Automated Asks and Personalized Packages: Arts Management in 2023
For the past nine years, I’ve been in the business of creating new technology systems for the arts, and teaching arts managers (particularly those in marketing, development, and box office roles) how to get the most value out of the tools available to them.
The world’s technology landscape has changed dramatically in the nine years I’ve been at my job. Thanks to all the amazing developments since early 2005 (YouTube, iPhones, and Twitter… just to name a few), today’s arts patrons are more tech-savvy, more connected, and more engaged than they were when I started working in this industry.
Many of today’s arts managers are keenly aware of the opportunity that this presents, but there are some who look at these trends and sound alarm bells for the end of the arts world as we know it. With so many “high tech” entertainment options available, will people continue to value traditional art forms? If the very idea of “tweet seats” makes you shudder, it’s easy enough to look at technological advancement as yet another challenge that’s facing the arts.
But when I look at the progress I’ve seen in the past decade or so, and extrapolate forward in time, I see the potential for a world where arts leaders have transformed their organizations into more efficient, more interactive, and more relevant institutions in the lives of their patrons.
Let’s visit the spring of 2023. How will running an arts organization and being an audience member be different?
Arts Managers: Flexibility and Efficiency
You’ll be running your arts organization entirely from your mobile phone / internet glasses / virtual reality contact lenses / brain implant. Sure, you’ll still have a computer at your desk in the office — but even “the office” will be a different experience, as you collaborate via video chat with your coworkers who happen to be working from home that day. All the tools and information you need will be at your fingertips (or eyelashes?) all the time — and with basically no limitations on what you can do on the go, you’ll have much more freedom and flexibility in your work day.
(We’re already living in a world where I can write a draft of this post on my phone while sitting on the beach — that’s not even new and strange anymore, even though the first iPhone hit the market only in 2007. I have an app that lets me access our entire customer database, chat with coworkers, and send reminders to my team while standing in line at the airport.)
There will be aspects of your job that you don’t have to do at all anymore. It’s not that you’ll be replaced by robots, but that the day-to-day “busywork” will get a whole lot less busy. What if your fundraising system could accurately predict the best day or week to ask each potential donor for a gift, advise you on the ideal ask amount, and then automatically send a message for you? You’d be able to spend your time and attention using your expertise to set up these automated processes rather than performing the tasks yourself.
(Today we have thermostats and washing machines that can program themselves and send you reminders. Those kinds of innovations will make their way into your office sooner than you think.)
Arts Patrons: Personalization and Participation
You’ll be a subscriber to your favorite arts organization, but it won’t be the fixed subscription that you have today. It will be a “suggested” package of events that the theatre or orchestra crafted for you based on what you’ve seen and told them you enjoyed in the past. Or maybe you’ll be a “member” instead, choosing which events you want and being rewarded for your loyalty and repeat attendance during the season. This kind of personalized experience will mimic the customized, on-demand way you consume other kinds of entertainment in your life.
When you arrive at the venue, an usher will greet you as a sensor reads the “ticket” stored on your phone and displays directions to your seat location. A message lets you know that your friend already checked in and is hanging out upstairs at the bar. Since at every previous visit you’ve ordered a gin and tonic before the show, you will get an alert on your phone that it’s waiting for you, and you simply tap to confirm the purchase. All of these things make your experience of attending the event just a little more seamless and comfortable, and you feel like you’re visiting a place where you’re recognized and welcomed.
By the time you arrive at the venue, you’ll have already had the opportunity to watch a video preview and chat online with the playwright. The next morning, you’ll get an email thanking you for attending and inviting you to participate in an online forum to discuss the work with other audience members.
And while you’re in the theatre, depending on what you’re seeing, you might notice that the last two rows of the house are reserved for, yes, “tweet seats” or something like them — intended for attendees who find that kind of participation and interactive engagement to be a valuable part of the arts experience.
I’m excited about the role that technology can play in the future of the arts (and not just because it’s my job). We have the opportunity to evolve with the times, or even ahead of the times, if we start brainstorming about these things now. And who knows — maybe by 2023, we’ll even finally get to arrive at the theatre via hoverboard.
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