Archive for ‘music marketing’

June 29, 2011

Right Hand, Meet Left Hand

There’s a lot of conflicting opinions out there about the importance of what we do. I know, there’s ALWAYS conflicting opinions. It’s what the comments section of newspapers feed on. It makes me smile a bitter smile. Those who do not value the arts cannot see its value, and I’m more and more inclined to replace cannot with will not. You fear what you don’t understand. Although you can grasp the numbers, the investment that bears fruit, somehow you cannot put the two together in your head because you do not and will not understand. I sometimes wonder if it is deliberate obtuseness.

So on one hand…
Complaints about Sun News interpretive-dance interview overwhelm watchdog

and on the other hand
Flaherty to cultural institutions: Annual funding? Don’t count on it
which leads to this
Theatre companies worry loss of SummerWorks funding will have big impact

Item: I find it interesting that so many anti-arts comments used phrases like “you doth protest too much” and “start with a blank canvas” and “struck a chord”: – you guys know those are – art terms –  right? From Shakespeare and painting and music? Should you be using them to express yourself if you are that against art?

I don’t understand what’s not to get. Aren’t things like investment and rate of return discussed in economics class? I know they are – I’ve taken economics.  I once had someone tell me that “opinions aren’t formed by facts, they’re formed by experiences.” What do you do when someone refuses the experience, and ignores the facts?

In the meantime I’m headed East again next week to check out 10X10.  And I’ve made my list of Fringe shows to see – it’s opening on July 6th. And if you think Canada Day is nothing but hotdogs and facepainting you need to check out what’s going on at Harbourfront.  And finally – it’s Pride Week.  Nope- clearly no value to be had in art around here.

Please note

June 21, 2011

Why This e- flyer/poster is Awesome

we got the poster and postcard design for Expect Theatre’s AWAKE today – it’s designed by Randal Boutilier of 12thirteen design.  The posters will be 12 X 18 and the postcards will be postcard sized. Before I begin, you should know that the Fringe is a very poster-y event – everyone has posters, I’d venture to say it’s one type of festival where you MUST have them, and they MUST stand out from the crowd.So this isn’t a “to poster or not to poster?” blog post. We’re postering and this is what we’re working with.

Here’s the online version – the ones that’s emailed to all your friends and family.

There are many reasons I think this piece is awesome.

  • Fantastic image.  Absolutely gorgeous and completely relevant to the production.
  • Fantastic logo – which I’ve been using to make a lot of connected marketing collateral – the “other stuff”. I’ll show those to you at a later date. Also completely relevant to the production when you take a closer look at the individual cutout images in the wing.
  • The play description is compelling – it tells you exactly what you are in for without giving it away, so to speak. Excellent tagline as well – “This Is Real” is straightforward and compelling. And true – it lives with the play description.
  • For a poster with this much information, it’s still clean. The pertinent information is readily visible. The funders are credited without the dreaded “logo soup” effect. Even if it’s sent to you as ‘small’ – the big stuff is clear; Title, Image, Dates, Fringe. It pulls you in for a closer look. This will translate easily to other collateral including ads, web banners, colour changes, black and white, spot colour, you name it. It’s a marketer’s dream. Why?
  • Because you could crop up this poster for virtually anything, and even though that means some information will go missing, the main stuff is still there – you’d still know how to get a ticket to the show. It’s a beautifully put together puzzle of information, and each piece gives you a bit more knowledge about the production. Each section stands alone, yet is part of the bigger picture.And finally:
  • Everyone who has worked on this show is on here. Many posters/flyers credit  the performers, and sometimes the designers, and many don’t credit anyone at all. This piece shows the average person just how many people it takes to make theatre ‘go’. It’s not for ego, it’s the fact that very talented people who are very good at what they do worked on this. It recognizes the truly collaborative nature of the work that we do. It instills a sense of ownership and pride in the work – your name is literally on it. It’s also nice as a bigger picture look at our industry for those reasons.

Congrats to 12thirteen and Expect. Gorgeous stuff.

June 2, 2011

Making Art, Painting Over Art.

