The Art of the Business

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

Mid-week Tim-… er, Tid-Bits April 29, 2009

I have a couple of things to share with you today, mid-week. No real theme, just some things that have come across my desk that I thought were worthy of sharing. So, hopefully you get something out of them…

1. Where Did I Spend it All?? A free financial forum for Women: If you are living in Vancouver, are female, and feel like you are affected by the recession, or you have money issues, you should check this out!

Full Figure Theatre is pleased to present Where Did I Spend It All?, an open and frank discussion on how women feel about wealth, assets, personal worth, and our relationship with money. Produced with the generous assistance of the Vancouver Public Library, the forum, which is free, will take place May 6, at 7 pm in the Alma Van Dusen and Peter Kay rooms at the Central Branch of the VPL
Hosted by Heath, the panel will also include: Lori Bamber (Freelance Writer), Melanie Buffel (Money Skills Facilitator), Karin Mizgala (Financial Educator), and Tracy Theemes (Financial Advisor).

More info:

2. Mad Mimi Email Marketing: Any regular reader of my blog will hear me go on and on about two things: RENT and email marketing campaigns. I am single-handedly responsible for getting a bunch of Van Theatre companies to sign up for Constant Contact–I truly should be on a reward plan. While Constant Contact is certainly the industry leader, and it’s not-for-profit discount makes it attractive to theatre companies, it can be a tad, well, shall we say, busy? I prefer clean, simple graphics, so I often recommend IContact as an alternative. However, there’s now a new alternative to simple and clean: Mad Mimi. Check them out for yourself–prices are very reasonable, starting at $8/month.

3. Finally, I recently signed up for a PR Newsfeed, which I get daily, and it is rocking my world. This was an article that was highlighted in it  a couple of days ago. Published on  a blog called Conversation Agent, it’s called When is it a good idea to include Bloggers in your Media Outreach?, and here’s a sample:

I get my fair share of press releases every day – at the tune of 4-5 per day, in fact. The best word I can use to describe them by and large is unimpressive. “I think you’re fabulous” may seem like a good idea for a subject line, but if you cannot tell me why, as in what about my work makes you say that, you’re out.

That means you not only miss the mark on what I like to write about, you show lack of interest. It is clear I’m on a hit list, but there is no effort towards understanding why. The why is the reason your press release or pitch is going nowhere. Get that, and you will begin to have some success with bloggers’ outreach.

The best pitch is no pitch at all. The best pitch is in fact a conversation. One in which the writer can find a unique story to tell. One based on an ongoing relationship with someone who writes about a specific subject matter. If journalists and editors need to think about their readers, so do bloggers.

Do yourself a favor and read the rest. timbits

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have the strangest craving for TimBits…

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Dream of Saving Vancouver’s Pantages Dies April 27, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:44 pm

Only a little more than a year ago, on April 16, 2008, I was part of a huge celebration that took place at Vancouver’s 100-year-old Pantages Theatre on Hastings St. The event was attended by, and featured the talents of, some of Vancouver’s elite, including Christopher Gaze and Dal Richards. It was a huge success, and hope was high–on that day, we announced the $26-million plan to restore the theatre by developer Marc Williams.

The Pantages Today

The Pantages Today

It looks like that dream has died.

In October, 2008, it was announced that the future of the Pantages was in jeopardy. Hung up in red tape at City Hall, the developer put the property up for sale. Every month the building sits empty, it costs him in the range of $30,000.

On December 9, members of the Pantages Theatre Society presented an early Christmas gift to the then-new Mayor, Gregor Robertson. It was a book that included more than 350 letters of support for the Pantages, and a plea to the Mayor to reopen negotiations.

On December 19, City Council voted to allow the owner of the York Theatre, Bruno Wall, a density transfer, and that Vancouver landmark was saved, and a $12 million restoration is in the works. Hopes were high that City Council might consider something similar for the Pantages.

