to supplement, they may simply say they already purchased tickets.  You will then be out the difference of the discounted price vs. regular price, and out the donation amount since the perception has now shifted.In more consideration to these conversations, perhaps adding the choice of not discounting and paying regular price could give loyal patrons the opportunity to be  loyal, which will give you the option of being open and honest in communicating that you need the continued support.
  5. Groupon and Living Social may be popular methods, but as a nonprofit arts manager, I would look for other ways to get the word out about discounts so you don’t have to split your revenue.  Getting less than 50% of the value of a ticket doesn’t sit well with me or with most nonprofit budgets.  With ticket purchases averaging only 30-40% of  income, can you really afford to give so much away?  Shouldn’t you be figuring out ways to increase this percentage instead of lowering it?  Unless the shear volume of purchase compensates for the lowered revenue, I would look into other avenues that may cost considerably less.  Of course you need to look into the quantity vs. quality issue too.  More purchases may not equal a quality audience.

I understand the need to get people in the door, but I also see that starting people off with a discount may be setting ourselves up for some rude awakenings.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons that building loyalty has been tricky.  I guess it can be a means of sifting out who will become more loyal patrons and who are simply there for the discount if follow up occurs, but it can also mean that you are sending out the message that the arts are not worth more than a vastly discounted price, lowering the value of the arts along with continued lowered monetary support.

The only way discounts first as a method can work in the long run  is if you can convert these discount buyers to see the full value of your art.  If they see the value, then maybe they will be willing to pay full price in the future.  Are we implementing programs to make sure this conversion happens?

However, on a further limb,  discount pricing to build an audience, in my opinion, should be used more as a last resort and not as a first resort.  I tend to discount towards the end if seats still need to be sold. The audience that is loyal will purchase at the regular price.  The audience that sees the value will too.  The audience that is on the fence will buy based on the later discount.  You might be shooting yourselves in the foot if the discount is sooner rather than later.  The loyals may purchase at the discounted price since they tend to purchase sooner than later, costing you the difference.

In some ways, inviting them for free may be better since they will know that this won’t last and regular pricing is going to happen.

Lastly, without audience development, nothing will be developed except lowered value in the end.  Have you honestly tried audience development?  I know when I switched to audience development and fair valued pricing, I found myself with a bigger and better (quality) audience.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
http://www.buildmyaudience.com
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

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

Workshops are available!

Does your arts organization or artists group need some new energy?  Our workshops can generate enthusiasm for audience development.

Contact us for more information!

Hourly Phone Sessions – Do you have a question about audience development or need feedback or advice on a project or challenge?  ADS can help!

Donate to the Audience Development Specialists Grant Fund!

YouTube Gallery – Do you have an amazing way you use YouTube to promote your art?  Let ADS know, and you might see your YouTube highlighted on our new gallery!

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Arts saturation point and audience development

I had been reading the article in the Ottawa Citizen:  Where have all the theatregoers gone?

The article takes on the question after a theater run that was supposed to run 5 weeks closed one week early due to not enough audience.

The problem seems to be that while Ottawa theatre companies have been springing up faster than revelations about wannabe lobbyists, there aren’t enough audience members, and especially new ones, to go around. Blame whatever you want — competing entertainment, a citizenry too pooped at the end of the day to go anywhere — we don’t attend theatre in the numbers needed to sustain what could be a defining aspect of Ottawa life.

I have been seeing this phenomenon happen right here in Boulder, CO.  Have we hit the saturation point of the arts in ratio to the amount of audience members?

According to the 2000 Census, Boulder County has 291,288 people.  Currently I am counting:

  • Around 10 dance organizations
  • Around 20 music organizations
  • Around 13 theatre organizations
  • Around 18 art/museum organizations and galleries

This is not including individual artists or bands or art venues and associations which have their own events.

Now how many people out of our population actually attends arts events?  The average around the  U.S. has been about 29% according to NEA’s
State and Regional Differences in Arts Participation: A Geographic Analysis of the 2008 SPPA

We need to break it down further.  Average percentages for these individual disciplines in Colorado:

  • 3% for dance (average ballet and other)
  • 8% for music
  • 12-13% theater (average musical/non-musical)
  • 22% art museums and galleries

So for theatre in our area, if we do the math, we have close to 37,000 people that would enjoy seeing a theatre event.  We have 13 theatre organizations competing for those 37,000 people.  If all were to get a fair share of this segment, there would be a little over 3,000 people per theatre company and most companies average 5 shows per season with 3-6 runs per show.  A further complication is the fact that someone who enjoys the theatre might also enjoy dance or music events.  Now imagine the scheduling problems in our county.  You could end up with a weekend that has 3 or 4 theater productions, 2 or 3 dance productions, 3 major benefit events, and 2 or 3 big music events.  Visual art events seem to pop up all year round, and they are plentiful!  Suddenly 3,000 people (assuming you are getting your full fair share, wink, wink) are not enough to fill houses.

So do you think that the arts may have a saturation problem where arts are a-plenty?  How do we deal with this growing problem?  We have come into the day and age that people want to put on their own show and start their own arts company.  Many people want to be the creator!

