The Art of the Business

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

Why you should NOT join Twitter May 27, 2009

Filed under: Marketing with Twitter,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:23 am

I was out the other night with my sweetie’s co-workers, helping to celebrate one of their birthdays. It came up that one of the co-workers had just attended a workshop that day on Twitter. I,  of course, Twitter enthusiast that I am, was all over it.

“So, are you going to join??” I asked, thinking, “I have to get her handle so I can follow her.”

“No,” she said. “What’s the point? It’s a lot of noise. I don’t want to know the minutae of people’s lives.”

Hmm… good point. Hard to argue with that.

There is a lot of noise on Twitter. Clearly, having tools like Tweet Deck or HootSuite to deal with thousands of Tweets daily makes a big difference. But there’s a bigger problem, here.

Here are two good reasons NOT to join Twitter:

1. If you don’t have a purpose for Twittering, and you don’t have a plan. I wrote a while back about Oprah joining Twitter, and how anything she touches turns to gold (by which I mean, becomes immensely popular). If you are thinking, “hey, this Twitter thing sounds cool, everyone I know is doing it, I should check it out,” that’s fine, but stop first, and do some research and planning.

What do you want to use Twitter for? It’s most useful application is to drive traffic. So, if you have ablog, vlog, podcast, or Flickr steam, Twitter can be really useful for increasing your stats. It can help to drive traffic to your website. If you have a business, it can help you to promote special deals and sales. But it’s good to have a plan going in–how are you going to use it? When will you tweet? Map this stuff out before you begin.

2. You have the time and energy to put into it. You can’t join Twitter, follow 1,000 in 10 minutes, and expect that you’ve done your job. Social Media is all about making connections. You can Twitter on five minutes a week, but for me, the minimum would be 5-10 minutes, three times a day. Because Twitter is real time, things happen fast, so it’s good to check in more than once every 24-hours. You need to respond to interesting tweets, Re-Tweet stuff you like, and respond to people. If you are doing nothing but putting your own stuff out there, people will quickly loose interest. They want connectivity as well.

There was a big hoo-haa about this Neilson Blog post about Twitter’s recidivism rate. Turns out, only about 40% of the people that will sign up for Twitter this month will continue to post. The other 60% will abandon their accounts (it’s coined a new term: Twitter Quitter). I get it. Twitter’s hard. Not to learn the interface, or to get started, but to learn the nuances of the culture,  takes time. (shameless plug: or you could hire Simon and I to do a workshop for you).

I’m okay with people not jumping on the Twitter bandwagon. I am excited about people who are excited to join for the right reasons, and who are committed enough to keep at it and follow through and to create Tweets with value. Maybe there will be less people twittering about their ham sandwich they had for lunch, and that is never going to be a bad thing.

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Lessons learned from Wine country… May 25, 2009

Posts have been a bit sporadic this past week. Part of the reason for that is because I took a few days off last week (and

The Naramata Bench

The Naramata Bench

by took a few days off, I mean, I took my laptop and blackberry with me, and still ended up doing a couple of hours of work each day–come on summer!), and my sweetie and I headed up to Penticton for some exploring and wine tasting.

If you visit the “Naramata Bench”, just a 10-minute drive from Penticton, there is a long and spectacular road with some two-dozen or so wineries. It is literally one winery after another, and some of BC’s best-know wines come from this region.


Kettle Valley Winery

We first wanted to visit the Joie Winery, but they didn’t have a wine shop, or tastings. We then ended up at  Kettle Valley. For $4 each, we got to taste an ounce of four different kinds of wines–two red, and two white. We didn’t love the wines enough to buy one, but we did participate in a Gewurztraminer slushy, which was extremely civilized on a hot day.



Detail of the Therapy sign

Next up: Therapy Vineyards. Located just up the hill from Kettle Valley, the experience couldn’t have been more different. Kettle Valley’s tasting room was a converted garage. It was a nice a garage, but it was still a garage. Therapy had a specially-built wine-tasting room and store. Tastefully decorated with a long tasting bar, here we got to sample a flight of 7 wines for $3. Therapy uses lots of clever names for its wine–Freudian Sip, Super Ego, and thier most popular, Pink Freud. The gal who poured our wines was able to tell us all about them in a very conversational way, without sounding like she was reading it off of a script. And she was a genuine wine enthusiast herself, telling us about her collection. The experience was very, very positive, and we left with bottle in tow.