The Pantages Theatre Society’s website has been taken down, and a source close to them told me that the building did not fare well during this past (heavy) winter.

In an email from Dr. Charles Barber, head of the PTS, he said:

Ten years from now, after this 101-year old dazzler is demolished and replaced by utter mediocrity, people will wonder how we could have been so stupid.

It makes me incredibly sad to report this. I recently attended a backstage tour of the Moore Theatre in Seattle, whose archetecture was so strikingly similar to our Pantages. This is because the archetect that assisted in designing the Moore, was the archetech for our Pantages. The two theatres opened within a year of each other. Seeing the Moore was like seeing the potential of the Pantages, if we could only get there.

In this city, any indepenndent theatre producer will tell you one of our greatest challenges is finding spaces to produce our plays. The restoration plan for the Pantages was to include not just the main 650-seat theatre, but a second, smaller, 99-seat black-box theatre. The plan also included 200 units of social housing. No one can say that homelessness is not a huge problem in our city.

It’s just wrong.

You can see all my past posts on the Pantages here.

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Demistifying Social Media: new date added! April 24, 2009

You can argue with me on this one, but I think, maybe, the two sweetest words in the English language are: sold out.

Simon Ogden and I got asked to do a workshop on using social media as a tool for marketing your art practice by our local Alliance For Arts and Culture, and it was embarrassing how fast we said, “hell, yeah!” The workshop was set for May 5, and I’m happy to report, that workshop is sold out. Us being the accommodating people we are, we promptly added a second date: May 12. So, if May 5 didn’t work for you, or you missed out on the first one, here’s your chance to check it out.

Read Simon’s post about his “Simonarer” here.

Read about the workshop and sign up for it here.


How much is production value worth? April 22, 2009

On Saturday night, I went to see The Zoo Story at Second Beach (full disclosure: Itsazoo Productions are one of my

The Zoo Story at Second Beach

The Zoo Story at Second Beach


We, the audience, got to sit undercover in the picnic area just above the children’s playground (red firetruck, anyone?), looking out over the playing fields and the pool. Just outside the picnic area, there was a park bench, and upon this bench, the play took place. The bench was the only set, unless you include English Bay (you could do worse), no lights, no sound (unless you count the ambient noise associated with a park near a beach), and certainly no special effects.

Stripped of all of its theatrical trappings, the production was forced to get back to basics: the words and the acting. And based on that, I’d say the show was a success–Albee’s work and its execution were both very strong.

This week, I’m gearing up to work on the upcoming Leaky Heaven Circus show, antigone undone. Bone in Her Teeth, last year’s Leaky offering, was one of my favorites of last season. It offered jaw-dropping moments of pure beauty and theatricality. For example, there was a moment at the top of act two where two people were fighting drowning. The entire scene was danced behind a wave of cling-film that stretched across the stage, and was being kept constantly in motion by others offstage. In one moment, Billy Marchenski reached up and put his fist through the cling-film, creating a perfect, captured-in-time moment. It blew my mind.

I’m a theatre junkie. Like all good junkies, I want to get as much of my drug as I can, and I crave better and better quality stuff, all the time. These two productions both satisfied me, but in very different ways. For The Zoo Story, it was about executing the basics really well, and letting that be enough. For Leaky Heaven, it was about the innovation and creativity and theatricality.

What do you think? In what proportion do you like to see pretty production values and outstanding theatricality, versus well-executed basics like script and acting? I’d love to hear.

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The day Twitter went Mainstream April 20, 2009

Filed under: Marketing with Twitter — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:18 am
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It was bound to happen sooner or later. With Twitter’s exponential growth (131% in March alone, according to over the last year or so, all the experts werre pretty much predicting this one: Twitter would eventually go from something people were hearing about, but not nessicarily knowing about, to being a mainstream application.

It just happened, a couple days ago.

