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Young, dumb and broke #ADA

One strong belief holds about working in the arts and cultural sector holds, that is that one does it for love and not the recompense.  Here, English Touring Opera Fellow of the ADA 3.0 shares their plans for a more equitable ticketing scheme which could go out nationally.

It is the 16th day of the month and I am broke. To be honest I was running low on funds by the 4th of the month. Once I’ve paid the rent, bills, travel costs, food… I find that I have pennies to make it through to the next pay day. This makes it extremely difficult to buy tickets to shows or exhibitions. When I was in my early 20s I was able to utilise the 16-26 ticket schemes and was able to watch shows for a fraction of the price. However, I had a rude awakening on my 27th birthday when I instantly became ineligible for these discounted tickets. I checked my bank account and there definitely wasn’t an extra zero at the end of the balance. I don’t know why we assume that 27 is the age when people will start being able to afford full price tickets. There have been countless times, since my 27th birthday, when I have foregone a night at the theatre because I know that will be a week’s worth of food. I am by no means poor, and it would be selfish of me to claim otherwise, but I am like thousands of arts professionals living off lower incomes. I knew I wouldn’t be making six figures whilst working in the arts but I assumed I would at least be able to afford to enjoy the occasional exhibition/play/opera.

It seems silly that I work in the arts but I can’t afford to enjoy it and I know I’m not the only one in this situation. How many cleaners get to sit and enjoy a play in the auditorium they clean? How many Box Office Assistants get to watch the shows that they are selling tickets for? How many assistants book tickets for their bosses but never get to book tickets for themselves? Interns barely get paid expenses so tickets are often out of the questions.

That’s where SAS comes in. I have created the “Starving Artist Scheme” to address this issue. We all know we rarely sell out for every performance/exhibition/concert. There are always tickets left in the second or third price band and midweek shows always have empty seats. My idea is to offer anyone who works for an arts organisation affordable/free tickets (from comps up to £5) to any arts event in the country. This would mean that anyone, regardless of their income, will be able to enjoy the arts. Yes, there are tickets schemes already available but they are very exclusive, rarely include big productions/exhibitions or are never offered to the people who would really benefit from them.

My hope is that all NPO organisations will sign up to this scheme and allocate a portion of tickets to their events to people who will truly appreciate it.

Audience Diversity Starts at home #ADA

ADA 3.0 Fellow Alexander Fleming explains how the Donmar Warehouse’s marketing team are bringing the challenge of diversifying audiences to the whole organisation.

At the Donmar, we’ve always been committed to reaching as broad an audience as possible despite the intimate size of our Covent Garden home.

Historically, this has meant ticket schemes such as Barclays Front Row and YOUNG+FREE, plus broadcast initiatives such as being the first venue outside the National Theatre to participate in NT Live; broadcasting a play live on the night of the 2015 election; or capturing our Shakespeare Trilogy on film for new audiences in cinemas, on the BBC and in schools.

Despite these efforts, the speed at which tickets sell at the Donmar has continued to be a barrier in bringing new audiences into the venue. Often, by the time a new audience has found out about a production, tickets are sold out or scarce. To address this, we have begun looking at how we release tickets, how this is communicated and to whom it is targeted.

Earlier this year, we conducted research with Morris Hargreaves McIntyre which showed that our target audiences were often the first to know about new experiences or productions, but had not necessarily heard of the Donmar before. This challenge of how to reach them without appearing mainstream has become a core focus in how we approach a younger and more diverse audience for the Donmar.

To begin the process of delivering this, we have made audience diversity a goal that the entire organisation takes ownership of – whether programming, producing, marketing, development, box office or front of house. As part of this, we involved the wider Donmar staff team in our audience research, and our first ADA experiment, tasking them with identifying the social media accounts that they like to follow and why. This has enabled us to develop our targeted advertising and find informed groups of influencers who we can reach out to about new productions.

Together with secret links that allow priority access to otherwise sold out productions, the support of the entire Donmar staff is enabling us to reach new audiences in a way that doesn’t put off potential bookers. We also ensure that everyone in the team knows how their contribution has helped. Although this is just a small start, it means the whole company feels engaged in a joint ambition and helps us to hold ourselves to account.

 

 

Factors: Audiences, fundraising #ADA

Art Fund supports the vital work of museums and galleries across the UK; providing grants to help them acquire works of art, invest in curatorship and share their collections. As a charity that receives no government funding, this is entirely possible thanks to their members, who buy the National Art Pass, and the generosity of many trusts, foundations and other individuals. Claire Noakes works in the Development Team on the latter, Individual Giving, with particular attention to the Art Fund patrons’ scheme, Art Partners.

