Singapore invests millions to develop an audience for its traditional arts

Government of Singapore website, 3/17/11

The National Arts Council (NAC) announced today three new initiatives to boost the development of traditional arts in Singapore.  A total of $23 million will be dedicated to improving the quality of productions, growing potential peak companies as well as increasing audience base and accessibility to the art form.  Elaine Ng, NAC Director of Sector Development, explained the focus on traditional arts: "They have been vital in shaping Singapore's unique identity as well as contributing to its living cultural heritage and continuity. At the same time, they are a deep resource of inspiration and innovation for the development of distinctive Singapore content." [As part of this 5-year project,] NAC will identify and develop strategic partnerships with key cultural and community organisations, venues and arts intermediaries to grow additional platforms for traditional arts.  The objective is to enhance the visibility of traditional arts and increase its accessibility to the wider community to cultivate greater participation in and appreciation of the art form.  To increase awareness, NAC will collaborate with key platforms such as the District Arts Festivals by Community Development Councils and the Singapore Heritage Festival.  Interactive activities such as talks and workshop demonstrations on traditional arts will be featured on a more sustained basis at community spaces. NAC intends to work with schools to increase the level of exposure to traditional arts for students and to raise the standard of traditional arts practitioners conducting workshops in schools.  Education materials and exposure tours to traditional arts linked programmes will be developed to enhance the learning experience. 


Australian gov't funds music fan website to assist with audience development, 3/16/11

Music fan affiliate program received a major leg-up this week, securing a $758,000 grant from the Federal Government. Announced by the Minister for Innovation, the grant will see Posse, along with 33 other companies, receive a total of $13 million in Government funding.  The Government's initiative for Australian entrepreneurs aims to assist in the commercialization of innovative early-stage companies with high growth potential.  Posse will use the grant to continue to develop its platform and launch in the US and UK. A customisable, self-service version of the website will launch in May and will enable artist managers, event promoters, venues and music marketers to set-up and run their own team of people to promote their products. It'll be a simple online street team that encourages fans to promote artists through their social networks, directs people into the existing retail websites (eg. Moshtix / The Music Shop) to buy and rewards the fans.  Posse Founder and CEO Rebekah Campbell said, "We're thrilled to receive this grant from the Federal Government. This funding will enable Posse to continue to test and develop features that help artists empower their fans to advertise their music and events. I'm at SXSW right now and there is nothing like Posse here in the US. Our vision is to convert fan conversations on social networks to actual sales, and assist with audience development for the artist".  Since launching last August Posse has signed up over 8000 active fans and transacted over $165K in ticket sales in February.


Report: UK gov't investment in audience development has had no effect on arts

Arts Professional magazine, issue 235

Public engagement with the arts has not increased at all since 2005/06, according to the latest figures from the 'Taking Part' survey, which was launched by the previous Government to gain an insight into the impact of the [Department for Culture, Media and Sport's] portfolio of activities.  People are now engaging with the arts less frequently, and the proportion of the Black and minority ethnic population (BME) involved in arts activity at least once a year has fallen by 4.5% over this time period. Arts Council England  refutes the research findings. A spokesperson told AP: "Attendance figures for the arts have stood up remarkably well in view of the recession. In fact, our research shows that our regularly funded organisations are reaching more people than ever before with audiences growing from 43 million in 2008/09 to 46.6 million in 2009/10." Its own research also "shows that today a young BME person is as likely to engage with the arts as any other young person".  However, the Taking Part survey is a continuous annual survey of adults and children living in private households in England, and is widely recognised as providing the most reliable national estimate of adult engagement with sport, libraries, the arts, heritage, and museums and galleries.  The robust evidence of the absence of audience growth in recent years will draw into question the extent to which state-sponsored audience development initiatives can influence public attitudes and behaviour towards the arts. The Taking Part statistics from the DCMS can be found here.


UK theatre chief: "Chasing after new audiences who are just not interested"

p. 21 of "Funding of the Arts and Heritage" report to the UK House of Commons, March 2011

The Theatre Royal in Bath does not receive any regular public subsidy, and yet is regarded as one of the most successful regional theatres in England.  It has three auditoria, including a children's theatre, and runs a large education and outreach programme. The Director of the Theatre Royal, Danny Moar, told us that he has some concerns about public subsidy: "I think some organisations have two audiences. They have their audience that they are trying to develop a longterm relationship with, and then they have their funders, who may have a completely different agenda for the organisation, compared to their audiences....What I was struck by was the remorseless and obsessive preoccupation with what they would call audience development, which basically means making people who aren't fundamentally interested in the theatre, come and see your show by any means possible. I think one of the real problems of the funding system in this country is that the system finds it very hard to accept that it's okay not to like the arts. It's okay not to like the theatre, it's okay not to like music. All these things are fine, and it's a testament to human diversity that some people like the theatre and some people don't. I think that's what the funding system has spent so much time doing, chasing after new audiences who, for perfectly legitimate reasons, are just not interested."

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