At Therapy Vineyards

At Therapy Vineyards

So, why am I writing a blog post about wine tasting on a blog that deals with business in the arts? BecauseDSC_0118 these three wineries were stunning examples of enterprises that we can all learn from.

Joie is quite a successful, critically-acclaimed winery. My feeling is, they think that they don’t need to be so open to their clientele. They feel that business is good, they have a beautiful website and successful sales. For them, that’s enough. At Kettle Valley, I felt like they were maybe just going through the motions. You know: “you should really have a tasting room. It can help to boost sales.” But it felt quite cold and mechanical, without heart. Therapy was doing it right. They were open, conversational, and really let us see behind the scenes. And the result was, we bought in (literally). I will recommend this wine to my friends, I would highly recommend you visit the winery if you are ever in the area, and, in a sea of labels at the liquor store, that one will stand out for me because of its clever marketing.

I know you hear me talk ad nauseum about how all arts businesses should be involved with social media. The reason why is because it helps your clientele to get to know “the real you.” And when they do, they will buy in. And beyond that, become your ambassador. My experience at Therapy was so positive, I now consider myself an ambassador for them. All they are out is some employees’ salaries and 7 ounces of wine. And how much business will they get in return? That’s the hard part to prove, but I can guarantee you it will be more than the business that Joie or Kettle Valley will get from me.

Oh–and one more thing I learned–I apparantly get quite chatty after tasting 7 different wines.

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Jessies, Jessies, Jessies! May 20, 2009

Filed under: Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:04 am

Yesterday was a big day for theatre in Vancouver–the Jessie nominations were announced. The Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards are like our version of Broadway’s Tonys. Or our version of Toronto’s Doras. Well, you get the idea… it’s kind of a big deal.

There are two major categories of awards: Large Theatre and Small Theatre. Large Theatre is for the companies that have theatres and produce seasons, like the Arts Club, Bard on the Beach, and the Playhouse. Small Theatre is where I work–indie companies that don’t have a theatre to call home, but often produce seasons, and rent their spaces.

Ruby Slippers leads that pack with 8 nominations. I worked on Life Savers a couple of months ago, and the production design was particularly stunning, so it’s fitting that they got nominations for Sound, Lights, and Set. Colleen Wheeler’s tortured France earned her a nomination for Lead Actress, and both Patti Allan (who played her mother) and Naomi Wright (who played her sister) picked up Best Supporting nominations. Kevin McNulty also garnered a nom in the Lead Actor category.

Leaky Heaven Circus, whose antigone undone is currently getting rave reviews by the critics, got two noms for last year’s Bone In Her Teeth. Sasa Brown is nominated in the supporting actress category (she deserves it for the baby watermelon scene alone) and Stephan Bircher for Lights.

Itsazoo picked up its very first Jessie nomination, in the category of Outstanding Costume Design. Meredith Canby is nominated for Death of a Clown. Not bad for a young company not yet out of its twenties, and only one year in Vancouver.

Congratulations to all. If you’re in Vancouver, and you’ve never been, check out the Jessie Awards on June 15. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s the one night of the year when the theatre community truly gets together. There’s a lot of love. And drinking.

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Entertainment versus provocation: what is theatre’s job? May 13, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Local Shows — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:12 am

It feels like ever since the Dionysians danced around the giant penis in the first days of Greek theatre, the debate has been raging. I can see it now: half of the revelers, drunk and having a debauched good time, insist that thier theatre ritual is for fun, entertainment. The other half are arguing that, in order for it to be useful, catharsis, an emotional reaction in the audience must have taken place. 180px-Dionysus_Sarcophagus

It’s thousands  of years later, and the debate rages on.

What is theatre’s job? To provoke, or to entertain?