Manifesto was one of the partners for the Mayoral Arts Debate last September. I didn’t know much about them prior to that, but once I’d worked with them I realized what an amazing organization it is, powered by some very cool smart people. They’re  a non-profit grassroots organization working to unite, en. ergize, support and celebrate Toronto’s vibrant and diverse music and arts community, and find innovative ways of working together towards common goals. They do what they do very well, and add something of their own to every event they are part of – I defy you to name one other Mayoral Debate that had B-girls, B-boys and musicians at their front entrance.

Anyway, it’s their fifth anniversary this year, and artist submissions for 2011 festival are now open! From the website: Submitting artists will be considered by Manifesto’s music committee to perform as part of a variety of programming for the entire 4-day festival, and artist information will be compiled into a database intended to help map artists in the city and beyond that will help us and others plan, mobilize, and communicate better!

That`s what I mean when I say they do things well. And click on the image below to watch their submissions video – it`s what really caught my eye.

Side Notes

I don`t even know what to make of the story yesterday about the City removing a mural it apparently commissioned to begin with.

May 30, 2011

So What Do You DO All Day?

A few people who are more accustomed to the nine-to-five gig are curious about what happens all day when you do not have that type of schedule. The short answer is a heckuva lot.  I’ll let you into today’s schedule with by mythbusting.

MYTH: Self-employed arts consultants can sleep in till whenever they want, wander around the house in their pjs, and do more laundry than actual work.

FACT:  Not really. My first task of the day is usually to get a blog post written and up – and I want it up by ten a.m. I find my best traffic comes if I’ve posted by ten so there you go. I also need to check the headlines in the papers, read any arts and culture articles and respond to any emails that came in overnight.
So I’m up, dressed and caffeinating as we speak.  Here we go.

Today’s agenda includes the afore-mentioned blog post. I’m also collaborating on an article on social media contests with a friend and colleague Rebecca Coleman – she read my last post on the topic and we’re taking it a step further. Since she’s in Vancouver and I’m in Toronto, it’s an online collaboration. We’ve both been batting questions back and forth to each other and we’re starting to riff on the answers.

After posting, I’m off to the Pia Bouman Studios for the first readthrough with Expect Theatre and the cast of AWAKE . I’m doing the marketing on this production and I want to meet the actors, see and hear them and get more of a sense about not just the show, but what they plan on doing with it. Reading a script is one thing, immersing yourself in the work is another and leads to good marketing ideas.

After that it’s lunch with another colleague to talk about my new business venture. On my way there I’ll stop at the library to do some research. Not necessarily in the stacks – I want to see who’s got posters up for shows and make note of any performing arts companies that have postcards out. I also want to check out the display of the month for inspiration – if I clock that it’s Asian Heritage month, I can take note of that and keep an eye out for any companies doing work in that area and see if they require my assistance. This adds to my master calendar so that next year I’ll be able to use that research to plan ahead to offer my services to companies doing work at specific times of the year.

I’ll walk home along Queen West, taking note of what art galleries are showing, who’s got postcards distributed where, and do some costing for collateral ideas I’ve thought of for a client or two.

Home! (Ah, you think. Time for messing around!) Nope. I have a contract to create for a new client, expenses from the day to input, a half-dozen pitches to write for another client, and two film scripts to read.  I’ll bet by the time I’m home more emails will be in from Rebecca so I’ll need to work on those, and of course check my web stats. (Rebecca if you’re reading this – no pressure.)

In other words, I was at my “desk” at nine a.m. and I’m pretty sure all of the above will take me through till five p.m. And there’s an eight-hour day in the life of an arts consultant. Except my day isn’t done. I’ve got a Board meeting tonight (I sit on the Board of the Toronto Fringe) and when I get home from that I’ll probably check emails, Twitter and Facebook  and LinkedIn along with my website once more to see what kind of traffic and traction was built during the day. And I’ll mull over the blog post I need to write for tomorrow.

And then I’ll do laundry.

May 29, 2011

Sunday Roundup – May 28

What a weird weather week. Hopefully summer is on the way, although I appreciate the lushness of all the greenery, more than a little sun would be appreciated – and soon.

