The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

…and to all a good night! December 19, 2008

Filed under: Life — Rebecca Coleman @ 11:18 pm
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Well, gentle readers, this is my last post for a bit. Yep, I’m taking a blogging break. christmas

The past few months have been frenetic, to say the least, and it is time for me to lay off for a while, and hang with the fiver and do Christmassy and snowy things. I also have a cabin on Mayne Island booked for four days.

The pressure of the last few months has been immense, and the next three months are gonna be crazy, too, so I’m going to take a break while I can, and hopefully regroup, relax and refresh.

I’m working on lots of cool stuff for the new  year, though. I’ve got at least one more post about Twitter, because it is changing and becoming more interesting all the time. I want to write about time, because I constantly find that I don’t have enough of it, and I’m interested to explore some ways that we can all work smarter (I’m reading The Four Hour Work Week over the holidays). I’ve got some interesting interviews in the works, including an exclusive one with the great Canadian playwright, David French. And, oh so much more!

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading my blog over the last few months (and before that, my posts on Simon’s blog), and wish you a very happy and restful holiday with your family and friends, and lots and lots of turkey.

See you in 2009! And here’s to lots and lots of bums in many, many seats next year!

 

Where is our future audience? December 17, 2008

Last night I went to see the Vancouver Playhouse’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone (which is, by the way, a wonderfully cheese-filled romp through musical theatre lead by Jay Brazeau–go if you get a chance). I was happy to see that the house was packed out, even though it was a cold night, and the weather was calling for snow.

Sitting in my seat, I started looking around, checking out the crowd. The median age, I would say, in a very unscientific way, was well into their 50’s. There were a few young people in their 20’s and 30’s, maybe one teenager, but for the most part, it was an audience that looked like they were either retired, or not far from it.

And I’m not so much talking demographics, here. This show was a lot of fun, had quite a young cast, and was energetic. There was nothing in this show that young people would not like. So, where are they?

The concern I had last night as I looked around was this: if this is the Playhouse’s main audience, their subscribership, what is the Playhouse going to do when they are gone? Their audience is, pardon the expression, dying off.

This is an issue that affects all of us who are producing theatre in Vancouver, but more so those companies that rely upon subscribers to sell thier season (like the Playhouse and the Arts Club). How do we get a younger audience hooked on theatre? Money could be a factor–student tickets for Drowsy are $33, and for an adult, up to $56. I totally get that the Playhouse has put together a lavish production that looks great and they need to pay for that (including the wages of my friend Nick who is in the band), but it is possible that ticket prices are keeping younger people from seeing theater.

A recent production at Havana by a local, young company called Itsazoo (all four of its artistic directors are in their 20’s) managed to do quite well, and sell out most of the shows in their run. They kept ticket prices to $15 and spread the word through Facebook and their own personal network.

The Playhouse does have a Facebook presence, with both a group and an event page for the play. But something is still not quite connecting–where is our future audience, and how do we get in touch with them?

I’d love to hear your comments.

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The gospel according to Simon December 15, 2008

As the December comes to an end, we begin to turn our attention to the unvarnished potential of the new year.  What’s next? How do we fill the theatre?  Well, my dear pal, Simon Ogden (of The Next Stage) wrote a fantastic guest post for the Praxis Theatre blog  last week that has some pretty good ideas.ogden

All of us are in business to do one thing: get bums in seats. And Simon has some ideas about how to make that happen.

Our job at this stage in our development, Independent Theatre, is not to sell our next show. Our job is to use that show to sell our brand of entertainment. And to do that we have to sell each other’s shows as well, with no prejudice, judgment or competitiveness, until the routine of checking out the small-house theatre listings is burned into the consciousness of our respective communities. And if politics are an issue amongst the companies in your particular community, they’re going to have to be the traffic of the stage alone for a while. What do you say?

Simply put, it’s getting smart about marketing that is the key to our evolution. As artists we’re doing fine. Astonishing, even. As business people we suck. We’ve got grossly overworked Artistic Directors handling the creative and the business side of things. We’ve got production budgets riding on one piss-up fundraising party. We’re spinning wheels when we need to fly, and there’s never been a better time to take off. In a tight economy we represent the best entertainment quality for the least amount of money. Period. So we must stop marketing only to our friends, our families, to other artists. 10 minutes on Facebook will take care of that. We must have a dedicated marketer on the staff of every single show who does nothing but sell that show (and thereby the industry), to the community at large outside of the choir, to all those citizens who are always telling me, all the time, that they don’t go out and see theatre because they never hear about it. We need to find more people to tell them about it. And in all probability the third or fourth time someone from our community tells them they should go see a play, they will.

Click here to read the entire post.

Amen.

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How do you thank your clients? December 12, 2008

As the year winds down, I am finding myself embroiled in Excel spreadsheets of names and addresses. It’s that time of the year–to say thanks to your clients.dsc00071

I struggled a lot with what my Christmas/end of the year communique was going to look like this year. Last year, when I was just launching my business, I wanted to send something out that could also work as a marketing touchpoint. Not a sales pitch, just a reminder of my existence.

This year is different. I feel like I have had a pretty successful first year in business, and I feel equally proud of my work, and grateful to those who gave me business this year. So, it’s time to say thanks…

There’s a variety of different ways to go about this, but I’d encourage you to take a more old-fashioned approach. E-cards are all the rage, and anyone who knows me knows that I would rather send an email than do anything else, but even I am sending snail-mail cards this year. Each card will have a hand-written, individualized comment for the ‘personal touch.’ I am planning on sending one to anyone with whom I did business this year.

