Commentary:Arts education: learning to do more with less
Center for Educational Improvement [National Assoc. of Elementary School Principals], 8/19/12

The arts are essential to every child's education. As children learn through arts education, they are exposed to unique opportunities to learn. Their critical and creative thinking are stimulated and school attendance often improves, particularly for students who do not excel with textbook approaches to academics. Moreover, arts education exposes students to alternative viewpoints, cultures, and traditions. "Creating by doing is a uniquely powerful way to learn. That's why I think a high-quality arts education is absolutely critical to providing all students with a world-class education," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "The study of the arts can both significantly boost student achievement and give students a reason to look forward to coming to school. All children should have arts-rich schools." During difficult economic times, however, arts programs can be the first to be sacrificed, especially when educators feel too pressured to focus on test results. Arts programs do not easily lend themselves to quantifiable measurement. Nevertheless, some educators still find a way to provide high-quality music, dance, drama, media arts, or visual arts programs to their students with limited funding. Some apply for and win grants. Others find creative ways to do more with less. A New York public school drama teacher inthis video, for example, teaches dance and drama in the hallway. The video shows another New Year public school teacher who has partnered with a professional dance troupe to bring dance to her students.


Commentary: A musical director's guide to doing more with less

Nathan W. Perry, Theatre Music Directors website, 8/13/12

Over in the Theatre Music Directors Facebook group, one of the most common questions being asked is along the lines of: "I'm doing Show X, which calls for 25 musicians, but our theatre only has a budget for six. Which ones should I use, and how can I reduce the orchestration for such a small group and still have it sound good?"  Answers invariably come flying in from all corners of the globe, as fellow MDs who have also done Show X come to the rescue with their indispensable trove of experience, but the problem is so universal that there's always another MD waiting in the wings, facing the same problem with a different show.  To expand on the valuable advice of the Facebook community about specific shows, [here are] some tips and techniques you can use to address this ubiquitous problem, which I've dubbed "The Great Reduction."  One day, perhaps, the world will emerge from The Great Reduction and enter a utopian new realm where we can always play the full, glorious, thrilling, emotional, inventive and uplifting orchestrations that drew so many of us to the theatre in the first place. Until that day, however, the Internet will be here to help.


Part 1: Framing the issue

Part 2: To bass or not to bass


Commentary: At 2012 music biz conference, the theme was "doing more with less"

Glenn Peoples, Billboard magazine, 5/11/12

The theme at the NARM [National Association of Recording Merchandisers] Music Biz 2012 conference was forced austerity. "We're doing more with less," one major label executive said when asked how his company was doing. Outsourcing is one way to do more with less. Outsourcing lets labels and management companies build a team around an artist or project without hiring full-time staffers. The industry is filled with former record label staffers plying their trade as consultants. There are numerous startups -- RootMusic,, Moontoast -- trying to help music companies market and sell music efficiently. Music Reports wants to help companies outsource their royalty accounting. A company like Mtheory provides marketing, strategic and back office services to artist managers, effectively freeing up managers to manage. The list goes on and on and gets larger and larger.  In a sense, the traditional music business has outsourced its search for revenues to other players. Brands have emerged as important sources of revenue and promotion. Multi-rights deals effectively outsource revenue generation outside the record label -- rather than directly earn touring revenue as a promoter or manager, for example, a label may share in that revenue by contract. Smaller companies need to work smarter, so it seemed more than appropriate that NARM got analytical this year with presentations and panels on how data and analytics can transform the music business. DigSin founder/CEO Jay Frank described an example of paying attention to the right metrics to gauge success (or lack of success).  Working with data can definitely help a company work smarter, but data means only as much as the people working with it. On the same panel, Concord Music Group's Jason Feinberg urged companies to think about the results before collecting the data. "You have to know the question you're looking to answer," he said.


Commentary: The insanity of arts orgs trying to "do more with less money"

Amelia Northrup, TRG Arts blog, 8/16/12

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
--Albert Einstein

Data from a registration survey for [a] webinar recently reminded me how valid and valuable Mr. Einstein's definition is.  We asked [these arts organizations] to compare last season's holiday events with the year before. 63% [of respondents said they] had to make a higher revenue goal with the same budget, or less.  This expectation is commonly seen in our experience -- and not just with marketing holiday events. Subscription acquisition efforts, annual fund campaigns, and membership drives fall into to this special category of insanity as staff teams are expected to "work smarter", "make do", and "be creative" - all code for "do more with less money".  You can work smarter -- to a point. But there is a point where you can also mismatch investments with expected results. The solution?  Being mindful of budget contradictions like this and correcting them by investing in your guaranteed successes. I've written before on this blog about under-investing in blockbusters. Investing in shows likely to succeed doesn't mean you completely neglect your other events.  [But] here's the reality: Arts managers often fall into the trap of regarding blockbuster productions or exhibits as easy money, thinking that they'll sell no matter what kind of time and money is invested. They set up unrealistic (or dare I say, insane?) revenue expectations. And they leave on the table the sustaining revenue that allows the All-Scriabin Festival to happen.  It's common sense: If you expect bigger earnings, give those events a bigger budget. Especially if it's a perennial audience favorite like The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol. So, make the decision now to invest in productions in direct proportion to anticipated sales and stick with it. Adjust your budget now so that you won't end up short of cash to market holiday shows or other blockbusters. And resist the temptation to use budget for blockbusters on productions that won't significantly return your investments.
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."