Working in fundraising rather than marketing means my ‘audience’ is very different to those of my fellows; it is a pool of high level donors, rather than customers, visitors or members, and this comes with its challenges when considering diversity! However, not long ago, Art Fund outlined a serious commitment to diversity, and that is felt equally strongly across all teams, so now is an opportune moment for me to be a fellow, it just means my approach will be different…

So, what are the key ways my audience differs with that of my Marketing colleagues?

Size (the Art Partners patrons’ scheme includes just 186 individuals)

Communications (are 1:1 and can range from a bespoke letter to a catch up over coffee)

Price tag (an Art Partner subscription is £2,500 a year)

And what does this mean?

The first two of these differences play to my advantage because they mean we know our donor-audience personally. Between the team, one or other of us has met each member of this group, and therefore, we already know a lot about our audience’s identity and are saved the auditing stage often required for marketeers to understand their baseline diversity.

The last of these differences however, acts as a big obstacle to diversification of the group because it narrows down our potential audience to those who have a spare £2,500 to donate annually in support of UK museums and galleries; such is the nature of philanthropy! Couple this with the common misconception that the visual arts and art history are exclusive to the educated, wealthy and white, and the challenge to diversify increases.

This issue is not localised to Art Fund but common to arts organisations with few exceptions, both in the UK and worldwide; galleries are repeatedly named after the same handful of philanthropic families and the same individuals have their names engraved on ‘walls of thanks’ and are credited in Annual Reports for their support.

So how can we diversify our audience?

In the long-run we, like everyone, want to attract and engage new and different people, not currently represented by our audience. However, recruiting at this level can understandably take a very long time and a lot of human resource – people can unsurprisingly be hesitant to part with such a large sum of money. Therefore, our steps to diversify will be incremental, and the results are unlikely to be tangible for some time.

However, whilst we can’t (immediately) change the constituents of our audience, we hope to more quickly change its perception. To do this, we are conducting not one but many mini ‘experiments’, not to be completed, concluded and assessed, but to be rolled out indefinitely and adjusted along the way. For example, we are diversifying our guests lists for patron events by inviting other contacts in Art Fund’s networks to disrupt the image of a homogenous and exclusive group.

Ch…Ch… Ch… Changes #ADA

There is no science to how the ADA Fellows across the many cultural organisations will approach their experiments when applied to the focussed group of people that they want to reach.  Rhea Mehmet shares with us how she wants to make both internal and external in-roads. 

It’s been a funny old road so far on the Audience Diversity Academy.

It became quite clear early in the process that the way other smaller theatres and cultural institutions go about making change was not quite going to work for me.

I work at the Science Museum, which is not only a national museum but part of a group of national museums. For those of you who don’t know, the Science Museum Group includes the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, Locomotion in Shildon, county Durham and the National Railway Museum in York. Safe to say, this giant organisation works a little differently to smaller theatres or cultural venues. There are many more teams, heads of departments and people in general to communicate with and get on board with any new idea or practice.

Whilst change here feels like it can be slow at times, it is happening. We are currently in the process of overhauling our Audience Development Plan (now called the Visitor Plan). I am working to place emphasis on ensuring that diversity is at the heart of this. It will supply us with a framework which we can refer back to, should we ever struggle or come up against any resistance in regard to ensuring that we are speaking to and representing our diverse audiences.

Alongside this, I am also trying to standardise relaxed views of exhibitions as part of our marketing campaigns; and strengthen relationships with our learning team. In the past I worked at Battersea Arts Centre, who for me are front runners in access and community work. Watching them become a relaxed venue for people who might find it hard to follow the perceived conventions of theatre etiquette was an important step in the cultural world. It made me think about whether some people might feel uncomfortable in museums – and if so whether there was anything we might do to combat that.

I have since reached out to Tourette’s Action to partner with them on offering a relaxed private view of The Sun: Living With Our Star. For those who live with motor and vocal tics, setting foot inside an cultural space filled to the brim with visitors, can be an intimidating experience. Opening the museum up outside of opening hours allows them access to somewhere they may not usually feel comfortable going. Whilst we are still in the early stages of putting this event together, it is something I really hope we will be able to work with Tourette’s Action on as part of future marketing campaigns.

Reaching Out #ADA

Olivia Farrant is based at Headlong Theatre and has a vast selection of experiments to choose from, of her own design, as she commences as an ADA 3.0 Fellow.

