‘Bums on Seats’

“PR folk are always asking how do you measure the value of social media? I’m glad I don’t have to rate every conversation I have.” @Documentally

Over the past few weeks I have been to two ACE Get AmbITions, and the Shift Happens conference regarding the use of digital media in the arts. Get AmbITion I’ve already blogged about, and I did say that I was going to wait until this Sunday to do anything about Shift Happens, but I really want to address something that’s come up, several times, at all of the aforementioned conferences, and I want to talk about it now. Here it is:

‘Bums on seats’

Several times that phrase has come up, and even oftener has the general sentiment been expressed:

‘This is all very nice, very modern. But how does this translate into our making money, how can this be measured?’

Let me just add a brief caveat before I get into this. I am not just a consumer of art. I am not longing after some ideal world where the arts get the equivalent of the defence budget (or at least the money that’s supposed to be going to renew Trident), nor do I think ‘real’ art comes out of people living off a pittance in some squat in whatever part of London is next going to become fabulously cool and bohemian. I understand the material realities of theatre-making. Granted I’m young, but I have worked in two theatres (Terry O’Toole and Loughborough Town Hall Theatre) as well as working for just over a year in a mid-scale company (Foursight Theatre), and (currently) freelancing for another (Theatre Writing Partnership). I also write for theatre, and through that have been involved with Nottingham Playhouse, the Royal Court, and smaller non RFO companies like Box of Tricks and Scary Little Girls. I am telling you all this because I want you to take me seriously. I may be young, may be idealistic, but I do understand the intricacies of funding agreements, I have seen boards poring over budgets, I understand how hard it is, and how much has to be justified, how RFOs have to prove themselves in ‘deliverables’, I also understand that ACE have to have something to measure, otherwise how do they know who do give money to? I understand all of this. I just don’t think that is how things have to be in every inch of our art.

A theatre company operating now, with no involvement in social media, is like a painter having no involvement with the colour blue.

‘But how does this translate to bums on seats’

This question was asked at the Shift Happens conference, during a Q&A after the Hoi Polloi video diary/twitter presentation. It was asked how all of the social media involvement ‘translated to bums on seats’. I was one of the people who responded to the question. However I am a little concerned that I put my point a little awkwardly, I was sitting in the circle, and so had to bark my answer down, I’m worried that I may have sounded harsh. If I sounded exasperated, it’s because I was, but not at the questioner, rather at the imperative to measure that casts its shadow over the whole discussion of social media. So I want to try and put my ideas across to you

This is how I see it: I know that you need money to grow art. It’s like manure, it works ok without, but much quicker and shinier with it. But this does not mean that everything in art should be measured against the money it cultivates.

“Marketing people are talking about the wrong bit, the product, you should be talking about the process – make it accessible” DK @mediasnackers at Shift Happens

The value of social media can and should not be measured against old, analogue-world ideas of promotion and product. Speaker after speaker told us this.

“Digital distribution has changed everything. It’s no longer about pushing product. The consumer will pull what they want” Charles Cecil at Shift Happens

The idea of ‘bums on seats’ is no longer relevant, in the context of a digital universe (and make no mistake, your future audience is certainly living in one) you cannot sell, you cannot push. Old ideas of marketing just wont wash. If you are worried about getting people to your performances or exhibitions, then you should not be shying away from social media, you should be jumping in feet first, wading around, making a splash, because the arts don’t just need to be involved in the digital world, they need to be at the roots of it, prodding, seeing where it goes, asking where it might take us. What is the value of being involved in digital worlds? Because right now it is the only thing that will keep us alive, it is the only thing that will keep us relevant. What the online-conversation dramatises is the connection between art and its audience. One which, if you look at our typical audiences, is beginning to be lost.

