Tag Archives: audience development and team work

Good team arts management and audience development can turn it around

I remember going through one round of union negotiations that was as nail biting as the ones I am seeing in the news about the Atlanta Symphony.  We didn’t know if we would be able to have a full season.  Cuts were on the table.  And, this was during the season, not before it, so even more crucial that decisions be made.

I watched as the decisions to shut down the office for two weeks, to have a pay cut for the staff for a month, to scale back a full orchestra concert to a chamber concert, and to issue cuts to musicians’ pay were enacted.  I didn’t feel this was the right answer at the time, but at the time, it really was an emergency.  How did the orchestra get to this point?

In a polite way, it takes good team arts management to run an orchestra.  Good team arts management consists of everyone thinking about the delicate balance of revenue and expenses at all times, and not letting either side cave in.  Here’s the funny part about arts management of old. It is not a team mentality and instead it is run by groups of separate minds.

The revenue is comprised of money from the music or the product (and people believing in the product to invest donations).  This product is made by the orchestral employees of the business.  The employees rarely have a say in the product, with the exception of the music/artistic director.  The product of live music isn’t something manufactured and then placed on a shelf to sell.  The musicians have to create the product time and time again in a live fashion.  Without the musicians, you would not have a product!

The staff and board are responsible for obtaining extra revenue to keep the budget in balance and for selling the product.  The board and executive staff are responsible for the overall budget, expenses and revenue.   The musicians do not really have a hand in this side of the business, although they may have opinions that might be voiced in the form of an orchestral committee.

If the orchestra does not balance their expenses and revenues, they will be in big trouble, which is what we are seeing these days in the news.  Running an orchestra is costly.  Obtaining funds for an orchestra year after year can feel like a monumental task. The solution that the boards and executive staffs seem to  implement every time when times are tough is to start making cuts to the staff, the music and the musicians.  This means they are cutting into their product and making cuts to the people that can sell the product.  This does not make sense to me. I never see a company in trouble actually cut their product in half and place it back on the shelf to sell.  The marketing team would need to spin how fantastic the half of a product is while the consumers know full well they are getting half a product which is not valued as much.  Since it is likely that cuts are made to marketing/development/box office during this phase, it is less likely the orchestra will have a solid staff to carry out this impossible task anyway.

I do hear of talks about looking into raising more money.  However, it is rare when I see the boards and the executive staffs step up enough to make good on their words.

All of the above leaves the audiences feeling sad, angry, not very secure about their orchestra and how they handle their monetary support.  Many of the audience members will side with the musicians since they know that it takes musicians to create the enjoyable night they are paying to see.  The audiences will be less likely to want to donate or volunteer when it gets to this point.

So, who can fix these messes?  Everyone.

1.  The board and executive staff need to step up and secure donations, sponsorships, and stronger leadership. This means that they need to acknowledge that they may need extra help to get them out of this mess.

2. The executive staff needs to allocate some of the budget for audience development programs.  Audience development programs can create more audience and more donors and volunteers.  This also means having the money for outreach events and for paying the musicians for these events.  If there is no money to allocate (usually there is, but for devils advocate sake), the musicians would be wise to volunteer for a round of these outreach concerts until money will be set aside for their pay in the future.

3. Everyone needs to start connecting with people again and becoming part of the community.  More collaborations need to be made at this time.  More implementing of programs that show you care about your audience through this tough phase is crucial.

4. Everyone needs to start connecting with each other in order to run the business properly.  Since the musicians create the product, maybe they should have a little more say in this part of the  equation.  Since the board and staff are responsible for the budgets and for selling the organization and product, the musicians need to listen to them as well.  Everyone in a non-profit needs to step up, donate and volunteer at some point.  It takes a team to make a non-profit business successful.

5. If cuts are being made to musicians and staff pay, cuts should also be made to executive pay.  If you do not act as a team during this phase, people will simply remain resentful. Everyone should take the hit.  In our age of easy transparency, if someone catches wind that the executive staff is not taking any cuts, it will look bad for the organization.

6. The board needs to be responsible for the overall health of the organization.  If the organization isn’t healthy, then you need a different board or different board dynamic.  The challenge is that the board is in charge of themselves (similar to how our congress runs in America).  It will take a mighty strong leader to start implementing board evaluations and making changes that are necessary to get the board functioning properly again.

7. The organization needs to realize that every component is important for running an arts organization.  Cutting off one part will hurt the whole, which is why we see some of these organizations going into bankruptcy and closing their doors.  Until everyone works together and does their job to correct the imbalances, the organization will not be able to turn around.

8. The audiences need to learn that ticket prices only pay for 30-40% of the costs of the orchestra.  Audiences, if they want the orchestra to succeed, could volunteer their time to help bring others to the orchestra and donate monetary support above the cost of the tickets to increase the revenue stream.  However, audience development programs need to be ready and in place, and audiences need to be invited to participate and get more involved.  These programs will be seen as positive energy and will show that the orchestra is working toward a positive direction.

