9 Reasons Why Technology and the Arts are a Great Combination

A month ago I attended Leadership Nouveau, a  conference sponsored by HEC focused on the challenges of arts management in the 21st Century.  Held at The MOMA, it was a day filled with arts leaders who are breaking new ground, building new audiences and paving a vibrant future for the arts , one that belies the declining audience numbers so many other performing arts institutions are grappling with.

The one unifying thread among these institutions?  The way each of them are using technology and social media to grow their audiences.

So here they are… the top nine reasons that, according to the Leadership Nouveau conference, theater, dance and music must embrace technology and social media.  (I’ve done my best to attribute each point to the correct speaker)

1. Because 40% of the arts organizations in America fail to break even –  Paul LaVioie

CONCRETII @ Green Hours by energeticspell, on Flickr

Clearly something must be done or we will continue to lose valuable artists and arts institutions! As Alain Dancyger the Executive Director of Les Grands Ballets insisted, it is no longer our job  to create art, we must create value.  ( A notion Ben Cameron  speaks to all the time).  What does value look like to today’s wired audience?  According to LaPlaca Cohen, Community, Cost and Convenience are the three factors that determine whether a consumer will attend an arts event – each of these factors can be addressed with technology and social media.

2. Because today’s audience is everywhere

MoMA_0008 by ekonon, on Flickr
We used to think our audience was something we could look at, place in a seat, confine to our galleries and  theaters- today the audience is everywhere.  (Amit Sood Founder, Google Art Project; Director, Google Cultural Institute and Glenn D. Lowry, Director, The Museum of Modern Art) It’s our job to follow them… everywhere.

3.  Because the only thing we can be  sure of is connectivity  (Sood)

Tong Tong Fair 2011 - Cuk & Cis
Tong Tong Fair 2011 – Cuk & Cis by Haags Uitburo, on Flickr

The future is uncertain.  The only thing we are sure of is that connectivity is going to be the unifying thread that collapses the space between the physical and the virtual.  For younger people- technology isn’t technology- it’s just the way they breathe and live (Maxwell L. Anderson, Director of the Dallas Museum of Art).  This online socialization is going to continue to grow and blossom in ways that we currently can’t understand , (Sood) and both museums and performing arts institutions must join in if they’re going to remain part of cultural conversations.

4. Because today’s audience wants to participate.

Ballet preparations..
Ballet preparations.. by Niels Linneberg, on Flickr

Audiences today want to be a part of something and they want to share that experience with their virtual world. MOMA’s has been using mobile apps to  enable their visitors to cease being visitors – but instead to inhabit the museum, to make it their own space.   Lowry loves  that visitors to MOMA think their experience in the gallery is so meaningful that they want to capture it with their cameras. The MOMA is using technology to encouraging people to engage  with and converse about art – and they are! This, according to Lowry, is where the future lies.

5. Because if you don’t take bold steps, you don’t excite the public – Peter Gelb

MIT+150: FAST (Festival of Art + Science + Technology): FAST LIGHT — Liquid Archive, with Light Bridge in background
MIT+150: FAST (Festival of Art + Science + Technology): FAST LIGHT — Liquid Archive, with Light Bridge in background by Chris Devers, on Flickr

This is true for both commercial and not-for-profit arts institutions. As Gelb notes, the public includes both your audience and your donors.

According to Gelb The Met: Live In HD has been a much bigger success than they had imagined it could be – last year adding $17 Million net profit to The Met’s bottom line. Why is Gelb so bullish on live?  Because he believes the live audience is the key audience– the audience feels like they are connected  to a  visceral event – just as they do for live sports! That’s what makes it exciting!

 6. Because a high tide raises all ships (Gelb)

National Theatre Live @ Parbold Picture House
National Theatre Live @ Parbold Picture House by Spot On Lancashire, on Flickr
When you use technology to build an audience for you play, your dance, your, opera, your sculpture you are accessing a global audience, increasing the global awareness of all theater, dance, music and art, thereby creating more demand and increasing the value of the arts.

(And as an added bonus, Gelb has found that  from an artistic point of view, the MetLive in HD   raises the game for his artists. Because  his singers know that they are  being judged for their acting and their singing by people from all over the world, Gelb finds that  their best performances are delivered at the Live in HD performances.)

7. Because the digital world can be a gateway to the rest of your company’s work (Sood)

Technology allows you to create a continuous loop between your  physical space and virtual space – keeping you top of mind and emotionally engaging your audience daily, rather than only when you have a show, helping you to create a more loyal and engaged fan base. The fact that you can watch hockey on television only fuels the desire to be there in the person and feel the cold and the thumping crowd yourself.  The same is true for the arts.(Lowry)

8. Because People spend more time in front of a piece of art on google art then they do at a museum  (Sood)

How about that!  it turns out our audiences want to dive deep!  Why shouldn’t we let them?

9. Because museums are seeing a rise in attendance fueled by the information audience is getting via the internet. (Lowry)

Vatican Museum, Laocoon group
Vatican Museum, Laocoon group by sipazigaltumu, on Flickr
What more need be said?



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