Trendwatching in arts and culture...


U.S. regional theaters find new revenue stream from productions built to tour

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/24/11

When the cast of Walnut Street Theatre's The Glass Menagerie packed it in after a final performance Saturday, the performers were far from Philadelphia, where they'd started out in January, at an arts center in rural South Boston, Va.  A month ago, a crew at Bristol Riverside Theatre in Bucks County disassembled the set for The Little Prince. Instead of destroying it, the crew stored it for Bristol's first-ever tour next season, to New York City and Cleveland.  Both the Walnut and Bristol are ahead of the curve on what could become a trend for regional theaters looking to expand revenue and recognition.  "Not many regional theaters are doing this," says [tour booking agent Marc Baylin who] scheduled six weeks of touring, much of it one- or two-night stands, that took Menagerie to small theaters and arts centers. Nashville was the largest city it visited. The tour cost the Walnut a little more than $30,000 and the theater hopes [for net revenue of] $50,000. "There's a vibrant network of theaters that want this kind of product -- specifically theaters for young audiences, based on literature read in the classroom," says Stephen Gabriel, head of Work Light Productions [which] is planning more sites for Bristol's Prince in 2012-13. "We need to change the [traditional] model, and this is one of a few we're looking at," says Bristol's Amy Kaissar.  The Walnut's Havard says the tours "have created a new cash stream for the Walnut, and in these economic times being able to create a new cash stream was a great thing for us to do. You have to be looking out for every opportunity that comes along and actively be an entrepreneur. You can't afford to sit back and wait for handouts."


In the visual arts, China becomes the #1 marketplace for first time

Crains New York Business, 3/27/11

New York's mammoth art market has lost its longtime standing as the largest in the world.  In a turn of events that has caught many art experts off guard, China has snagged the top spot, beating out the United States -- where New York is the art industry's center -- in terms of fine-art auction revenue, according to Artprice, an art market information service based in Paris.  Though China just became the second-largest economy in the world, after the U.S., its rapid rise as an art power has been astounding.  It took just three years for China to jump from third place, previously occupied by France, to first place in 2010, with 33% of global fine-art sales stemming from auctions based there. The U.S. and the United Kingdom, the grand chieftains of the market since the 1950s, raked in 30% and 19% of the sales, respectively.  "The speed with which this evolution has happened is surprising," said Jonathan Stone, the Hong Kong-based managing director for Asia at Manhattan-based Christie's. "It's a historic and defining moment in the auction world."  It's not just China's newly minted billionaire collectors that are flexing their muscles, but artists as well. A number of Chinese artists, who are barely known in the West, turned up in last year's top global rankings.  Four Chinese artists made it into the top 10 ranked by auction revenue for 2010, up from just one in 2009, with Qi Baishi, believed to be the most popular 20th century painter in China, coming in second after Andy Warhol.


In an era of niche channels, you can still find a mass audience (and profits) online

Douglas McLennan, ArtsJournal's RWX blog, 3/26/11

One of the ongoing stories about culture over the past decade has been the rise of niches. Audiences for the traditional TV, radio, movies, music, newspaper and magazine industries declined precipitously.  But there's a new mass culture emerging, and it dwarfs the audience that TV used to command. It's the kind where Justin Bieber can get 500 million views on YouTube for a single video and Charlie Sheen can get three million Twitter followers in under a week.  [But] you don't have to be famous to get an audience. And it can be profitable too. Thirteen-year-old Rebecca Black got [over 60] million views after YouTube critics called her video the "most appalling thing on the internet."  Forbes says she's a millionaire from all the interest from her video.  Then there's Amanda Hocking, a 26-year old, who's making millions publishing her own books online: She gets to keep 70% of her book sales and she sells around 100,000 copies per month. By comparison, it's usually thought that it takes a few tens of thousands of copies sold in the first week to be a New York Times bestselling writer.  The comparison isn't entirely fair, because Hocking sells her books for $3, and some $.99. But that's the point: by lowering the prices, she can make more on volume, especially impulse buys. Meanwhile e-books cost nothing to print, you don't have to worry about print volumes, shelf space, inventory, etc. And did we mention the writer keeps 70%?

There are thousands of these stories now.


Commentary: Hmm...did Rebecca Black really make $1 million on YouTube? 

Jean Cook, ArtsJournal's RWX blog, 3/27/11

To start, four takes on how much the Rebecca Black phenomenon might have made:

Forbes: $1,000,000.  "The song currently sits at #45 on the iTunes Top Singles chart. iTunes pays out $.70 per single download in the United States. Even if the numbers are exaggerated, the intake from 'Friday' could top $1 million."

Digital Music News: $45,850.  "This is not the rags-to-riches story the mainstream media craves, and it may never be."

Slate: $40,000. "Hardly chump change, but hardly $1 million either.  Then comes the all-important question of who is benefiting from such frothy pop nonsense. Specifically, how big of a cut is the Ark Music Factory, which wrote the song and made the video, taking?"

Billboard: $24,900. "Here's the math: 43,000 tracks at $0.70 cents to the artist minus a 9% distribution fee, minus 0.91 cents apiece for mechanical royalties equals $24,900.  She may be pulling in a bit more money from YouTube views if she had the foresight to set up a content partner agreement before she got 30 million views. If so, that could amount to $15,000 to $20,000 for her 33 million views."

On Friday, Ark Music released an exclusive video interview with their CEO vaguely describing their business practices, which in many ways reminded me of the major label model.  It inspired me to revisit Steve Albini's now infamous essay about the problem with music from the artist's perspective. This essay captures the heady rollercoaster ride of 'success' while also shining a light on exactly how various standard music industry practices typically result in the artists walking away with very little.


Ticketmaster study: Those attending sports 1.7x more likely to attend a concert, 3/16/11

Ticketmaster [has launched] a new venture called LiveAnalytics [to] focus on turning Ticketmaster's global fan database into rich data analytics products that provide clients fan insights for their business.  LiveAnalytics will drive increased ticket sales for clients, generate high value sponsorships, and benchmark competitive performance across venues, teams, leagues, categories and geographies.  Ticketmaster has sold more than one billion tickets in the last decade, attained more than 100 million registered users, and has 11,000 clients ranging from the largest concert promoters to sports teams and venues.  LiveAnalytics released a few top-line results from its 2010 Live Entertainment Year In Review report.  Despite the tough economic conditions, live attendance remains healthy and a mainstream activity with 61% of Americans reporting they attended at least one live event in the past year*.  Of that 61%, fans attended just over eight live events on average across Ticketmaster's four major event categories: Concerts, Sports, Arts & Theater, and Family.  As would be expected, the 35-44 year old demographic had both a higher share attending events at 65%, and a higher average number of events attended, at nearly 10 per year.  The study also noted strong cross-over effects across categories, for example those attending a sports event were 1.7 times more likely to attend a concert compared to non-sports attendees.  

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