SETC 2018 Conference – Congratulations and Thanks

Arts People representatives Marc Ross and Jon Bailey recently attendedSETC Southeastern Theatre Conference the SETC (Southeastern Theatre Conference) in Mobile, AL.  They met theatre lovers and creators from high school to adults, shared in the camaraderie of support held by all as participants performed, competed, auditioned, shared and explored.

“We’ve always had a great affinity for the SETC and the great people of the organization and the groups that attend” said Marc Ross, Sales Manager.  “Meeting our clients, consulting with groups to see if we might be of help to them, and joining in the fun had by all, Arts People is proud to be a supporting part of the event each year.”

We want to congratulate all those that were honored at the event.

We also are proud to share the three winners of our daily drawing for $100 donations to their organization:

These very worthy organizations are doing great work in theatre and we’re very happy to support them.

Thank you to SETC and all those who stopped by our booth to say hello or chat about their needs.

Admit one - free tickets

Give away FREE tickets to high school students

A theatre I’ve worked with over the years built a very successful program that had clear benefits both for high school students, as well as for the theatre itself, by giving away tickets to the students… for FREE.

Called originally their “10 for 1” program, this is how it worked.

First, they would collect donations from individuals, businesses and granters to support the program.  For every $10 dollars donated, they would then give away a free ticket to a high school student in their area.

Usher with empty seatsIn their case, they were performing in venues that had plenty of seats, where they rarely sold out. So the seats they gave away for a given performance likely would have gone empty without the high school students occupying them.  With this in mind, this program would likely not work well for performing arts groups that do not have the extra inventory.

Obviously for the students, this was a wonderful offer, especially since the arts programs in their own schools had been cut back to the bone.  Their theatre programs were mostly extra curricular in nature, and the school did not have funding to bring theatre, English or humanities (or any) students to shows on field trip type of arrangements.

For a few years the theatre struggled to facilitate the students coming to the theatre.  They tried to work with the principals of the schools, with the school districts and even with the individual teachers.  They also tried advertising in the school newspapers, and tried placing posters on the grounds.  They even tried booking school buses on a weekend to bring the students from a meeting place at the school Each of those efforts proved mostly ineffectual, relied on overworked school personnel, or were taking too much manpower to be sustainable.  The board of directors discussed ideas and finally decided to try using social media to spread the word.  Instead of requiring a reservation, they communicated that students could just come to the theatre, show their active student ID, and get a ticket as long as seats were available.  The word spread via social media from student to student, parent to parent, was shared on the school pages and others, and it finally worked.  Students began taking advantage of program more and more, to the happiness of the theatre board and staff.

As for the funding, the donations that came in required really no special handling.  Again, since the inventory was readily available, the funding simply went into the general operating budget, helping the theatre to fund their season productions and everyone wins.

grantsThe program is imminently fund-able by granters and sponsors, since it falls under the category of arts education, and helps the schools with their clear desire to include the arts in the lives of their students.  They would do occasional asks of their patrons to contribute, would have businesses help underwrite the program, and grantors who favor arts education loved to help.  A paddle raise at their gala event also would add to the funding as well.  If they ever needed evidence of the effect of the program, they could call up the ticket counts in their Arts People system, flagged with a comp ticket code.

The theatre also prepared a study guide with accompanying teacher lesson plans in pdf form for those who might want to use them for a specific show. Unfortunately they found that in most cases the teachers didn’t have the budget to even photocopy them.  So for organizations who might want to try this type of program, you may need to take some of the funding that comes in to help the teachers with these.  In some cases the students were also given a coupon code on a flyer to take home to their patrons that would give them a discount off tickets to the show, creating some additional sales revenue, and possible new patrons for the theatre.

High school students, seeing outstanding theatre for free, gaining an appreciation of the art form, or encouraging their existing passion for it, and the theatre gaining much needed capital toward funding their season expenses.  The program has been a huge success!

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Patrick Spike - Marketing Director for Arts PeoplePatrick Spike is the Marketing Director, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. His work with clients has helped them to increase their revenue while streamlining their box office and back office operations. www.patrickspike.com.   He is the former Audience Development Director for Bag&Baggage Productions, and is a current board member of PATA – The Portland Area Theatre Alliance.

Arts People, software for the performing arts, serves theatres, music and dance groups, choirs and opera, high school, college and university programs, performing arts center facilities and more.

Flight picture from the production.

