FROM TC:Matt Lehrman -- founder & executive director of Arizona's Alliance for Audience -- has invited the readership of his ArtsJournal blog to send in "creative notions & half-baked thoughts around the purpose of growing audiences for the arts & cultural sector. Suspend practicality & judgment for the moment. We are just brainstorming here - with an emphasis on BIG thinking and CREATIVE efforts."  Below are the first ideas posted:


Idea #1: A universal gift card for arts & culture

Matt Lehrman, Audience Wanted blog, 6/4/12

I'd like to buy you the gift of an arts & cultural experience. Problem is, I don't know if you'd prefer discovering the edgy theatre company, the symphony orchestra or a day at the art museum. True, many arts & cultural organizations offer their own gift cards, but why should I have to lock you in to just one organization's offerings? Here in Phoenix, where the brand represents the breadth of the arts & cultural community's offering, why can't there be a "ShowUp Card" whose $'s can be redeemed (both in person and on-line) at a wide range of arts organizations and cultural destinations? Having researched this question over the years, I've discovered that there exist two types of gift cards:

Closed Loop: There's typically no fee associated with buying such a card, because once purchased, the $'s are trapped into that particular merchant's orbit (i.e. that's the closed loop). The company will make its money when the $'s are ultimately spent.

Open Loop: They are often creatively branded to encourage you to spend the $'s with a particular group of merchants but the truth is that the $'s can be spent anywhere that VISA, MasterCard or American Express is accepted. The issuer of such an Open Loop card must assess a service charge because, once bought, the card [can] be spent at any merchant.

What I imagine: A "closed loop" gift card that functions among an ASSOCIATION of merchants. Imagine the power of a commonly accepted gift card that exists specifically to engage even more arts & cultural experience - and locks those $'s into the orbit of companies offering theatre, music, dance, art, festivals, culinary and cultural attractions. With the sector's natural focus on "growing the pie" rather than "fighting over the size of the slices," isn't it also natural that we should be the innovators of a new collaborative function of gift card?


Follow-up: Sell a universal arts gift card like the Girl Scouts sell cookies

Matt Lehrman, Audience Wanted blog, 6/4/12

Earlier this week, I suggested a "universal gift card" - but today, I offer that idea with a twist: A universal gift card with a built-in incentive to allow a third-party (i.e. your favorite kids organization) to keep some % of the proceeds as a fundraiser. According to the official Girl Scouts website, "Nationwide, girls receive an estimated 10-20% of the purchase price of each box of cookies sold." Last I checked, a box was $4 - so, interesting to learn that just .40 to .80 cents from each box stays with the local troop. Would you be willing to offer a commission for someone to sell $'s into your company? What I love most about this idea is that it completely reverses the conventional pattern of consumer transactions. It asks prospective audience members to lock in their $ commitment BEFORE they are ever asked what or when that might be. Do you agree that people generally intend to participate in arts & cultural experienceslong before they decide what that activity might be, when it falls, or whether they can convince their partner to go with them. If you have ever reviewed the results of a survey that asked people about their arts participation, you've likely seen that people vastly over-report their participation. They're not lying - they're answering based on their INTENTION. So, let's sell to that strength!


Idea #2: United museum membership renewal services

Peter Van Allen of Bryn Mawr, PA, submitted to Lehrman's Audience Wanted blog, 6/6/12

"I am a member of a number of museums and nonprofits -- maybe 8 or 9 all together. So throughout the year, I'm getting an almost constant stream of renewal notices. I can't keep them straight. Why can't there be one company or organization that keeps all your membership information in one database? It could keep track of all your renewals, plus it would remind you of your membership level (individual, family, etc.). It might also send out weekly emails with information (exhibits, author talks, calls to action) customized to your memberships."


= = =


FROM TC: Staying open late (or offering a late start time) is not a new idea in the arts, but it's not a regular option either.  Is it finally time to embrace more fully the concept of late night arts?


Idea #3: Finding inspiration after hours at museums

Mark Sheerin, The Creativity Post, 5/24/12

It is the week after the weekend that was Museums at Night 2012. But first a bit of disclosure; I also write for the coordinators of this annual UK event, Culture24. So I am biased. I am pro-late opening. And here's why I think you should be too. 416 institutions opened their doors late on Friday 18th and/or Saturday 19th May. I was sent out to report on the weekend's festivities and saw dusk slowly cloak the artworks in Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, (Friday) and then a fascinating talk about medical history by artist Claire Barclay at the Old Operating Theatre, London, (Saturday). Both events were packed with visitors. Imagine a crowded bar at the weekend and take away the aggressive jostling. But while there may be wine or beer on offer at a Museums at Night event, there is no suggestion that alcohol is top of the agenda. Far from it, in fact, and so for at least one annual weekend it is possible to have a top night out and, briefly, halt the corrosive effects of too much drink on your brain cells and liver. Museums' were just not built for heavy sessions. Museums at Night, an idea which started in Berlin in 1997, came to the shores of Great Britain in 2009 and deserves to make the leap across the Atlantic. In fact, I would argue that museums should open late every night.


Related: Attract younger audiences with late night classical music concerts

Tom Cardy, The Dominion Post, 5/18/12

Ask anyone in classical music and they'll agree - it needs younger audiences. American David Zinman - one of the best conductors in the world - is no exception. The 75-year-old has long been a champion of appealing to young people. But the big difference with Zinman is that he's thought outside the square. With Zurich's Tonhalle Orchestra, which he's had a long association with, Zinman has staged classical concerts that start at 10pm. They're followed by a dance party until 4am. The "Tonhalle Late" series has been such a hit, Zinman's encouraging others to take up the concept: "It came about because my youngest son - when he was about 16 - was asked 'why don't you go to concerts?' He said 'none of my friends go to concerts'... 'they don't want to be seen with their parents'. A little light bulb went off in my head. Let's have late concerts where parents aren't allowed. It would be in the lifestyle of age 18 to 30. What do they like to do on a Friday night? Maybe they want to go to movie or a dinner and then go to a concert. They'd be there with their friends and it would be a social evening. It is very, very popular. We always have full houses and we just play anything. I talk to them a little bit at the concert, but not a lot. We just dress normally because they wanted 'their own' concert and that's it." 

Please consider the environment before printing out this email.  Thanks.
YOU'VE COTT MAIL is a free service for professionals in the arts.  Emails are sent most weekdays. 
If you are not already on the distribution list and would like to sign up, please click here:

Join Our Mailing List      Follow me on Twitter     
Click here to view an archive of recent past editions of "You've Cott Mail."