The Art of the Business

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

Creating Young Ambassadors September 24, 2010

The topic of creating an audience for the future is one of keen interest to me. And is to a lot of folks who know that they will eventually rely upon the youth of today to fill our theatres tomorrow.

I came across this great article from The Miami Herald that talks about a new teen ambassador program that allows teens to attend one performance per month for free, in exchange for the teens writing reviews of the show and sharing them through their social networks.

It’s brilliant on many levels. I’ll be very interested to read the follow-up story.

Read the entire story here.

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State of the Fringe: David Jordan August 4, 2010

Today, in the second part of my week-long series on the State of the Fringe, I interview David Jordan, the Executive Director of the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

RC:
Tell us a bit about the Vancouver Fringe.

DJ: This is our 26th year for the Fringe in Vancouver. It’s our tenth year on Granville Island. There are 83 shows and over 600 performances over 11 days.

RC: Who is David Jordan? And how did you end up here?

DJ: I came to Vancouver fresh from graduating with my Master’s degree in Directing. The Fringe was my first job here in

Image Courtesy of HereInVancouver on Flickr

Vancouver. I worked there for about a year and a half in various capacities, and then when the ED job came along, I applied for it, and here I am. This is my fifth year as Executive Director.

RC: How does this year’s Fringe compare to previous years?

DJ: Last year, there were 68 shows, so we’re up by about 20%. The trend that we’re seeing with the Fringe is that there are more BYOVs and found venues. For example, Boca Del Lupo is doing a show out of their office with an audience of 14. Someone else is doing a show on a pedicab. Origins Coffee has kindly let us use their space, and we are converting it into a 60-seat venue. We also have a professional development series: talks, and a Clown Conference. Our goal is to make Granville Island explode with theatre.

RC: How were you affected by the first round of cuts last summer?

DJ: We were lucky. We were in the first year of a three-year funding agreement. That money was originally taken away, but they restored it. So we have some time to plan and restructure. This government has systematically replaced operating funding with short-term project-based funding, so we have to seriously look at ways of running our organization with less funding from the government. As the Provincial Government proved to us over the past year, we can’t rely upon them for support.

RC: How have subsequent cuts affected you?

DJ:
Our BC Arts Council funding was cut by 60%, down to $12,700 from $32,500. Basically, by 2012 we stand to lose $70-90,000 worth of provincial funding. That alone is the cost of running our venues, which is something that can’t be cut. Our greatest challenge will be to maintain critical mass in the face of all these cuts.

RC: Despite the current cuts, it looks as if the Fringe will go ahead as normal this year?

DJ: Yes, we are in fact finding room to grow a bit. That’s what keeps me hopeful in the face of arts cuts. We were born out of needing to find a way, and we will always find a way.

RC: How about future Fringes? What kinds of plans are you working on?

DJ: Next year, there will have to be significant changes. We don’t know exactly what it will look like yet, but we have to cut expenses and increase revenues. That’s hard to do. We are a very efficient organization as it is. Maybe site specific work in MLAs offices…?  One thing we are considering is introducing tiered fee structures. Right now, all artists pay the same fee, whether they are in the Waterfront (300+) or a smaller venue of 50. We may start charging more for the larger theatres, less for the smaller ones.  Operating venues is a huge expense for us, so we are looking at ways we can create more site-specific, outdoor venues and found spaces.

RC: Final words?

DJ: We did a survey with members of the community, and the feedback that we got was clear: the Fringe is necessary. Not just for emerging artists (although they are a very important part of the Fringe), but also for more established companies who have moved beyond the Fringe. Some companies want to do new stuff, edgy stuff that they maybe can’t take to their core audience, so they come to the Fringe. The Fringe’s roots come from a place of flexibility and experimentation. It’s artist-driven. And those are all things that we will remain true to as we move forward into the future.

RC: Thanks, David!

Read David’s interview with The Georgia Straight.

Read the Vancouver Fringe’s Press Release

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Who’s the Boss? July 21, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Future planning,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:59 am

The other day, I was driving down the street, and I saw this woman on the sidewalk wearing the most amazingly put-together outfit: dress, shoes, hose, accessories, she looked like she was straight from the streets of NYC. I remember thinking it was the kind of outfit Carrie Bradshaw would have worn.

But despite her incredible outfit, there was something about this woman that looked not quite right. It took me a while to figure it out: it was as if the outfit was wearing her, rather than the other way around.

I’ve been thinking about my business in this way a lot lately: who’s the boss? Me or my business?

I often bemoan my inability to have vision to the members of my small business group. I often feel like my business is running me, rather than the other way around. Having said that, it’s running pretty well: I have more work than I know what to do with, and I’m taking on an office and expanding in the fall. I’ll be teaching a course on social media for artists at Emily Carr in the fall, and I just got invited to go to Melbourne to do social media workshops with the indie theatre community there.

Maybe it’s enough?

Maybe torturing myself over my lack of a 5-year plan is ridiculous. Maybe I should look at all my successes and be grateful (I am!), and leave it at that, roll with the punches, see what’s over the next hill?

Yes, books like The E-Myth and lots more urge you to have a plan for your business, and I did, when I started out. I guess the advantage of having a business plan is that you have a final goal in mind: you have a vision for what success looks like. And then you create the plan to get you there. But even the best laid plans sometimes need to shift and change sometimes.

