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11th July 2012 Sara Lock

AMA conference 2012; connect, engage, inspire

The AMA conference 2012 is now in full swing and on AMA Commons we have the reactions of a variety of attenders in a series of guest blog posts. William Norris of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment provides the first.

Will is the communications director at the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, a member of Spitalfields Music’s Programme Advisory Group and is co-chair of the Association of British Orchestras Marketing Manager meetings. He was speaking at the conference about ‘Connecting marketing and programming to engage audiences’ but here he reflects on the first keynote presentation at the start of the day.

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Measuring up

When I volunteered to be an AMA blogger this year I did have one small niggling doubt. Would I find anything to write about?

I needn't have worried. This morning's keynote alone threw up lots of ideas, and I'm now wondering whether I might actually end up writing three posts…

Anyway. This morning's keynote speaker, Andy McKim (from Theatre Passe Muraille) quoted playwright Mark Ravenhill, who proposed that arts institutions perhaps needed to work together a bit more and stop acting like competing businesses:

"Marketing is based on the assumption that each arts organisation is an independent business unit competing against other arts organisations for customers. The message of the marketing department is: 'Buy my product, not theirs.'"

I have some sympathy with this…but not a lot. Of course, working together is good. The afternoon's keynote which looked at how organisations in Newcastle are working together proves that, as is the orchestral consortium in London.

But I think competition is a good thing. I don't really think there is much actual competition between arts organisations for customers, because really, the biggest competition is coming from other leisure activities for our customers time, or from the appealing prospect of having a quiet evening in in front of the tv.

Some professional rivalry is a good thing. Of course, I want my organisation's marketing to be better than that of my peers. I want us to do well, I believe in what we do. It's part of what motivates me and gets me out of bed (admittedly often slowly) in the morning. It's natural to want to be the best at what you do. Surely the same extends to the stage. Every performance should strive to be the best, and to measure up to, if not beat, the competition.

So I think a bit of competition (or perhaps healthy rivalry) is a good thing. It keeps us on our toes, keeps us alert, sharp and alert to new ideas. Plus I think it's only a good thing that arts organisations are a least a little bit business minded. Measuring up to your competitors is part of this.

If you don't want to be the best then surely something is wrong?

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