John Knell is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on the changing face of work and organisations, and in recent years has become an authority on cultural and creative industries policy. In this guest blog post he looks at key pressure points facing arts marketers.
1. Developing an adequately long term view
The arts are being affected by the huge sweeping changes impacting on modern life – around globalisation, sustainability, technology, an ageing population and shifting identity to name a few.
These require long term responses – the expert input of artists, and rigorous thinking.
2. A rigorous approach to evidence and case making
Neither intrinsic nor instrumental rationales have spurned a robust and rigorous research and evidence base that could better underpin the allocation of resources to the sector.
Unless we build a powerful empirical account of the wider impact of the arts – the place of the arts at the negotiating table for public funds is weaker than it needs to be.
Let the strongest lead here – in terms of the larger publicly funded organisations being given sector lead responsibilities to help build the evidence case / evaluation perspectives across the sector.
3. Supercharging the mixed economy
The arts have long embraced the mixed economy – but now more than ever artists need to respond strategically to these opportunities.
What does this mean in practice?
It means rejecting those in the arts who act as if they don’t have a responsibility – if running a publicly funded organisation – to help artists and their organisations to exploit new opportunities for content creation, distribution and commercial exploitation.
And it requires our cultural leaders to embrace the enormous and influential role of the arts in civic and public life – an equally important part of the arts mixed economy.
4. Investing in R&D
The arts are going to have to increase their rate of innovation, which can take many forms: practice, content, delivery, presentation, and promotion.
Unfortunately, decisions about how best to balance the need to support the existing cultural infrastructure against the need for new R&D investment in new technology, or new forms of innovation in artistic practice, are rarely informed by rigorous cost benefit analysis, or the guiding voice of emerging trends, artistic, public or otherwise.
For now at least – the arts are starved of any such strategic approach across the cultural landscape – but we can’t allow them to be in the future.
5. It’s the whole ecology stupid
A vital ingredient of future success is how to create a strong, sustainable, networked, collaborate arts and creative ecology that can successfully deliver a wider range of desired outcomes.
This means prioritising the health of the whole arts and cultural ecology, not the maintenance or survival of particular bits of the system. And it requires a focus on systemic outcomes – not narrow institutional ones.
6. The rise and rise of strategic partnership
Even before the downturn in the public finances, it was becoming clear to many in the arts that we need to strengthen the connections between arts organisations, between the arts and Local Authorities, and to encourage the arts to connect to a whole raft of strategic commissioning partners across the broader public realm.
Despite the collegiate rhetoric of the arts, too often the funding system has turned the language of collaboration into the reality of fierce competition. However, the arts are not going to continue to thrive unless they genuinely become more strategic partners, connecting the arts to the mainstream of public life and service delivery.
John Knell, consultant, writer and speaker: www.john-knell.com