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Marketing the Arts and Entertainment: Success Strategies in the Profit and Not for Profit World

Marketing the Arts and Entertainment: Success Strategies in the Profit and Not for Profit World

by Professor Ronald C. Harding

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This workbook is designed to help newcomers to the world of performance and exhibition become successful! The secret is "marketing know-how" and this guide is designed to take you step-by-step through the business of finding funding, getting an affordable location, working out a budget, a game plan, and then attracting an audience who will ensure success. Whether you


This workbook is designed to help newcomers to the world of performance and exhibition become successful! The secret is "marketing know-how" and this guide is designed to take you step-by-step through the business of finding funding, getting an affordable location, working out a budget, a game plan, and then attracting an audience who will ensure success. Whether you are a small art gallery, dance company, little theater group, comedy club, local museum, start-up opera company, or dance theater, this book is for you. It has already proven successful with all these groups as well as being successfully used by a landmark movie theater threatened with demolition, unless it paid its bills, a local PBS station faced with falling viewership and pledges, and even a zoo in one of America's best loved cities. Simply said, whatever you have to offer can be marketed successfully.

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Trafford Publishing
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Marketing the Arts and Entertainment

By Ronald C. Harding

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2013 Professor Ronald C. Harding
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4669-9228-3



Where does the money come from?

Many arts entertainment groups never get started because the necessary resources seem impossible to find. The good news is that there are several sources that may be tapped to get your organization going! Who are they and where can you find them?

1. Arts Funding groups exist in nearly every community or in larger nearby cities. Call your City Hall or town office for more advice.

2. The Chamber of Commerce often makes dollars available to small start-up companies. They are listed in your local telephone directory.

3. Small Business Associations offer not only start up dollars but also offer support in management, finance and co-operative partnerships. Again, consult the telephone directory or contact local government offices and Chambers of Commerce.

4. Foundations and grants are available from many sources nationwide. Get your hands on The Foundation Directory, sure to be in most public libraries. The Directory lists several thousand Donor Groups and Foundations. Grants are categorized by field of interest, geographic location and supply names to contact and rules for applying. Millions of dollars are waiting to be given to resourceful arts and entertainment entrepreneurs.

5. National dance, music, theatre and comedy clubs in major cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles look to build similar companies in other cities. They offer working capital or matching funds to help replicate their success. Start-up companies are usually managed and directed by a "pro" in the business who will help train, organize and manage a new company. Newcomers get to work, earn money and get in on the management ground floor. Be on the lookout for opportunities listed in theatrical weeklies such as Variety, The Sunday New York Times and various Arts Magazines.

6. Banks make small business loans available to groups who show genuine potential for success. Call them.

7. Local businesses donate lumber, paint and sound equipment. This reduces the amount of up front money you need to get started. Call businesses in surrounding communities, who may help partner your success.

In the words of Irma Mann, "Start with a fresh idea. Tell people about it. Enthusiasm is contagious. The dollars will always come from somewhere."

Approach friends. Make calls. Write letters. Get the "buzz" started. Find a friend with a computer. Ask if they can design some brochures for you with a simple logo at the top. Pass these out at church. At work. To local merchants. Actively seek advice and information. This is "networking." Ask each person you talk with for two more names of people who may be able to help. This is "lead generation." You'll be using precisely the same technique later in building your audience.

Once the momentum starts, you will be surprised at the number of people who will be put in your path. Many of these people may also turn out to be your first customers. It all starts with an idea, hope, enthusiasm and investigation.

Terms you should know:

Lead generation - getting names and addresses of individuals and organizations who can help

Logo - a symbol and identifying your company

Networking - contacting people who may be able to help and asking them for names of more people

Tagline - a defining line which is often used together with a logo



Deciding where to locate your business is probably the most important and expensive decision you will have to make. Among the key factors on which you should plan carefully are the following:

1. What size building or office space do you need?

2. What location should you be in?

3. What price can you afford to pay?

4. What lease conditions should you look for?

5. How often will you use it?

6. Can space be shared with another company at a reduced cost?

Commercial space is sold by the square foot. A 1,000 square foot office with an asking price of $17 per square foot will cost you $17,000 for the year or $1416 per month. This may or may not include costs of utilities, water, taxes or insurance. Generally speaking, there are certain areas of the city where theatre, art galleries, dance companies are located. Being in that area will enhance your chances for success, but may also drive costs of location up considerably. You might even consider a location near that favored area but a block or two away. For sure, it will be less expensive.

Real estate opportunities fall into two categories: "raw space" and "turnkey operations."

Raw space means you're just renting the area itself. Any improvements, painting, air conditioning, seating is your expense, and belongs to the landlord when you decide to leave. A turnkey operation, such as a theatre, means everything is already condition, however, bears careful inspection.