What went on this week? Let’s see what we talked about:

More Than Just a Festival – a little love for the Toronto Fringe and the amazing stuff it does, going in the past few years from two weeks in July to a year round hub for artists.

Follow Me, Like Me Become a Fan and RT To Win! – post about the value of a social media contest. I confess – the title was an experiment – I wanted to see who would click on a title like that. Marketing folks did. Later in the day I changed the title, and the clicks and RTs expanded. Interesting.

A Really Cool Awareness Tool Covenant House Toronto is using something called “donate your status” to raise awareness of their org. Have a look – I think it’s both interesting and useful.

Other News

Amazing concert last night at The Horseshoe with Ninja Funk Orchestra and the Elastocitizens – head over to the Ninja site if you missed it and see just what all the fuss is about.

Theatre 20 is gearing up for their June concert Driven to Score – it’s an amazing lineup of some of Canada’s best loved musical actors and is gonna be a heckuva hot ticket.

Expect Theatre is starting rehearsals for their upcoming project Awake at the Toronto Fringe in July – the folks who brought you Romeo and Juliet Remixed are sure to bring you some amzing thought-provoking work again.

I’m off to the  Toronto Service Review meeting at City Hall on June 4th. According to the email The issues are complex and our goal is to encourage learning and discussion as well as collect input from all participants.” Will keep you posted. Today’s cartoon (I think it’s from The New Yorker) is somewhat appropriate, methinks.

May 21, 2011

About those Blogs….

Normally I don’t post on Saturday, but I had something in mind today.

Angela Crocker is a member of an artist group I belong to –  we keep tabs on each other and make sure we’re doing stuff for our businesses and careers. Through the power of Facebook, we’re accountable to each other in Toronto, Vancouver, Australia and New York.

Recently she wrote a blog post entitled, “Why Should I Comment on Someone Else’s Blog?” – she gave some very good reasons – click here to find out what they are. And comment. After all, it’s someone else’s blog.

I’ve also been noticing over the past couple of years, that everyone is intent on getting their message out “to the blogs”. That phrase has become as big a part of ‘to the media” as “to the papers” is, along with  prime directives to “get us some of that Web 2.0 social media stuff”.  The thing folks sometimes forget is that a blog isn’t necessarily “the newspaper”, There are a host of articles that talk about how they’re the same, how they’re different, how they complement each other. I’m going to tell you the difference I find personally.

Item: Not all blogs are the same. Just saying that right now.

If I am sending out a press release to a newspaper, I can go to the website or call and find out exactly who to send my release to. “It’s so-and-so at newspaper dot ca”. And I send my release off to them and odds are good it will be in the listings section.

If I am sending out a press release “to the blogs” I can go to the website. And maybe there’s contact info. And sometimes they’re quite clear about what they do and do not want to accept (ie only local theatre, only information about cats). So I can filter that way, and my local production of Cats is a fine fit and I can email it to them.

But what if there is no email address? No contact section?  Is this an indication they don’t want me to send stuff? Is it rude to put a press release in the comments section? Will that make them mad? If only I knew someone at this blog!

And there, for me is the big difference – I find blogs to be more – personal. Very definite about what they are writing about, whether it’s local theatre or cats. And it helps a lot if I already know the blogger, and therefore have her contact information, and know her well enough to know that she’d be interested in my production of Cats and maybe write something about it.

I don’t know. It’s just something I’m mulling over in my mind. What do you think?

(you can tell me tomorrow if you’d like as it is a GORGEOUS day outside and I don’t want anyone to miss a bit of it.) Happy long weekend!

May 19, 2011

The $600 Question: Assets and Marketing

This is a repost of a fantastic blog article. Another good thing about blogs – they have staying power – this one was forwarded to me by Shana Hillman about three months ago, and it’s an archived post from 2010 on a blog called The Mission Paradox. It’s funny, sharp, timely and true. Read on! I^m going to make some coffee.


On various blogs and on Twitter I’ve been “challenged” to answer this question:

“How do I market my show (most of the folks asking are theatre folks) with a budget of $600 or less?”

