A few months ago, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 APACA conference in Sydney. While there, I sat in on the opening keynote from international producer and venue manager, Michael M. Kaiser. In keeping with the theme of the conference, Mr. Kaiser’s presentation focused on ways for venues to “mobilise” in the face of funding cuts – always a useful topic but especially so for small to medium performing arts venues in Australia who are currently feeling the burn from government cuts to arts funding quite dramatically.
As I listened, I was struck by three things:
- The struggle he described is nearly universal among performing arts venues everywhere
- The practical solutions he was offering could make a real, honest-to-goodness difference
- The value propositions of Ungerboeck Software align perfectly with his recommendations
First things first, what is the challenge for performing arts venues?
The Struggle Is Real
For small and midsize performance art venues, the trouble begins with the arts themselves. As Mr. Kaiser explained, for a whole host of reasons, the arts have always required funding support in order to thrive. Chief among those reasons is the fact that the arts are unable to mitigate the effects of inflation by enhancing worker productivity the way other industries do. After all, you can’t just play Beethoven’s 5th faster!
As a result, inflation hits this industry harder and faster. As costs increase, but opportunities for real, earned income plateau, performing arts venues are left between a rock and hard place. Couple that with drastic funding cuts and it’s not just that you’re stuck, but you’re stuck in a canyon that’s filling with water.
The Way Forward
In his long, storied career of turning around troubled organisations, Mr. Kaiser has learned a variety of useful lessons that can be applied to the particular predicament of performing arts venues. He posits that success for this industry requires a cycle of activities that build artistic accomplishment and fiscal health simultaneously. What does that mean? He described the solution as cultivation of the idea that “art must be astonishing.”
To succeed at this, venue managers should plan art well in advance (3-5 years, to be exact), develop amazing projects, cultivate donors, form joint ventures whenever possible and market harder.
On the last point in particular, Mr. Kaiser recommends looking to the sports world for inspiration – going beyond just selling tickets to building a relationship with the audience. He believes this is best accomplished online where performing arts venues can utilise websites and social media platforms to reduce their marketing costs and promote their content and messaging to a wider audience.
Where Does Ungerboeck Fit?
From what I’ve relayed thus far, you might be wondering how Ungerboeck Software could possibly help with these pressing issues. While it’s 100% true that our management software can do nothing to help venues create a program of “astonishing art,” we can support that effort with practical tools to help increase efficiency where it’s possible to do so and promote content more effectively.
While worker productivity cannot be increased in the sense of delivering a particular production at a faster pace, technology like Ungerboeck for Venues can help with productivity by allowing venue staff to handle event management more efficiently (e.g. cloud-based booking management and CRM which gives all staff access to the event schedule and contact information in real time). Ungerboeck Mobile for Venues enhances this by allowing teams access to this information outside the confines of their office so they can update information while on the hop.
Technology can also help with marketing efforts: well designed, functional websites help build relationships with the audience by keeping fans updated with fresh and exciting content while conveying the venue’s point of differentiation and its particular program. As a web design agency that focuses exclusively on venue, event and association clients, Ungerboeck Digital can help performing arts venues ignite excitement in their audience by weaving a visual story about the “astonishing art” they are likely to experience on-site.
Get Back in the Driver’s Seat