As the world becomes more complex the drive for certainty becomes more and more intense.
In the arts world this drive is defined by a constant need to know what's going to happen next.
How many tickets are we going to sell?
How many views is this video going to receive?
Certainty. Tell me what's going to happen next. And ideally, tell me that tomorrow is going to bring more than today.
That understandable desire, if you succumb to it, can create a tremendous amount of risk aversion. It can lead to the conclusion that the best way to keep tomorrow consistent is to do the same thing over and over today.
The alternative is to be curious. The alternative is try and approach any day, good or bad, with a desire to increase your understanding. The magic of marketing, particularly arts marketing, is that you can always become smarter. You can always improve your process. You can always increase your wisdom.
But it all starts with being curious. It starts with shaking off the highs and the lows and continuously ask "why".
I can't tell you how your year in the arts is going to go. I can't tell you how many tickets you will sell.
But I can tell you that at the end of this year your skill level, intelligence, marketing process and wisdom can dramatically increase.
I think it's now fair to say that marketing has evolved past tactics.
Or to put it another way, any marketing tactic - from social media, to direct mail, to email, to paid advertising, etc. is as good as any other. There isn't a hierarchy of tactics anymore. There really is no way to definitely say, "these are the things we know do and don't work." My twitter feed may beat your TV spots. My live events may overcome your digital ads.
Yet so many of us in the marketing field are still obsessed by tactics. We want to know how to perfectly segment our lists. We want to know the perfect targeting for our digital ads. We want to get all the little things right.
Then you get a reminder that a story destroys a tactic. You realize that 60 million people can gather around one story (with a few tweaks), 61 million around another, and another 120 million around an entirely different story.
There are a million lessons to take from the past few weeks. Here's one I'd like you to consider. As the world becomes more complex and less certain people are looking for reflections of their own identity. They are looking for community in the broadest sense of the word. You may think that community is positive or negative but either way people are looking for it.
Every artist and arts organization is now, essentially, a mirror. People look into it and decide if they can see themselves in it.
So what does a person see when they look into you?
Do they just see a form of commerce? Do they just see a product to be sold? Do they see something that is easily replaceable with cheaper, more available options?
Or do they see something that matters? Something that has a sense of purpose and values so clear that when they connect with it, they see themselves more clearly?
Marketing has now evolved to the point where you can do anything you want, in anyway you want, as long as the story resonates. The hard part is to be specific, clear and intentional with your story.
I recently had the privilege of being on the Culture Voice podcast with Ron Evans and Carol Jones. It was intended to be a preview of the workshop I'm doing in Austin on November 11 but it also provides a good look at how I think about arts marketing. Hopefully it will give you some fresh perspective. It's a really solid half hour podcast that I hope you'll find worth your time.
The last time I typed on this blog I was in Chicago running the marketing for one of the largest nonprofit theater's in that town.
Now I'm in Minneapolis handling the marketing for one the largest nonprofit theater's in the United States. In some ways, everything has changed. New genre of work. New audience. New town. More members of the marketing team. Higher financial expectations.
Everything has changed.
But then again, nothing has changed.
Marketing is STILL the art (and science) of telling a story about an institution that promotes an organization's work, values and mission.
The tools are still the tools. The goal of social media is still to be timely, relevant and engaging. The goal of advertising is still to represent the artistic work properly.
That's true if you need to sell $500 worth of tickets, $500,000 or 5 million.
If you work in the arts you should find this to be encouraging. Executing a marketing plan that brings in a lot of revenue isn't all that different from bringing in one. It's just adding a few zeros.
So take an artistic risk. Stretch yourself. I've worked at three organizations with widely different budgets and I can tell you that it never get easier . . . it gets the same.
That's the number of people who have touched this little blog over the past eight years.
That's the number of individual posts I have written on the arts, marketing, leadership and other issues.
That's a lot. So it's time for a little hiatus.
I'm going to be taking a small break to recharge and rethink this blog. I'll be back in the fall. In the interim you can also contact me directly via email at email@example.com or via Twitter @missionparadox
And while I'm gone here are my top posts in the eight plus years of this blog
The arts world is filled with people look for permission. Permission to act. Permission to dance. Permission to design. This isn't a good or bad thing. It's just reality.
What this book is about is mixing your pursuit of permission with something else, a heavy dose of initiative. This uniquely designed book is your chance to see your world a little differently and (maybe) find some opportunities you never knew you had.
And so, to get this book shipped to you for free you've got to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with an answer to this question:
Tell me about a particularly unique challenge or obstacle you encountered in your work, how you solved it and what you learned from the experience.
Deadline for answers is Friday, May 13. One winner will be chosen.
Over the next few weeks I'll be giving away a copy of books that I have found invaluable in my arts marketing career. All the details on how to win will come at the end of each post. We are starting with A Beautiful Constraint
A life in the artistic world is a life defined by constraints. You have the typical restraints that all businesses have to some degree i.e time and money. You also have constraints that are unique to the arts world. For example I work in theater and theater has a "scale" restraint. Any theater production has a limited number of seats they can sell on a given night. A play like Hamilton can be incredible but the Broadway run may still be physically experienced by less people then will watch one quarter of a sub par NBA game.
And the thing about many of the constraints we face is that they may never go away. Let's look at another constraint many of us face in the arts, relatively "high" ticket prices. The costs and structure of many arts organizations may also create a need for a large amount of earned revenue through ticket sales.
The book A Beautiful Constraint will give you a variety of different ways to consider, reconsider and (possibly) overcome some of the constraints that are challenging you in your professional and personal life. I have one copy of the book that I will mail (shipping covered by me) to one reader of this blog. To get a chance to win here's what you have to do:
Send an email to me. My email is mission.paradox @ yahoo.com
The subject line of the email should be "My Constraint"
In the email talk to me about one particular challenge you are having in your arts career. It can be a business challenge or an artistic one.
If I have some helpful thoughts on any of your challenges I'll send you an email reply.
The deadline to reply is Friday, April 29
I'll take the best responses, gather them together and draw one at random. That winner will get the book via mail
I've got a least 2-3 more books (and possibly more) to give away. So keep reading the blog over the next several weeks. Good luck.