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Audience Development: Trends in Arts Management
Audience Development: Trends in Arts Management
Audience development has been often been confined in the marketing aspect of art management. Although arts marketing has been useful in areas like attendance stimulation, membership development, fund-raising, crisis management, merchandising, awareness building, and business sponsorship, popular exhibitions which treat ‘culture as event’ and ‘art as entertainment’ do not often provide the complete benefits to visitors, host institutions, and corporate sponsors.
In the Kotler’s Marketing the Arts (1980), he identified audience development as one of the four major interrelated marketing challenges. It has been the objective of the audience development component “to strengthen and deepen innovative existing programs, to reward what is already working and to allow theatres that have been succeeding to do even better.” Thus, the expected outcome is the “distillation of a set of ‘best practices’ to share with the larger theatre field. It is clear, however, that replication of these practices–the best, or even less than notable ones–is not the point. Rather the goal must be to encourage others to think more creatively about how to build an audience that reflects the variety and vitality of the community, now and for the future” (Sato, 2005).
In this regard, the Arts Council England (2005) exquisitely applies the following definition:
The term audience development describes activity which is undertaken specifically to meet the needs of existing and potential audiences and to help arts organisations to develop ongoing relationships with audiences. It can include aspects of marketing, commissioning, programming, education, customer care and distribution. ‘Audience’ includes attendees, visitors, readers, listeners, viewers, participants, learners and people who purchase works of art.
The purpose of having an audience development or marketing plan would therefore be critical in focusing on what type of audience do you want to reach and how you will reach them. This plan will also be helpful in identifying how much it will cost to put these plans into action. Upon the proper identification of the plan, art managers can develop ways of serving existing audiences, finding new ones, earning income and seeking new opportunities and partnerships. This plan should reflect the overall nature of the work or the work of an organization, as a whole.
Factors Influencing Audience Attendance and Audience Motivation
Whether we like it or not, audience attendance in art exhibitions or presentations has declined throughout the years. In fact, in the research of Harris (1996) revealed that from 1987 until 1996, the level of public attendance at theatre arts events decreased from
62% to 50%, except for opera or musical theatre, which maintained a constant 23-24% of general public attendance (p.7). Thus, Harris’ study inevitably suggested that this decline was reflected in attendance across the broad arts sector.
Furthermore, Libbon (2001) confirmed the decline in theatre arts audience attendance. The present audience, in Libbon’s study, preferred “watching television”, as it topped the list of Gallup’s March 1999 poll asking American adults how they prefer to spend their evening hours. The category, “going to the movies or theatre” ranked fifth in the poll at an 11% rating. Libbon suggested that, “If you take movies out of the equation, you might expect to find ‘going to live theatre’ somewhere near ‘entertaining friends or relatives, which pulled a measly 5 percent of respondents, or ‘listening to music,’ at 4 percent” (p. 28).
While audiences and visitors are essential to the functioning of museums and performing arts organizations, Drucker (1991) points out that such organizations have a “multitude of constituencies and have to work out the relationship with each of them” (p. 83). Kotler and Andreasson (1996) highlight the importance for marketers of this array of customers. Different strategies are required for each different customer group. Bruce (1995) organizes this collection of customers into four sets: beneficiaries, supporters, stakeholders and regulators. Amongst supporters he lists donors and volunteers (who in some organizations are labelled “fundraisers” or “workers”). Wymer (1997) identifies six key sectors in which supporters can be found: arts and culture, education, health, human services, religion and youth development. In analyzing the audience, it is important to consider their attendace and the factors that could motivate them to art exhibitions of presentations. In this analysis, it is necessary to determine how much emphasis to give to a particular area of motivation. Because an increase in the use of motivational strategies often results in an increase in the length or expense of instructional development and implementation, it is helpful to know exactly what type of motivational problem is likely to exist (Reigeluth, 1987, p. 295).
