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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Wise words, but do they apply to the arts?

Some thoughts that came to me out of things said at the Guardian 2011 Changing Media Summit.

“Self expression has become the new entertainment” Arianna Huffington

Increasingly everybody is the star of his or her own life movie. We can all be filmmakers, writers and artists if we want. In the past just a lucky few were able to be the stars and we had to bow to them. Now thanks to new technology the barriers to entry have been lowered and everyone can join in. 
In the future will people want to passively sit and watch someone else’s vision without having the chance to respond, interact, re-interpret or challenge? What does that mean for the arts, where the artists vision is often sacrosanct, even if funded by the masses?

“Brands are trying to change consumers into audiences, while publishers are trying to turn audiences into consumers” Arianna Huffington

Red Bull, O2, Vodafone, Orange – the relationships these brands are building with the public goes so deep it reaches aspects of their lives well beyond simple product usage. Meanwhile media owners have the challenge of trying to get their loyal (or not so loyal) users to pay for all that online content that has been carefully crafted to their tastes. 
In the arts sector we are fortunate to have passionate, dedicated audiences that are committed consumers. We should not take that relationship for granted. We should also not underestimate how rare that type of relationship is. In that case, does freeness devalue the arts unnecessarily? (Did A Night Less Ordinary actually work?)

‘People are the new content, influence is the new distribution”

I can’t remember who came up with this bit of content but I am going to help distribute it. The opportunities YouTube, Facebook and Twitter offer as a means of self-expression are huge and those people with the widest reach can influence millions. 
In the arts sector every marketing survey cites that old favourite, word of mouth, as the big influencer on attendance. Increasingly that word of mouth will come through social networking and may even come from people you do not personally know (Gok Wan, Stephen Fry, Charlie Sheen!). The percentage of the public citing word of mouth as the reason they came to your show can only increase as we become more connected. We will all need break that answer down in detail to develop effective strategies for communication.

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