Recently by Clay Lord, Director of Marketing and Audience Development, Theatre Bay Area

I want to strongly echo Lynne's thoughts on the biggest potential threat being our current lack of understanding about our audiences.  While net neutrality and copyright are important, particularly for certain genres, in my little theatrical corner of the world, we're watch people pass by our lobby doors every day, heading to restaurants, sporting events, movies, friends houses, whatever.  Advocacy-wise, we rely on generalized and relatively unengaging economic analyses about how much other business beside actual ticketsales our work creates, and when we speak to government officials we talk about artists livelihoods and neighborhood stability almost entirely in terms of dollars.  This just isn't cutting it anymore.  Casey's YouTube video post is informative in exactly this way (and this isn't anywhere near an original thought): they want stories, anecdotes -- the arts can change people.  But I'm not sure just that will work either, though. 

Lynne asks, "Ten years or so into the "Audience Engagement" era, have we actually stopped objectifying audiences (butts in seats)?" I don't think we have, and I think that's the capital-P Problem.

Which is why I'm so excited about the work of Alan Brown and others on the intrinsic impact of the arts -- actually putting on paper, in the same visual language as the economic analyses we're so comfortable with, the audience-reported intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and social impacts of the work they're seeing.  Alan and his colleagues are currently working with us on a large, 5-city study of the impact of theatre over the course of a season on patrons and the development of a web-based tool that will make the protocols, theories and reports associated with this research a little or no cost.  It's all heady, and it runs the risk of sounding superfluous, especially against concrete things like copyright, but making manifest something that is otherwise completely esoteric--the actual impact of art--may ultimately change everything about the conversation.  Or at least I hope so.

This has been such fun -- thanks to Doug and all the other organizers.  I really appreciate being involved!

(You can find out more about intrinsic impact at

July 23, 2010 9:21 AM | | Comments (1) |
At the end of his comment on Tim's entry "Blurry Lines and Cultural Norms," Bill Osborne says, "In reality, our lack of public arts funding is a much more important issue and has a far worse effect on our cultural lives than any threats to Net neutrality. It's strange how silent you policy folks are about that." Interestingly, I agree with Bill - I'm not nuts about Net neutrality (as a topic, not a concept), and find advocacy for funding a much more comfortable place, but I also feel like it's important to note that (1) much of the conversation has actually wandered away from Net neutrality issues and (2) we can't simply say the problem of public funding of the arts is unrelated to Net neutrality. Bill Ivey's request for ideas on how to convey value, Chris' appeal that we shift our attention away from strict advocacy and towards a larger canvas, even the entry on which Osborne was commenting - they're all about making the conversation larger, about conveying public value, which is at the core of the European funding model, and which is sorely lacking in the U.S. Advocacy is, as Chris points out, a long and often frustrating process, but it also happens in many many ways, from audience education to participation to mash-up references leading to familiarity to traditional lobbying, public promotional exercises like the Big Read and Free Night of Theater, etc. Audience enjoyment like Tim's example is crucial, despite the various copyright infringements, because it provides a familiar perch for those cruisegoers, which lets them have a happy memory of that show on that cruise ship, which lets them think about how their kids or grandkids might really like that musical downtown, which lets arts into the lives of new people, which ultimately, if we do it right, yields more public support, more funding, and more relevance in a landscape where, lets just be honest, we're competing against anti-smoking campaigns, poverty, sick kids, fatal diseases, etc etc. Where it gets touchy, I think, is that depending on the formulation, the discussion of artists digital rights is either an argument about the freedom of creativity to proliferate on the web and generate new converts, or it's about the agents of artists (advocates, unions, movie studios, recording companies, etc) or artists themselves attempting to restrict the disbursal of authored art without what they deem proper reimbursement - a totally valid cause much of the time that often unfortunately sits counter to the instant, zeitgeist-oriented culture that is pervading online. There's a fascinating TED Talk floating around out there with a big wig at You Tube talking about how those same big scary corporations are learning that it is often the wrong idea to pull down an infringing video because it generates ill will, stymies a public spontaneous response that is worth more than the money they're losing on copyright, and can ultimately engender long-term good feelings in a population that is notoriously unresponsive to traditional advertising. It's not altruistic, certainly, but it's smart, and it has the strong benefit of taking into account longer term benefits over short term losses.
July 22, 2010 8:58 AM | | Comments (1) |

Perhaps it's because I come out of theatre, where many (artists and administrators) have been struggling to figure out how to harness new media for audience development within very strict strictures imposed by the unions that limit sharply the amount of actual artistic content that can go online without fees, but I worry a little at all of this conversation about artists' creative rights without any discussion of how protecting those rights, at least thus far (and really, particularly in theatre) has hobbled theatre companies' (and theatre as a field's) abilities to present themselves and their staged work in a virtual space as dynamically and freely as other fine arts media.

It's a hard point, particularly since I work for a service organization that serves both companies and individuals--how do we protect (in the case of theatre) the rights of many artists, from actors to playwrights to directors to scenic and lighting designers, who are worried about the unfair proliferation of their work online without correct compensation, while also moving forward with the argument that not effectively representing work online is damaging our ability to develop audiences on a larger, more long-term, more company- or possibly even whole-community-level?