“Old ideas of narrative are Newtonian, the internet is reality according to Einstein” @billt

People exist now as many different aspects, in many different contexts, as people are finding new ways to love, laugh, lose and cry, each moment is simultaneously created, destroyed, viewed through a lens. If you don’t understand these new ways of being, how can you make art? If you dismiss a generation’s way(s) of being (including the worst of it, Youtube comments, trolls, the proliferation of paedophilic material, as well as the hardest to fathom, WOW and 4chan) how dare you tell people that you have anything worth saying? How dare you?

I believe art should speak to us of ourselves. I believe that we should try and learn about every moment, every second, I believe we should talk about the future, in order to look at now. I also believe that the digital world is an almost entirely untapped source of story. Where better to explore the relationship between avatar and RL, than on a stage, framed, where people play characters? Where better to ask how it is that groups of people consent to pretend that the on-screen, framed [bracketed, if we’re getting phenomenological] world they are looking at is somewhere else, an alternate reality, with alternate concerns, aims, multi-string narratives, and people represented by avatars than where it is already happening? Where better to tilt-shift the digital world so that we can see it anew, distanced, objectively emotive, questioning?

“Using an open source model of work reduces the cost of collaboration and provides you with a skillset limited only by your network” Alex Fleetwood @ammonite at Shift Happens

You might argue that I’m being very airy, very conceptual, perhaps even a little conversational? Well here’s what else social media can get you: more resources than you could ever dream of. What do we do when we can no longer ‘push’ – can no longer try and convince people that the story we’re telling them is what they want to hear? Well how about we listen to them, we let them in on the process, tell them that they’re worth listening to, engaging with. And how about we look at the world–changing concept of open source working- the WIKI, the dev environment.

“Why do people need your walls and stage when they’ve got Youtube? They’re you’re competitors” DK @mediasnackers at Shift Happens

We are fighting for the attention, now, of a generation who have become used to being their own protagonist, accessing their own world, controlling their own characters. If you open your process up, if you engage with people, if you tell their stories, ask them questions, offer them involvement, ownership, they will want to see the work you make. You will have made participants, not an audience. If you can make them laugh, if you can make them wonder, if you can connect to them in a human way, in conversation – you will not just have a bum on a seat, you will have a heart too. And hearts come back.

Don’t just join in now, look to the future. Is open-source, wiki developed work the next step in devising? How does theatre writing exist in a wiki-world? Is streaming a new testing-ground for new work? What is the potential for using these tools to find new talent, to help people, to reach out the disenfranchised and disaffected? How can the digital world work on stage? Is the digital world a stage?

Social media is a conversation, not a piece of equipment. This is a call to arms, for democratisation, for anarchy, consensus. Be exited, embrace your fear, jump in. There’s almost always a back button. If you are exciting, if you are relevant, if you engage, your social networks will not be a task, your participants will create them for you.

“[The world of ideas is changing] the news is becoming mutual, Obama’s politics was mutual- not driven by spin, broadcast control and brand […] It’s all about the pull […] Think pirates. Think mavericks, think renegades [They will re-form our world, they can tell us what the future might look like] It’s critical that artists are engaged with the digital world, not for marketing, but to ask difficult, big questions of it” Charles Leadbeater @wethink at Shift Happens [brackets = paraphrasing from my twitter feed]

So find the new stories, ask the big questions. We’re heading to a new universe of narrative and being, someone needs to throw ideas around, ask big questions, to “make a mess so we know where we are”, to ask who we are, who we might become. Let’s keep art vital.

Further reading: I have also written a short, all-in introduction for tweeting for artists and arts organisations. Twitter is a very easy, cheap way to get started. You can download my document here. Share and share alike :)

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26 Responses to “‘Bums on Seats’”

  1. Documentally July 3, 2009 at 2:13 am #

    Brilliant. And i am not just saying that because you started with a tweet of mine.. Or should i say 'Quote'.. Maybe that sounds smarter..

    I love the line "A theatre company operating now, with no involvement in social media, is like a painter having no involvement with the colour blue." ..this puts so much into perspective for me about the 'art' of all this.. something i feel i rarely address and i know something that stirs in my mind when i see all the snake oil salesmen touting their stat measuring platforms and apps.

