Theatres and concert halls have too little grasp of who their public is and who they could turn into regular visitors. This results in their not taking the public’s wishes into account as well as they should, according to research by Kim Joostens on the marketing policies of medium-sized venues in the Netherlands. Highbrow shows and concerts, in particular, could draw more visitors and would be more widely appreciated if venues paid more attention to arts marketing. ‘And that does not entail more advertising, but creating a more clearly defined image, sometimes bringing programmes in line with those of other theatres, and giving a lot of thought to the chosen mission. Venues should take the public’s experience into account much more than they do now.’ Joostens will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 12 January 2012.
Venues and theatre ensembles have every reason to ponder how they can attract a wider audience. T he Cabinet as well as local government are cutting performing arts funding, so a great deal more needs to be earned at the box office. This is particularly the case for the troupes and ensembles that receive grants and other funding. Although the number of Dutch that visit at least one show a year has risen from 48% to 53% in recent years, the numbers visiting shows receiving national funding dropped in the same period by no less than 11%.
Joostens has established that these are the types of shows that could benefit tremendously. ‘The experimental and complex arts are the ones that will feel the cuts the most. Without funding development will grind to a halt as public interest is low. However, the performing arts will be incapable of developing without such types of art. Although they shouldn’t be judged by the numbers they draw, this shouldn’t prevent them from considering what they have to offer.’
Government has considered arts marketing the way to draw the public for years on end. However, given the shrinking numbers, this does not seem to be working. Joostens feels this is not the fault of the concept of arts marketing but the way it is carried out. The problem at the venues Joostens investigated was that there was an ad hoc policy to bring shows to the attention of a rather arbitrary public. ‘Most energy is expended on posters, flyers and ads, and – if ticket sales seem to be disappointing – on last-minute e-mail campaigns. There is an utter lack of coherence. They try to reach every segment of the public, without taking the time to get to know their audience. This type of arts marketing needs to be developed further’, says Joostens.
Joostens therefore calls for part of the culture budget cuts to be invested in arts marketing. Venues with highbrow performances could use this instrument to attract and retain their public. Programming and marketing are closely connected in this regard. ‘They could for instance experiment with extending a run. There is the danger that shows won’t sell out, but the upside is that word-of-mouth advertising could lead to people going to a show they missed a day later. Venues in the same region could bring their programming in line. Nowadays a play is in Enschede one night and in Hengelo the next – this could be done much more efficiently.’
Kim Joostens (Enschede, 1980) studied Art and Arts Policy at the University of Groningen and went on to teach arts marketing there. She has also worked for the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (NNO) and currently lectures at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. In October 2011 she set up her own company, Kunst&Klant (Arts&Customer), in Haarlem.
On 12 January 2012, Joostens will be awarded a PhD by the Faculty of Arts of the University of Groningen for a thesis entitled ‘Kunst & Klant in de Nederlandse podiumkunsten’ (Arts & Customers in the Dutch Performing Arts). Her supervisor was Prof. J.J. van Maanen.
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