Been thinking a lot about the arts and politics lately and couldn’t help noticing some striking resemblances between the cultural community and the Republican party:
Both the Republicans and the arts are losing their audiences. It’s a well-established fact in the arts, and an emerging trend in politics where the Republicans’ older, homogeneous, conservative base is shrinking while the Democrats’ youthful, multi-cultural coalition is growing.
Both the arts and the Republicans have influential factions of long-time donors/supporters who resist change and who use their influence to maintain the status quo – even when it means alienating potential new audiences.
Out of Touch Leadership
Both are run by leaders who have severely limited personal connections to tomorrow’s audiences/voters.
Both promote ideologies that divide the world – either explicitly or implicitly – into the welcome and the unwelcome.
Overemphasis on Fundraising
The Republicans’ fixation on opening doors to unlimited giving resulted in the most expensive campaign in history, yet no amount of money could compensate for their inability to appeal to a large enough audience.
Old White People
Since 8 PM on election night pundits have been discussing the erosion of “demographic” support for the traditional Republican party. While Democrats appealed to a broad, diverse coalition that looked like America (check out the audience for Obama’s victory speech), Republicans hammered the base in hopes of squeezing more die-hard supporters out of its shrinking demo.
The irony, of course, is that the arts are populated mostly by progressives who lean toward Democratic values, but when it comes to making our case to the world about our worth, relevance and ability to lead, we’re Republicans through and through.
UPDATE on Dec. 5: I wrote this glib little post a few days after the election. It was a throw-away meant to fill space between more thoughtful essays, but it went viral and has become by far the most widely read post on this blog. Normally I write about strategic communications failures in the arts: How our amateur approach to marketing is contributing to declining audiences, and what we can do to turn things around.
Feel free to visit my home page and browse from there. And if you like what you read, try my book – a brief, fun, irreverent take on the sorry state of arts marketing, and a serious set of recommendations for increasing earned revenue.
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