So, what do you think? is it enough that I am doing fine, things are going well? Or is it time for me to hire a small business coach? Those of you out there who are running small businesses, do you have a plan?

Photo by Pink Monkey Studios

I already hired a stylist, so watch out Carrie Bradshaw!

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The Decision Tree July 14, 2010

Filed under: Future planning,interview — Rebecca Coleman @ 8:22 am

Sometimes you have to make decisions about your career and your life that can be really difficult and overwhelming. Today, I talk to Carol Ann Fried, a trainer and coach, about a tool called The Decision Tree.

Click here to download the Priortizing Grid

Click here to download the Decision Tree

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Fewer clicks=more sales June 21, 2010

Let’s face it, we’re busy. Even more busy than ever, it seems, these days. Just when I think I can’t get any busier, I surprise myself.

What that means, is, if I am able to do something quickly and efficiently, I’m going to do that. When Simon and I give workshops, we call this making it stupid easy. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that people are dumb. In fact, they are just busy. And you know as well as I do that if you have tried to do something online, and it took more time than you thought, or was more difficult than you thought, you likely gave up in a short amount of time.

For me, the power of social media, and the argument for having multiple social media streams (ie: a blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), is that you meet people where they are. If my favorite social medium is Facebook, I should be able to access your company there. If it’s Twitter, ditto. It’s easy.

It therefore makes sense to me, that if we can make buying tickets really, really easy, that we may sell more of them. Which is why most theatre companies these days have multiple ways of buying tickets: by phone, on line, or in person. Folks can pick the method that works best for them.

Some companies are now developing applications to make tickets available though social media applications. For example, when Disney recently released Toy Story 3, you could buy them directly through Facebook.

Cosmetics giant Avon recently introduced a Facebook-based store for thier “younger” brand, Mark. They did this through a new app that is being developed by a San Fransisco-based company called Payvment.

As of this moment, I can’t find any theatre companies that are selling tickets through their Facebook page, but I’m thinking it’s not far away.

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Never Bowl Alone May 17, 2010

Filed under: Business relationships,Future planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:00 am

This came through my in-box last week, and I thought I’d share it. I might go, myself!

Connect with your peers, get informed about community resources, take control of your well-being and go bowling.

A free day-long workshop aimed at developing strategies for staying healthy and happy in times of significant change.

Uncover and share strategies and tools for sustaining a career in the arts today. This expertly facilitated peer-to-peer workshop leverages our greatest resources – powerful imaginations and self-efficacy. Use this half-day session to transform roadblocks into breakthroughs. We’ll explore individual well-being and the revival of community reliance, resources and camaraderie.

Finish the day at the Commodore Bowling lanes for a fun and stress-free end to the day.

Date: Thursday, May 20, 2010
Time: 10:00am – 3:30pm
Location: Vancouver Art Gallery, Heritage Courtroom 302
RSVP to rsvp@actsafe.ca by May 14. Please include your name, organizational affiliation (if applicable), and any dietary restrictions.
This is a free event. Limited space. Preregistration is mandatory.

Presented by: 2010 Legacies Now, Alliance for Arts and Culture, Actsafe, Boca Del Lupo, Canada Council for the Arts Equity Office, Dancer Transition Resource Centre (DTRC), Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance, and the Vancouver Art Gallery

Facilitator Bios

Claudia Collins, MA, RCC has spent many years in the non-profit sector as an employment counselor, cross-cultural educator and family therapist. She also worked as an Employee and Family Assistance counselor for 12 years, providing counseling, workplace training, trauma response and organizational consultations.

Suzanne Kenney, MA, RCC has 19 years experience in the Employee and Family Assistance field in multiple roles as a counselor, trainer, and organizational consultant. Suzanne has also taught school and worked in the mental health field as a clinical counselor working with children and families.

 

Are You Scalable? April 12, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Future planning,Musings,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:31 am
Tags:

Now, before you go make a doctor’s appointment to get some cream to help you with that, let me explain: scalability is your business’ ability to grow.

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately, because, although I love my work, my business is, in fact, not easily scalable. You see, there’s just me. And, even if I took on as many clients as I could, and worked 24 hours a day, there would still only be a finite number of people that could take on. Eventually, I’d have more work that “just me” could handle.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’m at a point in my business where I need to either a. stop taking on new clients because I’m at capacity or b. figure out a way to clone myself so that there are now two of me running my business.

For something like what I do, publicity, it’s possible for me to do this. I have a certain system that I work with, and I could teach this system to someone else, and hopefully, they’d get the same result. But if you are an artist, creating one-off original works of art, you can’t do that (even though Michangelo had assistants). As an actor, there’s just one of you. As a musician–just one.

So, you need to look for other methods of scalability, and those things often incude taking a small, less expensive piece of you and cloning it. So, for example, visual artists can create prints, cards, calendars. Actors (hopefully) get residuals from repeated productions, and musicians can sell songs.

One of the coolest ways to create scalabilty is to create a product that is automated, and can sell all on its own, even while you are asleep, or say, on a beach in Greece. This is called passive income. For me, it’s creating an e-book. For you, it could be selling prints off of the internet, or downloadable songs, or courses that show people a particular technique that you have perfected.

How can you make your business scalable?

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