9.  In fact, everyone that is part of the organization should be responsible for “selling.”  Everyone can be an ambassador for the organization and  invite people to attend the various events.  Everyone can be more involved with connecting, collaborating, caring and becoming a part of the community on behalf of the orchestra.  The main problem with these old fashioned non-profits is all the “it’s not my job” that has been established.  A new team mentality needs to be born instead.

I have likened the bigger arts organization to a Titanic.  If something goes wrong, it will take different actions, not remaining the course, to turn the big ship around.  If you remain the course, your ship will hit the iceberg, and things will start sinking.

The audience of your product is also the audience of your business.  They will be the ones watching your ship sink.  Wouldn’t you rather have them watching and enjoying the music?

It takes a team to create an orchestra arts organization, and it will take a team to run it successfully as well. Everyone can roll up their sleeves and get to work to create a healthier organization.  Functioning as a team is good arts management and using audience development for a solution is too.

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

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

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

My eBook

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

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Volunteering for arts audience development?

I was watching “Secret Millionaire” with my 14 year old step daughter.  This show has millionaires hide their identity in order to volunteer in an impoverished area.  In the end, they donate some of their money to help the organizations they have chosen.  The particular episode we were watching had a millionaire and his 19 year old daughter volunteering.  Both the 19 year old and her father had never volunteered before, despite how fortunate they were.  Our 14 year old piped up and said, “How could they not have volunteered by now?”  This made me smile big time.  She has already volunteered and is eager to do more.

Her comment had me thinking about how some artists have difficulty volunteering.  Maybe it is the fact that many of us are struggling to get by with our art.  People should be supporting us, not the other way around, right?  Well, I’m starting to feel this is the wrong attitude.

What can volunteering do for you?  Volunteering your time and talent can open new doors to you.  You can get to know your community and the people of your community in a very intimate way.  This will help you to meet new people that will probably be open to your art in return.  I am a firm believer that when you figure out where you belong (where you would like to volunteer), the others that are already there will click with you too.  There is a reason you are all attracted to the same organization and mission.

Volunteering can also shift your energy from an “I need” energy to an “I have” energy.  All the gurus out there have pointed out that when you come from a place of abundance, this is when and how you will attract more abundance. You will also benefit from the warm fuzzies you will be feeling.  The feeling of love and warmth from volunteering can go a long way!

If you want more diversity, volunteering can be a great way to meet more diverse people.  Think about it.  If you are volunteering for an organization that helps the very people you hope to connect with, they will know that you care about them and a stronger connection will be made.

The last point I want to make is the fact that your giving is best from a place of giving and not a place of “what will I get in return.”  If you start feeling like you are giving too much away and not getting enough in return, this means you are not in the right mind set.  Volunteering is best when you are doing it for the sake of others, not for your own sake, and in return, you will see the benefits naturally when you don’t worry about the give/get scale in life.

I wanted to bring up a quick example.  Coming from the orchestra world, it is rare when orchestra musicians volunteer their time to the organizations that hired them.  Why is this?  Perhaps it is a matter of  union contracts?  I feel that these contracts need to change.  If the musicians really want to help turn things around in their favor, I do feel volunteering a little time and talent is one way to do it.  Orchestras are in need of musicians for outreach opportunities in order to build audience.  Building audiences will lead to more demand.  More demand means more services can be scheduled, which ultimately will benefit the musicians.  In order for this chain of reaction to happen, musicians may need to volunteer to help out.  With a bigger organization like an orchestra, the musicians can rotate their time.  This will create a team effort and no one musician will feel particularly put out (they can choose to continue volunteering).  Of course, if the orchestra has the funds, the musicians can be paid, but since this is a post about volunteering…

How long has it been since you have volunteered?  Have you used your time and talent recently to help your community?  I challenge you to do so in the near future, and please feel free to let me know what happens afterward.  I can’t wait to hear how many doors open to you for connecting to new audiences.

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

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

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

My eBook

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

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Is audience development for the arts the answer?

I have noticed that when I post tweets about arts organizations that are going bankrupt, I always tag it #auddev needed.  I know some people are questioning this and feel it better to attribute the downfall of these organizations to simply bad management.  Why would I continue to shout out about audience development?

To me, audience development is not just a method or technique of arts management, but an entire philosophy about how to run a business today.  In an age where crowdsourcing and social media are popular, the days of us dictating art are no longer valid.  Our business models of producing, marketing and fundraising without thoughts of our audiences are unraveling.  It is not wise to fall back on old business practices, and instead, it is better to be creative, engaging and involving with the people around us.

Some of us believe that the invention of the light bulb changed the arts from inclusive to entitled.  Elitism crept in to the point that the (benchmark) arts are not perceived as for everyone.  All of a sudden, the masses are not supporting the arts, and we have tiny niche markets that have developed due to this, well, development.

Audience development, true audience development, can change the way an arts business functions due to one very big reason.  Audience development is inclusive and focuses on partnering with audiences.  It is a team philosophy that not only includes everyone on your staff, all your volunteers, donors and sponsors, but it also includes your audiences.  This means that everyone will be on the same page working to support your business.

