To understand how to effectively sell art you should begin by embracing the idea that art really can't be sold.
Or at least it can't be sold in the way most people understand the term.
Most people understanding "selling" as a process of taking a product or service and defining its benefits. Then those benefits are relayed, through advertising, to a target audience.
The issue is that the benefit of what you and I offer . . .
The benefit of seeing Long Day's Journey into Night
The benefit of hearing Beethoven's Fifth live
The benefit of being in the same room with the works of Picasso . . .
Can't really be relayed. Those benefits are intensely personal. The hundreds of people who arrive at my theater on a given night are going to have hundreds of different experiences.
So let's think about another idea. Let's think about advocacy.
An advocate is someone who supports a particular cause or policy.
Maybe that's a dividing line. An arts marketer uses advertising to get you to see a show. An advocate wants you to see the show AND wants you to support the cause.
What's the cause you want people to support?
Why does your organization exist? What are the values? Why should people care about the work you are doing?
That's the real work. That's the important work that we as marketers should be communicating.
Because shows come and go. Some are good. Some are bad. Most are in between.
So if that is all we are selling then we will be on a financial roller coaster that we can't really control.
But if we can learn how to be an advocate AND a marketer, or even better, see our arts marketing as a form of advocacy then we have a chance to not only sell to an audience but change them.
We can change them from people that see a show to people that love your company.
From people who see the museum exhibit to people who love the museum.
That shift from "I saw this thing" to "I love this place" is what marketing, in it's highest form, is all about.