One of the things that is often discussed in the artistic world is the role that numbers should or shouldn't play in the marketing and budgeting process. So I want to throw in a few thoughts on that topics:
When it comes to the arts I begin the process as a numbers skeptic. I do this because there is an unpredictable element to art that always has to be considered. Just because your last art exhibition drew huge audience doesn't mean the next one around a similar concept will draw. Yet often in the arts we rely on historical data to make decisions. We assume that the last Shakespeare is going to draw like the next Shakespeare without really accounting for all the ways the current situation may be different.
- Maybe the artistic team has gotten better, maybe it has gotten worse.
- Maybe a lot of Shakespeare has been done by other companies
- Maybe the demographics of our audience has changed which could lead to a decreased or increased appetite for what we are offering
So what I try to do is balance the numbers with wisdom. So if I am projecting, for example, the ticket expectation for a theater production I'll take in whatever data is available and come up with a number. But that number is the starting point, not the end. Then I try to come with specific factors that could influence the outcome in one direction or the other.
When that process is over what the final number represents something that is closer to reality, not just some data on a spreadsheet.
The big picture here is that every number in the artistic world from revenue projections to expense budgets represent MUCH more then a number. It's a story. It's a set of values. It's a set of assumptions.
The more you can express the story, value and assumptions behind the numbers the closer you can get to numbers you can believe in.