Podcast: Spike speaks with Eric Guerin about the stagecraft of flying actors, and the safety concerns involved

I sat down today to talk with Eric Guerin, who’s a new member of our Client Services staff here at Arts People.  Eric comes to us from the Brighton Center where he was Theatre Director.  In his role there, he recently was part of the creative team of a production with high school students that involved flying two of the actors on stage.  In this podcast we discuss the challenges, concerns and intricacies of flying actors on a theatre stage, and also the overall challenges of creating highly theatrical and exciting productions, while still maintaining strict control over safety.

Listen to podcast (approximately 18 minutes)

 

Photo:  Actor in fly rigging with cable wrapped in nylon rope to appear he was parachuting down to the stage.  (c) 2017 Blue Heron Photo

 

Visit them online:
Brighton Center:  Brightonperformingarts.com
Brighton Musical Company: Brightonmusical.com
ZFX Flying:  http://www.zfxflying.com/

 

 

Three words for every performing arts organization – Know Your Niche


I regularly speak to performing arts organizations that try to do all and be all to their community.  The result?

  • They struggle to find their audience.
  • They burn out, barely hang on, and slowly decline.
  • They wonder why the community doesn’t come out en masse to support them.

Ask yourself…

  1. “What would your loyal patrons say draws them to you and keeps them coming back?”
  2. “If you surveyed patrons who have attended only one of your events in the past but have not returned. What would be the reason?”
  3. “Of patrons who attend other arts organizations but have chosen NOT to attend yours, what caused them to make that choice?”
  4. “Of all the people working with your organization, what would they say is your artistic focus, that also makes them want to work with you?  Would they have an immediate and concise answer?”

If you don’t have a clear idea of what the above responses would be, it’s probably time to hone your niche.

It’s a pretty commonly held concept that no single arts organization can be all things to all people. Otherwise said, we can’t please everyone all the time. It’s also can be said that when we think of a region or population area that “has a great arts scene” or “is culturally rich” that one contributing factor is that there’s a great variety of cultural or arts options available; that there is something for everyone. So we obviously value diversity in arts options, which also translates to a variety of arts organizations.  We love choices; different audiences, different tastes, different interests.

 

Now, let’s imagine.  If one organization were to try to be that variety for their community, and if they hope to achieve it with a degree of quality and consistency, some of the challenges might be

  1. How to attract talent interested in doing your work. While an artist might be interested in one project in your season, they might find no interest in the rest. How do you build and cultivate relationships with a core group of artists and technicians when their interests vary one project to the next?
  2. Audiences also may be divided over your work. They might be drawn to buy tickets to one show that peaks their interests. If they enjoy it they may want to come back. But the next show isn’t their taste at all and then they are disappointed, alienated, and often won’t be back.

So what does this mean for developing relationships with both the artists who create the work, and audiences who want to come see it?  Generally will mean that you’re working to gather talent and audience for each of your projects individually, with greater challenges developing a loyal group interested in your work as a whole.  

So is the model of trying to do something for everyone within a single arts organization sustainable? I think if we look historically at these types of organizations, and to the groups trying to please their community with palatable shows that offend no one and try to please everyone, that this just isn’t the case. These groups struggle year after year in their marketing and communications, their ticketing and fundraising, and to sustain without much growth, and often with a gradual decline in their attendance. Without loyalty in your audience, they are also much more at risk of catastrophe if specific projects miss the mark for audience satisfaction.  A single ticket audience is far less forgiving than the audience that enjoys your body of work over time.

 

So, what is the alternative? It is to find and hone your niche and stick to it.

What is it your organization is really about?  What is the type of work that the collective members of your organization agree on as their primary interest?  Do you focus on classical theatre with a fresh approach?  Do you focus on contemporary dance, including a commitment to new work each season?  Is it non-narrative musical performance art, or tried and true standards done remarkably well?  Dig deep. Find what it is that excites you as a group and that you are accomplished at creating.  Make the big decision and agree to stick to it and do it better than anyone else in your area.  Become the experts on that particular form.  You may find that some of your members don’t agree.  If so, it may be time for them to move on as you clarify what your niche is.  

 

Once that is decided, and the quality and passion shows through, you will work to find the audience who loves it as well.  Artists interested in that pursuit will seek you out.  News will spread and reach other organizations that are passionate about that type of work.  You’ll be able to better cultivate relationships and build loyalty in your audience, graduate them to donor support, membership and greater participation.

You must stick to the work you love, so the passion comes through with every project, every performance, every moment.  Communicate this clearly in every message.  Those who love that work will find you, and will be as passionate about it as you are.  They will be your advocates, your army, your cheering section.  

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Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts PeoplePatrick Spike is Marketing Director of Arts People, with the company for over 10 years. He has 30 years in performing arts administration, marketing and creation. www.patrickspike.com