    Wonderful, thank You.

  2. DK July 3, 2009 at 2:15 am #

    "A theatre company operating now, with no involvement in social media, is like a painter having no involvement with the colour blue."

    Brilliant – many thanks for the kind quotes and link love…

  3. Dan Coward July 3, 2009 at 2:18 am #

    Great stuf Hannah – "participants, not audiences". Amen to that

  4. Jamie Potter July 3, 2009 at 2:30 am #

    "He who does nothing will never make mistakes: yet it is far better to wander around and make mistakes than to go to sleep." -Simon Rodriguez

  5. Hoipolloi Theatre July 3, 2009 at 2:36 am #

    Excellently put!

    I think it's so important to keep reiterating DK's point about "process not product" – this was really a highlight of Shift Happens for me.

    Social media helps us to improve the experience and breadth and levels of engagement with audiences/participants.

    And in doing so, I suspect those much-desired bums on seats will appear!

  6. Brian Condon July 3, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    I like your attention on 'narrative'. Stories are really important in the Digital Space and not enough attention is being paid. Too many 'journey' stories yet there are lots more story archetypes to explore.

    Went to a fab Unconference and wrote about it here: http://bit.ly/Vrt44

    Good stuff. Thank you!

    Brian

  7. theatrewritingpartnership July 3, 2009 at 2:41 am #

    Hannah – I just wondered if you could give a barometer-like reading of the state of new writing development and its engagement (or otherwise) with social media, pebbles, networks, connections… I think this is a very pertinent extension of the bums on seats issue, and especially in looking at theatre as something other than 'pushed product'

    Really interesting provocation – will certainly pull it into our network.

    Thanks

  8. David July 3, 2009 at 2:51 am #

    This is more than interesting – it's expanding! You are describing the real relevance of participating not just receiving. Thank you and I will share this with colleagues in the Wiltshire youth Arts Partnership!

  9. Ben July 3, 2009 at 3:20 am #

    Great post.
    BTW, 'pouring over budgets' – should be 'poring over' ("reading carefully with intent to remember")
    forgive pedantry, Ben

  10. Hannah July 3, 2009 at 4:15 am #

    @Ben – Spelling error corrected, always welcome that kind of thing as I am a bit haphazard in the spelling/grammar front :)

    @David – so delighted that you want to share this with others, thank you

    @theatrewritingpartnership so far I think bushgreen is one of the most progressive uses of digital media in enabling new writing, an exciting model that will be really interesting to follow. But there're lots of boundaries to be pushed in terms of collaborative writing, finding new writers, new stories, and what it is to be an author/writer in a world full of protagonists, and in the context of wiki/open source ideas of devising. Will have a think :)

    @Documentally: it's a quote for sure, and if I have my way you'll be in my PhD too :)

    That's a point… wonder how you reference a tweet.

    Everyone: thanks so much for the comments, it's so amazing that my ideas are being engaged with, even if people don't agree with them, I think it's a really important dialogue for the arts world to have.

    :)

  11. Amy July 3, 2009 at 4:35 am #

    I think it's important to remember that "bums on seats" will always be important, in terms of theatres / arts orgs being profitable and sustainable and also ensuring that, even in this digital age, that people can still enjoy and engage in a live experience.

    For the theatre company I work for social media is about engaging people from the start of the process and not just about another channel for marketing messages. It's also about opening up the organisation in a two way conversation with audiences, making us more accessible and maybe breaking down barriers.

  12. Tim Rushby July 3, 2009 at 4:57 am #

    Indeed – very well put a great bit of reflection on our discussions/talks at Shift Happens.

    I would like to add my thoughts from a theatre marketing perspective though.

