An empty seat.
As an arts marketer, I hate those damn things.
Every time I see an empty seat I think of money lost . . . of opportunity lost.
So while I except that empty seats are a fact of life for 99.5% of the artists and arts orgs our there, I still don't like them.
But I have an additional, slightly different, reason for hating empty seats.
You'll hear people often talk about the negative psychological effect an empty house has on the artists on stage . . . and you'll certainly hear about the effect it has on the bottom line.
But what I have noticed over the years is that an empty house has it's biggest negative impact on the few people who decided to see your show that night.
I think back to my Executive Director days. It was a bad night for us. We had maybe 20-30 people in a venue that held 220. To me, that's empty.
The Chairmen of our Board showed up that night (isn't that always how it works?) and he pulled me to the side.
I expected a lecture about the low attendance and I got it, but not the way I expected.
He said "Adam, you've got to get more people in here, because if you don't, the few people that DO show up will think they made a bad decision by coming here."
That statement is actually deeper then it appears.
Let's say you are watching TV. You turn to a basketball game. When you turn to the game you see a TON of empty seats. Yeah, there are a few people there . . . but mostly you see empty seats.
What's your first impression of the home basketball team?
That they aren't very good. Otherwise more people would be there.
So if someone buys a ticket to your dance recital and they walk in the venue and only see a few people in the seats, what's going to be the first impression of your work?
The point I'm making here is that people are influenced by numbers.
Small numbers influence them to think one way.
Larger numbers influence them to think another way.
So one of the best skills any artists or arts org needs to develop is the ability to fill up a house.
And let's be clear here . . . the house doesn't need to be full, it just can't EVER, EVER, be empty.
Tomorrow I'll offer some tips on how to fill up your house, even on short notice.