Case Studies: How For-Profit Arts Companies Build Community
As a marketing consultant who, well, blogs for an arts organization, when I say that my primary clients are actually for-profit companies with a product or service for artists, I consistently get a blank stare of confusion. Blame my inability to create my own elevator pitch (though I can and do for clients - ah, the irony!); when most people think of "arts" they think "organization" or "field" versus "industry." But there are a growing number of companies that, while not 501(c)3's or even fiscally sponsored, are still solidly in the business of the arts.
So how do they stay true to the spirit of our community?
In almost every case, these companies were conceived by professional artists who saw a need and came up with a solution -- and still have a sincere desire to be of service to the community of artists. Arts industrialists stand to be the most innovative when it comes to developing what non-arts companies refer to as the Triple Bottom Line - being in business not just to turn a profit, but to make a positive environmental and societal impact.
Even if you're a not-for-profit, initiatives to build community amongst those you need to "sell" to - not just audience, but artists you want to woo, can go a long way.
This is PR at its finest - building your company's reputation in a real, tangible way that endears you to your target audience. Here are just a few ways some of my clients (including one nonprofit!) have added value to their audiences through well-planned and well-executed initiatives:
What It Does: Video Resumes, Reels, Auditions, and Promos
Target Audience: Actors & Performers: Singers, Comics, Hosts, & More
Initiative: Showbiz Voices Videos
Why it Works: Quick and to-the-point video interviews with industry insiders give our audience information they need to be successful in their professional endeavors, from audition advice to networking tips, while reminding them of the power of video to make an introduction with impact.
Company: Space on White
What It Does: Rehearsal & Event Space
Target Audience: Artists & Arts Companies
Why it Works: The core studio renter is probably putting up his or her own show, so what do they need most? Advice on how to do it and how to take their project or company to the next level. So we hosted a free open house that included a panel with established producers and marketers - people that the average artist may not have access to. They learn something and walk away feeling positive about and inspired by the Space. Where do you think they'll want to rehearse their next show?
What It Does: New bar & performance venue
Target Audience: Artists and those who love to drink with them
Initiative: Artist-focused events
Why it Works: The artist-owners want to restore the space at 116 MacDougal to its original glory as the Gaslight Cafe, so in their initial launch months they're hosting a wide range of events, from poetry slams to a Bob Dylan Birthday Tribute. Most bars in Manhattan are all about making the most money possible, but as actors and producers themselves, the 116 team is all about building a community where artists can hang out, collaborate, try out material, and be inspired.
Company: Brooklyn Arts Council (nonprofit!)
What It Does: Produces Scene: Brooklyn, an annual film series by Brooklyn filmmakers
Target Audience: Filmmakers
Initiative: Filmmakers' Happy Hour
Why it Works: BAC is a nonprofit and Scene: Brooklyn is a new initiative, so its focus is not competing with film festivals like Tribeca or even the Brooklyn International Film Festival -- its purpose is to align with its mission of supporting Brooklyn-based artists. A casual event open to all Brooklyn filmmakers during their film festival gave directors, producers, writers, and editors the chance to network and meet their future collaborators.
There are many more examples: The Savvy Actor organizes an annual team in the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure, Capes Coaching donated all the proceeds from its artists' career coaching event to Japan recovery efforts, and your own Fractured Atlas is always introducing new ways to create community both in person and virtually.
The formula for creating your own community-building initiative is simple: find a need in your audience, and fulfill it in a way that's aligned with your mission. And as always, be authentic, be enthusiastic, and be receptive to how your initiative can shift, repeat, and evolve.