Competitive factors: Live Performing Arts

The approach to competition and how we understand competitive factors is key to creating uncontested new market spaces. Conventionally, competition is understood to be within a sector: an airline competes against other airlines, a circus competes against other circuses, a hotel chain against other hotels. Each organization tries to differentiate itself in its market space, to build a recognized brand, to establish a value position that avoids lowest price competition. Competitive benchmarking is done against similar organizations, from tracking market share to share of wallet to brand mapping and intent-to-purchase studies.

Importantly, blue oceans – uncontested market spaces – are not found by benchmarking inside that competitive set.

Rather, they are about a leap in value for the customer and the organization. Value innovation. It’s not merely about creating value, often incremental, or about pioneering innovation, often on the bleeding edge where others may well reap the greatest rewards. It is a differently grounded strategic mindset that aligns innovation and value.

Competitive factors for the performing arts

Imagine: You are a not-for-profit venue with a 250-seat theatre in Toronto that presents new work and existing work in new ways. How about if you are a commercial 1,200-seat theatre with long runs of well-known shows? Does one compete against the other in a meaningful way?

Imagine: You rent a community hall in rural Saskatchewan and present music acts a few times a year. Or you are an independent (no label behind you) musician with your tracks for sale online, an active YouTube and/or Vimeo channel and you are working the house concert and club circuit to build your fan base? Where does your competition come from?

I’ve heard references to there being a  “market glut” in the performing arts in Canada. No doubt, there are a lot more theatres, companies and artists making a living – or some of their living – by creating, producing and presenting performing arts. Yet, as long as attendance at performing arts events remains the top indicator for future attendance, I propose that this sector is not a zero sum industry where the ticket purchase is simply shifted from one theatre or one performer to another.

Rather, I propose that many significant competitive factors come from outside the performing arts sector where people can reap similar benefits through a wide variety of activities. Here is a thought piece that considers some of these competitors:

Benefits for customer
Performing arts corresponding offer to customers
Movie theatres
Great stories, star-powered, escape to the movies, big sound, big screen, pop culture, celebrity culture
Great stories, live action, connections with live stars, star power, be an insider, behind the scenes, participate in creating the experience
Home entertainment
High quality in comfort of your own home and sound system. Anytime entertainment and discovery.
Live action, social connection, common experience, participation, discover new worlds and ideas
Hands-on discovery and exploration. We bring the world to you. Learn about who you are and where you come from.
“Times and Life”: Discover your world anew through music; soundscapes of our history, tell stories about who we are and what makes us so
Professional sports
Action, tribal connection, heroes, victory, competition
Get the inside track on peak performance. Access to artists. Backstage tours. Process of creating winning performances. Community connection.
Pamper yourself. Wellness, stress reduction, spiritual connection, body connection
Come home to the Symphony.
Escape to the Symphony. Refresh your mind, body and spirit at your Symphony.
Cosmetic treatment
Improve self-image, de-stress, personal fulfillment, anti-aging
Come as you are – and be changed forever by the music, the show, the experience.
Friends. Food. Social. In crowd.
Socialize. Social capital. See and be seen. Entertain your friends at the symphony. Community making. Mix food, drink and entertainment
Video games, Xbox, PS, Wii
Participate. Action. Play. Social. Relax.
Feel it live. Real-world magic. Participatory arts experiences. Community building.

By no means is this table complete or even “correct”. It simply hopes to spark different ways to consider competition.

Today, we also have to content with the fact that a common answer to “if you had a free evening tonight what would you do” has become “sleep.”