The audience motivation that could enhance audience attendance is detailed in the ARCS Model in the instructional-design process, as described in Keller (1983). Four critical events in this process are important to keep in mind. They are audience analysis, motivational objectives, strategy selection, and evaluation. As the second critical event, preparing motivational objectives should specify the audience behaviours to the event arts managers wishes to observe relative to motivational factors. The objectives can be cognitive, affective, or psychomotor, in nature. For example, a cognitive motivational objective could state, “The audience will indicate a higher expectancy for success midway through the lesson than at the beginning. Affectively, the objective might be that the students will rate the instruction as at least moderately interesting. And in the psychornotor area, the arts managers might specify a physical activity that demonstrates motivated effort on the part of the audience. This could be indicated by duration of attention, time on task, or duration of participation in their visual activity. The third critical event, strategy selection, requires the designer to select or create language and activities that accomplish the motivational objectives. There are five guidelines (Keller, 1983) that are helpful in this process. The motivational strategies should:
1. not take up too much time,
2. not detract from the learning objectives,
3. fall within the time and money constraints of the development and implementation phases of the instruction,
4. be acceptable to the audience, and
5. be compatible with the delivery system
Furthermore, Libbon (2001) characterised the average person attending a usual Broadway production or Broadway show-on-tour as a Caucasian female in her 40s with a college education. His study also informed that the 1998 League of American Theatres and Producers revealed that, “In 1998, 69 percent of the audience for touring shows was female; the average age, 46; fully 88 percent of the audience was Caucasian; and two-thirds of all theatregoers had at least a college degree, and a median household income of $69,700” (p. 28). Libbon noted that younger theatregoers were also primarily women.
In the paper of Voelker-Morris, he cited Libbon (2001), who suggested that one reason that people who participated in the Gallup poll cited that they did not attend theatre arts events was because of the high price of tickets: “The Entertainment Marketing Letter reported that the average ticket price for live theatre’s 1998-1999 season was a hefty $50.30” (p. 28). Other suggested reasons for the decline in theatre audience attendance were the competition between the large number of not-for-profit theatres in today’s society (425 in 1997); sports; and the mass entertainments of movies, television, videotapes, digital technology, and the Internet (Eyre, 2000, McCarthy, 2001). According to the Harris (1996) survey of American audiences, more specific factors for non-attendance by potential audience members included lack of time (35%); lack of performances in a given area (32%); difficulty in going to performance locations (28%); difficulty in finding parking (23%); the costs of eating out, hiring a babysitter, and related needs for the event time (19%); lack of information on performances (17%); difficulty in obtaining tickets (16%); and worries about going out at night (16%).
With regards to attendance, Eyre (2000) speculated its decline was caused by the audience’s previous knowledge about the product before buying it. As Eyre argued, there is little magic to today’s theatre presentations. Upon saying this, he suggested that performances have become a product which is explained completely before the audience arrives, and that those attending have chosen to purchase the manufactured product. Eyre advised that theatres should: (a) offer cheaper tickets and greater accessibility and (b) engage and involve other art forms and people in the creative processes of theatre. He maintained that in following these suggestions, theatre would be more widely appreciated and that theatre audiences and participation would increase.
In offsetting the decline in theatre arts attendance, organizations in the US implemented effective theatre arts marketing research and development programs (Lila Wallace- Readers Digest Fund, 1997, McCarthy, 2001). Initial resources suggested that effective trends included theatre companies across the nation sharing their practical marketing ‘tricks’ with one another in resources like The Stage Directions Guide (Peithman and Offen, 1999) or the more theoretical base of McDaniel and Thorn’s (1990) Workpapers. Where the Stage Directions Guide provided basic guidelines for conducting audience surveys, designing great brochures, and dealing with a variety of age ranges in the audience, Workpapers offered ideas about how theatre arts organizations could develop in the future including better trained theatre managers, changes in contributed income, and an increase in cultural diversity.
Theories about Audience Development
According to Hayes (2003), audience development is “an amorphous concept that describes a wide range of activities with varied outcomes that are achieved utilising one or a blend of skill sets.” As it is concerned with changing the structure and composition of audiences, Hayes puts it in perspective that it should aim to “achieve democratic participation in the arts and to engender greater levels of trust and commitment (loyalty) among existing and fledgling audience groups”. As art managers’ decide on audience development priorities and approaches, the complexities of diversifying these approaches require practitioners to balance their personal philosophies against a myriad of other factors including government cultural policy, the organisational context and objectives and existing patterns of participation.
Early arts marketers were involved with Americans Danny Newman and Alvin Reiss. Newman was an early advocate of promotion and price to stimulate demand; he believed that it was possible to increase the market by emphasizing activities associated with selling. Subscribe Now! (1977) was the emphatic and evocative title of Newman’s handbook: performing arts organizations were encouraged to attract more subscribers with a downgrading of occasional ticket wicket patrons. Reiss was equally bullish and vigorous in a practitioner-oriented text, Cash In! (1986), which bore the descriptive subtitle, ‘funding and promoting the arts, a compendium of imaginative concepts, tested ideas and case histories or programs and promotions that make money’ (Chong, 2002, p. 92).
