Competition grows among L.A. arts organizations over opera programming

Reed Johnson and David Ng, Los Angeles Times, 6/20/12

This spring, opera in Los Angeles has been winning praise for its daring and diversity. This operatic blossoming has been good for local audiences, but it has touched a nerve in the city's arts community. That's because none of those productions belongs to Los Angeles Opera, which for a quarter-century has been the city's only full-time opera company. And one of them is a production from its colleague across the street, the L.A. Philharmonic. Earlier this year, several members of L.A. Opera's board were dismayed when the Phil announced its upcoming 2012-13 season [which includes the operas] The Marriage of Figaro, Oliver Knussen's Where the Wild Things Are, Peter Eötvös' Angels in America and John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary. Opera and Phil administrators insist there's no conflict between their institutions, which have a long history of cooperation and collaboration. But the dust-up underscores a more delicate issue: the perception that organizations such as the L.A. Phil, Long Beach Opera, and The Industry, a new company, are upstaging L.A. Opera by doing more inventive productions of opera and opera-like music theater. L.A. Opera and the Phil recently formalized an agreement under which officials will meet four times annually to share schedules so as to avoid programming overlap and discuss more ways to collaborate artistically. Carol Henry, the Opera's board president, said the institutions also agreed the Phil from now on will concentrate on modern operas, and will lean toward concert versions rather than staged or semi-staged productions. "The conflict is with the administration side of things, not the artistic side," Henry said. The Phil's President Deborah Borda confirmed the new arrangement but said that "there's no specific agreement" on what sort of operatic repertoire the L.A. Phil will do in the future. "We will discuss it and come to mutual agreement," she said.


Commentary: A strong arts council can reduce competition & promote collaboration

Michelle Williams of Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County, The Work of Art blog, 6/1/12

Last week, I spent 24 hours in San Diego, on the invitation of April Game at Artpulse, where she and her team are working to create an arts council for the county of San Diego. It's hard to believe one doesn't already exist there. The arts commission that serves the city of San Diego has long been robust, but the other 17 cities and large unincorporated areas have no umbrella agency, no arts infrastructure, no public funding streams, and no real way to connect on a larger level. Here's the amazing thing: the Artpulse team has been working on this for over a year, and what they are trying to do is get the County Board of Supervisors to simply approve the creation of the Council. It won't cost the county a dime, and yet, there has to be a tremendous movement simply to get a stamp of approval. This is the second time I've traveled to San Diego to speak at a community forum about the structure and many benefits of a local arts council. At the forums, we encourage all attendees to speak up about their struggles, their needs, and what they think an arts council could accomplish for the county. Both times, I heard stories of isolation, frustration, and competition. Artists don't know how to find each other, or how to find patrons. Arts organizations are competing and often won't agree to speak with each other, let alone find power in collaborations. It all sounds very lonely. And yet, in San Diego, there are thousands of artists, and hundreds of arts organizations, many of which are doing great work and which are seeking a way to get connected and thrive. And that is where an arts council can make all of the difference. 

Commentary: "A state of competitive balance" among music labels is desirable

Joseph Silver, Future of Music Coalition blog, 5/30/12

Pending approval by American and European antitrust regulators, the U.S-based record company Universal Music Group (UMG) intends to merge with the UK-based EMI Music Corporation to form one mega-label. (A separate effort to acquire EMI's profitable publishing division has been launched by Sony.) If the label deal is approved, the combined company would control approximately 40% of the U.S. recorded music marketplace and a large chunk of the European music market. UMG and Sony together would command a whopping 73% market share of total recorded music sales. Over the past several decades, the major labels have gradually been moving from a state of competitive balance to one of control by a few large corporations. In response to this pending merger, a number of consumer groups have expressed their opposition to the deal, and their disagreement with UMG about what the merger will mean for the future of music. Currently, no single label or publisher dominates the market, and a somewhat competitive balance remains. If this merger is approved, UMG might aim to recreate scarcity in order to shield their traditional operations at the expense of new ways of doing business. Where this impacts artists' ability to be fairly compensated, we become concerned. Musicians have historically had very little leverage or bargaining power in the marketplace. If this merger is allowed, UMG would be in a strong position to influence artist compensation on emerging digital services and thereby perpetuate artists' lack of leverage.


Commentary: Is your arts organization competing with itself for patrons?

Jill Robinson, TRG Arts blog, 6/20/12

Findings coming out of loyalty analyses are beginning to expose a bias in the arts industry. Many arts managers are convinced that patrons are either philanthropists seeking to sustain the arts or consumers seeking to experience the art form. This "either-or" mindset is dead wrong. Yet, industry leaders continually provide incentives to keep the bias alive in the structure of their organizations' budgets -- divvying up revenue expectations [among] major gifts, membership/individual giving, [and] marketing/ticket sales. In the end, patrons are not appropriately valued for their support in total. And, as we've recently noted, devalued patrons don't stick around. It doesn't have to be this way. At recent industry conferences, we've seen a small corps of patron loyalty action leaders begin to model a new way for arts organizations to treat patrons like people, instead of departmental property -- and on the way, build sustaining patronage. Over the past decade, our firm has examined hundreds of thousands of patron behavior records looking for loyalty patterns within organizations. Study reveals distinct hierarchal groupings of patrons that we call Advocates, Buyers, and Tryers. Loyalty analysis consistently shows that the top ranks of patronage are comprised of active individuals who are both consumers of the art and philanthropic supporters of it. Organizations often tell me they want to do patron-based management but they don't know where to start. Here's how pioneers in this paradigm have launched their efforts:

  1. Endorse and enforce a new way of doing things from the top. Changing the way "we've always done it" takes institutional fortitude and change only happens when leaders insist upon it. Growth requires institution-wide commitment. It is not a departmental initiative.
  2. Analyze patron data across systems to see all transactions at the household level. Information is a powerful, galvanizing force in an organization. The minute everyone in the organization sees a ranked set of individual patron histories, new possibilities are apparent. Every organization's data set can create the rationale and story line for patron cultivation and development.
  3. Seize an opportunity or two to pursue. Patterns that emerge from analysis invariably show where the biggest opportunities lie. That's where to start -- by focusing first efforts on cultivating one or two manageable patron groups or patron patterns with the biggest upside.
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