If that’s the question then here is my response:

“Is that all you have?”

Marketing is about leveraging assets.  Yes, money is an asset but there are others.  Here are a few:

1.  Time

2.  Connection to the community

3.  Knowledge of your audience

4.  Artistic reputation of the company as a whole

5.  Name recognition of the play or actors

6.  Effective use of web and social media

7.  An understanding of your local media (newspaper, TV, etc.)

I could think of 10 others, none of which require much (if any) money to make happen on a high level.


So you’ve got $600.  What else do you have?

Because if you don’t have many other strong assets it wouldn’t make much of a difference if it was $600 or $6,000.

Do you understand your customers well?  Do you want to understand them well?  Then maybe we should invite 25 of your most loyal, passionate fans to have lunch with the artistic team.  You can explain the season and give them passes that allow discounted admissions to their friends.  Spend the $600 on some damn fine catering.

Do you have a good understanding of the local media in town?  Then maybe we should spend the $600 to get you and a guest a ticket to that gala where all the media folks hobnob.  You go, be charming, pitch the season and then do a lot of follow-up.


Now that may not help you sell the show you have coming up in three weeks, but if that’s all you want then save the $600 and get yourself neck-deep in Twitter, Facebook, email, whatever.  Then hope that the art gods smile upon your show and that saves the day.

But if you want something more,  then you have to consider how to use EVERYTHING you have.

The sad truth is that some arts organization simply lack assets:

They don’t know their audience.

They don’t take time to meet with community leaders, or interact with those outside the boundaries of their theatre

They don’t understand the press dynamics in their town . . . they just want coverage for everything they do.

And yes . . . they don’t have much money to spend.  But this isn’t about the money.  It’s 2010, megabrands have been built without spending much on advertising.

That’s the other sad truth, some arts organizations have a ton of assets and knowledge they could leverage to fill the seats with the audience they want.  They either don’t recognize them as assets, or don’t work to make those assets stronger.


So I’ll be honest.  I hate it when I get the “I’ve only got X amount of money, what do I do?” question.  I understand the question, but I hate it all the same.  The very nature of the question implies that if you don’t have a lot of money you can’t market effectively.  I could spend a week giving you examples that say otherwise.

You don’t need money, but you do need SOMETHING.

So that’s my official answer to the question.  If all you have is $600 then save your money and get to pounding away on social media.

But if you have $600 and an understanding of your other assets then you can do damn near anything.

May 17, 2011

Gorgeous Posters! Fabulous Flyers!

….which one is your show again?

I had a great meeting with a theatre company today to talk about marketing for their upcoming show. It was mentioned they were doing posters and flyers – but once we’d all nodded in confirmation, we moved immediately on to what else could be done to market a show.

The photo above was taken at the 2011 Toronto Fringe – it’s the ‘poster board’. Frightening, isn’t it? How do you choose what show to see when there are so many shows competing for your attention?

Okay maybe that’s not fair – it’s the Fringe, and there’s huge competition while that’s going on. Fair enough. So I took this picture today.

This is one example of tables, windowsills, shelves and nooks all over the city where people have put their flyers in the hope that you will see it, pick it up, and go to see the show. Technically this example could be called niche marketing as it’s in the Distillery and there are lots of artists there. But at the same time it’s spray and pray – putting down a bundle of flyers where you think people might pick them up. We all do it – but that’s not really marketing – it’s distribution and should be only one line item of many in your marketing plan.

We need to remember that most marketing tools are simple a reminder to audiences that your show exists. By the time someone sees a poster or a flyer, you want them to already have something fixed in their mind about your show.

What else are you going to do? Let’s talk.

May 16, 2011

Today’s PSA: Facebook Pages and Helping Each Other Like Things

So Facebook is making some changes – again – with their whole groups and pages concepts. I thought I’d do a little research as I get several requests a day to leave a group and join their page instead, plus I administer a couple of  myself so I am dealing with both sides of the stick. So I did some digging – let’s start at the start. Facebook will begin archiving all groups created using the older format, in a push to get everyone onto the newer version of the feature. Recognize this message?