There will also be a little something in each card. For me, it was important to send more than ‘just a card’, but my level of success is not so wild yet, that I am able to afford those branded flash drives I have been drooling over (and now I have a logo to go on them!). I considered branded Post-it Notes, but they only came in quantities of 500, which means I’d be giving away Post-It Notes to people on the bus for the forseeable future, so I nixed that one.

There are a vast array of cool products that you can get with your logo on. Check out Imago Marketing. It’s like  a candy shop.

As for me… well, you’ll just have to wait to get your card in the mail…

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Let’s talk about homelessness December 10, 2008

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 4:06 am
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Today, at 1 pm, Peter Fairchild, Chair of the Pantages Theatre Arts Society, accompanied by Santa and some elves, had an early Christmas gift for our new Mayor, Gregor Robertson. They presented Robertson and members of city council with a three-inch-thick bound book of letters of support (about 35o, apparently) for the Pantages Theatre.

Gregor Robertson gets an early Christmas gift.

Gregor Robertson gets an early Christmas gift.

The Pantages is a 100-year old theatre located on Hastings Street in the downtown east side. Three years ago, it was bought by a developer, Marc Williams. His plan was to gut and restore the 650-seat theatre, create a 99-seat black-box theatre/rehearsal space, an art gallery, new lobbies, and new elevators. Included in the $26 Million restoration plan was over 100 units of social housing.

One of our new Mayor’s big plans is to eliminate homelessness in Vancouver by 2015. Anyone who lives in this city knows that homelessness is a big problem. And while we are not saying that this will eliminate homelessness, it sure is a start.

The presentation today was also attended by several members of the PTAS, notably Dr. Charles Barber (as Santa), Adam Abrams (the elf) and Tony Pantages. Yes, that Tony Pantages.

dsc00059

Gregor Robertson engages in a photo op with Santa and an elf.

Peter Fairchild appeals to the Mayor.

Peter Fairchild appeals to the Mayor.

There is another group of people that face homelessness if the Pantages does not recieive the permits and funding that it needs to continue, and that is the three resident companies that are meant to occupy the Pantages when it is finished. Those companies are City Opera of Vancouver, Vancouver Cantonese Theatre, and Vancouver Moving Theatre.

My experience of being a theatre in this city has taught me that it is difficult to find affordable production spaces in Vancouver to produce plays. Having another, under 100-seat black box theatre would be a big help to our small, independent theatre companies.

So let’s get talking about ending homelessness, Mr. Mayor!

Check out Adam Abram’s account of the afternoon here (he’s the elf)

Mike McCardle’s story on Global TV.

Flickr photostream:

Mine

Adam’s

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Pantages to Present Letters of Support to City December 9, 2008

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:25 am
Tags: ,

In an excellent example of good timing, this email arrived in my inbox this morning. I’m sure help and support would be appreciated if you have the time to go.

Pantages Gives Xmas Present To New City Council

Event: Presentation of Letters of Support for Pantages Theatre
Date: Tuesday, December 09, 2008 Time: 1:15 pm
Location: Vancouver City Hall / Third Floor
The Pantages Theatre Arts Society will present to all members of the new Vancouver City Council, and certain senior City staff, Christmas presents on Tuesday December 09, at 1:15 pm.

The gaily wrapped and decorated Xmas presents consist of one copy each of “The Book of Letters — From the People of Vancouver to the Mayor and Council, In Support of the Pantages Project.”

There are hundreds of letters. The volume is the size of the Manhattan phone book.

Members of the Pantages Board, led by president Peter Fairchild wearing a Santa hat, will distribute these to each member of Council.

“We come bearing gifts,” said Fairchild. “And the greatest gift will be the restoration of hope and beauty, theatre and art and housing, at Hastings and Main. The new Council has an opportunity to get it right. They have a chance to change forever the perception and the reality of our neighbourhood. ‘The Book of Letters’ proves massive public support for this amazing project.

“It’s our Xmas present to Council. We look forward to Council’s present to the City,” Fairchild concluded.

Contact: Peter Fairchild at petertf@shaw.ca

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Pantages Update December 8, 2008

In October, it was announced that the future of the Pantages Theatre was in jeopardy. After more than three years of trying to negotiate a deal with the city of Vancouver, owner Marc Williams gave up and put the property up for sale.

This prompted a flurry of emails and petitions headed in the direction of City Hall.

Pantages Stage

Pantages Stage

I also sent a letter to City Hall, and received a response from them accordingly.

The response from City Hall was, in my estimation, very confusing and difficult to understand, but from what I could figure out, the issues were these:

1. The Pantages is asking for $30-40 Million for the restoration, not the $10 Million that was promised them by the city
2. The Pantages needs to seek funding at a Provincial and Federal level, and they have not done that.
3.The City claims that the Pantages has never submitted a formal development application.
4. The City cannot proceed before there is a formal assessment completed, to which they have dedicated $150,000. This will not be complete until the end of March, 2009.

I spoke with a member of the Pantages Theatre Society, and they had this to say about the City’s four points:

1. The Pantages has never asked the City for money. What they are asking for is density transfers. What that means is, the city allows the developer to build buildings that are higher than would normally be allowed.
2. Because the Pantages is such a local landmark, there is little chance of Ottawa being interested in helping to fund its restoration. There is some possibility that the Province will kick in.
3. Pantages submitted a development application on December 3, 2007. That application was rejected by the city on June 2, 2008.
4. Time is a big issue. For every month the Pantages sits, and every month that the development is not starting, it costs the developer more than $30,000. After more than three years of this, he has decided to cut his losses, and try to sell the property to get some of his money back.

There is a ray of hope. While negotiations had broken off, which prompted Williams to put the property up for sale, since the municipal election, it is my understanding that negotiations have resumed. The property, however, is still up for sale.

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