Last week my Mum asked me to buy her tickets to the Lion King in Melbourne. I went online and picked the best seat out of the last available on the seating map. The Lion King seems to be everywhere – touring the USA, UK, Australia, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Spain and Switzerland. Not only is the Lion King everywhere, but the box office is everywhere too. It is now open 24 hrs a day and accessible from anywhere in the world. If I were overseas, I could still have purchased those tickets.
Traditionally, revenue streams for the arts organisation comprised corporate and private philanthropy, government sponsorship and box office sales. Box office sales were limited to the number of performances per year. Dancers and performers still had to be paid, but box office revenue was only generated when the company was performing.
Today, as government and corporate philanthropy stagnates, arts organisations are left to their own creative devices to find alternative revenue streams. And creative they have been.
Below is an exploration of the opportunities available to arts organisations and a few examples of creative revenue generation.
A greater appreciation for the arts
Demand for the arts is there and growing. An IBIS World Industry Report on Musical and Theatre Performances found that there has been a growing appreciation for the arts in the past five years. One of the main forces affecting consumer expenditure on the arts has been the amount of disposable income available within the household. As this continues to grow, more money is available to spend on the arts (see also ABS statistics).
In particular, younger people tend to spend a greater amount of money on discretionary spend. Some arts organisations therefore have worked on building younger audiences, as well as building future audiences by bringing educational programs into schools (eg. Australian Ballet’s outreach program and Australian Chamber Orchestra’s 3D installation where virtual musicians appear around the view).
The digital world presents a new box office
Whatever happened to the majestic box office outside the theatre? Today, it exists in the digital world, and can be accessed by anyone at any time.
Not only is the box office online, but the art form is also. Today music, plays, movies, dance, ballet and opera can all be viewed on the internet. The digital world has exponentially expanded audience size. Today, audiences can experience the art form worldwide and in real-time. The box office is open 24 hours a day, all year round. The audience is not in a particular city, but around the world. Arts organisations today are making their art and performances available online. For example, Circus Oz has a ‘Living Archive‘ collection of videos of its performances dating back to 1978.
Of course, viewing the Opera on the cinema screen, or watching a dancer on Youtube will never replace the live experience. People want to eat popcorn, go out with their friends, get close to the breath of the performer, experience the live emotion and physically connect. The digital experience will never replace the real life experience. But the digital experience certainly can engage audiences. If a person is engaged with the art form they will seek out the physical performance and even follow it around the world.
In 2012, the Royal Ballet posted not a polished concert, but videos of a ballet class online. Today, it has had 2,693,156 views on Youtube. Think beyond the art form. What does the artist think the writer intended in that section? What was the inspiration for the artistic director? Creative organisations find other angles to promote their art form.
With careful thought into the protection of value and monetisation of the art form, arts organisations can create new and sustainable revenue streams. An example of this is with the Australian Recording Industry Association which now reports that digital sales have grown beyond the sales of physical music records.
When an arts organisation tours, it reaches new audiences, ultimately increasing revenue.
But of course, touring is expensive. Is there a creative way to fund the tour? Can the tour be crowdfunded? Can you partner with a corporate entity based in another city or country? (further reading here) In a competitive world corporations need authentic, creative thinkers (artists of course) to help them innovate and therefore survive. Creative energy from different cultures and foreign lands may be just what the competitive corporation seeks.
It’s an exciting era for the arts organisation, the landscape is vaster and more complex than ever, but with it comes the opportunity to connect with more people in unique (and beautiful) ways.