For producing and marketing, this is far different than simply placing an ad that professes (from your spinning marketing team) that your show is “something for everyone!” “spectacular!” “other marketing byte here!”  Instead, when partnering with your audiences, you can incorporate their perspective beforehand instead of attempting to sell something that they might not enjoy in ways that will be ignored.  A flop from the start is rather expensive to work with.  Wouldn’t it be better to produce something that has more promise?

In regard to fundraising, your audiences will help you to raise the money since they are a part of your team.  Your board members and staff will now have added energy to keep them going too. Everyone that is a part of your team will be helping to raise money for your business.  This team mentality for fundraising makes more sense than the “we are great, give us money,” shouted by a few people, views of old.  Plus, with all the people power combined, you can brainstorm new ways of asking for money.  Let’s face it, annual campaign letters have become trite and disposable.  You need to turn some heads and inspire some hearts!

I do hear one concern which I will quickly address. I am not saying that the audiences are now in charge.  You still have artistic license and the ability to create your own strategic plans.  The difference is, you will no longer be creating in the dark after knowing your audiences.  With this philosophy, you will be able to take more risks and produce new work that will have more of a chance of being successful. Your programming, marketing and fundraising can become fresh again.

If you are squeamish about this new way of producing art, and you rather be the sole creator without any feedback, perhaps use audience development to build the right audiences that will enjoy your art – find the best audiences for you!  Please do use audience development for your marketing and fundraising though in any case since you still need a team for support.

So, is audience development the answer? It does sound like audience development can promise the moon and the stars, and in a sense, it can.  With hard work and determination to build relationships and build your team of community support, I see a brighter future for the arts despite the light bulb.

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

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

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

Presidential audience development

Which presidents in the history of our country do you admire?  Why do you admire them? Most of us admire the presidents that were able to achieve great accomplishments for the people of our country.

Many of us are starting to realize that without a team attitude in congress, whatever president is elected will not get a lot done.  There are people that want the status quo and rather not make any changes, and there are people that want their way, and the “our way” never gets established. When there are too many people that want to bicker and cause opposition, this is going to make it extra difficult to incorporate needed changes.

During this Presidents Day, let us take a moment to ponder what is needed in order to accomplish audience development.  You need people that will support you and your ideas.  You also need people that will support you monetarily.  You need a strong backbone to deal with the naysayers.  You need a team of people to help carry out what needs to be done.

The presidents in our history that are the most admirable are the ones that are able to lead a team of people to move our country forward in a positive direction for the majority of the people.  Building your team is one of the most important aspects of audience development and having a team attitude is equally necessary.

In order to build a terrific team, you do need to have level headed and creative leaders with ideas that a team can believe in.  For the best audience development plans, you do need a plan president to keep everyone on the same page and to motivate them to want to do their part of the plan. Teams still need team leaders.

During this holiday, I challenge you to think about who among you would be a great audience development plan leader.  If you are an individual, what part of yourself can lead you to accomplish your goals.  Next, consider the people who can be a part of the team.  Are they people that are positive and proactive?

You can build a winning combination of people that will propel you forward to successful audience development.  All you and your team has to do is vote for audience development and elect to make your goals become a reality.

Happy Presidents Day!

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

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Audience development is team work!

There have been times when an organization is quick to blame the marketing department for a poorly attended show.  However, a marketing associate can do everything right, but still not get results if they are the only person or one of a few promoting the show.  There needs to be a team effort involved in spreading the word.

I have worked with many different artists and organizations over the years.  I have seen how different they are.  However, they all have the ability to achieve if they have a team effort behind them.  It didn’t matter how many advertisements they placed or how much publicity they received.  You will only get a small percentage of your audience this way.  The biggest reason audience members attend an event, look at a website, or purchase art work, is if they hear about it from a friend or family member or if they happen to know the artist or someone in the organization personally.  Best results for audience development is when there is a more personal connection!

It really is not the marketing associate’s fault assuming they are doing their job well.  If an artist or organization lacks the power of people behind them, they will not be a big success.  There is only one exception.  If a product is absolutely one-of-a-kind amazing, perhaps the buzz will be created by complete strangers, people that took a chance and were so excited about the experience they had to tell others.  There has been a common message lately, to create exceptional, exciting art.  This ideal can bring in an audience.

On the flip side, I have seen quality art go unnoticed with events minimally attended.  If the quality is there, it either must not be an over-the-top amazing experience or the artist or organization did not have a team effort.  Organizations without an energetic, healthy board, do not succeed long term.  Artists without a team behind them will not be as successful.

The best investment an artist/organization can make is to create a people power bank and invest time and energy to filling this bank with people that want to help them succeed.  It really is people energy that makes the world go round. People energy, team work, will bring out the best in your audience development plans and help you to build a community of support for your art.

Team work is an important component to building success long term for the arts in general,  and it is necessary for building happier and more loyal audiences for you!

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

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