Commentary: The importance of audiences feeling they have a stake in arts orgs

Joe Patti, Butts In The Seats blog, 9/6/11

[In] a talk given by Andrew McIntyre provocatively titled Arts Marketing is Dead: Long Live The Audience... what McIntyre says is dead, or rather needs to be dead, is the underlying idea espoused by Danny Newman in Subscribe Now that vilified the single ticket buyer for not allowing the arts organization to illuminate their life. McIntyre says the cycle of attendance for most people is actually one that skips a couple years. According to McIntyre, these people are apparently just as likely to support an organization over the course of decades as someone who attends annually. The typical practice has been push marketing where you push empty seats on the community rather than pull marketing where you try to engage people to become involved with you. McIntyre says that in the past engagement with the audience was viewed as dumbing down the product and so maintaining a high degree of isolation was sought. Audiences are more intelligent and creative than they are given credit for and don't deserve this level of disdain. McIntyre says we need to treat people as brains in seats, not butts in seats. Organizations need to stop fearing audiences and feel the need for peer approval because it holds them back. Stop trying to build brand loyalty in favor of building brand equity where people feel they have a stake in the organization.


At Vermont Performance Lab, audience members have a stake in performer's work

From a transcript of an NEA Art Works podcast conversation with VPL's Sara Coffee

Jo Reed: So it seems as though that there is a lot of interaction between the artist and the community.

Sara Coffey: I think so. I mean, it's on a small scale in a way. But it's pretty deep. Like these students, these high school students are already saying, "When is she coming back?" And we're going to. We're doing a daytime performance for a few schools. And these students will be able to come, and see her work during their school period, and for free.

Jo Reed: And talk to her about it.

Sara Coffey: And be able to talk to her about it and to see the larger company perform work. I'm always delighted because every residency that we've had there have been such interesting outcomes, including that some of the students then have their own relationships with these artists. And e-mail them, and call them, and stay in touch with them, which is great. Because I just love it that relationships are made. And there have been a few artists who have, after they've been up to the college for example, they've developed a relationship with a professor. And one of our artists now is in conversation with a professor about making a piece together. Not a dance teacher but a professor of religion at the college. And I just love it when things like that happen that extend beyond the boundaries of a residency.

Jo Reed: Yes. And it sounds as though the audience members have a stake in the performer?

Sara Coffey: I think that happens. I feel like we're developing a fan base. Because the artists are revealing themselves, every artist. And I don't ask the artist to do that. They just do it. That they are revealing themselves to these people. They're not in a, not in a therapeutic kind of way. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying, but they just, they make it real. They give access.


Amsterdam concert hall offers its audience a chance to buy $35 million in shares

Martijn van der Starre, Bloomberg News, 9/6/11

The Amsterdam concert hall that hosted artists and conductors including Maria Callas and Gustav Mahler plans to sell shares for the second time in 129 years to fund the building's maintenance and music education. "This jubilee issue is a historic milestone in Het Concertgebouw's history," Supervisory Board Chairman Alexander Rinnooy Kan said. "It fits within the tradition of private financing the institution, a tradition we're proud of." The concert hall opened its doors for the first time in 1888, resulting in a nearby traffic jam of 421 carriages, after a share sale by Het Concertgebouw, a private initiative, six years earlier. Nowadays, 700,000 people visit the venue designed by Dolf Van Gendt every year to listen to about 750 concerts. The concert hall plans to raise as much as 25 million euros ($35 million) by selling as many as 2,000 certificates of shares for 250 euros each, the prospectus said. Possible buyers are only qualified to purchase equities if they've committed to a 12,250 euro tax deductible donation to a fund for each certificate they want to buy. Het Concertgebouw hired a group of banks including ABN Amro Bank NV, Deutsche Bank Nederland NV, Cooperatieve Centrale Raiffeisen-Boerenleenbank BA, F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV and ING Bank NV to manage the offering. The concert hall, where artists including Yehudi Menuhin,Janis Joplin and Igor Stravinsky performed, currently has 135 ordinary shareholders and 23 preference shareholders. 

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