Here in Vancouver, it feels like we are in two very divided camps. There are the bigger theatres, who, for reasons of having to pay rent and actors and amazing set and costume designers, have big budgets, and are very reliant on box office revenue for thier business model to work. Then, there are other, smaller, independent theatre companies that have lower overhead and a passion for the latest controversial script.

The big theatre companies have to produce stuff that they know is going to sell tickets. Hence the reason Les Miserables goes into previews this week here in Vancouver. The smaller companies refer to the work they do as more of  a capital “A” Art: holding up a mirror to society. Check out this recent post by Travis Bedard on that subject and its consequences.

I don’t really have the answer. As a marketer, I believe there is space in this world for both. The audience that may go to Les Miserables might not be interested in seeing Dying City. They are different markets. Or maybe they will. What I do know is this: every time someone goes to the theatre, we have a chance to convert them. If they go, and they like it, because it is either entertaining or provocative, there is a good chance they’ll come back. And if they come back, maybe they’ll be more daring, and try something that is out of their comfort zone.

So let’s just produce good theatre. Good theatre that makes people want to come back for more entertainment or to make them think. Because at least they are going to the theatre.

I welcome your thoughts on this debate in the comments below.

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Vote for the Arts May 11, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:17 pm

Tomorrow, here in BC, we will have a provincial election.

Up until quite recently, I used to be one of those people that was pretty apathetic about politics. I just figured everyone was a crook, and my one little vote was not going to make  any difference in the grand scheme of things. Then I went to work at The Alliance for Arts and Culture in Vancouver.

Among the myriad of things that they do there, is advocacy, and you can’t be apathetic for long when you work in that kind of environment. So, now I’m on the other side: I’m encouraging you, if you live in BC, to get out tomorrow and vote. And, because I am not non-partisan, but just myself, I’m encouraging you to vote for anyone but the Liberals.

The Liberals have a horrible track record when it comes to supporting the arts. Over the last few years, they have cut funding to the arts by 40%. Okay, to be fair, the NDP, who used to be in power, weren’t that much better, but they at least have the arts on their platform, and have pledged to restore the 40% cut by the Liberals. I hope they keep their promise if they get elected.

The Assembly of British Columbia Arts Councils and the Alliance have put together a campaign/information package called: Vote: Put Your HeART In It. Check it out for information about artists and our place in the economy.

And then get out and vote.

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Financial Friday May 8, 2009

Filed under: Cash flow,Finances — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:06 am
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On Wednesday night, I attended a forum on financial management that was put on by one of my clients, Full Figure free-finance-softwareTheatre. Among the crowd were quite a few artists and actors, and they asked some good questions. I wanted to share with you some of the excellent tips and websites that I picked up.

I have always believed that I should try to have some kind of cash reserve–an emergency fund, or a savings account for a vacation or large purchase. But what I learned on Wednesday night is that having savings and debt at the same time is somewhat counterproductive. This is because you are paying high amounts of interest on your debt (maybe even up to 28% for some credit cards) and earning a very small amount of interest (maybe 2-3%) on your savings. By taking the money you have earmarked for savings and applying it to your debt, you can pay down your debt faster, and that saves you money in interest.

After your debt is cleared, set up special savings accounts, and give them names: “house,” “car,” “vacation.” Having a goal for your money will increase the odds that you won’t spend it on just anything.

Before you start this process, you need to know where your money is going. Even if you don’t have much money to spend, you might be shocked to see how much you are spending on certain things. This means tracking your spending every single day, every single penny. After you’ve done this for a few weeks, or, ideally, a month, you can start to create your spending plan.

Your spending plan needs to take into account your fixed epenses (rent/mortgage, phone, car insurance, etc), and your variable expenses, which are things like food, clothing, eating out, gifts, etc. And just know that if you overspend in one area, you don’t need to punish yourself. You may need to try to find that money somewhere else to make up for the shortfall, but it’s more about having knowlege around where your money is going, because that’s where the power is–you are controlling your money, not the other way around.