I'm not necessarily talking about producers' rights -- although it can seem that way. I think instead I'm trying to sort out a view of the artistic process, and the development of audiences to partake in that process (not to mention the development of artists), that is sometimes larger than the particular, short-term financial outlay to the creator(s). In a grand way, perhaps I'm asking that in this conversation about artists' rights we also talk about audiences' rights--or future audiences' rights. Ultimately, it's all one big circle.

How can advocacy for individual artists' creative rights (here specifically in relation to direct marketing and development of audiences, as opposed to say, the Gilbert and Sullivan example Lynne mentioned, which is really just stealing) more harmoniously interact with the new type of outreach that is inherent in the slew of new audience development tools, from Project Audience to Audience Engagement Platform to Kickstarter, that essentially will rely on some level of proliferation of place-based arts in the virtual sphere?

July 21, 2010 7:45 AM | | Comments (0) |
Marty's post and William Osborne's comment on Bill's post together highlight a discord between artists and advocacy groups.  There's a perception on many artists' parts that they are, in fact, doing advocacy, that much of the work created today comes from some level of advocating impulse, and that building that energy is enough.  Often, however, that advocacy is very specifically directed based on the personal motivations of the artist, and more coordinated effort is difficult both because of the extremely specific motivations and because of more mundane issues like time, money, and energy. On the other side, as Marty notes, is the impulse to try and coalesce that energy effectively through organizations, whether it's to affect political change or build audiences.  The danger here, of course, is that when you spend too much time trying to aggregate, you end up with a watered down version of many viewpoints, and potentially a less effective message motivating a less impressed artistic and political core.  I've had long arguments with friends about the admin-heaviness of arts institutions, the predominance of administrators in a world where artists don't make living wages, and while there are surely pros and cons to the current structure, I think one thing it does continue to provide is a level of institutionalized collaboration (or at least conversation) that might otherwise be swallowed up by the relative entropy of a thousand individual artistic voices. 
July 20, 2010 7:35 AM | | Comments (4) |
The latest NEA report to come out of the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation, notes that "people who engage with art through media technologies attend live performances or arts exhibits at two to three times the rate of non-media arts participants."  While the report can't make a causal link, it's still quite the correlation.  According to the report, about 20% of people surveyed have used the non-live media (internet, TV, etc) to consume an arts performance.  Of particular note to me (since I primarily do audience engagement work for theatre), non-white audiences for musicals and straight plays are substantially higher (scroll down to see the table with percentages) when viewing them through non-live media, including the internet, than when viewing them live.  When we're discussing creative rights, the rights of artists, the need to examine ownership and the nature of physical and place-based art, we also very much need to be discussing the audiences we're reaching and not reaching, and the roadblocks big and small that the virtualization of art helps tear down.  From decentralizing and democratizing the critical response to work to encouraging creation and consumption at a much lower cost, the web and related new technologies hold the promise of possibly making the fine arts, with which I'm particularly concerned and around which there's so much fear about increasing irrelevance, into something that everyone who wants to can participate in, albeit in a way that some may deem less-than, and others may find unsettling.
July 18, 2010 10:24 PM | | Comments (0) |


This Blog Arts and culture are a cornerstone of American society. But arts and culture workers are often left out of important policy conversations concerning technology and creative rights even though the outcomes will have a profound impact on our world. Is it benign neglect? Or did we... more

This blog is a project of... the Future of Music Coalition, the National Alliance for Art Media + Culture, Fractured Atlas, and more

Our Bloggers We have 22 bloggers taking part in this week's conversation. They are... more

Contact us: Click here to send us an email... more

Recent Comments

William Osborne commented on "Have we actually stopped objectifying audiences?" Nope - and that's the Problem.: Perhaps the problem is not only a lack of knowledge about audiences, but th...

Anu Kirk commented on Doug's Challenge: The letter of the law might be "life plus 70" now, but the reality is that ...

Casey commented on Stories Are A Resource: So true! If I might add: Number one rule when dealing with decisionmakers...

William Osborne commented on Forget the State; and have a better story: Brian, please check this table from “The Council of Europe/ERICarts, Compen...

Helen De Michiel commented on Policymakers on Hearing from the Arts Community: I hope everyone interested in cultural and telecom policy real politics has...

William Osborne commented on Forget the State; and have a better story: Here are some articles about how the French government has tried to protect...

William Osborne commented on Policy of reality versus reality of policy: Brain, please check this table from “The Council of Europe/ERICarts, Compen...

Brian Newman commented on Forget the State; and have a better story: Hi Bill - I'm sorry, but if you are quoting any article or report that is ...

Kevin Erickson commented on Policy of reality versus reality of policy: It might be clarifying to make the distinction between regulating how end-u...

Anonymous commented on Forget the State; and have a better story: Once again we see the echo chamber that Jean was talking about. The profes...

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
State of the Art
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
The Unanswered Question
Joe Horowitz on music

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary