Today I recognize how balance is an important undertaking. If you feel off balance, it doesn’t feel very good. Balancing budgets are necessary for grants. Balance is crucial for dance. I could go on and on. What I am thinking about right now is the balance between artist and audience development (arts marketing in general).
I have read a few blog posts recently (and have written a few in the past) about the necessity of keeping your audience in mind in all aspects of creating art and promoting art. What do your audiences want? How are you reaching your audiences in ways they want to be reached? Are you speaking your audiences’ language? Etc.
There is a point, however, that we might be taking this level of engagement with our audiences a bit too far. When our art simply becomes a template of what the audience says it wants (mainly based on historical perspectives – do you really know your current audiences?), we can lose our artistic edge, and the audience will lose out on being challenged.
Please do not misunderstand. I am still a big advocate for working with your audiences and getting to know their wants and needs to help you to create art that will be relevant to them. Having your audiences as partners and getting them fully entrusted in you and your art work is extremely important.
What I am thinking out loud in this moment is the fact that you can take audience information and then stretch past their boundaries too. It is part of our duty as artists, right?
In many of the survey reports I have been scanning through again, one of the biggest reasons people go to arts events is to be challenged, to experience something new. If all we provide is a template of what we think they want and present in ways they say they want, we might be doing them a disservice. Yes, audiences say they want A, but in fact they may want AB or AC, something that gives them A, but pushes them slowly toward Z. I hope this is starting to make a little sense.
As mentioned in a past post, the arts are a living, breathing, organism. For us to continue to work by a template is choking the living daylights out of art. For us not to program new and exciting developments to challenge our audiences is showing severe consequences. New audiences rather not be boxed into old templates and older audiences, even though they say they are comfortable with templates are also showing up less due to boredom of the same old programs.
It has been discussed as a delicate balancing act. The integrity of the artist vs. what the audiences want. Yet I don’t think we have to continue to view it this way. We can allow ourselves to be creative again in consultation with our audiences. We can reach them in ways they desire to be reached and then stretch both ourselves and our audiences to a new reaching point. This will allow both us and our audiences to grow, end the cycle of templates and of stifling ourselves as artists.
So consider your audiences in all that you do, and also consider how you can take them to newer artistic heights. I am sure your audiences will be very thankful to you.
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Audience Development Specialists
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
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