Hayes (2003) agreed that the origins of audience development as distinctive discipline has can be directly attributed to the work of influential arts marketers: Morison and Dalgleish (1987) in the US and Diggle (1988) in the UK. These practitioners distinguished between potential audience groups based on their propensity to attend and concentrated their efforts on the ‘soft’targets (those who were attitudinally well disposed to the arts and had some history of participation or attendance). Marketing is clearly the philosophical basis of their work and this has influenced both their style and approach. Diggle asserts that audience development is a subset of arts marketing, utilising buyer behaviour, segmentation and targeting theory to underpin his ideas.
The “greater broad-mindedness … entrapping those slothful, fickle, single-ticket buyers “have been a critical scenario in arts marketing, even before (Diggle 1984, p. 1). This is the reason why Diggle sought to expand on his work on it. Like Newman, Diggle had a background as a performing arts marketing consultant, which helps to explain why he suggested that museums ought to consider selling advanced-entry tickets. Diggle believed it was possible to introduce a theatrical flavour to the experience of museum goers:
If attendance at an art gallery or museum were defined by date or time, and even given a stated duration, it would take on the character of a performance – something that begins at a certain time and ends at a certain time – the idea of a limited capacity would be suggested and so there would be something to buy and a reason for buying it now (‘If you don’t buy it now, you might not get in’). (Diggle 1984, p. 38).
Dodd and Sandell’s report, ‘Building Bridges’ (1998) recognizes that projects can involve existing audiences, however, their definition of audience development and case studies reflects the strategic emphasis on new audiences:
Audience development is about breaking down the barriers which hinder acces s to museums and ‘building bridges’ with different groups to ensure their specific needs are met. It is a process by which a museum seeks to create acces s to, and encourage greater use of, its collections and ser vices by an identified group of people.
American arts marketers, Morison and Dalgleish (1993) commented on the US experience. A ‘cultural boom’ in the US from the 1950s to 1970s led to a need for new audiences. DSP (Dynamic Subscription Promotion) as preached by Danny Newman was widely employed. The corners tone of this strategy is to ‘sell out’ to subscribers, securing the loyalty of existing attendees, but effectively limiting participation of new constituencies. This outcome has been confirmed by US data; arts audiences of the 1980s had a similar demographic profile to those of their 1950s counterparts – they tended to be middle class, highly educated, affluent and in the professions and managerial occupations.
Morison and Dalgleish (1993) recognized the fundamental flaws in this approach–there is a limited supply of established audiences and it can alienate potential audiences by reinforcing the notion of membership of an elite club. The reliance on existing subscribers will ultimately lead to a declining audience base as attrition will naturally occur. In response they advocated the Strategy to Encourage Lifelong Learning (SELL) that focused on ‘intending’ groups. The framework integrated the separate elements that make up the overall system of audience development and was the first attempt to encompass all aspects of promotion, publicity, marketing, public relations and communications and educational programmes. SELL highlighted the importance of ‘enrichment’ as a device for retaining and developing audiences. This focused on maximizing opportunities for audience involvement and learning in an attempt to develop loyal, committed and open-minded audiences.
On any public relations issue and in any program, to win allies or deal with the audience, there are variables must be taken into account. Center and Jackson (2003) illustrated three major variables:
The proximity of the audiences involved geographically and emotionally. In the radioactive emission at the nuclear plant
employees on the job would be vitally involved,
so would the neighboring establishments
the next circle of proximity could be the managers of the utility
The extent to which an audience can be helped or hurt, rewarded, or penalized
Also, Ogilvy (1983) suggested four guidelines to communicating an effective campaign. First, do your homework by studying the product (or experience) you are about to market. What business are you in? What is the basic character of the institution? How does the institution set itself apart from other organizations? The more you know about it and the positioning strategies of competitors, the more likely you can come up with the so-called ‘big idea’: something that consumers want that competitors do not offer. Second, ‘what the product does, and who it is for’ is the essence behind positioning. Third, image is associated with personality: ‘Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the marketplace’. Fourth, use the above steps to create the ‘big idea’ (or ‘unique selling proposition’) (p. 11-18).
Thus, audience development techniques transform culture to become “accessible to all people through the removal of practical and perceptual barriers, in addition to providing a means for combating social exclusion”. This view, however, has been disputed by sociologists including Bourdieu (1984) and DiMaggio & Useem (1978). They argue that culture has often been used as a device for marking divisions between groups of people and consequently may have unconsciously institutionalised social inequality. If this were the case it would seem unlikely that audience development would achieve it goals. It is thought that acquisition of cultural competence is a long-term activity, therefore, it is unlikely to be achievable within audience development projects that are so often time constrained.
