The Art of the Business

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

Update on Financial Cuts to the Arts September 4, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts,social media — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:55 am
Tags: , ,

This has been an absolutely exhausting week.

It all started last Friday when most of the theatre companies in Vancouver got letters from the Provincial Government saying that thier Gaming funding was being pulled, and the three-year agreement that they had previously signed was being nullified. Many theatre companies were out $120,000.

Well, the community organized, got together, and created a stink that could be smelled in Victoria. Talk of a class-action suit was floating around. Then, yesterday, the government announced that it was reversing its decision, but only for those who had three-year agreements. Those companies who had only gotten gaming funding for this year, like one of my clients, Presentation House, are still out that grant. For Presentation House, it’s to the tune of $30,000.

Two things became really clear to me this week.

First, it is incredibly powerful when a group of people get together with a common cause and raise their voices. They become a force to be reckoned with. I’m not saying this is why the Government reversed its decision. We don’t actually know why they did. But it most certainly did not hinder the cause.

Second, I noticed how much social media was used this week to spread the word about meetings and updates on the status of the gaming grants. I only had to check in with my Twitter feed or Facebook, or check out a blog to find out what was going on. Earlier this week, someone started a Facebook group called Organizing Against Campbell’s Cuts to the Arts, and to date, it has nearly 2,000 members. Someone started the hashtag #bcartscutssuck, and it was soon everywhere. These tools are very powerful for disseminating information.

Moving Forward

There will be a rally for the arts on Wednesday, September 9, 12 noon, at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver. People attending are requested to wear grey–the colour of our world without art. Meet at The Dance Centre at 11:30 am. The rally will then move to Robson Square, where participants will form a silent square for 30 minutes.

The Facebook Event

There will be a similar event in Victoria, at the same time. Meet in front of the office of the BC Cultural Services Branch, 800 Johnson St. (corner of Johnson and Blanchard), at 11:50 am.

The Facebook Event

Links to related stories:

The Alliance for Arts and Culture (blog)

The Vancouver Sun

The Georgia Straight

GlobalBC TV

The Times-Colonist

And now, back to regular blogging.

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State of the Union: Social Networking March 23, 2009

Okay, so I’m no Guy Kawasaki. I’m not even close to Seth Godin.  But some interesting things have happened over the last few weeks, and I wanted to share them with you.

imagesFirst off, Twitter just celebrated its third birthday. Originally used as a device for co-workers in the same office to talk to each other, Twitter began in March, 2006, at a company in San Francisco called Odeo. At last count, Twitter users worldwide are thought to be somewhere in the range of 6 Million.

facebook_badgeSecond, if you are a Facebook user (Facebook is the number 1 social media application in the world, right now), you’ll notice that they have rolled out a new interface. This is partly because Facebook tried to buy Twitter in November last year, and was unsuccessful. So, they have changed their interface to be more Twitter-like.

myspaceThird, I have given a couple of talks on social networking over the last couple of weeks, and I have been asked the question “what about My Space?” My response is always the same: if you are a musician, you should have a My Space page if you are a musician, otherwise….

What does all this tell us? Well, first of all, Facebook would not have tried to buy out Twitter, unless they saw them as some kind of threat. Their current redesign is further proof that they are worried about Twitter’s rapid growth. My Space is a good example of this. In June 0f 2006, My Space was the most popular social networking site on the internet, but it was eclipsed by Facebook in April 2008. My Space is now primarily used by musicians, which I think it is perfect for. Facebook, meanwhile, is sweating over Twitter’s growing popularity.

I have talked to a lot of people about Twitter over the last few weeks. Most people say the same thing–they feel like they should be on Twitter, because it’s so popular, and they hear about it all the time, but I also hear that people are unsure what to do when they join. Often they feel overwhelmed by the amount of noise going on, and are unsure about Twitter’s value to them.

Whenever I get a new follower, I like to check out their Twitter page, and if they seem like someone I have something in common with, I’ll follow them back. I’ve been super busy these last two weeks, so yesterday, I batched the nearly-100 new followers I’d gotten over the last couple of weeks. When I look at someone’s profile to see if I want to follow, I’m looking for a few specific things: a picture, a fully-filled out profile, a website. I will also glance at their last few tweets, and see if any of them present value: links, blog posts, information.

It was a bit of a wake-up call: not that many passed the test. It started me wondering: if someone stumbled over my Twitter page, and judged it on my values, would they follow me? Maybe. Maybe not.

Twitter is young, and there has been a lot of talk about how to take it to the future. Monetization, for example. For me, it’s my goal to use my social networking ability and my skills as a marketer to help people to begin to create a social media marketing plan for themselves or thier business, because this is an area that I see is sadly lacking.

So stay tuned… plans are in the works. And you’ll be the first to know.