I’m a month or so into my Audience Diversity Academy journey and I’m starting to get to grips with what is expected and how I can really use the programme to its full potential. I started off excited and ready to get stuck in, but a little clueless… my first skype call with mentor Mel Larsen soon set me on the right path. We discussed which audiences I wanted to focus on. In my application I had expressed an interest in developing audiences with a range of protected characteristics, but Mel explained that it would be easier to focus on just one of these to begin with. We settled on aiming to develop BAME audiences, alongside trying to develop audiences who are new to Headlong productions.

I filled Mel in on what productions and activities we had coming up that would present good opportunities for experiments and we went through a range of experiments that might be beneficial for my aims. Mel also explained to me that experiments can be diverse themselves, and it’s up to me whether mine are big or small and whether I want to focus on one experiment or work on a few different ones.

Currently I’m aiming to work through one larger experiment that will form the shape of a scheme that we can use across all of our shows in certain areas that we want to focus on, and a few smaller experiments to help build our mailing list and to investigate the best tone of voice and content for Headlong channels.

The larger experiment will revolve around recruiting two brand ambassadors in two different cities, who can help us to reach more audience members from a broader range of ethnic backgrounds for our productions next Spring of Richard III, Mother Courage and her Children and Acts of Resistance.

At the moment there are a lot of different options for which path I take with this experiment. Do I want to recruit an experienced consultant to help me reach audiences, or do I want to take a more grassroots approach? What tasks will I give to the brand ambassadors? Where and how will I recruit them? My first step is to outline exactly what I want to achieve with this scheme and then engage the marketing and outreach teams of the venues I want to focus on with this plan and go from there.

Your best side #ADA

auriel-majumdar-helena-dolby-bw-12

As a mentor new to the ADA fold, Auriel Majumdar knows what it takes to work with people and their inner thoughts and feelings in order to bring out their best when external forces seem to be too challenging.

At its heart, it seems to me that working towards audience diversity seems to be about our ability to persuade and influence – persuading people that what we’re offering is interesting and relevant to them and influencing powerful decision makers in our organisations that investing time and energy into genuinely diversifying what we do is worthwhile.  

As I’ve been mentoring Fellows on ADA 3.0 these themes of persuasion and influence have come up time and time again as people have explored with me how to have the conversations that they need to have with potential audiences or with colleagues to make the impacts that they want. And based on what they tell me these conversations are difficult for a number of reasons. 

Speaking your truth is hard. It takes courage and integrity to say the challenging things that need to be spoken if audience diversity is to become a reality. And often we silence ourselves before we even begin by worrying about the reaction we might get, not wanting to offend or get a reputation as ‘difficult’. Organisations and communities are complex and subtle which can make speaking up and saying what you want to say a risky business. 

Language is ever changing and the debates about gender fluidity and now age and race fluidity mean that the words we use can land in ways we never intended. When I was a young professional in the early 1980s for instance, we bristled at the use of the word ‘coloured’ for its colonial connotations but now People of Colour is an acceptable term – the changes in language are nuanced and it can be hard to keep up which silences us even more for fear of saying the wrong thing or being offensive. But the chances of open, constructive conversation are even lower if we can’t find a common language to speak to each other. I’d say that our trans brothers and sisters have much to teach us here – if we feel hesitant about language why not have a dialogue about that and ask people and communities how they want to be named? 

Listening is a taken for granted art. We think we listen, sure we go out into communities and ask questions and probably believe that we take heed of what we hear. But genuinely, truly listening takes more. It requires a laying aside of own ego, our own agendas to give complete and utter attention to the other person in the conversation. Trust me this is harder than it sounds but once you’ve mastered the art of deep listening the conversations you have will be transformed. People will open up to you in ways you would never expect and you will find out so much more about what interests and motivates them. 

The key to having the conversations we need to persuade, influence and ultimately engage people in the work we are trying to do here seems to me to be creating the right conditions for open, honest dialogue.  Working from a place of respect for ourselves and for others which will help us speak our truth, make language our ally not our enemy and listen deeply and with humility to other people and their stories.

What does success look like? #ADA

Exterior of Discover Children's Centre credit Sorcha Bridge

At Discover Children’s Story Centre, ADA 3.0 Fellow, Jessica Ziebland is putting a stake in the ground by offering free afternoons for local school children.  Will they enjoy their free afternoon and what if they don’t come back?  These are all bubbling around in the set up of Jessica’s experiment.

My first experiment is going well (if slowly – schools are not the swiftest at responding to emails even when you are offering something fun and free for their pupils).

