The creative sector is riddled with challenges, dwindling funding, fleeting audiences, the craft being perceived as a luxury in an economy in recession, and government officials underestimating the sector’s value.
This fundamental shift is pushing creative organisations to evolve to increase their exposure and develop their craft, all whilst decreasing their running costs and funding themselves.
It’s time to make brave (and sound) decisions and turn to alternative methods. For the last 20 years the digital world has been creeping into the social consciousness, first disrupting the way we shop, then fuelling the massive growth in our financial sector. More recently, it has seeped to the very core of how we interact with one another.
This article introduces new concepts empowered by the digital space which will transform the way creative organisations operate and in turn challenge governments to pay attention to the value of the creative economy.
Twenty years ago if you had an idea, you would have needed sizable investment before being able to develop your work to a point where you could make money from it, for example by selling tickets, distributing films, having a product on the shelf. Only then would you know your audience’s reaction to it.
Those times are gone. Crowd funding is challenging the way we fund projects by giving the audience a say at the very start of the process, asking them to pay before a product is available. This isn’t just a great way to raise funds, it is also the ultimate measure of whether or not people want what you’re going to produce.
This flexibility, however, comes at cost. Money won’t just trickle into the bank account without some effort. Organisations need to be able to win complete strangers over. This takes careful preparation, crafted visuals, a strong message, credibility online and most importantly a network of engaged fans who believe in the vision.
Just like you putting on a new show, crowd funding doesn’t work unless you’re able to promote it effectively. Thankfully, the digital world has a solution to that too.
Put away the leaflets (for now) and get online. With more than a billion users on Facebook alone (a billion stacked leaflets would get you to the Space Station three times over), an organisation’s reach has never been this large.
Although the digital social scene is unprecedented, it’s a crowded space and contrary to popular belief, it won’t come for free. It will take a sizable amount of time and creativity to attract the right audience’s attention (and to keep it). But the rewards for those that succeed are worth the effort – having an engaged following forms the backbone of business, providing you with instant feedback on upcoming projects, sales (there’s a reason why Secret Cinema managed to sell 42,000 tickets for their latest show in less than four hours), industry contacts and a stable flow of news relating to your interests.
The web is a hotbed of innovation with tech startups constantly exploring the challenges organisations face and how to best tackle them.
Finding the perfect work space , taking submissions for creative opportunities without the hassle of allowing for external judges to help curate, organising a popup event or just a meet up, finding the perfect collaborators, ticketing your event and even organising a gig in your living room, these services push organisations to embrace best practice and streamline processes to help the industry remove bloated administrative tasks and communication overheads, freeing them to worry about their creative vision and promoting it.
Before Wikipedia existed, you would have had to go home and trawl through 33 thousand pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica to find what you were looking for.
The world has again moved on, giving people the power to publish their own blog posts and YouTube videos spanning ‘marketing yourself effectively’ to balancing your books. This won’t replace the need for consultants, but certainly helps inform organisations prior to seeking help.
Collaboration & Networking
Meeting the right people at the right time is pivotal in the development of an organisation, whereas in the past you would meet people at conferences, by serendipity or via contacts’ recommendations.
The web has widened the net allowing direct access to anyone on Twitter and LinkedIn, so why wait for the chance to meet someone when you can discover exactly who you are looking for online first, warm up the conversation and then meet with them?
A Word of Caution
The digital world is often advertised as a means to an immediate reward. In some cases, that may very well be the case with organisational tools or knowledge sharing. But in promotion and funding, unless organisations already have an established list of contacts, or a budget to build up their followers, it’s going to take you time and creative flair to set yourself apart.
The Rebirth of a Sector
Although switching to digital and changing the way the sector has conducted business won’t be as easy as people claim, the rewards are invaluable and help solve the issues facing the arts today.
The digital space is a perfect way to increase your exposure to larger audiences (and in turn sales), drop running costs and challenge the sector’s reputation as a luxury good by making it accessible to all.
And as for the government valuing the sector, showing our success will allow the arts to prove their need for additional support with the backing of real statistics and increased employment – this may sound strange, but it was success stories in tech that lead to massive investment in the Tech City Investment Organisation.
Going digital is no longer a choice, it is a necessity for the survival and future development of the arts. The sooner we realise this, the sooner we will unlock the true potential of the UK’s creative sector.