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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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What the Tweet?!?? A rookie’s guide to Twitter November 21, 2008

You’ve probably heard of Twitter. It is rapidly becoming extremely popular–some say, even more popular than Facebook. If you’re wondering what all the hoopla is about, and what the point is of joining another huge time-waster, read on!

For this blog post, I interview Trilby Jeeves, actor and instructor of the fine art of “Le Bouffon”. She says of

Trilby Jeeves talks about the Twitter phenomenon

Trilby Jeeves

her Twitter experience:

“I started a few months ago, and was very reticent to get involved. Then slowly I started joining some conversations, and when I got some responses I started getting hooked. Then I started being encouraged for my writing, and I started learning from different people’s blogs, and then I started enjoying helping others, too. I like giving book suggestions, video suggestions, moral support…. It’s all about building trust. You find your voice and the people who like your voice and vice versa. I’m still finding my twitter voice, but its coming. I read someone’s twitter advice which was don’t just try to be clever… be true to you and that’s when the followers come. I still wish there was a better word for “follower”!!”

TAoTB: What is Twitter?
TJ: Twitter is micro-blogging. You have only 140 characters to express or share a thought. For me, it’s an online global networking party, and it’s live–conversations and information are being shared constantly. Because it is global there are always people sharing thoughts, and they can be personal or informational. Maybe the best thing to compare it to is your status line on Facebook. I would like to start a blog and I find this is a great introduction to that world.

TAoTB: How does it work?
TJ: Once you sign up, you start looking for interesting people to “follow”, namely, people who share similar interests or who have experience from which you would like to learn. You can do this by uploading your email address book and seeing how many people you already know are on Twitter (note: the ‘Search’ feature is disabled on Twitter right now). You can also use a site like Twellow. Once you are following someone, you can look at who else is following him or her or who they are following and link up with them. It’s amazing how quickly your list of followers can grow.

TAoTB: How can Twitter help me to market my arts-based business?

TJ: Through developing relationships online, you have an opportunity to help people, and to have people help you. A lot of artists, actors, writers, and people in the creative world won’t venture into social networking because they are scared it will take them away from their work. Once you have figured out the system, though, you can let it work for you, and it takes up less of your time.  It really is like any networking where everyone shares his or her work, and maybe someone knows someone who could use your service. All Twitter does is increase the possibility of more exposure, both in your own community, and globally. I know that traffic to my own website has increased a lot from Twitter. And people are hearing about “Le Bouffon” in an indirect way, which is also good for me. This could eventually translate to business!

Marketing is traditionally where artists fall short because it isn’t where their interests lie, but the reality is, if you wish to make a living from your art you need to let people know it exists! Setting aside a small amount of daily time to use the social networking tools can open up doors for you. I’ve already made some super interesting contacts. I needed an actor to help with our workshop in Singapore and we found him on Twitter! (He also took us to a great restaurant for seafood!)

TAoTB: What do I need to know to get started?

TJ: Go to and choose a user name. This is the name you will be known by online, so make sure it has something to do with your business. For example, my Twitter name is TJBuffonery. Or if you are branding your name, use your own name. Once you choose your username and password, you need to set up your profile, which should reflect who you are and what you do, and it’s the place to put your blog, or your website.

Now you can start looking for people to ‘Follow’. You do this by looking at their profile page, and then you click the little grey button beneath their name that says “Follow.” You are now following them, and when they publish a post, or “Tweet”, you will see it when you log on to Twitter. Conversely, anyone who is following you will be able to read your Tweets.

You can now also start posting. But you only have 140 characters for your post so you get good at concise writing. You can ask for advice or help, or respond to someone else’s request, or it’s equally okay to write personal stuff. I think the best Tweeters are those that post a mix of personal and business. If you are a blogger, Twitter is a great place to announce a new blog post or invite people to look at your latest Flickr stream.

Some notes about using Twitter:

  • Although the space is limited in Twitter, most people still use full sentences whenever possible, instead of using shorthand like a text message. For example, you should write “later” instead of “l8tr”
  • When you are posting a URL that you want people to look at, it is common to use a service like Tiny URL or SnipURL to shorten the size of your URL. That way your whole post is not taken up with just the URL.
  • There are two ways to directly message your followers or people you are following on Twitter. One is through Direct Messaging (DM), which is kind of like sending an email–only that person will see the message. The second way is an @ message, where you write something like “Writing a blog post on Twitter for newbies with @rebeccacoleman.” This kind of post will be able to be viewed by anyone following you. It’s a way of introducing people to other people in your network. Also, if you include another person in the post with @ that person will also see the update.

Those are the basics of Twitter, but before you get too into it, you might want to read an online resource that can give you some more detailed rules, like This article by Jeff Woekler is also great: Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Twitters.

Trilby Jeeves is an actor and instructor of “Le Bouffon.” She is passionate about helping people break through their critical and overworked thoughts to reach the honest depths of instinctive performance. She is an active social networker, and you may follow her on Twitter @tjbuffoonery. Her website is:

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