Beyond current structures II: communication between the dance field and its audience

Database Marketing
Shane Jewell, executive Director of Oklahoma City Ballet

“It’s all about information”

You have to know who your main audience is. How much money they make, where they life, how many children they have, are their children in school? If you don’t ask them to many questions, especially when you do it online, it appears that the people will very easily give you this information, especially if there is caviar at the end of it. Fill out my survey and you get one free class or 20% off at the next ticket-purchase. If there is any reason for them to do this you can capture this information.

In the states we have different business models. My company is about 4 million annually and our government gives us 8000 dollar a year. Only about 40% of our income is from ticket sales and the remaining 60% is from donations. So we have to get even more details into knowing who our donors are. It’s one of my personal’s fulltime job and although we call him a development coordinator he is really a online stalker. He finds out who these people are, how much they are paying for their last home, how much their annual income is. So when we ask them for a gift, we know it is actually within their limit.

Performance Marketing vs Institutional Marketing
Shane Jewell, executive Director of Oklahoma City Ballet

In my opinion there are two forms of marketing for dance companies, there is Performance Marketing and Institutional Marketing. Performance Marketing is all about driving ticket sales. It is very specific marketing towards that one goal and it’s a very effective form of marketing. Most of the times it’s the only form of marketing that ballet dance companies use.

I would argue that institutional marketing, or company branding is just as important because the repertoires are not always selling your shows. There is a percentage of your audience, who goes to a specific piece that they really want to see, but there is also a percentage that is going because it’s your company and they know you put on good performances and they want to be involved in that, no matter what it is. That part of your audience is even more important. You really need to focus on engaging and brand the company. When you look at who you are going to market you really need to have their information. If you know what their names, addresses and phone numbers are you can directly talk to them, it’s the cheapest and the easiest way. You can communicate through email or postcard, and the best thing is they are looking for information from you so they will act on it.

The other type of marketing is marketing towards new audiences. This is the type of marketing you have to get outside of your base. You have to find the next group, which you think is the most likely group to be engaged in what you do.
One way of doing that is to go a generation up and a generation down. My target-group is normally woman over 45. Now with Cinderella, I will target woman over 35, because they most likely have children in the desired age. There is no way to get those kids in if you don’t get their parents. For the Nutcracker I went a generation above 45. My marketing manager tells me what media they use, what papers they reed, what radio they listen to so I can shape my campaign.

How to market yourself as an independent choreographer?
Jasper van Luijk, independent choreographer

How to fit in and not lose your face?

As a freelancer you are like a nomad, you are constantly travelling and you are very dependent on the people that are behind you. I work a lot with different partners like Korzo theatre, Generale Oost and ArtEZ. They all have different house styles that I have to fit in, but I also have my own website, newsletter and my own style as a choreographer.
So I am constantly asking myself: ‘how do I fit in and how do I not lose my own face’. I do not want to change their house styles or their way of marketing, but I do want to fit my work into their way of marketing, without compromising.

Another thing is how do I build my own audience instead of being dependent of the theatres I work with. I started four years ago and I am just building up my brand, which is a completely different situation from companies like Introdans our Oklahoma City Ballet.

One of the things I do to commit my audience is to organise open studios. On these days the studio is open for everyone who wants to walk in. I always try to push that format in with every company I work for. By using their marketing I can connect with my audience and people will get to change to know me in person and get to see a part of the process, instead of just the result. They see how it’s made and feel more connected. Also they can give me feedback and I can test things with them. On the other way it also helps my audience to look at dance differently. They see how much work it is and learn how to see dance.

I give myself ten years to build an audience. So that wherever I come in Holland I will now that my name will sell 50% of the tickets. While I am trying to reach my audience I also have to build and evaluate my brand. Should I change my artistic vision in order to get more audience or should I stay with my artistic vision and look at how to sell my artistic vision better. Do I need to compromise sometimes?

I work with a lot of partners to fund my projects. Because all these organisations invest in my project I reach a broader audience and get to create bigger productions. I am reaching my audience through their channels. As a bonus I am also connecting institutions that keep on continuing working together. In a way I am also exchanging knowledge. The only thing with this partnering is that in the end it should not influence the artistic message you want to communicate. All these people all have different interests in your performance. How do you get them behind your ideas and how do you make sure you are not being pulled in a split? Where do I find the boundary between running an artistic organisation or a company for profit?

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