My aims for this experiment were quite simple:

We want to ensure we’re a space for our local community.

We are for kids.

Kids generally go to local schools.

We have relationships with our local schools.

It seems a no-brainer to reach local families by approaching them through schools. In addition, we have quieter times in our spaces on weekday afternoons – at exactly the time when kids are leaving schools.

At the advice of my mentor, Pauline, I am holding off the exact logistics until I’ve spoken to our contacts at the schools – as they undoubtably hold information about their kids and families that can help make this the best possible offer. But the bit I have been stuck on is the measuring.

Measuring:

Measuring is always hard with diversity. There’s nothing more alienating to a group of people than to endlessly survey them, ask them about their household income and ethnic diversity and how often they engage with ‘The Arts’ (okay, some things probably are more alienating, but still).

So to decide ‘what success looks like’ I went back to the original question: why are we doing this? We want local people to view Discover as a space for their families. And we think that we are welcoming and wonderful – we just need to get people through the door so they can see that for themselves, and come back.

What we need to know is:
– Is this your first time here?
– Will you come back?

We already know they’re local (tick) because we are giving these free passes to local schools. And we’ll have the numbers of people recorded as part of the entry process, so that information will be collected too.

We’re not going to ask them a million other, possibly intrusive, certainly long winded questions. we can simply have someone standing by the exit asking people these two yes/no questions. My experience of asking people short questionnaires is that those that want to will take the chance to tell you other things too, and that’s always interesting and useful – we’ll record and ponder that qualitative stuff as well.

So what does success look like?

We don’t really know until we see it – but we do know these things:
Local families
Lots of them
Lots of them new to Discover
Lots of them saying they want to come back

My next post might be titled: what does failure look like (and what we can still learn). Because that’s okay too.

If you don’t ask you don’t get… #ADA

ADA 3.0 Fellow Kate Newall feels that balletLORENT is way ahead of the game when it comes to Cultural Democracy.  So, what’s the next step?

At balletLORENT we like to think of ourselves as doing things a bit differently. We’re kind of a gang of dance misfits who believe dance is for everyone. We try to reflect this in the artistic work we create, the ways in which we talk about it, who we engage with and the people who perform with our company.

A bit of background…
Liv Lorent founded balletLORENT in 1993. She couldn’t afford to pay professional dancers so as part of a local government scheme she employed members of the public who were claiming jobseekers’ allowance, paying them a daily fee. She made PassAge to Passion in 1996, a piece involving 80 people from Central Newcastle aged between 14-80 and was called “disgusting” for not working with trained dancers, fast forward 25 years and working with the community is now an Arts Council objective!

During the current tour of our family production Rumpelstiltskin we have 9 school children aged 4-9 and 4 older people aged 70+ appearing on stage with our professional cast. These community members are from schools and knitting groups in particularly socio-economically deprived areas local to each venue. We arrange for the families and friends of the community cast to have discounted or free tickets to watch them.

 

What do we gain?
We have a stage full of people that reflect those people in the audience and in life.

When speaking to my brilliant mentor Sarah Boiling, we discussed the barriers we break already, but we need to do more. Amongst my jumble of thoughts were:
– We’re called balletLORENT but we don’t make classical ballet, we’re really more dance theatre. Does the word ballet put people off? Is it intimidating?
– What can we do about the parents of children who don’t want them to take part in a dance workshop? Sadly, this is mainly the parents of little boys.
– We try to write about our work in a non “dance speak” way – but how can we be sure this is translating? We’re from a dance and arts background ourselves.
– Are we reaching a diverse audience other than those we have direct contact with?
– Will attending the theatre, specifically a dance production, ever be seen as anything other than a posh middle-class luxury? How can we change this other than the things we already do?

I could go on and on, but deep breaths, one step at a time…

Sarah and I chatted about the issue with the word “ballet” and the queries I had regarding the language we’re using. The results are that I will hold my first ever focus group (thank you Audience Diversity Academy for giving me the push that I needed!), at CAST in Doncaster. I’ll speak to 10 members of the audience, specifically those that have never seen balletLORENT before or attended a performance at CAST.

Watch this space!

Marketing Departments: the Secret Creatives #ADA

English Touring Opera is a Fellow of the ADA 3.0 and share their best kept secrets about the scope of it’s arts marketing team…

When I entered into the arts industry, bright-eyed and full of ideas, I thought that I would be at the centre of a hub of innovation, creativity and magic. I am sure I am not alone. I didn’t want to be on stage or in the rehearsal room but by working for a venue or arts company meant that I was going to be creating a part of that magic (even if it was just with die-cut letter or a viral video).