I feel that audience development is the answer to this challenge.  Remember the 4 C’s of audience development:

  1. Connection – you need to get connected to the people that would enjoy your event/art.  Make the extra efforts to build relationships!
  2. Collaboration – maybe it is time to consider bigger projects by collaborating.  These projects will attract a larger audience that will benefit all involved.
  3. Community – the arts need to begin acting like a community.  Perhaps a community calendar could be set up so it helps alleviate the problem of too many art events scheduled at one time.
  4. Caring – since there is a competition factor, wouldn’t it make sense to care a little more about your audience and your art?  Implement ways that show that you care: create high quality art and engage with your audience regularly.

If an artist or organization takes the time and effort for audience development, the saturation problem won’t be as much of a factor.  Audience development is about building relationships with people, not numbers.  It is about creating a happy and loyal community around your art.  With audience development, you can thrive in any condition or situation that you come up against!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
http://www.buildmyaudience.com
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

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

New Services!

Hourly Phone Sessions – Do you have a question about audience development or need feedback or advice on a project or challenge?  ADS can help!

Donate to the Audience Development Specialists Grant Fund!

YouTube Gallery – Do you have an amazing way you use YouTube to promote your art?  Let ADS know, and you might see your YouTube highlighted on our new gallery!

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Audience development and photography…

So today I have been thinking about photography and how we use photographs in marketing to get an audience.  With all the new digital camera technology out there, many of us think we can save a buck and not hire a photographer to take the pictures.  This may save money in the short run, but in the long run, it could be a big mistake in how your message gets projected to your audience.

Professional photographers have a gift that not everyone possesses.  They are able to artistically project your message, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, hiring the right photographer and spending money on the right photographer is definitely worth it.

However, I am not talking about hiring just any professional photographer.  I am talking about hiring the right professional photographer for you.  This means that as you define who you and your audience is, you will want to hire a photographer that matches your definition. Each photographer will bring a different vision and style to the table.

Here’s an example.  I have several photographer friends.  Two of my favorites happened to get a shot of me and my fiance.  Look at the different shots and you will see that both photographers are talented, but they capture us in a different way:

At the Shoot Out Boulder

At the Shoot Out Boulder

This shot was done by photographer Peter Wayne.  He is a master of getting the real moment shots at an event.  We were working at the Shoot Out Boulder when he captured us in a split second at the information table.

Another talented photographer, Iman Woods, took a portrait of us.  It was a very similar capture the moment, although a little more formal situation since we were sitting for her.  Here is one of the photos from this session:

Iman Woods captures the moment

Iman Woods captures the moment - Imanwoods.com

Both of these photos are amazing.  If you compare the photos, you will see that the styles are different.  The pictures speak something different about us due to their different styles.

Hiring the right photographer to develop your audience is crucial.  You want the right look and feel to capture the right audience.  The only way to do this is to make sure that the photographer’s creative vision will capture your message in a way that defines you and will speak those thousand words in a way your unique audience will understand and relate to.

Until next time, may your audiences be happy and loyal ones, and if they are not, feel free to contact me!

~Shoshana~

Shoshana Fanizza is the founder of Audience Development Specialists. Her mission is to introduce artists and arts organizations to their existing and potential audiences and to help them to form more rewarding relationships.

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

Audience Development Specialists’ Facebook Page! for up-to-date news and information about audience development!
or if you prefer Twitter: http://twitter.com/AudienceDevSpec

Audience Development Blog

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Friday YouTube kinda mood Part II – example of natural audience development

I’ve been waiting until I was inspired by another YouTube before doing part 2.  Today, a friend of mine posted this Youtube called Sand Dancer on Facebook.  It’s about a sand artist that creates some of the most amazing sand art I have ever seen, and he creates the art for…himself.

Lately I have been reading the book  Art & Fear, Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  I got a feeling of synchronicity while watching the YouTube since it reminded so much of the comments in this book.  Two major observations from the book that you will see first-hand in the YouTube:

1. Art is best when it is done for yourself.  Art from the heart is the most amazing art of all.  If it is from the heart, for yourself, not for anyone else, the audience will see this and the ones that are meant to be your audience will want to come again.

2. The quality of art matters.  This sand artist could have been just anybody drawing pictures in the sand, but the quality of his art is noticable.  What he is doing is quite different, but if the quality wasn’t there, I don’t think people would take time out to make viewing his art a part of their vacation tour.  The quality of his work is drawing an audience, and it has inspired me to blog about him as well.

Here is the YouTube for your enjoyment.  It’s a dry documentary, but well worth taking 10 minutes out of your day to view.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Until next time, may your audiences be happy and loyal ones, and if they are not, feel free to contact me!

~Shoshana~

Shoshana Fanizza is the founder of Audience Development Specialists. Her mission is to introduce artists and arts organizations to their existing and potential audiences and to help them to form more rewarding relationships.

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

Audience Development Specialists’ Facebook Page! for up-to-date news and information about audience development!
or if you prefer Twitter: http://twitter.com/AudienceDevSpec

Audience Development Blog

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