Many landlords or real estate firms will allow you several months free rent until you get your business rolling. This is called "start-up" time. Others will rent space after usual working hours at minimal or no cost!

The key here is in doing your homework. How is the neighborhood? What businesses are nearby? Is the area safe? Is there adequate parking? Getting this information is a matter of legwork and asking experienced, knowledgeable people already active in the business. Most successful companies and their managers will be glad to share information with you, if you present yourself professionally, ask for an appointment, have your questions prepared in advance and make yourself available at their schedule.

Sharing space is probably one of the best ideas for startup groups. A drama company, a dance company, a music company may all use the same space at different times. This will help reduce rental and overhead costs by as much as two thirds and provide continuous activity and awareness of the site and its offerings.

Terms you should know:

Raw space - commercial property to which no improvements have been made.

Start-up time - a period of free rent offered by some Realtors to let the company get underway.

Turnkey operation - commercial space that is decorated and furnished with the necessary elements already in place for immediate occupancy.



Every group needs a basic organization with roles assigned to specific people with appropriate experience, talent and interest. No one is good at everything! As you prepare to start your company, there are certain key roles that must be filled.

1. President: This person may be called the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), the COO (Chief Operating Officer) or simply The Boss. Whoever that person is, he or she needs the ability to organize, lead, inspire, manage, generate confidence in others and generate funds.

2. The Artistic Director: This person has an understanding for the arts, the capacity for seeing potential artistry in others and be a judge of character and artistic material. The Artistic Director has the ability to create the best possible artistic or entertainment outcome.

3. The Financial Officer: This is the person responsible for the dollars and cents of the operation. Bringing realism to the venture, making sure ambition is backed by common sense practicality, setting out economic guidelines, limits to spending, cash flow and the dollars which need to be generated from every performance or event. The Financial Officer is every bit as important as the President or Artistic Director and works closely with both of these senior executives.

4. The Manager: This person has day-to-day responsibility of insuring that the organization operates as a business. He or she sets and meets deadlines, hires the appropriate staff and works behind the scenes to allow creative people freedom to concentrate on artistic concerns. Responsibilities may also include sales and sales personnel, in which case, the person is generally called 'The Sales Manager."

5. The Advertising/Promotion Manager: This is the person who gets the word out to newspapers, magazines, and the general public. Their job is to build excitement, attract attention, get word of mouth going and help generate interest in the initial offering.

Most advertising agencies donate a portion of their services to what they designate to be "good causes." If you can convince an agency that your organization is worthwhile enough, the agency will donate their creative services and only be reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses. This is called "pro bono" work or literally "working for the good of."

Agencies are organized in the following structure:

The Account Supervisor oversees the entire creative product.

The Account Executive schedules, time, people and materials. He or she is the client's representative inside the agency.

The Copy Writer and Art Director create the advertising ideas and graphics.

The Production Department is responsible for getting those ideas translated into television or print at an affordable cost.

The Media Buyer will select and place media in the right newspapers and magazines, or on radio or television stations that attract the audience you are trying to reach.

Successful arts and entertainment marketing is a group effort. Keeping people focused on what must be accomplished in the time allocated and within the budget designated, is a major task. But, the ultimate measurement of success is how well the marketing and advertising programs worked.

Terms you should know:

Account manager - client representative working inside an advertising agency.

Advertising agency - a company that creates words and pictures and distributes them to help sell another company's products and services.

Advertising/promotion manager - person responsible for generating public interest in what the company has to sell.

Art director - person responsible for creating pictures, symbols and graphics and to create "a look" for the advertising.

Artistic director - person responsible for finding talent, mounting shows and exhibitions, approving broadcast communications and print ads which maintain quality standards of the creative product.

Chief executive officer - person responsible for the business management and success of a company.

Chief financial officer - person responsible for seeing that the company makes more money than it spends.

Copywriter - person responsible for creating words to sell a product.

Manager - person concerned with overseeing the day-to-day activities, organizing and staffing of a company.

Media buyer- person who places ads in magazines, newspapers, on radio and television.

President - person in charge of overall direction, planning and results.

Production Manager - person responsible for turning ideas into ads, brochures and tradeshow booths.

Pro-bono - any group or person who contributes their services free for the public good.



Marketing is the promotion of an event, product or service to a particular group of people who have indicated a need or desire for it, and have the necessary dollars to pay for its delivery. Mass marketers deal in volume with a general audience because their products or services are intimately connected with survival or comfort. Arts and entertainment marketers are not offering a necessity of life, but rather fill a "so called" secondary need for diversion, socialization and self improvement. Realistically, arts and entertainment are specific offerings for a specialized audience. This is sometimes called a "niche market." Special attention must be paid to what these customers believe to be of value for them. They seek you out, and show you much they are willing to pay for the program.

