It's all about the DATA

By Brian Newman, consultant, Sub-Genre Media
As you've probably guessed by now, I like hyperbole, but to me the most important policy issues for arts/artists for the next decade will be around data - who owns it, who has access to it, who you share it with and how these interactions are governed. Data is the new oil. We'll be entering pretty big battles soon, and have already seen a few, around privacy - and this impacts everyone, not just artists. Figuring out the right balance around privacy is going to be a huge issue. Just as importantly, however, is that we can now access a lot of data around our audiences, but most of this data is not shared with artists even when that might be fine with their audience. It is often owned by Facebook, or Google or even the Symphony's managers. Many artists I know are already working with engineers on data portability projects, open source projects to share data (with appropriate user, opt-in permission) and similar activities. They are realizing that the information about their audience - or just about how many songs they truly sold, is extremely valuable, but only if they have access to it. Likewise, as audiences/consumers, we have a lot to figure out about just how much of that data we want shared, and what control we might have over it at a later date.

Amazingly, many arts organizations aren't keeping much of this data themselves - beyond basic membership lists. They often have to "spam" the world again and again to build their audience whenever they have a new project. This is a problem for bigger, for-profit entities as well - Warner Bros and Penguin both must re-build their fan base every time they release a new album, movie or book.  While I like to call the media industry "blood-sucking beasts," there could be some common ground here on working together to get access to more of this data. When this data is kept, it is rarely shared, but there could be great power in knowing I want to see a show on Picasso whether it's at the Met or at the High, and organizations (and artists) will have a lot to figure out in terms of sharing this data across traditional boundaries. As artists, organizations and companies wake up to the importance of data, we're all going to wish we had started advocacy around it back when we were just focused on all the other policy issues.

Ok, I also believe that Net Neutrality and Copyright concerns are pretty important, and that we need to work on our relationships with and knowledge of our audiences, but this was one policy concern that I think about daily that has been curiously absent from the discussion. So has diversity and the interactions of all of this stuff internationally, but perhaps I should stop here. Thanks to Doug and all the writers here (in the comments as well), and thanks to the organizations who brought this conversation together.
July 23, 2010 3:03 PM | | Comments (0) |

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