Sorry, but I'll take experience over artistry

meadowlands.jpgProfessional sports has more money than God, and they spend more to attract and entertain fans than anyone else. So how does the NFL sell itself? Not by touting the quality of its games. They sell the contest. They sell the experience.

And they have to work to keep making the experience better. How many perfectly functional stadiums were discarded in the 1990s/00’s to be replaced by facilities with better amenities? And there’s barely a moment during a game when there isn’t something going on to entertain fans whether there’s a play on the field or not. The game brings people in. The experience keeps them coming back.
The NFL gives away a lot of its product; almost every game is broadcast live to millions of fans for free. And there are endless bits of related free content that are produced around the games and the culture of pro football. So how do you keep improving the experience? This about the new stadium in the Meadowlands: 

In recent years, television coverage of the National Football League has become so rich and detailed that teams and stadiums have no choice but to respond with their own technology plays. Last spring the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, said the experience for fans in stadiums needed to be elevated to compete with television broadcasts, to keep fans engaged — and to keep them buying tickets — in a challenging economic climate. 

 To do that, stadium officials here have taken steps few other N.F.L. stadiums have. About $100 million has been spent on the stadium’s technology, and a former television production executive was hired to oversee the fan experience to offer more than fans can get sitting at home on their couches in front of their high-definition television sets…
For those fans who do not have smart phones, 2,200 televisions with 48,000 square feet of screens have been installed in and around the stadium, the most of any N.F.L. stadium. The applications and stadium video screens will access video feeds that can be used only in the stadium because of the N.F.L.’s television agreements. If the fan leaves, the application will no longer work and will direct fans to the teams’ Web sites, which will offer less…
The introduction of the smart-phone applications comes as teams confront an increasingly difficult environment to attract fans to stadiums. The images of N.F.L. players blocking and tackling on high-definition television have become increasingly life-like at the same time that the price of attending a game in person is higher than ever.

So why keep the TV broadcasts free? The broadcasts not only bring in a lot of money but they also eliminate barriers to fans encountering the NFL. Without that broad base, built on free content, you don’t have fans committed enough to spend money for tickets. There is something unique about the live experience. But the NFL is also realizing that it has to enhance the live experience (if not necessarily the games themselves) to compete with the free stuff they produce to draw people in the first place.

In the arts we don’t think this way. We sell the “quality” of the orchestra, the “sublimeness” of the music, while the experience itself is left to take care of itself. In some more rigorous camps it’s considered almost tawdry to focus on experience over music, as if taking care to carefully create the experience cheapens or detracts from the artistry somehow. Why is that?  Too many arts experiences aren’t enough fun, even if they’re very good. 
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  1. Michael Seel says

    I agree! We're trying to make the art the best it can possibly be while building an experience around it. Not completely successful yet, but we're working on it!

  2. says

    Is it because I am a girl? I was silently asking myself this question as I read your piece…Is it because I am a girl that I couldn’t care less about stadiums or football or baseball or hockey? That I don’t care about the experience or the artistry either way because it is always men playing at these stadiums…I often wonder if it is just the gender thing…I like sports, I play & played sports…What is wrong with me that I find going to a sports stadium to see a sports game less inviting than going to a dentist? Especially since my dentist now offers cool sunglasses & a tv set feed…Ok, I get it…I’m going to need to think about the dentistry experience to understand what you are talking about…My dentist is offering a better experience which makes me not care as much how good she is…As an artist, I should try to make the experience of looking at my art more fun, better…Which I guess I do, do…I make sure I served Bisol Prosecco at the grand opening of a gallery I happened to have some works of art in…Even though it wasn’t my gallery, nor a solo show, I paid out of my own pocket to make sure nobody got cheap wine…(I also knew the other art was uneven & was afraid of my own collectors being disappointed with showing up-so I planned to bribe them with great bubbly…)
    And so on…Yes, I have always looked up to the art experience…Hated when artists showed up grungy in a grungy white room with grungy snacks & grungy glasses…(Though if grunge is done with class can be pulled off)…No, my art world was something like a Mercedes Benz-nice to get into, performed well, looks great, a lifestyle improvement…
    I haven’t been to my dentist in years- despite the tv & the cool sunglasses, I still brush madly in hopes of avoiding that fate…The fate of having to have another person prodding my mouth with sterile utensils…(not that unsterilized ones would be better…)
    I don’t go to sport stadiums much either…Maybe it is because I don’t like to use pubic bathrooms, or waiting in a line to get in, or sitting beside 50 thousand strangers, or sitting for 4 hours to watch ants throw a ball around, or maybe it’s just because most professional athletes are still men & I can’t see making a buck out of this experience…I think the tv sets & the better hot dogs & the “experience” stuff is for us, the women, who are usually bored out of our skulls at sporting events…I guess it’s a good thing…It makes it a little more palatable…
    It’d be nice if they spent more money on the artistry of the sporting event though…Forget about more tv sets, if they want to appeal to us girls, well, they gotta pay more girls more money to play sports at these male dominant stadiums…
    Girls can identify with other girls playing sports…Not lesbians, just plain old ordinary women…Take half the money spent on male athletes & give it to women athletes…Maybe then I will watch…That would be artistry…Not experience…
    I think sometimes experience is a way of covering up for lack of artistry…
    Well the art is just ok, but the wine is fabulous!
    Well, it’s all men playing, but try this delicious hot dog!
    Ok, my time is up…Thanks for the thought & a belated Happy New Year!

    Sari Grove

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