All posts by merryncarter

Arts Audiences Today: 2014 US CultureTrack results

Stephen P Brown reports from the LinkedIn Group Audience Development for the Arts on a US survey of arts audiences just released. I wonder whether any of these trends are mirrored in Australia?

Recently, Arthur Cohen, CEO of the arts marketing firm LaPlaca Cohen, presented the top-line results from its 2014 edition of CultureTrack, the largest national tracking study focused exclusively on the ever-changing attitudes and behaviors of U.S. cultural consumers, including trends in attendance and motivators and barriers to participation. The full results can be downloaded at LaPlacaCohen.com/culturetrack. Among the highlights of Culture Track 2014:

Visitation on the rise for some art forms: Since 2011, there has been an increase in the percentage of people who visit museums and attend performances of classical music, jazz and musical theater—but there were decreases for plays, classical dance and opera.
Frequency of attendance in decline: The individual rate of attendance has dropped since 2011, with about half of respondents continuing to attend cultural activities once or twice a month, but only 15% attending three times or more—down from a previous 22%.
Blurring boundaries: Audiences think of “culture” in broad terms, beyond the confines of traditional disciplines presented by museums and performing arts organizations, with almost 80% of respondents defining a visit to a public park, and 64% defining food and drink experiences as cultural activities.
Need for shared experience: People value cultural activities as opportunities to spend time with friends and family—a benefit that they rank second only to general entertainment or enjoyment value (83% and 93% respectively). In choosing which activities to attend, they make decisions based on personal invitations and friends’ recommendations (83% and 81%, respectively) almost as much as on topic (90%) and cost (86%).
Not attending solo: 28% of people overall state they will not attend if they have to go alone—a figure that rises to 43% among Millennials (ages 18 to 30).
Greatest barriers to entry: Perceptions of high cost and unappealing subject matter remain the two principal reasons for choosing not to attend an activity.
The truth about social media: Despite the high value that audiences place on personal recommendations and the company of friends and family, social media in general is still catching up as a source of information about cultural activities, used by 20% of all respondents, compared with television (36%), newspapers (28%) and radio (27%).
Millennials driving the social media charge: But this pattern varies by age. Social media is the most-used information source among Millennial audiences (38%), only about 15% of whom turn to newspapers to learn about what’s going on. Among Gen X (ages 30 to 49), 25% rely on social media for information, compared to 24% for newspapers.
Transitional moment for technology: Not surprisingly, for cultural consumers of all age groups, ownership of smartphones has skyrocketed, up 35% from 2011. But only 20% choose to use their smartphones on-site at cultural organizations.
The “selfie moment”: Of those who use smartphones on-site, the two most popular activities were taking photos (68%) and sharing photos (47%).
Need for redefinition of loyalty models: Traditional loyalty models continue on a steep decline, 85% of visual arts [attendees] do not own any memberships, and 90% of performing arts [attendees] do not hold any subscriptions.

According to Arthur Cohen, “These findings reveal audiences that are restless, curious and ‘culturally promiscuous’—eager for new experiences they can share in person with friends and family. We have also learned that people rely above all on their emotions to tell them what those experiences might be, outside of traditional definitions of culture. If something enriches their senses, if it enlarges their world, and if they can do it in company they like, they are open to it. This is challenging news for institutions that are trying to retain the loyalty of audiences, but good news for organizations that are willing to listen to what the public has to say.”

APACA Program Planning Workshop

At the  APACA ‘Harvest’ Conference in Hobart in July 2014  Merryn presented a workshop on Program Planning, with Julian Louis from NORPA. “What’s My Plan?”  explored the issues involved in developing a program plan for arts venues, including the artistic vision (developing one if you don’t already have one), the audience you want to engage, budgeting, programming for repeat attendance, evaluation, and putting it all together in a written plan. Julian Louis, Artistic Director of NORPA, joined Merryn in contemplating the role of the artistic vision, artistic policies and the Artistic Director, in this process.

‘Artistic excellence has been conflated with creativity in programming. Too often, excellence is used as a defensive shield to dismiss creative programming ideas, as either ‘off mission’ or ‘dumbed down’, when in fact they are neither. Attaining higher levels of creativity in programming is not about dumbing anything down, but about applying ourselves to an even higher standard than excellence. Good marketing is absolutely strategic to the arts, and we can always do a better job of marketing and communications. But audience development is not a marketing problem. Drawing new people into the arts and replenishing the constituencies for the art forms is, first and foremost, a programming challenge.’

Inspired by this quote from US arts researcher Alan Brown and other creative thinkers from around the globe, Merryn has been researching, exploring and thinking about the connection between programming and audience development. “To achieve real audience growth, it now seems clear that programmers, artistic directors and marketers need to work closely together, to program and market experiences aimed at attracting particular audiences,” Merryn notes. “The audiences for some experiences will be smaller than others: that is fine, and as long as it’s factored into strategic and financial planning, should be no barrier to organisational success. But the essential message which is developing from my explorations is that if you want to attract and grow particular audiences, you need to program work that will attract them, market it well, and do it for long enough to build loyalty.”