Here are some great websites I’ve discovered, or were suggested to me:

Billing Boss: This great, free tool, creates customizeable, trackable invoices. You upload your address and logo, put in the information, and it creates a professional looking invoice for  you. You can track if your client has opened it, and download the info into your accounting software. It is also PayPal enabled, so you can send the invoice and be paid all online.

CNN Debt Reduction Calculator: You put in all your debt information, credit cards, line of credit, loans, etc and their interest rates. It then calculates either how long it will take you to pay off your debt if you pay a certain amount each month, or it will calculate how much you need to pay each month in order to pay it off in a certain amount of time, say two years.

Piggy Pal: is an online money tracker. The advantage of having this information on a website is that you have access to it all the time, and can input information at work, at home, or via your smart phone.

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A Eulogy for Augusto Boal May 6, 2009

Filed under: World Theatre Day — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:24 am
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As I posted on Sunday, Augusto Boal, founder of The Theatre of the Oppressed, and writer of this year’s World Theatre Day International Address, has died.

Here in Vancouver, the man closest to Boal is certainly David Diamond, Artistic Director of Headlines Theatre. Yesterday, Diamond sent out this eulogy which he wrote for his friend and colleauge, and I asked him if I could share it.

It is with deep sadness that we acknowledge the death of Brazilian theatre director and founder of the “Theatre of the Oppressed” (TO), Augusto Boal. In the early hours of May 2, 2009, the world experienced the passing of a visionary theatre artist, activist and educator.

Boal’s passionately theatrical spirit and his uncompromising commitment to human rights, combined with an infectious sense of play, spread the ideas and practice of TO around the world.

Boal leaves a rich legacy of innovation in theatre and social activism, books, articles, and inspired hearts and minds. As Chris Vine, a friend and colleague from NY wrote upon hearing this sad news, “…we are all grateful for the lives Boal had touched, inspired and linked together artistically, politically and personally, transcending time and distance.”

To me, personally, he was an inspiration, a mentor, a colleague and a beloved friend. No more fiery emails back and forth, Augusto? This is so hard to contemplate. You will always be a welcome “Cop in my Head”. Thank you for so much.

Messages have been posted on the International Theatre of the Oppressed (ITO) website from Adrian Jackson, a TO practitioner and translator of Boal’s books, and Bárbara Santos, on behalf of the Centre of the Theatre of the Oppressed (CTO) Rio. Access Bárbara’s message by clicking on the image of Boal in the upper right of the home page. A condolences registry, where you can leave your thoughts, is available by clicking inside the “interventions” link of Adrian’s message.

On behalf of all of us at Headlines, our condolences to the Boal family, CTO Rio, the global TO community, and all. Boal touched the lives of so many.

David Diamond
Artistic Director, Headlines Theatre, Vancouver BC, Canada

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A blog-bate! May 4, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:32 am
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During last year’s federal election, the arts, which have traditionally gotten left by the wayside in political campaigns, were brought front and centre by a political debate focused on the arts called The Wrecking Ball. These debates took place in several major cities across the country. Our local Wrecking Ball was organized by The Alliance for Arts and Culture, and it was, in a word, inspiring.

Here in BC, we are in the throes of a Provincial election–we go to the polls on May 12. According to an article in The Georgia Straight, the arts are pretty far down on the priority list when it comes to platforms.

While both the NDP and Greens have pledged to increase arts funding, the B.C. Liberals have not. The NDP has vowed to restore the arts funding cut in 2009, increase the budget for the B.C. Arts Council, and provide a new $50-million capital fund to be administered by the B.C. Arts Council for investment in projects that “support the growth and sustainability” of professional and community arts, culture, and heritage sectors. The Green party platform calls for increasing funding to the B.C. Arts Council, establishing a separate Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage, and cooperating with other levels of government to fund an “indigenous peoples culture and arts plan for B.C.” Meanwhile, the only mention of the arts in the Liberals’ platform comes in the context of boosting tourism: “It [increasing tourism revenues] is why we established the $150-million B.C. 150 Cultural Fund and are investing $50 million in a new generation Vancouver Art Gallery.” (read the entire article here)

In an attempt to bring Arts more to the forefront, The Alliance for Arts and Culture has arrainged a debate–a virtual one:

In an innovative departure from the usual all-candidates debates, the Alliance for Arts & Culture will host a “live-blogging” forum on May 4th at 4pm with Spencer Herbert (NDP candidate), Vanessa Violini (Green Party candidate). At this point, no Liberal Party candidate has chosen to participate; however, Bill Bennett, Liberal candidate and former Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts – who cited prior commitments – will post a prepared statement on behalf of the Liberals.