There were a couple of things that I believe are responsible for pushing it over the edge. The first is that Oprah joined Twitter, and then dedicated a show to the social networking tool. She interviewed Ashton Kutcher, who, along with his wife, Demi Moore, have been on Twitter for quite some time. Anything that Oprah touches turns to gold. A book that is selected by her for her book club is sold out overnight. Products featured on Oprah’s “Favorite Things” episodes see dramatic increases in sales immediately. If Twitter has Oprah’s stamp of approval, the masses will be joining.

Ashton Kutcher is the second reason I believe Twitter can now be considered to be mainstream. During the past week, he engaged in a race with CNN to see who could be the first person on Twitter to make it to 1,000,000 followers. On April 17, Kutcher won that race.

Now, I love Twitter, and I think it’s a fantasic tool. But, honestly, there is a part of me that wants to keep it just among us geeks and nerds. I use Twitter for business, to get the word out, and to connect with people. I don’t use it to celbrity-watch: there are other places where I could do that, if so inclinded. I guess I’m worried about Twitter getting watered down by tons of users who are just on it because it’s popular, or because Oprah’s on it, or because they want to see the photos that Kutcher published of Bruce Willis’ wedding.

I have a new Twitter motto. In Glengarry Glen Ross, the boss, Blake, tells the rookie: “A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!!” My new Twitter motto is: A-B-G-V: Always Be Giving Value. Because for me, that’s what Twitter is all about.

UPDATE: I just have to share with you a quote from a blog article I just read by Shel Holtz:

I do not care who was here before Oprah. I do not care whom I beat to Twitter, or who beat me. It does not matter. The only thing that matters is whether your tweets are interesting or valuable. If they’re not—at least to me—I will not follow you. If they are, I will. Whether you were here on the day of Twitter’s launch or joined yesterday is irrelevant. Only the quality of your content matters. Period.

Nice. Well put, Shel.

Read the rest of the blog article, I don’t care if you were on Twitter before Oprah.

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Apparently, Theatre is Dead… April 15, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 8:54 am
Tags: , ,

While starring in the play A Touch of the Poet on Broadway in 2005, [actor Gabriel] Byrne proclaimed that theater is dying out.

“I looked out into the audience and the theatre was packed with well-to-do, white-haired people,” Byrne said.

“After the show I turned to one of the other actors and said, ‘Theater is dead. There’s no one under 60 out there, they’re all white and they can all afford £200 for a night.’ Seriously, theater as we’re doing it now, is dead.”

Read the entire story here.

What do you think? Are rumours of her death greatly exaggerated? Or do you agree with Mr. Byrne?

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Seattle versus Vancouver April 13, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 10:20 am
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I just came back from a weekend in Seattle. The weekend was meant for pure getting-away-from-it-all, escape-your-life, have-some-fun, go-shopping-eat-at-cool-restaurants. But it turned into an interesting comparison of the Seattle versus Vancouver art scenes. Ironic, because I didn’t save any receipts, so I can’t even write it off.

Music: Being a lover of Jazz, and being in Seattle with a Jazz musician, the possibility of going to a jazz club is always pretty high. Seattle has a couple of well-established jazz clubs in the downtown core: The Triple Door and Jazz Alley. We ended up at Jazz Alley, which is a large, elegant space, and run like a well-oiled machine. We don’t have anything in Vancouver that I can think of to compare it with. The music was world-class: The Joshua Redman Trio–all three incredible musicians in their own right, but together, a force to be reckoned with.

Arts Coverage via free publications: Seattle has two newspapers which are both roughly comparable to The Georgia Straight: The Seattle Weekly and The Stranger. The Stranger is the more edgy of the two–its use of the F-word was pervasive, and it focused on the more underground art scene. And, interestingly, its cover article this week was called The Vancouver Problem, a comparison of our two visual art scenes.

