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 http://www.theatrebayarea.org/intrinsicimpact)
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?
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