This Week’s Insights: Is our focus on engagement hurting art?… Why it’s difficult to cut ticket prices… Are algorithmic content platforms killing originality?… How to motivate volunteers in amateur theatre.
- Engagement At The Cost Of Content? It’s difficult to find an arts institution these days that isn’t focusing on how to better engage audiences. But is this engagement at the expense of artistic depth? The power of artists and curators at institutions seems on the wane. And “while artists and curators were arguing, the European institutions—built, rebuilt, or reopened between the sixties and the eighties, which featured the work of those artists and (independent) curators—have continued living their lives, gaining power, setting positions, and fixing rules. New managers were hired to conserve what had been built, to increase the performance of the organization to attract an ever-bigger audience, while making the position of the artist, and now also of the curator, ever more precarious. So not only has the focus shifted away from the artists and curators towards the institutional infrastructure (despite all the criticism towards institutions), but also the increased importance of ‘broadening’ the audience has taken over the professionals’ attention.” And to repeat – at the expense of what?
- Is There Anyone Who Thinks That Ticket Price Isn’t An Audience Factor? Sure. But what to do about it? “Over the past month, the Broadway League has sent about 3,500 tenth-grade students to see several popular shows, such as The Band’s Visit, through its new Broadway Bridges initiative. The price charged for each ticket was $10.00, and the philanthropic program hopes to soon bring 75,000 students to Broadway at the reduced price each year.” Who could argue with this? But it’s been difficult to institute such programs on Broadway. Why? “We knew if we were going to get extremely reduced ticket prices for the kids, then it would require a lot of bridge-building to all of the producers. After all, you’re asking for them to make an investment in their future, and, when they’re not sure they’re going to be open next month, it is really hard to think about the future.”
- When The World Is Increasingly Run By Algorithms, Is There A Place For Ideas? The social media platforms amplify the crowd, reinforcing what our friends think. As social media increasingly occupies more of our mind-space and influences what we pay attention to, where is the room for unconventional or – dare we say, quieter – ideas that have merit? Is everything – including, increasingly, art – now enslaved to escalating popularity contests?
- Successful Amateur Theatre? It Depends On Motivating Volunteers But how to do that? We have some data now about why people volunteer, “In a recent survey we carried out, 74% of people who said they were interested in volunteering would do it to have fun; 56% to spend time with like-minded people; 52% to give back to their community; and 48% to feel useful. Volunteers clearly want more out of their experience than just freebies.” How to put it into practice? Here’s how one theatre does it: “Running an organisation using just volunteers is always a risk, especially once the original motivated group has stepped down. Key to making it work is respect for each other, the right people in the key roles and accepting help where needed. Our confidence, partly thanks to our financial stability, organisational awareness and strong leadership, is palpable.”