The great thing about blogging is that it creates a platform where you can think outloud about things. After over 1,000 posts on the arts, marketing and related issues I can say that this blog has been invaluable to me and has provided some value to others.
The downside of blogging is that it, like social media, is a temporary thing. A blog post is here and then it is gone. That's one of the reasons I wrote a little ebook on arts marketing. The goal was to create something a bit more permanent. This particular blog post is another attempt at create something that has some staying power.
I want to talk about tension and arts marketing.
There is, and always will be, tension between the words art and marketing. Art is unpredictable. It is personal. 100 people can experience an artistic event and have a wide range of responses.
By contrast, what most people want from marketing is an outcome that is stable and consistent. They want to be able to create Art Product X, spend Amount Y to market it and end up with Financial Outcome Z. That isn't an unreasonable thought but it stands in conflict to what Art is. That's the tension. And that tension never goes away and it shouldn't go away.
So the fundamental question every artist or arts organization has is this: How do you plan on dealing with the tension? The mistake a lot of people make is pretending that there is no tension. They pretend that X+Y=Z is a solid and sustainable idea. They pretend that you can sell art like it's salty snacks and soda. Just roll out a set of marketing tactics and all will be fine. That's fiction.
Ultimately what I've been talking about on this blog for many years is how to recognize and deal with that tension. The path I suggest is overcoming the tension by reframing it. Instead of just selling artistic programming, I advocate connecting people to your story, your values and the reasons behind your work . . . not just the work itself.
What do I mean by that? Let's use a popular example, Disney. Disney has products. A ton of products. Toys. Movies. Video Games. Theme Parks. When you think about Disney, however, you don't just think about the products. You think about that Disney "magic". The family friendly nature of the brand. Disney means something above and beyond what they create. The real goal of marketing is to create that other feeling . . . that other meaning.
This is typically the point where someone says that Disney, or any other example I use, doesn't have a positive story. They may say that, to them, Disney represents being overly commercial or shameless pandering to children. That's fine. The point is that Disney represents something positive and specific to a certain number of people. The bigger point is that none of this is an accident.
Disney decided to be family focused.
Apple decided to be a design orientated company.
Amazon has decided to be about a wide range of products and ever shorter delivery windows.
So every artists or organization has two important decisions to make. The first is the decision about what to produce, create, put on stage, etc.
The second decision is about the larger story that you want to put out into the world.
When people connect to the story they will come see the art.
Just something to think about as we go into the new year. See you in 2015