You are invited to participate: visit the Alliance’s blog, and drop a question to the candidates in the comments section. Then, you can follow the debate as it is live-blogged on May 4.

The only way to make a difference is to speak out!

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Augusto Boal Dies May 2, 2009

Filed under: World Theatre Day — Rebecca Coleman @ 3:48 pm
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I was stunned to receive this email today from Carla Estefan, with whom we had quite a lot of contact during our World augusto_boal_klTheatre Day celebrations. Augusto Boal was the given the honour of writing this year’s World Theatre Day International Address.

The playwright and theater director, Augusto Boal, died in the early hours of today, at 78 years, of respiratory failure in the Samaritan Hospital in the district of Botafogo, Rio. He suffered from leukemia and was hospitalized  since April 28. The location and time of the funeral have not been disclosed.

The work of Boal, who was also essayist and theorist of theater, gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, when he  created the Theater of the Oppressed, which was internationally recognized by combining drama to social action.

Boal  graduated with a degree in Chemistry fromthe Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) in 1950, but then traveled to the United States, where he studied dramatic arts at Columbia University. Back in Brazil, his first piece as a director was Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, which garnered him an award from the  APCA (São Paulo Association of Art Critics). He directed of the show Opinião, with Zé Kette, João do Vale and Nara Leão, which went down in history as an act of resistance to the military coup of 1964.

From Boal’s WTD International Address:

Weddings and funerals are “spectacles”, but so, also, are daily rituals so familiar that we are not conscious of this. Occasions of pomp and circumstance, but also the morning coffee, the exchanged good-mornings, timid love and storms of passion, a senate session or a diplomatic meeting – all is theatre.

Participate in the “spectacle” which is about to begin and once you are back home, with your friends act your own plays and look at what you were never able to see: that which is obvious. Theatre is not just an event; it is a way of life!

We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it.

Boal was a man who truly used theatre to change the world. A bright light has gone out today, and he will be sorely missed.

Read the entire WTD address.

Read my interview with David Diamond, Boal’s colleague here in Vancouver.

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Do you need a business plan? May 1, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:29 am

I’ve been doing publicity on a part-time basis since April, of 2001. That was when the theatre company I was then a part of decided to produce its first mainstage show. As with all small theatre companies, we were all responsible for more than one thing–acting, stage managing, directing. And administration-type stuff, like publicity.

I knew less than nothing about publicity, but I had a friend who had done some, so I asked him to show me how to write a press release, and that’s how I got my first taste of being a publicist.

Over the years, I continued to work, act, have a baby and do publicity on a part-time basis. Many, many times, I set the goal for myself of writing a business plan for my publicity business, and taking it to the next level. But it wasn’t until the government-funded employment program I was working for got cut in July of 2007 that I really got the time or the opportunity.

I was lucky enough to get into a Self Employment Assistance program at BCIT, which walked me through the process of writing a business plan. It also offered me coaching, but the most important thing it offered me was time.
If you have an arts-related business, you need a business plan. When I was doing publicity part-time, it was just that, a hobby, something I made a few extra bucks at, but it wasn’t serious. Writing a business plan and creating goals for myself helped me to take myself more seriously, and taking myself more seriously lead me to create a business plan and goals. And when I started taking myself more seriously, so did other people. And I actually started making money.

If you are not able to take a course like the one I took, due to time or money, there are other options.

Business Plan Write is a full how-to-write a business plan step-by-step website.

Small Business BC has both an excellent website and a physical office (located inside Waterfront Station). If you don’t live in BC, you could certainly do a search for a similar service in your area.

And good luck!

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