    Customer Relationship Management has long been a staple of arts marketing (or should have been – some do it better than others) and adding value to win the hearts and minds of audiences is not a new concept. The problem with most arts orgs at the moment is not that they are not willing to embrace social media but that they are approaching it incorrectly. They are asking two main questions:

    1. How many people are we reaching?
    2. What is the ROI? How many ‘bums on seats’ is this generating?

    Although I as a marketer am used to asking these questions and agree they are valid, they are massive barriers when approaching the digi-verse presently. The questions need to be restructured to:

    1. How many people could we reach in the medium/long-term if we do this well?
    2. How will this effect my arts orgs standing with both our audiences and the industry? (undoubtley those leading the field on this will increase in reputation)
    3. What is the value of opening up our processes to the audience? Can we use this opportunity to enhance their experience?
    4. How can we develop new tools of measurement to monitor the impact on both CRM and PR and thus can sell these new methods of communication to the board/directors as valuable and essential? (these processes are in their infancy at present but are do-able)

    I agree that Social Media should be about the process NOT the product and if done correctly the product will then benefit as a consequence of deeper relationships. Marketers roles in creatively developing their use of social media therefore lie on two fronts. The first is how to use social media innovatively and passionately to deliver added value to customers. The second is to use that same level of creativity to develop new ways of measuring success and justifying resources to those at an executive/funding level – this is undoubtedly more difficult, hence why so many people say “so how many bums on seats?”.

  13. Hannah July 3, 2009 at 5:58 am #

    @Amy – I know that getting people to performances will always be important- but what I take issue with is what 'bums on seats' represents – companies need to be sustained, but I think that it is better done through participants interacting, than an audience receiving. I guess what I'm asking for is a redefinition of the way we, in the arts sector, think about the people who see [or don't see, I suppose] our art. Of course it's important that we make a living, but that shouldn't be at the expense of our out art losing relevance. It sounds like your theatre company are getting involved in the [what I think are the!] right ways, though. Good luck :)

    @Tim Rushby. I can see how marketing managers etc can feel as though this kind of talk is almost a threat to their existence- I'm not saying you feel this, but there's something a little nervous about companies looking into this area and seeing that it isn't marketing as they have known it, I think sometimes people can be so concerned about extinction that they miss the opportunity to evolve.

    I also think one of the problems is that people somehow think digital conversations are different to ones IRL. They're not, your website is the same as your brochure, you can and should quantify it's take-up, but social media is a way into a massive world of conversation, of dialogue and discussion, and should be approached just as though you would IRL. People can spot, and are repelled by disingenuousness in both the real, and digital planes. We need marketing managers to fasciliate, to adapt, and to get exited about new ideas just as we do general managers and artistic directors. But I stick by my point that while I understand why people say 'bums on seats', I don't think that it's right, and I don't see why we can't call for a sea-change, beginning with questioning the way we talk about things. Words are important, they're where we start.

    It does sound like you're thinking in [again, what I think is] the right way, asking how we re-structure the way we think to accomodate these new ways of communicating. If these things need to be formalised, then let them be so, but make sure the system is felxible and adaptable, otherwise we risk being left behind every day.

    The answer, I think [at least] to your final two problems, are simply just that we're aren't going to know that kind of thing for certain any more. And to just accept a level of failure, for a greater degree of success.

    But then again this is my acadmeic/idealist POV, I definitely think I'll be doing a lot of case-study style investigation in my theatre and tech PhD work.

    Thanks for engaging.

  14. Emma July 3, 2009 at 6:03 am #

    I really enjoyed reading this. It's good to find people who write their thoughts down and share them, rather than keeping them to themselves and never opening the debate.

    As someone working in audience development and with a keen interest in digital development, the same thoughts have occurred to me, and I’ve had to deal with many the same questions that irk you from my clients and colleagues, and fair enough I say.

    As education staff in arts organisations once had to fight to be taken seriously, and after them access and audience development staff, so digital and specifically social media experts in the arts are fighting now. The shift of attitude from suspicion to acceptance and even enthusiasm is coming, and fast (ACE has digital as one of it's priorities and numerous conferences and debates are going on all the time, hooray for shift happens and the like!) but we are still at the stage of having to convince the bosses and to “talk it up” to senior management. I see these barriers breaking down every day, but it's not inherent in the majority of organisations yet. As once trying to convince the Chief Exec that an education programme is a vital element of your programming would have resulted in being laughed out the door, digital (or whatever you want to label it all as) is currently the taboo. But less and less every day.

