The arts are facing a catastrophic audience crisis and American arts marketing is a mess:
- It is governed by executive leaders who have no professional marketing expertise
- It is shackled by outdated, counterproductive, nonprofit traditions
- it is self-centered rather than audience-centered
- It is isolated from the broader marketing profession
- It is under-valued and under-supported relative to its necessity
- It is inconsistent in terms of titles, job descriptions and compensation
- It has no self-governed infrastructure for professional development
- It offers severely limited opportunities for career growth
- It is not being used to solve the problems it exists to solve
By organizing to address these issues, arts marketers can put the industry back on a path toward solvency and productive growth.
1. The arts industry is filled with talented, educated, motivated young marketers who are regularly overruled by inexpert executive leaders. By organizing, young arts pros will have the collective authority and sector-wide backing they need to insists on professional alternatives when inept leaders make bad marketing choices.
2. Many marketing traditions that older arts leaders insist on perpetuating were designed to appeal to twentieth century patrons who are now dead. By organizing, arts marketers will have the power, knowledge and tools to they need to reconnect with the marketplace and learn how to engage with living audiences.
3. Effective marketing focuses on the customers and how the product will satisfy their needs or desires, while arts marketing focuses exclusively on the virtues of the product. By organizing, arts marketers will be able to redirect the industry’s communications focus toward the customers on which its future depends.
4. Arts marketing is an isolated, amateurish enterprise that is largely unconnected from, and thus uninfluenced by, the broader marketing profession. By organizing, arts marketers can identify, establish and strive to maintain professional standards that transcend parochial arts industry norms and expectations.
5. Only marketing can save ticket-sales-dependent organizations that need a constant supply of new paying customers. By organizing, arts marketers can ensure that the industry supports marketing in a manner consistent with its importance, and that it recruits and compensates marketers according to their value.
6. Arts marketers have a right to expect basic consistency in titles, job descriptions and compensation levels across the industry. By organizing, marketers can establish benchmarks to which organizations throughout the cultural sector can adhere in order to ensure fair treatment and career stability.
7. The fact that American arts marketing workers have no formal, self-governed mechanism for furthering professional development is an embarrassment. By organizing, arts marketers can develop industrywide training and accreditation processes that will ensure productive career growth and highest-possible job performance.
8. Good marketers seldom ascend to leadership positions in the arts (a fact that explains why the industry fails to attract and keep good marketers, and why arts organizations have so much trouble selling tickets). By organizing, arts marketers can establish sensible career paths that position marketing professionals for leadership roles.
9. Because there are so few leaders among arts executives, or in the funding and policy communities, who possess legitimate professional marketing expertise, arts marketing is not being used to solve the problems that it exists to solve. By organizing, arts marketers can take control in a leaderless environment and assume authority for moving the industry in a more decisive, sustainable direction.
These and other issues point to a clear need for a well organized collective of arts marketing professionals. Whether a union, guild or association, arts marketers must come together to address problems that only professional marketing can solve.
The choice is clear: Unite and lead, or continue to follow “leaders” who don’t know where they’re going.