Later on, the purpose of audience development in considering the role of arts organizations in nurturing both new and existing audiences were later identified by Hayes and Slater (1997). These two styles of audience development are described as ‘mainstream’ focusing on existing arts attendees and ‘missionary’ focusing on traditional non-attendees. ‘Missionary’ audience development projects appear to dominate in terms of resources and priorities. Whilst the focus on these audience constituencies is of value these groups are notoriously difficult and expensive to attract. They proposed that development initiatives should also focus on strengthening the franchise with existing arts audiences who may deliver higher levels of loyalty and have the dual benefits of being lower risk and less resource intensive.
In the UK, to promote audience development, Belfiore (2002) suggested that the impetus for museums and galleries should address social inclusion because it comes from a desire for the ‘democratisation’ of culture, not just an extension of ‘access’. Belfiore further argued that far from being a recent, instrumental, response to government policy – such moves in fact build on decades of development in, for example, social history.
Audience development in museums should not dwell exclusively on who sees museums, archives and libraries as (broadly) democratising cultural spaces, as opposed to those who see them as reinforcing elitism. The question should dwell on what sort of impact and upon whom? In contrast, those who argue that current government policy (on museums for example) leads to:
A conflict between the pressure to include the exclude … and their specific responsibilities for the conservation, interpretation and presentation of artistic collection (Belfiore, 2002).
Processes in Audience Development
To kick off the processes in audience development, it is vital to cite John Dewey (1939), who maintained that ‘human development could only occur as a result of active enquiry into and interaction with our environment’. Therefore, being placed in a context where you had to go and reorganize responses accordingly would heighten our capacity for ‘experience’. This is defined by Dewey as ‘heightened vitality … the complete interpretation of self and the world of objects and events’. Dewey argued that works of art could not be understood as separate from human existence and that it was society’s duty to restore continuity between everyday events and the ‘refined and intensified forms of experience that are works of art’ (p.19).
Another aspect suggested by Rugoff (2000) refers to the link between contemporary art galleries, the burlesque and pornography. He suggested that giving the audience something new like “the burlesque, achieves its allure largely through the gaudy and the theatrical couture of its performers.” He goes on to suggest that the burlesque is ultimately about arousing the audience’s imagination by virtue and metaphor, rather than numbing us with the kind of explicitness favoured by pornographers and museum education departments alike. In other words, contemporary art and exhibitions, whether inside a gallery or not, need to evoke curiosity, wonder and imagination rather than creating exhibitions which may leave nothing to the imagination. ‘Wonder’, Rugoff suggests is “… a benign state, but whether we gasp in awe at a self-portrait carved out a tiny aspirin tablet or ponder a display stand lined with human brains, it is usually an unnerving experience that combines elements of attraction and repulsion.”
Although Mclean (1999) negated Rugoff’s idea by stating that udience attraction is not necessarily audience development, and, in some cases, attracting audiences in the short run may actually work against building a visitorship that returns over and ever again. These “spikes” in attendance for temporary exhibitions often translate into the unbearable crowds most of us like to avoid. However, Mclean mentioned that it is ironic to note that while some museum professionals are convinced that “spikes” in attendance are essential to the health of the museum, they also often prefer after-hours and special tours of other museums to avoid the crowds. But, it is building a sustained audience that would translate into building participation in decision-making and meaning-making, activities that must take place in many ways over an extended period of time (p. 83).
Sato (2005), however, averred that although traditional audience development programs aim at maximizing attendance, most of the new projects have focused on the deepening of the audience experience. Whether addressing college students, at-risk teens, new immigrants, people of colour or social activists, the majority of programs involve a heightened level of audience engagement. Almost none of the strategies measure success strictly by numbers, and even when the goal is to increase ticket sales, strategies are customized to the buyers’ interests or needs – whether at the People’s Light and Theatre Company in Malvern, Pensylvannia, which is aggressively deepening its relationship to an African-American audience, or at Pregones Theater in Bronx, New York, which has curated a variety of performing artists in a club setting aimed at younger audiences.
These “New Generations” theatres, according to Sato, have focused on the value of considering the audience member’s complete theatre experience. This had helped the theatre world wrap its mind around the idea of taking responsibility for making the whole theatre experience accessible, from getting disabled audiences to the theatre and into their seats to getting them home. In Sato’s article, Salvage Vanguard Theater’s Jason Neulander analysed that: “At first we just wanted the work to speak for itself. But then, I started to notice that in some museums, creating a context for the work could draw new audiences into the experience. We pay attention to our audience from brochure design to curtain speech, all aimed at contextualizing the work.”