Theatre: While I didn’t get to actually see any shows while I was there, there certainly seems to be lots of stuff goingimg00061-20090411-0959 on. Carrie Fisher’s one-woman show, and Crime and Punishment dominating. What I did get to do is a backstage tour of the Moore Theatre (which is housed in the same building at the hotel that we always stay at). The Moore is managed by the Seattle Theatre Group, who also own The Paramount, a few blocks away. Seattle has a group called The Seattle Landmark Association, whose interest is in saving and restoring old theatres. They have had some success with theatres like the Moore, not so much with others like the Pantages (which is now a parking lot). I was very impressed with the passion these people have for saving and preserving their theatre. The Moore opened only months before Vancouver’s Pantages, and the architect of our Pantages was the assistant architect on the Moore. The similarities were startling. You can view my stream of photos from the tour here.

I could go on… about food, shopping, the cultural districts, the bookstores, and the coffee. When you go away on a trip somewhere, there is always the “grass is always greener…” factor that needs to be recognized and taken into account. But having said that, it might be interesting to start a discussion with people who are active in the arts scene of your favorite get-away place: who knows what we can learn from each other?

Try this experiment: pick a place you’ve always enjoyed visiting, and do a search to see if you can find some interesting blogs that are being written about that place’s arts scene. Then, start a conversation, and ask them to guest-post. And if anyone from Seattle is reading this post, feel free to email me… I’m open to the discussion.

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First-quarter check-in April 10, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:09 am
Tags: , ,

Over Christmas, I went away to Mayne Island for a couple of days for rest, relaxation, and recharging. While there, I read Timothy Ferriss’ The Four Hour Work Week. And I came home with a list of goals.

In large corporations, they do quarterly reports to the stock holders, letting them know how the company is doing. Here’s my report for the first quarter of 2009.basicchart_842

Finances: I had pretty specific financial goals, a certain amount of money I wanted to earn each month, and a certain amount of money I want to earn this year. I won’t tell you what that amount is, but I am reasonably satisfied with it, at this point.

Keep face-to-face meetings down to two days a week: I started out so well! I was doing really good! And then… not so much. Last week, in fact, I had meetings every day, which might explain why I am feeling so burnt out right now. Keeping face-to-face meetings to two days per week made my life a lot less hectic, and allowed me to really focus on my business for large chunks of uninterrupted time.

Keeping Friday mornings for working on my business: I’ve found that I’ve been so busy in the day-to-day running of my business, that I haven’t had time to plan and work on my business. My plan was to book off Friday mornings so that I could take that time to look at the future, and plan for what was next. I have done this a few times, but, I have fallen off the wagon…

Create an additional source of income: I have done this (at least in theory), now I need the time and space to get it launched!

How about you? If you had to write a first-quarter report, what would it look like? Would your shareholders be happy and impressed? I’d love to hear.

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The Era of Twenty-Something Theatre April 8, 2009

Back in December, at a performance of The Drowsy Chaperon, I lamented at the age of the audience. “Where are the young people?” I wondered, and “where is our future audience?”

Well, I’m happy to say, I think I’ve found them. I’m happy to say, there is a movement in Vancouver, of young, twenty-somethings starting theatre companies and producing seasons. Not just a group of friends getting together to do one-offs in the slow film times, but companies that are forming and doing a series of productions over the year.

Allow me to introduce:

Fighting Chance Productions: Fighting Chance burst onto the scene in a very controversial way. Their production of The Laramie Project late last year got some negative attention (from someone whom I will not name, because I don’t want to give him any more attention), which lead to sold-out shows and a baptism by fire. Fighting Chance, lead by Ryan Mooney, is doing lots of cool stuff with a twenty-something edge: their production of Tick… Tick… BOOM!, written by Jonathan Larsen, opened last night at Jericho Arts Centre. TTB deals with the struggle of an artist/composer on the cusp of his thirtieth birthday–how far should he pursue his art? Should he continue to be a waiter/starving artist/composer with promise, or pack it in like some of his friends, and get the corportate job, the classy apartment and the Beemer?