Fast forward a couple of years and those bright eyes are sometimes dimmed from ambitious schedules, limited resources and that very real pressure to hit targets. I remember the days when I thought a well written letter would make people book instantly. With experience, wisdom and those trusty ROI stats for mailings I have a more nuanced view. And I wonder, is it a little bit pointless?

Short answer… no.

Every now and then we are reminded why we do what we do. Sometimes we need to remember that even though we are not creating the production/dance piece/art installation, we are the ones who get to talk to the masses about it. We get to present this bit of cultural magic to our audience and that is exciting.

Although we don’t create the costumes, we get to ignite our audiences’ imagination and curiosity and make them want to be part of the live experience. We may not be bowing at the end of a show but we are the ones who helped fill the auditorium. We might not be carrying the baton but we are the ones making slick, compelling and exciting videos about the events that makes ticket buyer’s part with their hard-earned cash.

The arts marketing teams in all organisations are the glue that holds everything together. We are the secret creatives. Yes, we have to smash those targets but we can be creative whilst doing it.

Our roles are creative and sometimes we get to create things like this:

Figaro NATIONAL TOUR from Arts Marketing Association on Vimeo.

What’s the story? #ADA

Tamsin Flower is an ADA 3.0 Fellow is getting stuck into finding new ways of telling the tale of those who are, and those who are not, Evelyn Gennie‘s audiences, with a beat of the drum.

 

Early into the ADA Fellowship, I have settled my attention on tapping into Evelyn’s audiences aged 15-25 yrs. I could hear my conversations with magic mentor, Rachel Grossman, returning to this target group for two reasons. Firstly, they are the future legacy-keepers, the storytellers and curators of Evelyn’s music and archive collection. Secondly, I identified a potential gap between the robust amount of younger adults engaging with Evelyn’s social media and website and the number attending live performances and ‘In-conversation’ events during 2018. This gap is still a relatively unknown frontier in terms of audience data. I do however, have a direct line to Evelyn’s collaborators who can give word-of-mouth accounts of who their audiences are and how they behave!

Following Rachel’s workshop ‘Working Scrappily’ I bashed out a plan for my first ‘experiment’ – to engage audiences aged 15-25 in the most direct, cost/time efficient way. The workshop brought me back to the genius of ‘play.’ Playful working or adaptable creativity produces the best ideas. We know this yet often ignore it in offices. The concept of ‘working scrappily’ without planning every detail or clinging to heavy expectations, gives ADA Fellows permission to employ trial and error and consequently witness the wins of risk-taking more quickly than UK work-culture might ordinarily allow.

The quickest way to reach Evelyn’s younger audiences is evidently, online. I instinctively felt that a conceptual crossover between live and digital was needed to make Scrappy Experiment no 1. relevant. The ‘destination Postcard’ – a visual indicator of success, introduced in the ‘Scrappy’ workshop, looked like a group of young people interacting enthusiastically and directly with Evelyn’s music making and creating a trail of online content about it post the event.

I know people value immediacy or at least the illusion of immediacy…as there’s something voyeuristic about it. This thinking resulted in a Surprise ‘Interactive Opportunity’ for the students of Homerton College, Cambridge and the family festival audiences attending the Cambridge college’s 250 year anniversary celebration, which as a Fellow, Evelyn happened to be already booked for. Collaborating with the college’s comms’ team on ‘intrigue’ posting/tweeting, informing students of a time, place and the invitation to participate in a unique ‘interactive opportunity’ was part of this. A hashtag, inferring the nature of the event was shared #BeatingBarriers with the instruction to set phones to fb live-feed.

The end of this story is that Evelyn delivered a superb interactive outreach session to a sizeable majority audience of families, children and a small cohort of undergraduate students. This was widely viewed and very positively engaged with on and offline. The experience has ‘drummed home’ to me the ease with which events happen if effective partnerships are in place. In terms of branding, reintroducing the online public to the facet of Evelyn that engages the next generation of sound creators, was realised. The company has a new collection of beautiful photo assets, featuring audience reactions and young audience interviews will be broadcast by the regional BBC station as part of a flagship Classical programme.

The result looked like a group of young people interacting enthusiastically and directly with Evelyn’s music making. But, and I have just enjoyed guffawing around this fact during my post-experiment check-in with Rachel, the desired group of 15-25 year olds were not very present!

Regardless, the experiment has set some big thought wheels in motion that are hurtling towards refined goals, approaches and, excitingly, a new process.

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