It’s already a cliché to talk about how much of a challenge 2020 has been for our industry (and in fact, for most industries). But that challenge has also driven innovation in the cultural sector. In the last few months, we’ve seen Spektrix users move rapidly to presenting cultural content online so that they can maintain a meaningful connection with audiences while their buildings are closed, festivals are postponed and studios are empty.
Research undertaken by the Insights Alliance indicates that over 90% of regular theatergoers say they would continue to engage with the arts online, even when they’re attending a range of live events in person. Culture Track, the research tool produced by LaPlaca Cohen, reports that 52% of online audiences felt relaxed by online content, with 27% reporting that it represented quality time spent with family or friends.
Every day we’re being contacted by arts organizations who are either already working in this way or are getting up and running for the first time. Some are quickly emerging as experts whereas others are making the first tentative steps. Whether that’s live streaming performances, running classes online or making archive video content available to watch on demand, there is a massive amount of creative thinking and innovative work happening right now to connect with audiences.
Of course, it’s not simply a case of setting up a camera and sending an email. There are many considerations for programming, quality control, pricing and customer service.
We’re speaking regularly to Spektrix users who have successfully adopted video, and we find that they tend to concentrate efforts on four key areas:
- Carefully consider the kind of content that works online. It’s easy to consider streaming as a "second-class" version of in-person performances but there are plenty of examples demonstrating real innovation and creativity that otherwise would probably just not have happened. MCC Theater's (New York, USA) Livelabs play readings give audiences an intimate experience designed for online viewing and Creation Theatre’s (Oxford, UK) production of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" focuses on the benefits of an online performance experience that is open to everyone.
- Think carefully about setting audience expectations and managing customer service. What happens if a ticket holder’s internet connection goes down before a livestream? How will you respond to technical issues with the stream? Reassure customers in advance by explaining how you’ll approach issues they may encounter.
- Choose an approach to delivery that balances quality of experience with budget. There are many brilliant options available to Spektrix users to actually get their content online. Some are extremely simple and DIY, while others are more sophisticated and provide a very high-quality experience for audiences.
- Keep CRM at the heart of your online strategy to maintain and develop audience relationships. When moving at speed, it’s tempting to focus solely on getting content up and running online and leave thinking about who actually engaged for later on. However, we know from the research carried out by JCA Arts Marketing that new audiences are engaging with arts organizations online for the first time. Similar research in the UK from the Audience Agency tells us that large numbers of core audiences report that they are considering engaging online. With these kinds of numbers, it’s critically important to capitalize on this opportunity to form audience relationships that last beyond periods of closure.
As soon as online content became a theme in conversations with Spektrix users, we started to consider how to respond. Should we build our own platform? Could we collaborate with our partner network? Could we find new partners with streaming expertise to build on our API?
We settled on the second and third options. We’re experts in CRM, fundraising and ticketing rather than streaming and video production. We believe that our efforts are best spent supporting users as they adapt, while helping them to develop and retain meaningful relationships with audiences both new and existing.
So, that’s what we’ve done. At the time of writing there are six different partners up and running with streaming services that are available to Spektrix users, with a further three on the way. That’s in addition to a "do it yourself approach" taken by some of our users. These different options provide users with a wealth of choices that suit different types of programming, budget and requirements for CRM.
In a series of forthcoming blog posts, we’ve invited these partners to share their approach to supporting Spektrix users in this emerging area. You can find all of the relevant blogs collected here, and we'll keep adding to this collection.
We’ve also developed guidance for Spektrix users to determine their requirements for video and set out the different options available to them. In addition to considering your delivery approach to video, you may also need to consider which streaming platforms you use (for example, JW Player, Vimeo OTT, AWS Live streaming) and whether or not they permit the kind of activity you have planned for streaming in their terms and conditions.
Yesterday we hosted an online event of our own where 200 arts and culture professionals joined us to hear about the fantastic work carried out by Opera North (Leeds, UK) and MCC Theater (New York) who are both successfully generating new sources of revenue by getting content online. We were also joined by colleagues from Cog Design, Supercool and Substrakt who illustrated their approach to supporting clients who have adopted video. We’ll share more of the content from that session soon.
We know that Spektrix users are planning to experiment with presenting more and varied types of content online and we’d love to hear about it so we can share your story with the industry. If you’d like to share your experiences then please drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Park is Global Head of Marketing and Communications for Spektrix