I would estimate the median age in the audience last night was 23-30. The play speaks to young artists, and is produced by and was written by a young artist. It has appeal.

Itsazoo Productions: Started in 2004 by five UVic Theatre grads, Itsazoo conquered Victoria, and has now set its sites on Vancouver. Some of their stuff is original, lots is site-specific. They just finished an original piece at the PAL called Death of A Clown (which, like TTB, involved themes of corporate consumerism and the soul-stealing day job), and are currently producing Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story outside in Mt. Douglas Park in Victoria. Vancouver audiences will get a chance to see Albee’s surreal first play April 15-18 and 22-25 at Second Beach in Stanley Park.

Again, whenever I go to Itsazoo shows, I see a younger demographic–and what I’ve experienced in working with them over the last year, is that they have an audience that supports them.

Twenty-Something Theatre: Sabrina Evertt, Artistic Director, says she has started Twenty-Something to create “life-affirming, socially-relevant productions featuring the city’s best up-and-coming artists.” Sabrina, also a UVic grad (what is it about that program??) is producing Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, a beautiful-but-brutal piece of theatre, and has started a blog to document the process. Past work includes Bogosian and LaBute, sharp, modern, smart, and appealing to the younger set.

These three companies have lots in common, besides being helmed by those who have still not hit the big 3-0. They are creating theatre that they, as twenty-somethings are interested in, and that translates to their demographic. They are embracing new ways of getting bums in seats, like social networking, particularly Facebook.They are dedicated, and serious about the business.

The future’s looking brighter….

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Growing Pains April 6, 2009

Filed under: Attitude,Business of Arts,Business relationships,Marketing with Twitter — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:46 am

Growth, growth, growth. I feel like it’s all I’m talking about these days. It starts with my five-and-a-half year old’s growth chart and inability to stay in the same size of shoes for more than 6 months. It is a conversation I am having on a macro-level with my beloved local theatre tweeps about the state of the Vancouver indie scene, and how we can create a new audience. And it’s happening on a level much closer to home, as I ponder and plan where my own business is going in the not-too-distant future.

I spend a reasonably large amount of time on Twitter. Every day, when I check my email, I’ve got a half-a-dozen or so imagesnew followers. Sometimes, when I check out my new followers, I see that they are following 1, 249 people, have about 70 following them, and have tweeted 6 times in the past 48 hours since they joined. It’s like high school: just follow as many people as possible. What’s important is being popular, not well-liked.

I want to make a case for the slow-but-steady-wins-the-race school of business. I get that your business is very important to you, and probably its success is your greatest single-most desire. But rushing ahead is not always the right way to go. I was watching a very trashy TV show the other night (Tori and Dean Inn Love–I know, I’m sorry), and I was shocked at how the couple just up and bought a B & B without doing any kind of research, planning, or budgeting as to how expensive it was going to be to renovate their inn. They just jumped into it.

Okay, there is something to be said for jumping in–because sometimes we get so bogged down in the research that it keeps us from action, but for the most part, I like to do it this way:

1. Research your idea: if someone else is already doing what you’re doing, you might not want to do it. Or perhaps you want to look for a different way of doing it. Is there a niche that is not being filled that you can fill?

2. Make a plan: your plan has to include goals and dates for reaching those goals.

3. Beta test: this is a popular thing that’s done with software, primarily. Companies getting ready to release software will release it in a ‘beta’ version, and let people play with it and use it, and inform them when there are problems. By getting this kind of market testing and feedback, they are able to refine the product or service. When you are getting ready to launch, run it past some people you trust, first. Their fresh eye will be a big help.

4. Go for it! And remember: if you don’t whoosh to the top overnight, that’s okay. Slow but steady growth is also really good. Failure is also okay, as long as you use it as a learning experience.

Besides, I bet most of those “overnight success” Twitterers will not even be on Twitter in another month. They’ll be bored, abandon it, and be on to the next thing. Me, I’ll still be there, (hopefully) steadily racking up followers…

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