Adam Thurman at The Mission Paradox made a great blog post yesterday pointing out that, unfortunately, when it comes to the question of whether they will enjoy an opportunity to interact with the arts, the default assumption many audience members hold is “no” until convinced otherwise.
“Most people, when given the option to attend a performing arts event, are more scared that the performance is going to be disappointing then they are excited that the performance is going to be good.”
He goes on to say:
“This is the thing we have to remember:
We are in the trust business.
Not the theatre business.
Not the museum business.
The trust business.
When you are dealing with a risk averse public the only way to get them to do a risky thing is by earning their trust.
How do you earn their trust?
By building a relationship with them.
My observation is that most of us in the arts are very good at putting up programming, but we aren’t good at building relationships.”
It put me in mind of an entry I did about three years ago where I cited an entry on Neill Roan’s old blog (oh why, oh why did you shut down that blog!), titled “How Audiences Use Information to Reduce Risk.”
In the entry I talked about the efforts I was going to inform people about performances since they often commented they hadn’t seen anything about the show. Reviewing the entry, I realize now that the problem we likely face is that people’s primary expectation is to receive notice in the newspaper or radio because that is where they traditionally have gotten the information. The problem is, people aren’t using those media in the same way they used to. Their expectations don’t align with their practice any longer.
In that entry I spoke of using electronic notifications, word of mouth and opinion leaders to help disseminate information about performances. One thing I missed that Adam speaks about is relationship building. It is true that people need to view the information you provide as credible, but they also need to believe that you will provide an enjoyable experience even if they end up less than thrilled about the performance.
Just last week Drew McManus cited a situation where the non-artistic elements of an evening combined with a partially disappointing/partially sublime artistic experience with the net effect being negative. Some of the non-artistic elements were entirely out of the arts organization’s control, others could have been ameliorated to some degree.
Certainly people aren’t coming for the parking and an easy ticket office experience. You gotta deliver the goods artistically. The relationship building comes when people know your artistic quality is pretty dependable and can trust that you will make an effort meet their needs and expectations and reduce problems that arise.