You Keep Throwing These Terms Around. I Just Want To Know..Will I Get Paid?

Earlier this Fall I had a friend who was relatively new to the business of presenting performances. An agent had rattled off a series of numbers as part of the performance fee deal an touring group was looking to get and my friend had no idea how to interpret those numbers.

I realized these type of arrangements probably confuse a great number of people in the business, both presenters and touring artists, so I wrote an Arts Hacker post about some of the more common deal structures for performances.

If you are a presenter and you don’t know what $40,000/10% NBOR/60-40 split on overages refers to, it is difficult to decide if you can meet your budget for the show.

Likewise, if you are a musician going into a music venue and they are offering you a percentage of net deal, before you accept you’ll want a pretty good sense of what the potential gross is and just what expenses the venue will be subtracting out before you get paid.

 

Common Deal Structures For Touring Groups

Unexamined Initiatives Are Not Worth Implementing

It is no news flash to even casual readers of the blog that I am involved with Arts Midwest’s Creating Connection program to build public will for arts and culture. Last week, they ran a webinar just to present the basic research and program. In recent months they have been featuring two case studies where people talk about how their organizations are putting the research and messaging into practice. This session was aimed at giving people more complete information about the program.

As much as I have been a fan boy cheer leading the program, what I really appreciated about the webinar last week was the number and type of questions people were asking of the presenters.

It was an indication of just how serious people were thinking about implementing the research that webinar attendees were questioning the research methodology. I think people in arts and culture field are wise to scrutinize whether a new approach to doing business is a popular fad soon to fade or has some rigorous thought behind it. They have little enough time and resources as it is and don’t want to waste it on initiatives lacking substance.

What I really appreciated was when one person, identified as Zi Li, asked about case studies on failed programs because they were interested to learn why those program failed.  My friend Carter Gillies often mentions the problem of survivorship bias  where you only study the successful cases rather than gaining insight from those that failed.

The music on the Awesome 80s radio station is always going to be better than the music today because you are comparing the cream that rose to the top and endured the last 30 years to all the music being performed today, both good and bad.

If you are new to the concept of Creating Connection or just want a refresher, take a look at the video from the webinar which includes all the questions and comments made that day.

Americans For The Arts Unleashes A Pinwheel of Arts Power!!

Americans for the Arts just rolled out their Social Impact of the Arts pinwheel this week. Instructions and ideas about how to use it may be found in a blog post and/or video made by Clay Lord, Vice President of Local Arts Advancement.

As you know, I apply a pretty critical eye to anything that might make prescriptive claims regarding the ability of the arts to solve all sorts of problems.  As always, I am concerned about people using data like property values increasing 20% due to the presence of a cultural organization and a correlation between taking arts classes for four years scoring 100 points higher on SATs as a primary measure of value of the arts.

I will say that it is clear A LOT of effort went into assembling the data and putting these materials together. It can provide a valuable resource when advocating for the arts and finding practices to emulate.  Between the amount of data points and ease of use, my pinwheel of arts power moniker is pretty deserved.

The topics covered are much wider than the economic and educational benefits we often see cited in relation to the arts. There are sections on diplomacy, innovation, faith, infrastructure, health and wellness, social justice and yes, culture, economics and education. Each of the 26 “slices” of the pinwheel brings up a “Learn More” button in the center that allows you to download a printable PDF specific to the topic with footnoted sources that you can bring to meetings with policy makers to show them what is backed by research.

Arrows on either side of the center hub will take you to examples of practice, reading lists and organizations associated with the topic. According to the video presentation Lord made, they were still populating that content.  Since that video was made at the conference back in June, they have likely added a lot more content since then.  I haven’t checked every slice of the pinwheel, but haven’t been able to find an area that lacks any of those three categories.

The downloadable PDFs have reading lists, examples of practice and organizations included, but the respective categories accessed via the pinwheel hub provide more direct access to the information in each section.

My hope is that the easy availability of data and examples of impacts in a wide range of applications will enable people to advocate for the arts cross a broader spectrum of rationale. Likewise, I hope people find it easy to draw inspiration from the successes organizations have had making artistic and cultural practice part of their effort to create connections and impacts in various endeavors.

Show Of Hands- Conference Professional Development Sessions Mostly BS Or Sources of Valuable Info?

While I wasn’t scheduled to sit on any panels at the ArtsMidwest conference last week, I did end up leading (or at least shepherding) one.

Actually, I made a tongue-in-cheek claim I was hijacking the session because it was originally cancelled but I decided it should go on if there was enough interest.  What had been scheduled was a book club type discussion of Nina Simon’s The Art of Relevance. The person who had been scheduled to lead the session couldn’t make it so I decided if enough people walked up and expressed disappointment at seeing the cancellation notice, I would pull the sign down and make sure it happened.

Sure enough, two other people quickly came up and said “awww” so I pulled down the sign and took over the room. We ended up having about 15 people attend, half of whom had read the book and the other half who intended to read it and wanted to know more.

Given that mix of experience and perspectives, it was pretty easy to provide a valuable and informative session. (Though if I had had more notice, I might have tried to get a computer so we could show one of Nina’s TEDx talks)

Earlier in the week, there was another session that had been cancelled because the presenter couldn’t make it. This one was geared toward helping people take a look at the physical surroundings of an arts venue from a different perspective to identify what features might be sending unwelcoming messages to some groups.

From the session description:

“Oftentimes the greatest asset of any arts program is its physical space, and yet it’s frequently overlooked when it comes to access, inclusion and diversity…if we aren’t paying attention we can inadvertently send the wrong messages. Like tourists with fresh eyes participants will go on a walking tour of the Indiana Convention Center and explore how to identify and mitigate the psychological, emotional and physical reactions that occur in response to a physical space.”

I had seen this at previous conferences and had conflicts so I intended to participate this year and I was a little disappointed that it got cancelled.

I overheard a number of other people express similar disappointment at it being cancelled and then rhetorically ask if the conference couldn’t have just found someone else to run the session instead.  My feeling is that being sensitive to and aware of these problematic features is a pretty specific skill set.  It isn’t as easy to find a suitable substitute as it was for me and others to step in and lead the book club discussion.

I mentioned this to a couple of those making these comments and they seemed pretty reluctant to concede this was the case. This reaction made me wonder if conference attendees perceived the content of these sessions to be marginally valuable BS that presenters spouted and therefore was easily substituted on short notice by other people who happened to be around.

And yes, granted a lot of times conference content can be full of empty platitudes about how everyone must love the arts but sessions like these are more about specialized practical skills and less about advocating for the value of the arts.

I suppose a more charitable read could be the perception that everyone in attendance but oneself is a highly qualified expert practitioner and therefore could step in to provide illuminating perspective on the problem.

But if it is the assumption that half of what you are hearing is B.S., then arts conferences have a challenge about communicating their value for professional development.

Thoughts?

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