This post by Doug Borwick is part of a series of collaborations and is cross-posted to his blog Engaging Matters on Arts Journal.
Can’t wait to see where I’m going with this, can you?
As I understand it, fracking is a technique to get at hydrocarbon reserves that have been untapped by traditional extraction methods. My concern in this post is not with any environmental hazards of fracking but with the potential to get more out of something by using new methods. The old approaches left a lot of oil (etc.) in the ground, apparently.
Over the last few years I’ve come to understand that traditional, self-focused arts marketing efforts are only successful in reaching those who know they want to be reached. (“Getting the word out” is only effective in reaching those waiting to hear it.) My principal woodshed tutor has been Trevor O’Donnell (Marketing the Arts to Death), but he is not alone. What I have learned is that more consumer-centered marketing can reach people who are not waiting for the word. There are more out there who might buy tickets if it were demonstrated to them that doing so might be uplifting, enjoyable, even–dare we say it?–entertaining.
Seen this way, consumer-focused marketing is to traditional arts marketing as fracking is to regular oil drilling. There are ways to get a lot more by employing different, more sophisticated methods. (Nice analogical trick, huh?)
But the real point of this post is an extrapolation of that analogy. Eventually, the hydrocarbons will all be out of the ground. And, while there is much near-term potential for bringing more into the arts fold with better marketing, at some point, the market for the arts’ status quo programming will be tapped out. The need to grow the base will be never-ending because of always increasing costs and the shifting demographics of our country. At some point, relationship building (aka community engagement) that generates understanding of new communities must come to influence (not dictate) new approaches to programming.
For me, the takeaway here is that while we are developing the relationships that will support us in the long term (kinda like fusion power?), better (some would say more professional) marketing is a great way to help us get from here to there.
Engaging Matters: www.artsjournal.com/engage
Doug Borwick is author of Engaging Matters, a blog for ArtsJournal, author/editor of Building Communities, Not Audiences: The Future of the Arts in the U.S. and author of Engage Now! A Guide to Making the Arts Indispensable. One of the country's leading advocates for the arts and community engagement Dr. Borwick has served as keynote speaker and workshop presenter at conferences across the U.S. and Canada as well as in Beijing and Singapore. He is past President of the Board of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, an international organization of higher education programs in the field. For three decades he served as Director of the Arts Management and Not-for-Profit Management Programs at Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC. He is currently CEO of Outfitters4, Inc., providing management services for nonprofits and of ArtsEngaged, offering training and consultation services to artists and arts organizations seeking to more effectively engage with their communities. Dr. Borwick holds the Ph.D. in Music Composition from the Eastman School of Music and is an award-winning member of ASCAP.