It’s A Year Later, Do You Know Where Your Marketing Is?

Hat tip to Dave Wakeman for tweeting an insightful piece about marketing during Covid — Mine.

I know, self-involved much, Joe?

To be fair, all credit rightfully goes to Colleen Dilenschneider whose piece I was drawing attention to.

Wakeman revisiting an entry I made nearly a year ago provides a good check for the non-profit arts industry. In that original post, Dilenschneider talked about how to effectively shift messaging from “visit now,” to maintaining general awareness, if not cultivating an active engagement dialogue.

Now obviously the truth is more complicated than depicted in Wakeman’s tweet. The economics of digital engagement did not provide a sustainable revenue stream, even for the best resourced arts organizations. There were big loans, grant programs and donor drives. There were layoffs and cutbacks. Capacity to survive is not solely determined by a good social media and digital strategy.

That said, a good social media and digital communication strategy will definitely be a determinant of success when people start to wander back to participate in events and activities.

Now that we are reaching the year anniversary of everything closing, take time to evaluate what you have been doing. What has worked, what needs to be changed, what needs to be started.

Post title is from the iconic PSA series

Lifetime Token Payments As Next Form of Arts Funding?

There has been an ongoing conversation in the visual arts world about the issue of an artist selling a work for $250, having it sell for $2500 five years later and then $25,000 five years after that due to the hype that has built up around their work, but the artist not benefiting from any of that.  The only thing that was added to the work to make it worth so much more than at the time of creation was a lot of hype and speculative manipulation to make it so.

There have been a number of ideas floated about ways to provide an artist a royalty of some sort every time a work is resold, but that depends on the work beings sold publicly and a lot of good will on the part of the sellers to remit the proper amount to the artist or their estate.

Or at least that is true for physical works of art. The was an article in Art Newspaper that discussed the use of non-fungible tokens (NFT) which accompany digital works as they are traded among different owners. Each time the work changes hands, the artist receives a royalty. Currently this process, including the payment, is all based in cryptocurrency technology—a medium whose value and stability fluctuates to far greater extremes than the art market. A royalty of $50 today could be worth 50 cents tomorrow and $5,000 next month.

There is a somewhat more complete explanation on this site, along with some art based examples (i.e. William Shatner digital collectibles will earn the erstwhile Star Trek captain royalties for years to come.)

While the technology and payment vehicles need further development to make them easier to use on a broader scale, I envisioned something like this being a way for performing artists and organizations to monetize digital content they create in the future.

I suspect the tools to do so will be widely available  and easy to use once big players in the entertainment industry like Disney realize the potential revenue stream available from issuing limited edition releases of content. Unlike the copy blocking encoding that made legitimately purchased recordings and games incompatible with DVD players and computers, companies will want this content passed around a lot if it means they can collect a royalty or create a profile of the people who are using and trading it.

If it works well for digital content, I am sure someone will figure out a corresponding method to apply to physical and live works.

This may put the same tools in the hands of artists and others in the creative industry and shift the dynamics of how we do business and interact with participants/consumers.

More Reminders About Importance of Libraries

I was reading a story about the earthquake that hit Christchurch, NZ ten years ago today which damaged large parts of the city. According to the article there was a significant effort by the local government which collected more than 100,000 ideas from over 10,000 people about how Christchurch should be rebuilt, but those plans and ideas were discarded by the national government of the time. The basic theme of the article is that much of the development which has occurred in the last 10 years hasn’t revitalized Christchurch.

The one place where local input was included in the plan generated by the national government was Tūranga, a library and community space which looks pretty dang awesome. Not only are there cafes and play areas, but there is a lot of focus on indigenous Maori culture and art as well as a digital wall depicting Christchurch’s features, history and stories. It is easy to see why the facility is well-regarded by residents.

Before I took a deeper look at the library in Christchurch, I was immediately reminded of the State Library of Queensland in Australia which Nina Simon had spoken about in a TED talk about 4 years ago. I summarized her story in a blog post at the time.

…State Library of Queensland which built a gorgeous new white building and then invited aboriginal elders in to help them design an indigenous knowledge center. The elders noted that for them, knowledge wasn’t shared through books, but rather through music, dance and storytelling in a setting that wasn’t so sterile looking, most importantly around a fire. The librarians, true to their intent renovated a space for music, dance and storytelling and infused it with color. And they built a firepit (away from the flammable archives, of course).

Part of the reason I checked out the floor plan of the library in Christchurch is because I wanted to see if they had included anything like a fire pit at their library. It doesn’t appear that there is, but there are plenty of other facilities and equipment for sharing ideas and stories.

By the way, if you want to see pictures of the fire pit area in Queensland, they are on the library’s webpage. Scroll down to “Story Circle” heading. It almost doesn’t look like it is outside, but I found some YouTube videos of events and while it is nicely enclosed there is definitely a lot fresh air flow through the space.

The lesson here may be not to give libraries short shrift in the economizing that may come now or as we emerge from Covid restrictions because they are important community spaces.

One specifically arts related thing I wanted to note was the significant role the article said it played in helping people transition post-earthquake in Christchurch:

If you don’t live in New Zealand and you read about Christchurch in those years, most likely it was about the creative, guerrilla projects that popped up in the immediate aftermath of the quakes. Temporary site activations—Gap Fillers—brought life back to the empty gravel lots with music, performance, art, and community participation. These were almost spontaneous events, a community responding to challenging times however it could. They represented the best of the city, and inspired residents and visitors to believe that the new Christchurch that grew from the rubble of the old could be eclectic, engaging, and exciting.


Open Arms With Grasping Fists Not A Welcoming Appearance

So by now you have probably heard about the ill-advised job posting made by the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields which said they were “…seeking a director who would work not only to attract a more diverse audience but to maintain its “traditional, core, white art audience.’”

My first thought was, this the type of faux pas that is bound to occur more often because organizations know they need to be more diverse but don’t have someone to advise them on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Or if the company does, the staff member’s advice is either not heeded or the person doesn’t feel empowered to point out how problematic this type of language is.

Even though they were making a mess of it, I viewed it as a sign of progress that people were starting to say the quiet part aloud as it were, and admitting they needed to actively pursue creating a welcoming environment instead of claiming everyone is welcome and they don’t discriminate.

While the museum has revised the job description to omit the word “white,” I don’t think it helped matters that the CEO of the museum was quoted in the NY Times article saying that the use of “white” was “..intended to indicate that the museum would not abandon its existing audience as part of its efforts toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion.”

That makes DEI efforts sound like a zero sum game where one group must lose out if another group is to gain something. For years the message has been that arts and culture enriches everyone’s lives so theoretically diversifying programming should offer a broader range of opportunities for enrichment, correct? So why is there an automatic assumption and implication that someone is going to lose?

I think back to the talks Nina Simon has given where she talks about creating new doorways through which people can experience a cultural institution. She does mention that not everything is for everyone. Certainly given the limits of time, space and resources there is a good chance there will be less of some content. But if it was assumed everyone had the capacity to enjoy the content that was previously offered, they are likely equally capable of enjoying new content.

So of course, I should have known Nina would be able to summarize all of this in just a couple tweets.


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