Its What It Doesn’t Have That Is Most Important

It has been a busy couple days here at Butts In the Seats so I have brief offering for folks to ponder.

An illustration about how technology is changing our expectations and how tough it can be to keep abreast of the changes. When I was at the Arts Presenters conference in January I overheard people on no less than 5 occasions express a sentiment along the lines of “If only we could figure out how to use text messaging to promote our shows.”

My assumption was that the difficulty people were facing is that you can only send about 160 characters via SMS and it is pretty tough to make your case and provide your contact information in that short a space. Given that many cell phone users pay per text message, they might tolerate one text message from you but sending multiple ones as a modern day Burma Shave advertisement could cause quite a bit of ill will. But since most young people don’t view email as a their primary communication tool vs. texting, figuring out how to best use it is important.

I mentioned this problem in an email to Drew McManus and in his reply he essentially pointed out that with the abilities of the iPhone, the SMS format is probably going to be abandoned soon. Not everyone may buy an iPhone, but the features it contains will generate an expectation that new phones contain similar abilities. Since the iPhone does support email, perhaps that will become a valued form of communication with young people again.

But rather than re-emphasizing the use of existing channels of communication, I have a feeling we will see arts organizations scrambling to replace email blasts with distributed videos that are perhaps tailored to deliver different appeals for the same performances to various age or interest groups. The fact that the iPhone web browser doesn’t support Flash images which is an element of many webpages but does have a special YouTube video player is pretty telling about the areas Apple expects to be important in the future. Steve Jobs didn’t put 3.5 inch disk drives in the iMac because he didn’t think that was the direction things were going. Now, even if you do have a 3.5″ drive on your computer, do you use it?

But this just goes to show how quickly technology moves. It wasn’t that long ago that we started seeing research that most young people eschewed emails for texting. Now just as arts managers start to think about how they can tap into that trend, a change in the favored communications channel seems likely.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


1 thought on “Its What It Doesn’t Have That Is Most Important”

  1. Milwaukee Symphony has experimented with some short promotional videos this season. I don’t know what sort of success they’ve had with this initial run but they are very nice productions and I’ve found them to be appealing on a variety of levels.


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