With this, Mclean (1999) identified that the current trend to create “public-program” and “guest-services” divisions in arts marketing, incorporate the educational aspects combined with the programming and marketing activities. Educators are now replacing curators and science educators replacing scientists. While this reorganization has been essential in making exhibitions more relevant, accessible, and “user-friendly” for a wider range of visitors, educators, in shifting away from the pedantic style of curators, have come up with their own style problems. These highly filtered “teaching tools” fill exhibition halls, and cognitive learning goals articulated with the reductionism of a multiple-choice test have begun to drive the exhibition-development process. Where museums and art presentations once displayed a multiplicity of objects in their galleries, exhibit developers now favor the technique of selective display, with objects carefully selected to drive home a particular educational message. The hearts of these “audience advocates” might well be in the right place (Mclean, 1999, p. 83).
Evaluating the Strategies
All strategies mentioned fit perfectly in the changing face of the cultural diversification and preferences of the audience. Managing these differences in tastes is the essential basis behind understanding the importance of market segmentation, which is a process by which the total market is divided into distinctive groups. According to the pioneer of market segmentation:
Segmentation is disaggregative in its effects and tends to bring about recognition of several demand schedules where only one was recognizable before … market segmentation … consists of viewing a heterogeneous market (one characterized by divergent demand) as a number of smaller homogeneous markets in response to different product preferences among important market segments. It is attributable to the desires of consumers for varying wants (Smith 1956, p. 3)
The conventional wisdom is that, in marketing arts, one must decide which market segments to enter and design a marketing program – that covers elements of the marketing mix including advertising, pricing, and channels of distribution – to suit the requirements of the selected target segments. The benefits from market segmentation, better matching of customer needs, enhanced profits, enhanced opportunities for growth, retention of customers, targeted communications, stimulation to innovation, and market segmentation share (Doyle 1998, p. 68-70), seem too enticing to ignore. From a commercial perspective, only a limited range of products invite mass marketing, that is one message for the entire market. Yet it has been noted that misapplication of market segmentation may occur. There may be too much emphasis on demand level: by concentrating on the heavy user, the marketer ignores the potential for increased usage by light users or non-users. Developing demographic profiles (e.g. sex, age, race, family lifecycle stage, income, occupation) of alternative segments is not unproblematic: there may be missing variables (such as associated with lifestyle analysis); and it may be difficult to translate demographic profiles into actionable marketing programs. Following the identification of segmentation variables, a firm must decide those segments it aims to target. This entails evaluating the relative ‘attractiveness’ of the segments: size of the segment, its growth rate, profit potential, and its fit to the core capabilities of the firm are some of the conventional factors marketers take into account. The aim is to choose groups of customers who will have a ‘lifetime value’ for the company.
Audience development perspectives have changed throughout the years. By fostering a clearer understanding of one’s predisposition to art and culture, the solution is revealed on the limitations of marketing on genuine audience development. Bourdieu and Haacke (1995) have much in common: in an extended conversation, they sought to explore the potential for the art world to be manipulated by social and political forces. That there are three commitments all arts organizations need to address (to excellence and artistic integrity; to accessibility and audience development; and to accountability and cost effectiveness) serves to restrict the over-riding emphasis on managerial imperatives for people who manages arts arena.
The fundamental challenge for art managers is really the policymaking in the museums, libraries and archives domains is indeed dwelling on the difficulty of evidencing the broad social effects which result from the work of the sector. There is no immediate solution to this problem, but there is an urgent need to develop a more systematic approach to researching and monitoring the audience attendance and audience motivation.
Essentially, artistic integrity means that an arts organization needs to go beyond the “consumerised” stance associated with a conventional managerial orientation of promoting the arts. In many respects, giving the public what it wants can be interpreted as an abdication of responsibility. This should emphasise commitment to accessibility is central to audience development. For too long, audience development has been constrained within the preserve of corporate marketing discourses. Barriers to first-time visitors include ticket prices and perceived images of exclusivity, with many citing the latter as a more crucial factor: “… for most non-attenders rejection takes place prior to the consideration of price in the decision-making process” (Feist, 1997: 260). On the other hand, the mantra of “education, education, education” has been adopted by virtually all arts organizations, even though it is widely recognized that governments need to lead the way in providing and that the task of growing audiences remains arduous and requires a long-term perspective.
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