The Art of the Business

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

Surviving The Culture Change February 16, 2009

This was recently forwarded to me by Mirjana Galovich, who is the director of marketing and sales for the Vancouver Museum. It is US arts philanthropy expert Diane Ragsdale’s keynote address on the subject “Surviving the Culture Change,” which she gave to the Australia Council Arts Marketing Summit held in Melbourne on 3-4 July 2008.

Here is an excerpt:

As a result of new technologies, generational shifts and economic divides, changing demographics, increasing diversity in cities and town across America, a trend towards anti-intellectualism, increased competition for people’s leisure time, cuts in funding for the arts in K-12 education, the decline in arts coverage in newspapers, and many other forces, we are seeing a profound shift in the interrelated relationships between people, space, time, and art, and changes in the ways that people create, consume, commune, and communicate. This is the culture change to which I am referring…

…podcasts can save us? How about Facebook? I keep having this picture in my mind of arts organizations huddled up, frantically flipping through some metaphorical 21st century audience development playbook, trying to figure out the perfect combination of plays that will win over younger audiences: Should we get rid of subscriptions? Stream podcasts? Produce videos for YouTube? Hire DJs and VJs to play in the lobby after the show? Have a MySpace page? Text our patrons on their cell phones? Remake the season brochure? Host some sort of amateur art competition?

Maybe! But we can’t answer these questions until we answer some more fundamental questions. Yes, we need to bring our marketing into the 21st century; but first, we need to bring our missions into the 21st century. This is less a failure to sell well, and more a failure to see well – a failure to see that our communities have changed, and that art and artists have changed, and that we, perhaps, as institutions that exist to broker a relationship between the two (communities and artists) have not changed in response.

What I love about this keynote, is that she is talking about all good marketing, which is, at its very basis, simply relationship marketing. It’s always been that way. But if we are to survive the shrinking of the traditional media and the aging of our subscription audience and the fact that we are in a recession, we have to start thinking about relationship marketing in different ways. If we think of it as building a community.

You can read Diane’s entire keynote here. And tune in to the blog on Wednesday for some ideas that theatres around the world are implementing to make their work connect more with their audience.

I will be participating in a conference call on March 2, at 9 am PST, 1 pm EST, with The Prosperous Artists, Rosh Sillars and Dean La Douceur. Feel free to phone in with your questions (206 202 3568). We will be discussing the topic of relationship marketing. The conference call will be available for download as a podcast afterwards.

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