As part of our series showcasing the options that Spektrix users have for adopting video, Ash Mann from Substrakt introduces [showcase] and their approach to supporting clients who are moving content online for the first time.
It has been exciting and inspiring to see the cultural sector respond to the restrictions of 2020 and embrace the opportunities offered by digital content, digital experiences, live-streaming and all the other intriguing manifestations of ‘digital culture’ that we have seen emerge over the last nine months.
It became clear early in 2020 that there was a gap for a solution that allowed organisations to present their digital content in a controlled way, whilst also being able to take payments to access that content, and that integrated with their CRM system.
We have developed a solution that meets this need, [showcase].
It provides a slick, branded, CRM-integrated platform that enables organisations to make content available in a variety of ways; time-limited access, rentals, live streams, however you want (or need) to make content available to your audiences, [showcase] can support that.
[showcase] is available to everyone, regardless of whether or not you already work with us. Pricing is flexible, with an initial setup cost and then a flat monthly product fee.
And in response to some of the limitations that platforms such as Vimeo place on how and where you can share content hosted on those platforms, we have also built a separate video streaming service, [showreel] that allows you to host and stream your own video content.
Already [showcase] has been used by our friends at MCC Theater in New York, USA and Opera North in Leeds, UK to deliver content ranging from one act, two-hander plays, through to live-streamed opera, animation, and more.
There is research, good research
Prior to this year, real research about digital content and experience in a cultural context was fairly thin on the ground.
Now you have numerous, recent and thorough studies covering everything from pricing to formats. The Insights Alliance Culture Restart Tracker found that 56% of respondents said they had engaged with culture online since venues closed in March 2020, with 41% saying they were interested or very interested in engaging with digital content in the future. LaPlaca Cohen’s Culture Track report observed “Respondents sample a range of online cultural offerings, of which learning-based activities are seen as particularly valuable.”
The Audience Agency’s Digital Audience Survey found 62% of respondents have discovered new forms of art and culture during this period with 61% saying that they are engaging with arts and culture online to boost their mood.
WolfBrown’s Audience Insights Monitor identified a desire for options around how audiences can experience culture, with the option to experience a livestream instead of a physical visit being viewed favourably.
Start by starting
Molly Barson at MCC Theater commented: “Don’t be afraid to fail. This is a cliché but we’re nine months into this and we’re still learning so much about price thresholds, the types of content people value, how to market virtual theater and how to compete in a crowded marketplace. Not every event is going to be a smash hit, but you can learn what worked and what didn’t, improve systems and get better for the next one.”
It is easy to be paralysed by the daunting prospect of trying something for the first time but every organisation we know who have started working in this way have learnt so much from their initial experiences and are now much more confident and comfortable, there are lots of different ways for you to dip your toe into this and I’d encourage you all to start sooner rather than later.
(Re)format for digital
You can’t just take something you’d usually put on stage and hope it’ll work in a digital context. It probably won’t.
Research increasingly shows that audiences respond most positively to, and are most willing to pay for, work that has been designed to be delivered digitally.
Sadler’s Wells’ Director of Audiences and Content, Ankur Bahl, reflecting on their experiment with paid-for digital activity around their 'Dancing at Dusk' film earlier in 2020, said, “It offered audiences something they were never going to get on stage. It wasn't a replacement for that experience.”
Interactive experiences work well
Regardless of artform, delivering workshops and classes has been far more effective than anyone could have expected.
From ballet fitness to painting to improv to storytelling, this is an exciting area of opportunity.
Examples include Opera North’s From Couch to Chorus scheme, which reached 4000+ people over the summer (and which has returned for a second, festive-focused term), the V&A Learning Academy, English National Ballet’s BalletActive, and the Children Theatre Company’s Virtual Academy.
The customer service demands are significant, and new
Sales patterns for digital experiences are very different. Working in an entirely new way will throw up unexpected issues for you and your audiences, from advising people on how to cast content to their TV through to navigating new and perhaps unfamiliar systems, It’s vital not to overlook the audience experience, first impressions are key.
Emily Simpson at Opera North comments: “Be prepared to offer customers the best information and the best customer service you can and when you are testing and planning do everything from the point of view of the customer and leave no stone unturned. Expect customers to act differently to usual times, be prepared to be flexible and quick to respond to new patterns (such as 45% of all tickets selling in the few hours surrounding the event and the pressures that come with this!)”
I’m really excited by the potential of these new ways of working and I’m looking forward to seeing what people try.
As Will Cantler, Artistic Director at MCC Theater said to me when we spoke in the spring, “This is the world we have to figure out now. Let's get excited about this. Let's get excited about the possibility of reaching audiences who have never had physical access to our theatre before.”
In this post I have rounded up some of the insights and learnings that we have gathered this year through events we have hosted, podcast conversations we have had, projects we have worked on, and products we have developed.
Find out more about [showcase] by Substrakt
Ash Mann is Managing Director for Subkstrakt