A Taste of Arts Marketing In Spain

I've been away from this blog for a while as last week I was in Europe speaking at a conference sponsored by the Sociedad General De Autors y Editors (SGAE), an organization that focuses on publishing books on arts management. The conference was on marketing the arts online, and took place in Valencia, Spain.

Spain November 2008

This photo shows the massive and impressive Valencia Opera house designed by Santiago Calitrava. It's a actually a cultural complex consisting of four separate theater spaces, which I was grateful to have been able to visit. This kind of massive funding for the arts truly boggles the mind. I was with the noted British arts marketing consultant Roger Tomlinson and we were both amazed at the sheer size and extravagance of the structure.

This kind of building stands in contrast, however, to what I learned about how the arts are marketed in Valencia. I learned a lot about how the arts are managed in Spain — more than I did about how the arts are marketed online. I got the feeling that online arts marketing is not as fully developed as it is here. But I also came away feeling that the concepts we pay attention to here, such as opt-in e-mail, list segmentation, and relevant content are universal. There's a lot of interest in Spain about social networking, too, not only on Facebook but also on a similar Spanish site called Tuenti.

But what surprised the most was how difficult audience development is in Spain, compared to the U.S. I realized how fortunate we are here to have direct access to our patrons, even though some organizations don't mine this data as well as they should. You see, in Spain, the government has organized the arts in such a way that the banks pretty much control all ticket purchases. So if you are a concert producer, you can drive traffic to your Web site, but ultimately tickets for most cultural events are purchased through the bank. Indeed, in many cities in Spain there are small concert halls within the bank itself.

The problem is that the banks control all the patron data and they don't share it with the producers. So it is nearly impossible for a producer to analyze marketing efforts and track back either online or offline promotions to ticket sales. There's no such thing as a ticket-buyer database. I heard over and over how frustrating it is for arts organizations to build audiences in conditions such as these, and how desperate they are to forge better relationships with the banks for their mutual benefit.

Of course this makes the notion of direct communications through e-mail that much more important. If you can't know who your ticket buyers are, you can at least know who your e-mail subscribers are, and that list is probably a  pretty good proxy for ticket buyers.

Finally, the other distinction in Spain is the degree to which a large number of concerts are marketed at what we would consider the last minute. An announcement is made in the paper or with posters, and the event happens a few days later. The audience has been trained to respond immediately, as opposed to our American procedure of long ticket-selling timelines. I pointed out at the conference how effective e-mail is to getting the word out for last minute ticket-buying.

I came away from the conference impressed at the professionalism of the arts marketing community, and its desire to adopt to new media and take advantage of all that it offers.

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