    What I’m trying to say is that this reaction from some in the sector of “What’s the ROI?” and “How do we measure the success levels?” is understandable and only to be expected, and it will pass, especially with so many of us now effectively communicating the intrinsic value of transparent, immediate and far reaching communication. At the moment at Audiences London we’re piloting a digital benchmarking project with a number of our clients (theatres and orchestras so far), and yes it is all dry metrics at the moment, which will produce interesting results no doubt, but not anything that will enhance the importance of digital to those already converted, i.e. you and I and the shift happens types. My personal driving force behind this project is to use this as a starting point to begin to delve deeper and learn to understand who’s engaging with the arts online, how can we actually call it “engaging” anyway? How can we improve the conversations between arts organisations and visitors/audiences etc online? But I hope it will also serve as evidence for those still wary of engaging in digital, to allow the rest of us to carry on doing what we’re doing but now with a seal of approval from above.

    I believe that the ROI discussions will pass, and soon this will all be an intrinsic part of communicating and sharing the arts. It can’t come soon enough!

    Thanks again for putting your thoughts out there, more please!

    Emma
    emma@audienceslondon.org
    @emmclean

  15. Vaughan July 3, 2009 at 6:22 am #

    Okay, as everyone's praising what is an excellent piece of writing to the skies, can I throw on some (far less well-written) cold water, across a couple f posts… Well, let's start with that point. The proponents of the 'socialmediaischangingeveryting' model seem to spend most of their time talking to each other. Its group-think and group-speak. Lots of cross-confirmation and not much looking at what's going on out in what's left of the real world.

    This creates two problems–vastly over-inflated claims (see almost everything 'Charlie' Leadbeater writes) and confusion between form and content (or form and effect).

    Looking at your piece for instance. Vastly-inflated claims (and I'm only flinging out notes, forgive the randomness)–

    One is constant, about the need to engage with social media because that's the future. But for theatre and for other media, why this push for 'yoof'? The population is getting older (something the BBC long ago forgot), and the demand for narrative or experience that even includes the web in its widest sense is very much a minority of the potential audience.

    You might, of course, want to suggest that to be cutting-edge/avant-garde the arts needs to engage with the, well, cutting edge as that's where the ideas are. Possibly, but a bit questionable as an assertion. Is a (non-blogging) hermit less capable of being cutting-edge than a 24-hour tweeter? Is difficult/complex art somehow more worthy than Eastenders?

    But are even the young embracing social media in the way you (and other 'pros') suggest? Eight years ago we heard constant references from technorati to the number of blogs in existence, four years ago myspace told us about the number of people signed up to their sites, two years ago Linden Labs told us about the number of people signed up to Second Life, now we hear the same of twitter. Yet, how many are launched and forgotten? How many twitter-feeds are moribund after two or three posts, how many spambots? How many teens give up after a few months and really don't touch social media again? How many feeds/sites used (ironically like Charlie's own) as push for marketing? Yes, lots of people ARE using them, but not the majority. Not even that significant a minority–unless you happen to work in that world of course…

    Which leads to the second point; just because something appears to be social media doesn't mean it is. 'Web 2.0' as a term dragged in all forms of media, not all essentially social, and certainly not all used as social by all people. Flickr is basically a great way of sharing images with friends, social in some forms but not really collaborative. Youtube is a great way of uploading old bits recorded from The Tube, or video of teenagers dancing to pop beat combos. None of these form social media as the 'pros' mean it.

    In some ways, though, Youtube and FLickr are part of a real, fundamental change, an exteriorisation of memory, that will have massive impacts on galleries, museums even on the way the brain works. We've barely started thinking about the impact of a world where everything in life is recorded and stored elsewhere.

