The Art of the Business

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

Theatre Tweeple February 11, 2009

I’ve been talking about Twitter for months now. It’s no secret that I am totally and utterly hooked.

I love that it works in real time, and I love all the new contacts that I’ve made through Twitter. And I’m especially excited about all the people I am meeting from all over the world that share my passion for the theatre.

Here are just a few of the people I follow, and am building relationships with (for some pretty cool stuff which we are currently cooking, but not at liberty to disclose!). Check them out, and perhaps you might like to follow them, too. First off, you should join the Theatre group on Twitter, and if you post anything about Theatre, include the hashtag: #Theatre.


@thenextstagemag: Simon Ogden, The Next Stage blogger

@DanceCentre: The Scotiabank Dance Centre

@pitheatre: Pi Theatre

@RachelPeake: a local writer and Ruby Slippers blogger

@CynnamonS: my fellow publicist and gal-about-town

@TheElectrics: Electric Theatre Co.


@ShamelessHussy: Both of these are the tweets of Deb Pickman

@bcfilmmaker: Peter D. Marshall, Film Director, blogger and social media enthusiast

@TJBuffoonery: Trilby Jeeves, Bouffon

@SMLois: Lois, Stage Manager at Pacific Theatre, and blogger

@Stevely: Publicist and Commercial Drive blogger

@UQEvents: That great new events listing site

@BronwenRules: Actor and one of my personal fave people

@CatLH: Actor and owner of Biz Books

@ShaneBee: Blogger and owner of LeftRightMinds

@CosmoCanuck: Adam is an actor, blogger and photographer

@MonicaHamburg: blogger, actor, social media

@LeeHVincent: works on Skydive

@StraightArts: the arts section of The Georgia Straight

@jconnellyphoto: Headshot photographer


@Luminato: The Toronto Festival

@bfg85: A Toronto actress

@ianmackenzie: Praxis Theatre blogger


@LindsayWriter: Lyndsay Price, writer and blogger on Theatrefolk

@KrisJoseph: Actor out of Ottawa

@jcovert: Publicist for the NAC in Ottawa

@a_mandolin: theatre artist, Toronto.






@WendyRosenfeld: Theatre critic in Philadelphia

@StoryTolar: Actor in LA, Debra Olson-Tolar


@TravisBedard: Blogger of Midnight Honesty at Noon (Austin)

@pmull: Director and writer (Virgina)

@JessHutchinson, AD of a theatre in Chicago



@moremattrlessrt: Two Day Productions, Scotland

@actorexpo: London & Edinburgh’s Trade show for actors

@Xuxa2: a UK Actress


@djchadderton: David Chadderton, a theatre writer/reviewer in England

@devioustheatre: a company from Ireland

@dramagirl: Kate Foy

And a couple of celebrity  actors, just for fun:



@MrsKutcher (Demi Moore)

@APlusK (Ashton Kutcher)

@JaneFonda (who is currently on Broadway for the first time in decades, and blogging/twittering all about it… Go Jane!)

If  I’ve missed anyone, or you’ve joined since this post was published, please add yourself to the comments section below.

And Twitter ON!!

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How many posters should we print? February 9, 2009

I was asked this question in a phone call from one of my clients last week.

“500?” she asked. I nearly choked on my coffee.

There’s a marketing revolution happening, folks. And the news is mostly good, and a little bit bad. Truth is, the tried-and-true, traditional methods of marketing our theatre productions, like posters and postcards, and ads in newspapers, aren’t working anymore. Part of the reason for this is that, we are so constantly inundated with advertising, that is is almost impossible to break through. Granted, an eye-grabbing graphic or title might help, but at the end of the day, what is going to sell tickets more than anything else is relationship selling.

The good news about that is that it is much, much cheaper than traditional forms of advertising. The bad news is, you will have to make a deep investment of time, and that can sometimes be a big challenge for already-overworked non-profit theatre companies. But the payoff can be really, really big.

In this day and age of spam, impersonal form-emails and auto responders, a personal touch is almost rare, and therefore stands out more. It’s like we’re going back to the days of the door-to-door salesman. A thirty-second “elevator pitch” paired with the backup of printed material (like a postcard, business card or flyer) could be the shortest distance between you and a ticket sale.

Online social networking via Facebook, Twitter, and blogs is another way to create relationships and reach your audience.

So… how many posters should you print? If you are a small company, and doing a show that is less than a three week run, in a theatre that seats under 200, only print between 100-200 posters. They are not your greatest form of advertising, another touchpiont, yes, but at the risk of getting torn down, or just not noticed. The return on your investment is not going to be great.

An investment of time and passion, on the other hand, could pay off big time.

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Business Mentoring for the Arts February 6, 2009

In the business world, mentorship is a widely-respected and -practiced phenomenon. I don’t see it happening as much in the arts world–apprenticeships, yes, but mentorships, not so much.

I, myself have had mentors in the past, most recently through The Wired Women mentorship program. A connection I made through that program was with Mojgan Fay, and we immediately connected on our goal to help artists become better business people. Mojgan has a program called Business Mentoring for The Arts. I’ll let her tell you about it:

TAoTB: Tell me about Business Mentoring for the Arts. bmalogo1

Mojgan: Business Mentoring for the Arts (BMA) is a six-month mentorship program which pairs students in BA/MA/PhD and fine arts with a mentor from the business world who has an arts background.

This career mentorship experience is enhanced with monthly workshops, networking events, in addition to seminars in partnership with New Ventures BC.

