Is Arts Marketing Dead? I don’t know why everyone is so worried…

In the year 2004, the beginning of a massive revolution took place in the dorm room of Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard University. It seems unlikely that even he had any idea what Facebook would eventually become. Today, almost the entire world is now connected through the click of a button. We are all leading double lives… one in the physical world, and one on the web. Arts manager Ben Cameron said that, “All of us are engaged in a seismic fundamental realignment of culture and communications.” Now, everyone has all the information they need at their fingertips, and they can access it instantaneously.”

Because of this revolution, many of the old ways of marketing are disappearing. The days of direct mail marketing campaigns are slowly fading away, while Facebook mailboxes are often overfilled. But while different parts of marketing have passed, marketing itself is not dead. As a matter of fact, marketing has been reborn. This sensational new way of life continues to trouble the arts world. Arts managers wonder how they will convince people to attend concerts and shows when those same people could stay home and access videos of any performer they want. Many are asking, “Is arts marketing dead?” These worries are simply, silly. Arts marketing is not dead. It is simply being reborn.

British arts manager Andrew McIntyre describes the history of this transition. In the 70s, organizations used “Product-led, Product-focused” marketing. Audience knowledge was irrelevant. The 80s saw “Product-led, Selling-Focused” marketing. Audience knowledge was imperative because marketers had to know the best places to advertise. In the 90s, it became “Product-led, Marketing-focused.” Rather than simply advertising products, people began profiling the behavior of existing markets in order to adapt their products to their audiences and build brand loyalty.

Finally, Mr. McIntyre drops the big one, the marketing of the future: “Vision-led, Audience-Focused.” What does he mean by this? Notice that for the first time, the period does not begin with “Product-led.” People will now need to have vision in creating their product. The product itself will have to be completely audience-focused. We must discover ways of engaging audiences on a genuine level. Rather than trying to sell our product to an audience, we must allow the audience to become a part of the product. While these changes are monumental and perhaps a little scary, they certainly indicate one thing strongly: Arts marketing is alive and will continue to be right up until the moment when people no longer love the arts.

In a speech at the 2012 Americans for the Arts Arts Advocacy Rally, Alec Baldwin spoke about why he loves art and believes in its importance. He said that, “Artistic appreciation believes that art is like water, it’s essential.” Yes, it is becoming more difficult to fill up audiences at performances. However, Ben Cameron also said that, “We move from a time when audience numbers are plummeting, but the number of arts participants… is exploding beyond our wildest dreams.” This simple truth is a striking indication that people innately love the arts and will continue to participate in creating and performing art for many years to come. Marketers get ready. Your time is now.

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