  16. Vaughan July 3, 2009 at 6:23 am #

    Pt 2…Random other thoughts before typing in this little box drives me mad…

    "you cannot push" Uhhr, yes you can. That;s still how the vast majority of people consume. They watch TV, the read magazines, they check listings and reviews and the opinion of their friends to find out what's on. As for Charlie's quote about Obama, its plain bullshit, of course he pushed, his whole campaign was a carefully constructed piece of PR (thanks be to Jon Favreau's use of classical allusion in the speechifying though).

    Narrative–BillT's claims, nice slogan, essentially meaningless. Difficult, fractured, narratives have been around for a very very long time. Writing influenced by the web likewise. But what sells big-style? Jodi Picoult. Martina Cole. Books on football gangs. Straight-forward narratives with straight-forward (and universal) themes. Even the best TV is likewise–The Wire, Sopranos, Mad Men–for all their complexity they're about people trapped in their lives, just like, well, Homer (simpson or 'of Ionia').

    ONe consequence, however, if you are right is more threatening. The idea you suggest of reaching out to the youtube generation still leaves begging the question of 'what have you got that they want'? If 'their' culture is already involved in sharing and mashing and commenting on videos, why will theatre appeal? Strikes me as the last desperate throes of a dead medium?

    And I say all this while being in total agreement that culture needs to be listening/accessible and evolving. But there's a big difference between being open and being crowd-sourced. The former is a conversation and a willingness to admit lack of knowledge. But the crowd is not wise, it is prone to mass delusion and panic, and the worship of it leads down possibly interesting but basically blind alleys.

    I'll shut up now.

  17. Hannah July 3, 2009 at 7:03 am #

    @Vaughn – firstly, thanks for engaging with my piece. Any kind of feedback is excellent, because it gets people talking, so let’s bring on the cold water!

    Firstly I don’t think I agree that there is necessarily a 'socialmediaischangingeveryting' model – I just think that this is an aspect of communication in a digital universe that very definitely needs addressing, I (and others at what was, you must allow, an arts and digital media conference) are concentrating on this aspect because, along with the digital world, social media are becoming more and more important to the way we communicate, that the arts are largely behind the curve on this needs addressing. Suggesting that there is a 'socialmediaischangingeveryting' is an understandable reaction, but we’re talking about it because it’s lacking, not because it’s everywhere.

    The real world, as you point out, is.

    I think you are perhaps a little meanly mistaking enthusiasm and ideas for ‘vastly over-inflated claims’. A lot of thinking about things we don’t yet do is necessarily ideological, we have to ask big questions, and make bold statements in order that discussions emerge that really think about change, and the future. To make an extremely hubristic comparison, Scientist have always theorized about the universe, to understand atoms, well to garner new systems of ‘marketing’, we need to think about the big picture, hence throwing out ‘vastly over-inflated claims’. To see what sticks.

    Social media is not a push for ‘yoof’ – and to term it thus, I think, belies a certain amount of contempt for who are, after all, just as much people as the rest of us. (I’m 24, am I ‘yoof’?). Involvement in the digital world(s), I suggest, is not just about the people we reach, is about the lives we live, and how the arts can talk about how they are changing.

    Of course marketing will always reach out to all ages, and use many different forms of involvement, but you cannot shun your future audiences out of misplaced loyalty who you think are your current. The population may be getting older, they’re also more likely to be living alone, and with smaller family networks, maybe it’s our job to work with tech so it reaches out to them? Or how about people in different countries and cultures, how about a link up to a performance of Trojan Women in Iran? The digital universe can reach out and offer a crutch to people. It is not the only way of reaching out, but who said there can only be one?

    You ask “Is difficult/complex art somehow more worthy than Eastenders?” no, just as real world interaction is no more worthy than the digital one. MMORPGs, boards like B3ta and 4chan, are just as fascinating, breathtaking and banal are the rest of life is.

