1. Trevor O'Donnell says

    Hey, Douglas,
    I reread my comment under your fine “Ticket Buyer or Donor” post and realized it had come off much snarkier than I had intended.
    You were absolutely right. Recognizing and rewarding multiple buyers It’s the simplest thing in the world and it need not be expensive. But I’ve been barking up this tree in the non-profit world and on Broadway for nearly two decades and have found few sympathetic ears (apart from NJPAC’s loveley Catrina Boisson of course).
    The marketing culture/sales culture distinction is something I stumbled on recently and I think it points up a fundamental and possibly fatal flaw in our business model. We don’t sell our products and it’s killing us. Danny Newman taught us to sell subscriptions 30 years ago but that meant selling more seats to a market that already liked the art. Now we find ourselves having to sell the art itself – the plays and concerts that Newman era subscribers took for granted – and we just can’t bring ourselves to do it.
    I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it boils down to two things: Most arts leaders don’t want to believe that the arts need to be sold and most arts insiders don’t want to interact with outsiders. Embracing sales means accepting our diminished place in American culture and humbling ourselves before people who don’t have an avid interest in what we do. Neither of these is likely to be welcomed by those who pride themselves on having a place at the top the arts hierarchy.
    Not to overuse your analogy, but Obama knew he needed to sell his message hard and he willingly sat in diners, community centers and church basements for two years (listening and speaking) in order to do so. But arts leaders surround themselves with colleagues, donors, loyal patrons and policy wonks then broadcast boastful marketing messages to remote publics telling them how lucky they are to have an opportunity to buy a ticket or walk through a gallery.
    I’ve straddled the commercial/non-profit divide for years and I know how much potential the arts are leaving untapped. And I’ve seen some bright spots on the horizon like our friends at NJPAC. But I’m deeply skeptical about the industry’s ability to embrace this particular change.
    Anyway, it’s always enlightening to read Diacritical and it’s been a pleasure chatting. I’d be thrilled if you found a way to open up a wider discourse on this topic someday (although I know that even marketing doesn’t rank very high among Artsjournal readers’ interests.)
    Please do keep up the good work.
    Trevor O’Donnell

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