I’m on my way back from the Spektrix Conference 2014 and I thought I’d pop my musings down. At the moment there are three snoring people surrounding me (one is dribbling), a lady eating a salad that smells like death and a teenager listening to what can only be described as 90s club anthems, because that’s what they are. So, I’m not being impolite by writing this.
I don’t go to as many conferences as I used to when I started in Arts Marketing – back then I’d got to everything the AMA, Audiences Yorkshire and anything else that had good speakers, free biscuits and “networking” (drinking) afterwards. As such I worry a little that I, and the theatre I work for are falling behind.
So my musings, in a handily digestible, numbered list.
1. We’re not alone.
Not even close. Every venue has a moment where you believe that your problems are unique. They’re not. Not even close. As you worry about sales, 90 other venues are worrying. Director’s not listening? Boring, heard it already. Website playing up. Dull, get on your analytics bike! Everyone has the same problems and are seeking the same solutions. It’s pretty comforting and terrifying at the same time.
2. The digital age is here (ish).
The vast number of venues are in an unhealthy relationship with digital. We’re unwilling to fully commit, settle down, invest, buy a house and consider kids. Sure we’ll flirt with the idea but ultimately we’re not committing enough. The shop front is the website, okay? Deal with it. 5 people (usually on the board) may pop the brochure on their coffee table but the majority use it briefly… Oh and it’s not measurable. We’re possibly throwing away thousands of pounds. As an aside, my most galling moment was discovering a brochure I’d designed stuffed down the side of a toilet in a nightclub, stained and pages missing. The missing pages meant one of two things – a) they fell out, b) they were torn in a moment of desperation. Our paper stock is pretty thick. Think about it. No one’s ever peed on my website.
3. Invest to accumulate
Most businesses invest to accumulate. The arts in general budget to not lose as much as possible. We’re particularly touchy about talking about money in an open and honest way, particularly when it relates to art. We need a serious conversation about how we make more money to make more art we don’t have to rely on massive box offices for. It’s about balance. Fiscal and artistic.
4. Pricing is strategic not personal.
Not enough marketeers have control of the pricing (or substantial discussion) about the pricing within their venue until it is too late. To motivate change, audience behaviour etc… we need to be taking back the key component of the marketing mix.
5. We’re too bloody serious.
Okay we get it, it’s a serious play. But we’re creative organisations. So why does everything we put out seem so worthy and intense. What happened to fun, joy, happiness, the act of friendship and engaging as a human rather than machine. We need to lighten up when talking about what we do – and talk with passion, excitement and verve. It’s the equivalent of having a phone voice, it’s fake, unnerving and won’t convince anyone.
6. Reporting should be fun.
Everyone hates reporting back on what they’ve done. There’s a sense of dread. But there shouldn’t be. There needs to be a reinvention of how we use data, qualitative and quantitive to tell our stories. Infographics, statistics, silly statistics, hard facts. We need to stop double counting (deny it?), and get to the truth of what we do and share it open and honestly. And in a fun way. I was thinking what about the number of bearded performers on stage one month, and the next the number of times the word “twas” twas used – wouldn’t that be a bit more fun mixed in with how many people we saved.
Let me know what you think. These are my initial thoughts and I’d love to read your comments.
Best, Sam x
This is a guest blog post by Sam Freeman, marketing manager at Unity Theatre, playwright, director, occasional theatre designer, producer and stand up comedian.