    People always shout about undue attention being given to minority causes, whenever anyone tries to shout about them above the din of the mainstream. It’s the same with feminism, with equal rights. This is about equal participation.
    how many blogs are launched and forgotten, how many tweeters never followed? I’d suggest fewer than books left unread, than B-movies never released. Just as many flyers never looked at, as spam left drifting in inboxes. Why does everything that comes out of it have to be ‘of worth’ – the fact is it exists, we can and should not ignore it.

    (I am trying to answer this whilst temping for a switchboard, so apologies if it's a bit disjointed)

    (cont…)

  18. Hannah July 3, 2009 at 7:28 am #

    (cont..)

    I am not, and in my article do not talk solely about social media, or ‘web 2.0’ – but deliberately refer to the digital world(s). We talk about social media in an arts org context, mainly because that is the first step to engaging with digital spaces, and also because that is the aspect of digital-being which is the easiest to access, and participate in, in order to let people know about the work you’re doing. You talk about Youtube being good only for ”old bits recorded from The Tube, or video of teenagers dancing to pop beat combos”, which makes me want to suggest that perhaps your (forgive me) prejudices about these arenas stems from your use of them, how about the way Youtube and Flickr were used in the recent Iranian elections? How about the plain fact that millions of people watch them?

    And a digital footprint is not the same as a digital memory. Collective experience is another matter entirely.

    Let me re-iterate. You can push, but if you do, you will not survive the digital switchover. People read magazines, they watch TV, but they also choose, they consume what connects. Ever pressed the red button? Ever used iPlayer? the digital world is not one wholly removed from the concerns and narratives of the ‘real world’. But it is different from the anaologue one. What are blogs, message boards, online reviews, if not a version of checking “listings and reviews and the opinion of their friends”
    Obama was smart, of course his campaign was full of PR, but do you know what edge he had? He had people’s hearts. I’m not saying that’s solely down to things like twitter and YouTube, but he didn’t forget them some people say that’s what made the difference. It definitely helped. He had the classical references, he also tweeted. I am not talking about the changeover from the real world to the digital, but rather from analogue communication and marketing, to function in and alongside a digital existence.

    Narratives have been around for a long time, but I would argue that that is a meaningless statement, sure narratives have existed since they enabled us to extrapolate, learn, and evolve, to fight for resources, and to build tools. But the content changes, are you saying we shouldn’t address that?

    And also, please don’t accuse us of trying to move a medium forward, and then suggest that it is dying. Theatre is invaluable, because it gives life to ideas, it is a rip in the space time continuum, it is a collective experience, 100 hours into 1, it shifts the world in a way that makes it both real and not- and is a vital tool, a mirror to ourselves, that I, and many, believe the world should and can not do with out.

    Thanks for letting me engage with you. I genuinely appreciate your taking the time to comment!

  19. Jay Jay July 3, 2009 at 7:45 am #

    Very little to add here. Excellent post, excellent debate – and I firmly agree that you can't get away with just "pushing" anymore. Marketers have to get their act in gear if they don't want to get left behind (see (churnalism)journalism, music industry etc etc)

    – Jay Jay

  20. Jamie Potter July 3, 2009 at 8:04 am #

    @Vaughan To generalise, for anybody interested in social media I don't think the message is that we use one particular type of media (or narrative even) and consign the rest to the dustbin of history, but use them all in conjunction with each other.

    It's about trying to strike a balance to suit people's needs.

  21. Vaughan July 3, 2009 at 8:11 am #

    Hi again,
    Problem with debate through little boxes is we end up responding to a slight mis-reading which becomes its own slight mis-reading and spirals into not-at-all-the-point-originally-being-made-ness. Such is communication.
    BTW when I was referring to the way people use Youtube, it was a reference to the fact that the vast majority of use isn't social media. Any surf round the sites shows that. Saying 'good use of photoshop' on an image isn't collaborative working, or in any way new–new form, not new notion (and I don't use Flickr or Youtube, but then I don't go to the theatre either, like Peep SHow says, its like TV only you can't turn over (runs, ducks and covers)). However..

