Commentary: Newly-rich young don't care about "old man" arts. Now what?

Ellen Cushing, East Bay Express, 3/20/13

Silicon Valley has spawned a few high-profile art patrons, [but] those people represent the older and richer end of the spectrum, and they appear to be an exception. San Francisco's moneyed generation is now significantly younger than ever before and, "if you're talking the symphony or other classical old-man shit, I would say [interest] is very low," an employee at a smallish San Francisco startup recently told me. "The amount of people I know that give a shit about the symphony as opposed to the amount of people I know who would look at a cool stencil on the street ... is really small." Which isn't to say that legacy art and culture institutions aren't trying to attract the stencil crowd -- in fact, many of them are going out of their way to draw in young, tech-savvy patrons. [But] it's not just the donors themselves who are changing; it's the entire ethos -- and that may mark a change in a system that's been more or less the same since the Renaissance. "A lot of those philanthropic dollars are now going to programs with measurable outcomes," said Susan Medak, managing director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre. "This shift toward a more transactional relationship in philanthropy, where you give something and expect to get something concrete back, has continued to escalate. The entrepreneurial infatuation we have now -- and I don't mean that in a loaded way -- comes with a notion that the things we're investing in should have a potential to [make] returns. It's antithetical to the kind of philanthropy that has built institutions in this country." Medak didn't mention the logical, eventual corollary to this -- that an end to institution-building philanthropy can also mean an end to the institutions themselves -- but it doesn't feel entirely far off.


Commentary: The Pyramid of Philanthropy doesn't work with newly-rich young

George Heymont, The Huffington Post, 4/28/13

An aspiring young playwright was curious how and where he might get his plays produced in the Bay area. After I mentioned several local theatre companies that offer readings of new works as well as suggesting he consider submitting his work to various Fringe festivals, he told me that what he really liked to write were historical plays that required fairly sizable casts. Like many young playwrights, he believed that companies would be eager to stage ambitious, large-scale plays by unknown playwrights. He was shocked when I suggested he turn to Kickstarter and Indiegogo to help raise money so he could stage his plays. "You mean self-produce?" he gasped. I urge any and all playwrights with stars in their eyes to strap themselves in for a harsh reality check. Think about the famous "Pyramid of Philanthropy" which has served as a model for the efforts of numerous performing arts organizations as they try to expand their audiences.

  • On the bottom layer are single ticket buyers
  • One layer above them are the subscribers
  • One layer above is an elite level of subscribers who make regular contributions
  • One layer above them are subscribers who not only donate, but volunteer their time
  • At the very top of the pyramid are those who serve on the company's board

This model seems to be increasingly irrelevant to a new generation of people who have acquired sudden wealth from their work or investments in technology. With social media helping to attract audiences to readings and other new projects, I'd suggest aspiring playwrights look to circuit parties and raves as new models for attracting attention to their work. Instead of relying on the financial security of traditional subscription marketing, producers and playwrights must force themselves to ask if they are willing to be satisfied with a one-night stand. For most staged or semi-staged readings that's the best a contemporary playwright can expect. And if you're eager to get your new play performed before a live audience (with or without scenery), why not?


Commentary: Creating a "virtuous cycle of engagement" for Millennials

Kari Saratovsky, care2's nonprofit marketing blog Frogloop, 4/26/13

While members of the Millennial Generation, now the largest generation in our nation's history, are widely known for a desire to give back to their communities or be part of large social change movements -- the way Millennials define their engagement tends to be very different from the way organizations do.  When you ask a Millennial, "Do you support a nonprofit or social cause?" The resounding answer is, "Yes!" When you follow that up by asking, "How do you support that organization?" You're likely to hear answers like: I signed a petition, changed my avatar on Twitter, or liked them on Facebook. Now ask an organization if Millennials are supporting their cause, and they say, "No, we just can't figure out how to reach them."  A one-size-fits-all approach is nearly impossible and will only meet the needs of a small segment of your audience -- typically the super-engaged Millennials. So how do we convert a new generation into loyal and passionate advocates and donors? And how can we best position organizations so they are able to capture the limited time, dollars and attention spans of a generation always on the go? We'll be the first to say, there's no silver bullet. But we introduce the Virtuous Cycle of Engagement as the core to building an organization's Millennial strategy. Here's what the Cycle looks like:

Level 1: Millennial Inquisitor.

Level 2: Millennial Content Consumer.

Level 3: Millennial Activist.

Level 4: Millennial Peer Agents/Influencers.

At each level of engagement, as you increase in intensity, the number of Millennials within that level gets smaller. This is natural with this constituent base; given all of the competing forces for their limited time and dollars.  They also tend to move from organization to organization as different causes and interests are presented to them. It's important for organizations to understand what messages, individuals, and tools facilitate the movement between each level to gain perspective on the motivation behind the individual's engagement.


Commentary: You can't change everyone, but you can change people who matter

Seth Godin on his blog, 2/28/13 [hat tip to Scott Walters]

Marketing is about change -- changing people's actions, perceptions or the conversation. Successful change is almost always specific, not general. You don't have a chance to make mass change, but you can make focused change. The challenge of mass media was how to run ads that would be seen by just about everyone and have those ads pay off. That problem is gone, because you can no longer run an ad that reaches everyone. What a blessing. Now, instead of yelling at the masses, the marketer has no choice but to choose her audience. Perhaps not even with an ad, but with a letter, or a website or with a product that speaks for itself. And yet, our temptation is to put on a show for everyone, to dream of bestseller lists and the big PR win. So the first, most important question is, "who do we want to change?" If you can't answer this specifically, do not proceed to the rest. By who, I mean, "give me a name." Or, if you can't give me a name, then a persona, a tribe, a spot in the hierarchy, a set of people who share particular worldviews. People outside this group should think you're crazy, or at the very least, ignore you. Then, be really clear about: What does he already believe? What is he afraid of? What does he think he wants? What does he actually want? What stories have resonated with him in the past? Who does he follow and emulate and look up to? What is his relationship with money? What channel has his permission? \Where do messages that resonate with him come from? Who does he trust and who does he pay attention to? What is the source of his urgency -- why will he change now rather than later? After he has changed, what will he tell his friends? Now that you know these things, go make a product and a service and a story that works. No fair changing the answers to the questions to match the thing you've already made (you can change the desired audience, but you can't change the truth of what they want and believe). 

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."