Audience Development & Arts Marketing

As the person who first put together the words ‘arts’ and ‘marketing’ to make a neat description of the means whereby audiences were attracted to the performing arts I can, now that we are quite a few years past 1970 when I brought about that juxtaposition, welcome the term that has challenged ‘arts marketing’ in the common parlance of arts managers around the world – audience development.

The term arts marketing has changed in meaning since those early days. Originally I used it simply to show that I meant something more than ‘publicity’. In those days all audiences were built through ‘publicity’. As my perceptions of what this function might consist of expanded and deepened so my meaning of the term arts marketing expanded and deepened. During the course of an active career in arts management that spanned 25 years I produced no fewer than three books on the subject of arts marketing (the first in 1976) and in each one the meaning of arts marketing changed.

I did not realise it at the time but 1987 was something of a watershed for my personal development in the subject. The then director of the Scottish Arts Council, Tim Mason, a man I had known since my pioneering lecture tour of Australia in 1979, said that he wanted to host an arts marketing conference and he wanted me to plan and run it. He wanted to take the subject a step further. What would that step be?

My second book, called Guide to Arts Marketing, published in 1984, contained a section, Educational PR; it ran to only four pages and it looked at the way people are introduced to different art forms. Its basic view was that the arts marketing techniques we were by then using would only work with those who were already favourably inclined to those art forms. If we wanted to expand audiences then we should have to learn how to change people’s attitudes towards the arts. It struck me that Tim Mason’s conference should be about this topic.

I have always been fascinated by the remarkable coincidence whereby the great mathematician Newton, in England, conceived The Calculus, and at the same time, Leibnitz, in Germany, did exactly the same thing. In 1987, while I was pondering the topic for this conference, a book was being published in the USA; called Waiting in the Wings, by Bradley G Morison and Julie Gordon Dalgleish, it concerned itself with how people could be introduced to the arts, carefully at first and then developed into regular audience members.

At that time I had never heard of, much less met, the authors of that book, yet like Newton and Leibnitz we were all on the same track. (Later on, in November 1989, both accepted my invitation to come over to London to conduct a seminar on their ideas, which is more than Newton ever did for Leibnitz).

I believe that we may date the beginning of the idea that ‘audience development’ was a very important part of the way the arts should be marketed from that conference, which I called CHANGING THEIR MINDS – TOWARDS A NEW AUDIENCE. It was organised together with the Society of Arts Publicists (of which I was Vice Chairman) and it took place on 5 February 1988 in Glasgow, Scotland. I was honoured to be asked to deliver the keynote address.

The subject would be how attitudes of indifference and hostility towards art forms might be changed so that the everyday techniques of arts marketing might have a chance of success. We needed to develop another string to our bow, another activity that would be devoted to showing people how rewarding the arts can be, to changing negative attitudes into positive ones, to ‘opening doors’ , to opening minds. This was the message I delivered. I was consciously expanding the role of arts marketing. I was talking about audience development.

My third book, ARTS MARKETING, is truly about audience development. Naturally it concentrates upon making the most of favourable attitudes but it also concerns itself with ‘Educational Public Relations’. This topic is covered at length within Part Three, called The Unavailable Audience which also includes the text of the keynote address I gave at the 1988 conference..

So how, today, does Audience Development relate to Arts Marketing? Given that Arts Marketing contains the fundamental idea of Audience Development within it I think it could be said that audience development is much more an orientation, or degree of emphasis in the practice of arts marketing than an activity that is separate from it. It is possible – and quite common – to use arts marketing techniques to draw out the maximum response from one’s Available Audience and to ignore the rest. I believe that if we associate the two terms – Audience Development Arts Marketing (ADAM is a useful acronym) – then we make it quite clear what is the philosophical basis of our work and we embrace the thought and work of all the people who are, as well as being dedicated to finding and keeping audiences are also missionaries at heart.

Here is the definition of arts marketing that I gave in ARTS Marketing: see to what extent it embraces the philosophy of audience development:-

The aim of arts marketing is to bring an appropriate number of people, drawn from the widest possible range of social background, economic condition and age, into an appropriate form of contact with the artist and, in so doing, to arrive at the best financial outcome that is compatible with the achievement of that aim.


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