    One point (actually two). Lots of 'pros' point towards Twitter as coming of age during the Iranian demonstrations. You do the same with Youtube and Flickr. But who is in power in Iran? It hasn't changed the world. Western liberals changing the background colour of their twitter pages is nicely self-indulgent but totally meaningless (also ignores the basic fact that Ahmadinejad almost certainly really did win).

    Second, back to the 'push'. Pressed the red button? Yes, digital teletext is crap compared to the old version. Use consisting of people texting in their views of the news is not interactivity. Having more choice of camera angles or courts at WImbledon surely can't be what you're talking about? Its just equivalent to having more channels. SUrely thats no different to an age of BBC and ITV existing? Just more so.
    Used iTunes? Of course, steroided bloatware. Prefer Winamp, always have. Used to like Ephpod of course when the Ipod 1 only worked on Apple. Yes, I'm that old. But again its just more choice and a different way of accessing media. No more revolutionary than the invention of the record shop. You suggest this is diferent to the analogue world. But it isn't. People have always chosen. They just have more choice now. Nice, but, meh…
    And I really will shut up now.

  22. Tim Rushby July 3, 2009 at 8:11 am #

    "The answer, I think [at least] to your final two problems, are simply just that we're aren't going to know that kind of thing for certain any more. And to just accept a level of failure, for a greater degree of success."

    Agree to a point but for better or worse we work in an industry that has to document its successes and sell those to funders in order to continue to exist. Considering the current economic climate and the threat of funding cuts in 2010, to simply ignore how we evaluate and report presently (or even accept failiure to succeed) is not realistic.

    If done well Social Media engagement data could be used as an opportunity to enhance the quality of information to funders by highligting greater social engagement and could potentially lead to increases in funding (though probably not in the foreseeable future) and possibly increase the arts offering of arts organisations, however this would be done in conjunction with established marketing practices and within the limits of the industry.

    To say that 'Social Media is changing the way we communicate' would be a correct statement. To say 'Social Media is the only way to communicate in the future and we have to rip-up the rule book from now on' is not correct. We have to move with culture and reflect it not move so fast we leave it popular culutre behind.

    To take your blue colour analogy and expand upon it…

    'A theatre company with too much emphasis on social media, is like a painter mixing blue into every colour on their palette'

    A balance is required.

  23. Amy July 3, 2009 at 8:30 am #

    "I can see how marketing managers etc can feel as though this kind of talk is almost a threat to their existence- I'm not saying you feel this, but there's something a little nervous about companies looking into this area and seeing that it isn't marketing as they have known it, I think sometimes people can be so concerned about extinction that they miss the opportunity to evolve."

    @hannah – I think you are painting arts marketing professionals in a bad light. Arts marketers are in the main excited and enthusiastic about the digital opportunities that are coming their way, and are racing to understand how all these new shiny things can be used to engage exisiting and new arts audiences, and eventually turn that casual Twitter follower into that "bum on seat" (or loyal customer and arts attender, which is maybe more of an accurate representation of how we see our audiences)

    As a marketing professional working in a large theatre company, and previously an audience development agency I can tell you that digital media and everything it offers is a hot topic for arts marketers, with people sharing and learning together. In some ways this shared learning is a lot more beneficial than some "social media expert" preaching how arts marketers should be using social media.

    I think it's wrong to assume that there is a feeling of being made extinct – indeed I feel my job as marketer has changed and I love it and embrace all the opportunities at our door.

  24. Vaughan July 3, 2009 at 8:52 am #

    Tim RUshby. Painter using too much blue–Yves Klein? Worked out pretty well

  25. Hannah July 3, 2009 at 2:58 pm #

    @Amy, of course you're right, I should have made it clear when talking that I'm only talking about some marketing bods, obviously many can see the value in social media, as it is, y'know, valuable :)

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  1. Hannah Nicklin » Blog Archive » Alt/Shift - January 23, 2010

    […] speakers lined up, and, also, my good self. I was asked to speak at this years shift following the Bums on Seats post I wrote after the last one, and hope to do the rest of the (incredible) line up justice. Shift […]

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