FROM TC: The first item below isn't about the arts, but it might as well be...


Commentary: Think your audience is thinking about you? Think again.

Tom Denari, Advertising Age, 3/21/13

Here's a humbling exercise for today:

1. Unschedule your next meeting (you know you want to anyway).

2. Leave your office and find your way to a populated area.

3. Find someone who looks as if they might be in your brand's target audience and strike up a conversation. Ask them about their family, where they live. Find out what's important to them. What's their job like? How do they spend weekends? Time off? What do they do with their kids, if they have them? And what keeps them up at night?

I'll bet you $100 they won't mention your brand, [and] they won't talk about the category your brand competes in, either. You may spend most of your waking hours thinking about your brand and its category, but your target audience really couldn't pay less attention. This is a hard pill to swallow, considering how much time, energy and effort you put into the products and services you're trying to sell. But, if you're going to be really successful, one of the most important realizations you can make is this: People don't care about your brand nearly as much as you do. Humans are wired to go with a quick gut decision, not an analytical one. A brand can most easily get to the gut of the consumer not by proving it is better than the competition, but by being culturally relevant. A brand isn't so much competing for attention within its category; it's competing for attention, period.


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Commentary: Most musicians never learn to see the audience perspective

Excerpt from Keith Hatschek's interview with live performance producer Tom Jackson, blog Echoes, 3/13/13

HATSCHEK: Many musicians focus on perfecting their music, getting a gig, and playing a pre-determined set, hoping to get a good response. I don't think many musicians think about how to engage the audience as performance partners. Why do you think that is?
JACKSON: I think there are multiple reasons why and they are interrelated. The first is that business people formed the music industry. They focused on selling records and publishing, this is where the money was for them, so they made those activities a priority. If a band wasn't that good live, so long as the record was selling, things were OK. The second factor is ignorance. By that I mean that some of the people in charge of the music industry believe that they know what's good musically. They often do not. Knowing what works musically and knowing what works on stage are two different things. So egos can get in the way of actually understanding what it really takes to do a compelling live show. The third factor is often the artist. Most artists never learn to see themselves from the audience perspective, which means it's very easy to misread the audience response. I call this "misreading the truth." Take, for instance, a major act that has a current radio hit. When they perform it live, since the audience knows that tune, they respond strongly, and the artist thinks, "I've made a fan." But you haven't. They are responding to the song, not you, as an artist.


Commentary: Use community radio to listen to museum audiences

Kathy Cremin for The Guardian's Culture Professionals Network blog, 3/26/13

Museums as institutions are not built to listen, and only by listening will we grow in connectivity and community. Community radio is a low-tech tool with a proven track record of enabling ordinary voices to build cultural organisations, by fostering genuine capability for conversation and collaborative development. So using heritage as our hook, and radio as our hammer, Bede's World (who I've been working with) has started a six-month community radio pilot. Radio can transform how we listen and learn what our collections and work mean to our community, changing how the museum engages with, and is inspired by, volunteers and activists of all kinds. Our hope is that this conversation will shape the practice and mission of the museum from its core. We have much to learn - the conversation will not be polished, but it will be real, and it might even be beautiful in that ordinary human sort of way. At its very best it will be a din of language and voices that reflect the wideness of the world and the roots of this particular place. The question of whether digital tools can enable participation that drives practice is not about institutional weight, nor about which innovative technology we can commission next. It's about seeing what tools we've got, and using them as best we can. Or as one 15-year-old volunteer puts it: "It's not how strong you are, it's how you use the hammer."


Commentary: Want real audience feedback? Offer a money-back guarantee.

Caleb McMullen, Theatre Is For Suckers blog, 3/13/13

Let me catch you up to date. In early February I [attended] a hyped-up Canadian production that (I felt) fell flat on its face. I wrote about it and it sparked a conversation amongst theatre critics in Toronto about how it seems that every production that graces the stage receives the inevitable "Canadian Compulsory Standing O." I got to thinking about how I, as a theatre creator, can go about rectifying this disturbing phenomenon. I came up with a rather underdeveloped idea of placing an insert into the programmes of the productions I produce that reads:

"To help us better understand your level of satisfaction with our presentation please: give us a standing ovation if you are incredibly satisfied, a seated applause if you are satisfied, and complete silence if you are rather indifferent ... and (dare I say...) a vocal 'boo' if you were unsatisfied."

While this idea needed refining, I felt that it was, in the very least, a feeble attempt to un-do the mentality in our Canadian audiences that standing ovations are compulsory. I elicited [journalist] J. Kelly Nestruck to chime in with his response to my idea. I specifically picked Nestruck to strike up this conversation because I knew that he would loath the idea and in doing so provide me with some very critical feedback in its regard. I was right and through our twitter debate and his article, I have been better able to round out my thoughts. I believe that it is through debate and perhaps confrontation that an idea can become a good idea and a good idea can become great. In fact it was through this debate and Nestruck's closing argument that caused me to adjust my intentions of this "rating-system" and put my money with my mouth is. Nestruck challenged me to measure the success of my artistic merits through audience response that I should set up a refund policy on my art. And this is exactly what I will do. For every show Mnemonic Theatre produces, we will offer a full-money-back guarantee at intermission, starting with Proof in Vancouver in June 2013. When I announced this to my associate producers, one commented, "But, don't we run the risk of losing a lot of money?" To which I replied, "Only if we do shitty work, so let's make damn sure we don't." This, my friends, is called STAKES.

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