A critical mistake many groups make, who are just starting in arts and entertainment, is to think that quality alone attracts an audience and provides a satisfying experience. Some members of the audience do come specifically for the performance itself. Others see the event as a chance for socialization or networking. Finding out what each element of the audience specifically hopes to gain from their involvement with you, is really the key to successful marketing.

Generally speaking, most arts and entertainment companies first try and attract audiences who have a genuine love for the presentation itself. This audience will never be larger than about 20% of the general population. This 20%, however, will usually generate 80% of the company's business! They are known as the "core" audience and are critical for the companies success and survival. A secondary audience, usually called "sometimers," or "possibles" are people who are looking only for a night out, some place to go, something to do. Immediate ability to purchase tickets, convenient location and overall popularity of the event are generally what attracts and satisfies this group.

Marketing then, is a four step process:

1. Identifying your potential audience.

2. Discovering their size, how much they are able and willing to spend, devising an offering that is attractive to them on an ongoing basis and affordable for you to produce.

3. Attracting them to you by advertising, promotion, displays, personal correspondence or face to face selling.

4. Building a long-term relationship with a portion of the audience by giving them special attention and inviting them to participate in the company's ongoing success.

Terms you should know:

Arts - books, dance, music, opera paintings and theatre that have stood the test of time.

Entertainment - popular diversions, night clubs, movies, rock concerts, television, theatre meant to provide amusement, pleasure and an opportunity to socialize.

Marketing - the successful match-up of a company with something to sell with an audience that is interested in buying.

Market - a group interested in buying what you have to sell.

Marketplace - the real world where companies with similar offerings compete for audience dollars and attention.

Mass marketers - companies who promote products in which most people are interested, and who deal in volume communication to as many locations as possible

Niche marketers - companies with an offering designed to be sold to a limited audience.

Satisfaction level - matching audience expectation with performance, assuring the audience you offer valué on their terms.



Arts and Entertainment groups at the local level face unique problems:

1. The size of the audience is limited

2. Repeat audiences are necessary for the survival of the company

3. Budgets for the company are usually tight

4. Local companies still face the ongoing competition of major Broadway shows, rock concerts, television and movies

5. Time frames for presentation are short

Success at the local level demands that arts and entertainment marketers work more imaginatively, use less frequently considered mediums for publicity and advertising and build a greater sense of participation and belonging in audience members. This requires an understanding of what an audience is looking for in terms of worth, value and satisfaction. In the words of David Brown, General Manager of The Boston Ballet, "What we sell is an intangible product. There is not a functional value to the ballet. So what we are offering is a unique experience. Something you cannot reproduce elsewhere."

Josiah Spaulding, Chief Executive Officer/ President of the Wang Center for the Performing Arts, puts it this way: "What people are going out for now, is the anticipation of an experience. What is comes down to is a matter of audience expectation and delivering what you promise and hopefully something more. Build their trust. Build their loyalty. Build that connection."

Said simply, audiences at the local level like to see what will please, educate or enhance their experience. Audiences want some assurance that their expectations will be met. This requires the local marketer to ask questions, conduct surveys, seek audience opinions and guidance in what will encourage participation.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston questioned certain assumptions long held by its Board of Directors. Thanks to a series of surveys both with frequent attendees (three or more times a year) and "sometimers" (once a year or once every two years) the MFA reached these important decisions.

1. Ticket prices could be raised from $3.00 to $8.00 with no loss in attendance!

2. "Sometimers" are more likely to visit the museum if they are asked only to view one exhibit at a time. (The experience is not nearly so overwhelming and those with time pressures feel more at ease spending only thirty or forty minutes in a particular wing or single area).

3. Men are more likely to visit the museum when they are on vacation from another city. ("Vacations are the time to do something you'd never ordinarily do a home," is a typical comment).

This alerted the Museum to increase promotional activities with Bureaus of Tourism in London, Paris, Japan and to work with Convention Bureaus and hotel chains to make the Museum part of a tour package.

4. People are more likely to enjoy the experience of what they are seeing, if they are provided with an explanation in the form of tapes, guides, "walkman devices".

Similarly, the Metropolitan Opera in New York found that many people new to opera, did not know the plots or feel comfortable with a foreign language. Tele-prompters discreetly placed began scrolling a translation of what was being sung, along with a brief description of the story before the performance began. Attendance has increased.

Excerpted from Marketing the Arts and Entertainment by Ronald C. Harding. Copyright © 2013 Professor Ronald C. Harding. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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