Commentary: What do 2010's pop culture stats mean for live entertainment?

Nate Jackson and Patrick Kevin Day, writing in The Los Angeles Times January 1, 2011

In the world of pop culture, 2010 was a year of big, eye-catching numbers: More than 100 million people watched the Super Bowl and a video game, Call of Duty: Black Ops, had done more than a billion dollars' worth of business - a higher gross than many would-be Hollywood blockbusters.  In general, if 2010 showed us anything, it was that the long decline of the old entertainment business models accelerated while the new models, based largely in the digital world and geared toward the maximum convenience and personalization of the users, were on the upswing.  "I think that people are getting more of their basic musical experiences for free but are very willing to pay top dollar for a major experience like a Coachella," said Josh Kun, a professor at USC's Annenberg School.  In 2010, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a showcase for superstars and underground up-and-comers, attracted a record 225,000 ticket holders to Indio.  [And] how does one explain the $200-million worldwide haul for Bon Jovi's top-grossing Circle Tour topping the tour receipts of current album chart toppers?  "I think a good reason why [Jon] Bon Jovi's tours are still so massive is precisely because he's not an Internet artist," says Kun. "They've already bought the CDs and they love the old hits and seeing them live is an experience that registers in a more conventional way."


Commentary: Will 2011 be the year funders stop using business buzzwords?

Posted by Diane Ragsdale on her ArtsJournal blog Jumper, January 3, 2011

In 2005, a fellow funder suggested that the funding community needed to stop using words like 'strategy'. She lamented, "Funders got arts organizations to start using [such] business words years ago, but nothing has changed. They are not in better shape." (Evidently, it takes more than using business jargon in funding guidelines and proposals for arts organizations to improve their finances.)  'Systemic', 'effective', 'sustainable', 'adaptable', 'entrepreneurial', 'accountable', and 'artistically vibrant' now appear to be vying for top spots.  Funders intend no harm, and most probably believe their ideas and guidelines are well-received because ... well, who would dare to say otherwise?  The generally accepted wisdom is that it's safer to flatter funders than to challenge their intelligence. Even when funders convene arts leaders to ask for 'honest input' that might help shape their priorities and guidelines, all too often participants leave the meeting shaking their heads at the amount of BS flung around the table.  The promotion of such jargon by funders, and the dutiful adoption of it (on paper anyway) by arts organizations has been going on for decades.  What's bewildering and disappointing is that this mechanical and dysfunctional pas-de-deux persists despite the fact that both grant-makers and -seekers seem to recognize it as such. I wonder whether we have simply given up on the possibility of enlightened dialogue, or whether we are we actively trying to avoid it?  So ... any predictions on what the winning word for 2011 will be?


Commentary: Some cultural resolutions for the New Year

Posted by Judy Berman on

You know the New Year's drill: once we're done sucking down egg nog and Christmas cookies, as we recover from the night of a thousand bubbly toasts, it feels appropriate to repent and promise ourselves we'll behave better in the year ahead.  We've decided to make some cultural resolutions. Here are changes we hope 2011 will bring, [including]:

Art censorship battles will become a thing of the past.  The culture wars of the '80s came back this fall, when the National Portrait Gallery removed David Wojnarowicz's video, "Fire in My Belly" from an exhibition.  Now, these controversies seem to spring up a few times every decade. Usually, it's because some right-wing politician thinks that a particular exhibition or work of art is too explicit or blasphemous. But last we checked, the US Constitution guarantees all citizens freedom of expression - and a country that actively encourages its artists to push the envelope and create discussion is bound to be stronger and smarter than one that represses them.

The art world establishment will finally make up its mind about street art.  As evidenced by the recent scandal in which Jeffrey Deitch painted over a mural Blu had just finished - as a result of Deitch's commission, no less - the art world still doesn't know what to do with...street artists who are, after all, outsiders and outlaws.  Here's the thing, though: street art will continue to happen without our, your, or Deitch's permission. If the establishment wants a piece of that, they'll have to learn to suck up their snobbery and embrace the chaos.

Young artists will find a positive way to describe their culture.  At the beginning of 2010, the word "hipster" was everywhere. This fall, though, the conversation turned to the end of the hipster era.  While we don't believe things are as clear-cut as all that, we are sick of seeing young, creative people lumped in with do-nothing trustafarians and yuppies with ironic mustaches. After a year when 20-somethings constantly [were] under attack - as many of us struggled to find jobs and make lives for ourselves amid an economic disaster our parents' generation caused - we need to find better ways to celebrate our art and culture so that we aren't ashamed to defend it.


Commentary: New Year's advice for nonprofit arts workers
Posted by Barry Hessenius on his WESTAF blog, January 2, 2011

         Delete your email inbox. Don't worry, they will still be in the trash. But start fresh.

         Write a personal note to your 20 biggest donors. Make them feel special.

         Austerity and Authenticity. These might be the watchwords for the whole decade.

         Make an appointment with someone on your city council, state assembly or your congressman or woman and go see them. Just pick one. Begin or cement the relationship.

         Put someone under the age of 30 on your board before the end of the first quarter.

         And while on the subject of generational representation, ask your staff for their advice on what to change in your organization in 2011. Give everyone a real voice.

         Cut at least one expense line in your budget by 15% or more. Not possible? Are you sure?

         Identify one person in your local community that could, if they wanted to, immeasurably help your organization to thrive in 2011. Come up with a strategy to get to that person. Make it a campaign.

         Learn more about arts organizations in other disciplines in your community. Figure out how to interface with them. You may have more in common than with those in your discipline.

         Make time at least once a week to stop to THINK about the bigger picture. You and the organization are part of bigger worlds that impact what you do.  Don't forsake that.

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