Mentors and mentees meet at least once per month for about an hour for the duration of the mentoring relationship.

TAoTB: How can this program help artists?

Mojgan: Business Mentoring for the Arts can help by linking artists to a supportive environment where they can network with peers, attend workshops, gain insight and mentorship — ultimately finding a path and necessary guidance to follow careers they are passionate about.

Through this mentorship experience, the mentees will be provided with business perspective to achieve their goals.

TAoTB: How can artists get involved, either as mentors, or mentees?

Mojgan: We are always accepting applications for mentees and mentors. To apply on-line visit:

TAoTB: What is your personal philosophy about mentoring in general, and about mentoring with artists, specifically?

Mojgan: As a mentee, I have gained great value and inspiration from my mentors, and believe that a mutually beneficial relationship to help the move to the next step when it seems far away.

Currently, there are not many resources for students in the arts and we are excited to be able to help students with their career paths.


TAoTB: Tell me about your artistic background.

Mojgan: I have a degree in computer science. After moving back to Vancouver, I joined Wired Woman and was really inspired by all these accomplished women in the tech industry, found my career path, and so decided to help start a mentorship program for Wired Woman.

After the launch of the program and a couple of years of experience as a programmer I discovered my true passion actually was in communication technology. I’m really interested in how technology can help facilitate social inclusion.

I’m currently going to Simon Fraser University studying Communication and noticed that a lot of my classmates don’t realize the value of their education to organizations and don’t have very many resources helping them with plans after school.

With my partner’s vision, Dan Schick, we decided to start this program and help students gain a business perspective, discover their value, and realize that they can have careers they are passionate about.

It is great to have a “community” with entrepreneurs, artists, writers, communications analysts, or even corporate professionals who have arts backgrounds ALL wanting to help each other and bringing forward a different perspective. We don’t envision this program to be a one-on-one mentoring match only. You do have your mentor, but you also have access to all these other mentors that can answer your questions — it’s all geared towards helping people find their passions.

And all the workshops we put forward are topics generated by our members, and facilitated by both mentees and mentors.

Thanks Mojgan!!

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Are we losing the mainstream media? February 3, 2009

Last week, I got an email from Michael Harris, who reviews plays for The Globe and Mail here in Vancouver. It said:

I’m afraid I have some bad news… The Globe and Mail has cancelled its weekly Vancouver theatre listings, effective immediately. As I’m sure you’re aware, everyone in print media has had to make a great many cuts.

Today, we learned that The Globe and Mail cut 10% of its workforce.

It’s no secret that traditional print media has had to scramble in the wake of an explosion of online content. First off,  there are millions of bloggers out there, writing away about their passions or areas of expertise. Then, traditional sources of media, like newspapers, are increasingly going online–either repurposing their hard-copy stuff, or using the web to instantly report breaking news. We are becoming more and more attached to our computers. A phone book arrived on my doorstep this week, and when I went to replace last year’s version, found I hadn’t even unwrapped last year’s  yet. I get my phone numbers from Canada 411.

Hard-copy media is writing about the very phenomenon that is happening to them. Recently, Michael Mccarthy and Gillian Shaw wrote articles on Twitter for The Vancouver Courier and The Vancouver Sun. How did they do the research? Twitter.

According to Tris Hussey who recently published a post called “Smart Journalists Tweet While Newspapers Wrap Fish”:

They’ve (journalists) seen the handwriting on the wall, and they see that it’s adapt or become fish wrappers. The Vancouver Sun and Reuters aren’t the only news folks on Twitter of course. Almost all of our local news outlets are on Twitter and interacting with the community at large. What do we get? Headlines pushed to us. What do they get? News sources. Lots of news sources.

Times have changed. Information is exchanged electronically and faster than the events themselves (which does lead to inaccurate information at times), journalism and journalists have to change as well.

If  traditional journalists are changing the way they write stories, then so do we have to adapt. I get paid to pitch stories to journalists, and hopefully score previews and reviews for my clients. In these times of shrinking column space and but a booming internet explosion, I am finding myself connecting more with mainstream media online (or as many of them that are online), and pitching stories to non-traditional, internet-based writers like bloggers.

Embrace the revolution!!

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Back to Basics February 1, 2009

It’s weird, y’know? I spend all my days doing marketing of some way, shape or form. But sometimes, when you are doing something all the time, you get your head so involved in it, that you loose perspective on the very basis of why it is you do what you do.

I’m writing this the morning after having a meeting with Simon and some of my clients, the fine people at Itsazoo Productions. See, Itsazoo has a production coming up in March, and while I’m doing the PR for them, they wanted to get a sense of what else they could do on a grassroots level from someone who’d been there. Simon was recently part of a team that did a very successful production called The Twenty-First Floor at the PAL (which is where Itsazoo is producing Death of a Clown).

When you are learning about marketing, here is lesson number one: word of mouth is always, always, always the best way to sell tickets. We are so inundated with advertising these days (it’s everywhere), that we have learned to tune it out. It is for that reason that you need to have multiple touchpoints to get the word out about your show. But a 30-second chat with the person beside you on the bus, followed up by a flyer or postcard, is going to increase your odds of selling a ticket dramatically.

We love what we do as theatre artists. We are passionate. And when you really, really love something and believe in it, selling it becomes oh, so much easier and convincing.

So, the next time you are in a play, take a stack of postcards with you everywhere you go. Take a risk. Talk to a stranger about what you do. And you might be surprised at the result.

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