The problem is that when I encourage people to connect art and audience by telling stories, people think I mean lie to them.
People interpret story as spin. They aren't the same thing.
Let's be honest. You don't have the money, resources or time to try and convince people of something that isn't true. Most artist and arts organizations don't.
Side note: This is the biggest challenge to arts advocacy, or getting the unconvinced to see the "value" of art. For decades we have been telling folks that the nonprofit arts sector is unique, vital and essential to all people.
That may have been true 25 years ago, but now art is plentiful and the nonprofit art sector often caters to a pretty small, homogeneous audience. The story we tell and the reality doesn't match. That's why people aren't buying it.
People have an ability to see through BS, especially marketing BS. Not everyone, of course, but certainly enough people to make it worthwhile to tell a true, compelling story.
Those are two very different statements. The path to creating and distributing art is as smooth as it has ever been. No permission needed.
But the path to generating consistent revenue from those efforts is as complicated and challenging as ever.
You can see how those two ideas fit together. More art is being produced, which gives the world more choices, which reduces the demand for any particular choice.
In this world, I think the emphasis has to be on getting the art into the hands of as many people as possible, even if it limits the short term revenue potential. With some many choices available, obscurity is your real enemy. You can't get paid until you get known, so the emphasis has to be on getting known first.
Getting the art produced quickly, get it into the public, don't let price or revenue concerns get the way.
The money will come, if it ever comes, once you get past obscurity.
Smaller organizations. The days of a nonprofit arts organization going from one employee to 20-30 full time employees in a short period of time are gone. The organization of the future, both nonprofit and for profit, is nimble and probably can't afford to be weighed down with high employee overhead.
Smaller audiences. You see this in all forms of media/art/entertainment. 10 to 15 times more people watched The Cosby Show versus The Wire. Both great shows, but they operated with much smaller audiences. The fragmentation of audience means that it is going to be difficult for only one thing to achieve critical mass.
To survive and thrive in this future you must be very good at two things:
1. Starting and completing the right projects. An organization with a limited staff and limited resources can't afford to spend those resources on projects that don't align with their mission and values.
2. Getting the most out of every audience member. Getting an audience member is hard but KEEPING them is vital. The future belongs to those who can offer great customer service, have smart loyalty programs and can help those audience members feel connected to the purpose of the organization.
The future is small, but it can still be pretty damn good. Make the most of it.
I'm an administrator so, I will speak for myself. 60% of what I do, as a director of marketing for a fairly large theatre, isn't art.
It's sending emails, it's reading emails, it's having meetings, it's making sure that all of the tiny logistical things involved with marketing a play happen.
But let's be honest, anybody could do those things. You could farm that part of my job out to someone overseas and get comparable results.
I define my work (and my value) by how I handle the non-routine stuff, the difficult stuff:
The hard conversations.
The moments when the marketing strategy is very tricky, or when the plan falls apart entirely.
The moments when I'm pushing myself, or my team, to do something different or stretch our skill boundaries.
If I'm not doing that, then I'm pretty much worthless . . . or at least easily replaceable with a cheaper version.
But here's the trick, none of that stuff, none of the really important stuff . . . is listed in my job description.
My job description says administrator, I had to decide to make it art.
I think that's every administrators choice.
Once the paper pushing and the emailing is done, when does the art begin? The art of pushing limits. The art of connecting dots. The art of making something new happen. That's the job. That's where the value is.
So is administration an art? Nope. Art is art. The question is whether administrators are willing to put the art into the job.