9 years ago, in March 2013, I wrote a call to action for the performing arts presenting sector. It was an adjunct to the seminal Value of Presenting Study that I wrote to instigate sectoral action to secure the relevance of the sector in the mid- to long-term.
These Reflections and Recommendations were: 1. Strategy and organizational design to nurture capacity for change, strengthen relevance and resilience, come into the 21st century organizationally, in terms of marketing, programming and so forth 2. Building Meaningful Statistical Frameworks – Culture Satellite Account and Mapping the sector 3. Strengthen / Role in Communities – invest in competencies and professional development as a community leader, design for community impacts, ongoing awareness raising of value and benefits of the performing arts 4. Demography and Access – Know your community and your market; Access for seniors (technology-enabled), Partnering with Indigenous peoples, Partnering with recent Immigrants (EDI) 5. Digital Technologies – embrace online and mobile distribution of live arts, create a cross-functional working group to explore digital distribution in the live arts 6. Redefining Competition (focus on non-arts industries) – Define competitive value proposition (relative to non-arts competitors) 7. Experience Design – Brand-first relationship building (not merely transactional), secondary markets (digital impact)
Most of these feel as relevant as ever to me, showing how much more progress the live arts sector needs to make to join the contemporary world with all its complicated dynamics.
In light of COVID and the early stages of – and the vagaries of – COVID recovery in 2022, I have been talking about these 9 trends requiring urgent attention in the sector if it wants to rebuild better:
1.Mental health impacts
3.Loss of expertise and talent – COVID
4.Digital transformation of society
5.Climate change and touring
6.Need new business models re: return to gatherings
7.Ways to support local artists
8.Digital Dissemination platforms
9.Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion
In part it feels like the more things change the more they stay the same. It also feels like perhaps some of us have learned enough to really tackle the big issues. https://lnkd.in/gJRdUyVx
Thanks to host Kari Johnston who interviewed me as part of her Yukon Entrepreneurs Podcast series. Kari has been talking to Yukon business people about how they are deploying, leveraging, changing or transitioning their business models during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the case or Strategic Moves, demand skyrocketed as a result of our reputation for digital expertise and having championed digital adoption in the live arts sector in Canada over a decade. COVID simply unleashed the urgent demand to make sense of the digital world, as well as advancing on key organizational pressures, from equity, diversity and inclusion to elevating strategic planning work to a far more actionable, meaningful level.
Today, we’ve launched digitalartsnation.ca, the website for Making Tomorrow Better: Taking Digital Action in the Performing Arts. This initiative received significant funding from the Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund in spring of 2019. The nation-wide partnership led by the Atlantic Presenters Association includes the Manitoba Arts Network, BC Touring Council, Island Mountain Arts/Northern Exposure, Yukon Arts Centre / N3 and the Yellowknife Arts & Cultural Centre.
Of note: most of the participants in the face-to-face workshops live on the edges of the country. therefore we tailor content to suit the realities, including slower internet connectivity, of rural and remote communities across Canada. Because what works there, will work in urban centres, too.
These workshops are designed to help participants speak digital with confidence – that is, we will demystify and discuss the digital realm in plain English – and quickly become competent participants in arts sector conversations about leading digital tools, emerging digital innovations, and new digital business models.
I hope that this assessment provides a springboard for new conversations and digital capacity in the presenting field.
The question at the core of this work is who will be the digital intermediaries for the performing arts; and whether the presenting field can carve out a digital space that supports and benefits the entire performing arts eco-system. Doing so, I think, would require both a transfer and an expansion of the arts presenting expertise we see on the theatre platform to new digital platforms.
Presenters historically have been the dominant platform where performing arts and audiences connect. The theatre, stage or the festival site literally act as a platform. With that, this report seeks to begin to answer – or at least inform – big questions:
Can live arts presenters re-invent distribution of performing arts at digital scale?
How will Canadian artistic talent be nurtured and supported to grow viable careers and earn fair compensation in the digital realm?
How can we, and should we, as a free, vibrant society assure a broad diversity of voices that reflect all of Canada is heard in digital spaces as well as live performance spaces?
What is the future of live Canadian theatre, dance, music and other performing arts as digital technologies and capacities of data networks continue to advance?
On a personal note, I so appreciate and enjoy working with my colleague-client, Frédéric Julien, Director of Research and Development at CAPACOA. He is a tireless advocate in the arts; and equal parts smart, rigorous in his thinking and affable. Thank you, Frédéric, for your work and your collaboration!