Branding on tour

Branding for presenter venues who host many different touring companies each year, and for the touring companies who are only in each town a short time, can be challenging. Increasingly, touring companies are striving to establish more of their own brand on tour, asking themselves how they can strengthen their relationship with the audiences they meet on tour.  How can venues establish a strong brand of their own, when what they present is actually made up of lots of other people’s brands? And how can touring companies begin to establish their brand in local markets, when they might only visit a town once every couple of years, and they’re presented within a season which is strongly branded by the venue? These are issues being discussed around Australia right now – it would be great to learn about how people are dealing with them. What’s your experience? In this article from the UK, branding-touring-companies-and-venues-jam35-jon-bradfield-2009, Jon Bradfield of touring theatre company Out of Joint contemplates their situation and describes some of the ways they’re trying to address the need to establish their brand and stronger links with touring audiences.

Diversity builds resilience

If you attended one of the Mark Robinson forums presented by BoardConnect in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in late 2012, you’ll be familiar with his concept of adaptive resilience. More from Mark and colleagues now, on how diversity in organisations can help build organisational resilience – definitely worth a read: diversity_and_adaptive_resilience_public-1

If you didn’t attend one of Mark’s forums, then you should investigate what he means by adaptive resilience, in his original article: making_adaptive_resilience_real, before you read about how diversity can help get you there. In this article, Mark lists eight characteristics of resilient arts organisations:

Resources
• Culture of shared purpose and values rooted in organisational memory
• Predictable financial resources derived from a robust business model
• Strong networks (internal/external)
• Intellectual, human and physical assets

Adaptive skills
• Leadership, management and governance
• Adaptive capacity: innovation and experimentation embedded
in reflective practice
• Situation awareness of environment and performance
• Management of key vulnerabilities: planning and preparation
for disruption

.. definitely food for thought in advance of your next business planning day, don’t you think?

13 Practical Marketing Lessons

If you don’t already know about the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) in the US, you should hop on their website now and have a good look around. It’s full of great resources, and you can sign up to their newsletter which will alert you to recent additions and current issues. I’ve just been reading through their 13-part Practical Lessons in Marketing. It’s great, and should be required reading for all arts marketers. If you’re starting out, don’t miss it. Even if you’ve been in the business for years, there are great reminders here of what’s important, which will help refocus and re-energise  your efforts:  http://artsmarketing.org/resources/practical-lessons/practical-lessons

Articles on Audience Development

I’m embarking on a campaign to stimulate conversation around the linkages (or lack of them) between programming and audience development. Here are some of the articles that have inspired my campaign. What’s your take on this issue? (I’m also looking to build a collection of Australian case studies on audience development and programming, so do let me know if you’re working in this area.)

All the World’s a Stage, Alan Brown, 2012

A New Framework for Building Participation in the Arts, Kevin F. McCarthy and Kimberly Jinnett,

RAND Corporation, 2001

alan-brown-speech-on-artistic-vibrancy-in-programming, an address by Alan Brown, November 2013

Building Demand for the Performing Arts, for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Alan Brown,

October 2012

Building Arts Organizations that Build Audiences, Wallace Foundation conference proceedings, 2012

Research into Action: pathways to new opportunities, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, 2010

‘Audience Development is primarily a programming challenge’

According to US arts researcher Alan Brown, in a speech on ‘Artistic vibrancy and creativity in programming’ that he gave in November 2013, audience development is primarily a programming challenge:

‘Artistic excellence has been conflated with creativity in programming. Too often, excellence is used as a defensive shield to dismiss creative programming ideas, as either ‘off mission’ or ‘dumbed down’, when in fact they are neither. Attaining higher levels of creativity in programming is not about dumbing anything down, but about applying ourselves to an even higher standard than excellence. Good marketing is absolutely strategic to the arts, and we can always do a better job of marketing and communications. But audience development is not a marketing problem. Drawing new people into the arts and replenishing the constituencies for the art forms is, first and foremost, a programming challenge.’

I used to think that my job as a marketer was to get people into the theatre, and the artist or artistic director’s job was to make them want to come back, by supplying an amazing experience. I was wrong. We can’t expect to get people in to the theatre if we don’t program experiences that are relevant to them. The more I’ve researched and listened to performing arts audiences, the more I realise that it’s the frequent attenders who are more likely to have a spirit of adventure about the artform. They are more likely to have established a relationship of trust with the artistic director or the ‘brand’ of the venue. Infrequent attenders, and first timers, on the other hand, are more likely to need something familiar or reassuring to entice them.

I’m now exploring the relationship between programming and marketing, in audience development. It’s looking increasingly like this relationship needs to be incredibly close, to be successful. To achieve real impact for arts organisations, programmers/artistic directors and marketers need to work together, to program and market experiences aimed at attracting particular audiences. The audiences for some experiences will be larger or smaller than others: that is fine, and as long as it’s factored into the overall strategic and financial planning of the organisation, should be no barrier to organisational success. But the essential message which is developing from my explorations is that if you want to attract and grow particular audiences, you need to program work that is relevant to them, market it well, and do it for long enough to build loyalty.

What do you think?