Over the next few months, Facebook will be archiving all groups created using the old groups format. Moving forward, you can create groups using the new groups format, which makes it easy to share with the important groups in your life.

Facebook offers pretty thorough guidance about the forthcoming archiving and upgrades in the site’s help section, so you can check that out too.
The site explains that old groups that get archived will automatically also become available in the new group format. Most of the associated content will remain available in the upgraded version, with some notable exceptions. The things that won’t make it over are things like:Recent news, Group officer titles, The information  box under the old group picture, The group network, The members of your old group.
Yup, you’ll have to redo your membership list in the new group if you wait for Facebook to do the archive and upgrade for you. Grr.
The archived version will include:Group photos and wall posts, Group discussion threads, which become wall posts, The group description, which can be found at the top of the page when you click “see all” members in the new group. (thanks to Jim Hanas at allfacebook for organizing into one section)

So! I spoke with a few people who are as inundated as I am with “please click like!” messages these days, and donating a heck of a lot of status updates and time to the cause of their page. It frustrates me that if I have a group with 1000+ members I have to hope I’ve bugged them enough so that they switch over, but not so much that they don’t. You can also look at it as a way of cleaning your lists without a lot of work: the folks who were just there for the sake of there-ness may not come back, the folks who are invested enough in you will be back immediately. It may drop your numbers, maybe even considerably, but this tightens up your group of followers to those who are not simply clicking for the sake of clicking, but have a real interest in you and your work. 100 people who come to every show, bring friends and tell others about your work is much more useful than 500 followers who don’t even remember that they’re following you.

Enter today’s blog post, disguised as a PSA.  I’m listing a few of the requests I’ve recently gotten to switch from a page to a group, and if you would like yours listed too, feel free drop the  old group name/new page name and the new link into the comments section below. If you don’t have a new page that you need this for, feel free to forward the offer to another friend who does. We are all in this together.

For the moment here are a few I’ve rejoined, and think you should too – the links below go to the new page.

The Harold Awards
The Toronto Fringe
Andrew Shay Hahn (the mad craft shoppe)

Brick, A Literary Journal
Expect Theatre/Spark Collective
Small Print Toronto
The Way I see It Theatre Blog

good luck and happy clicking!

May 13, 2011

Painting Yourself Into a Corner

I hired someone to come and paint the accent wall in my living room today – it looks gorgeous. As many of us do with excruciating bits of life minutiae, I felt compelled to post it on Facebook:  “The painter is here! Painting!”

A friend of mine jokingly commented: “You HIRED a painter? For ONE wall? OMG.”

Speaking of OMG you may be thinking, “Five days in and she’s reduced to talking about paint. Will the next paragraph be about it drying?”

No. It’s about my response to that comment, which was that I was confident in my knowledge of my skill set. It does not include painting. (For years I was convinced that paint rollers were designed for right handed people. THAT bad.) So rather than spend a morning buying too much or too little paint, applying it badly, putting on too much, too little, getting it on the ceiling and the baseboards and hating the result, I hired a professional to do it. It’s done, it’s done well and I just referred him to a neighbour.  And I went on my merry way to the meetings I had today.

Which leads to my skill set. People hire me to do very specific things: marketing, communications, press releases etc. They know I am a professional, they want the job done right, and don’t have the time to do it themselves. In addition – they know i could do a better job than them, as I am focused on doing those things.  It’s what I’m best at, and  it leaves them free to do what they do best be it writing, directing, producing or dancing. I focus on my skill set, they focus on theirs, and both the marketing and the project are better as a result.

But how hard can it be to write a press release and drop some postcards and make a Facebook event?” you may be thinking. “and I don’t have the money to hire someone to do it.

You don’t have the money not to.

(keep in mind – I have worked in and with and for arts organizations of all sizes and stripes. I understand your budget.)

Sure – lots of people can do those things. But if your press release has no hook, it won’t get picked up. And if you’re busy with your skill set, you won’t have time to follow up with the press to try to get interviews, previews and reviews. Heck even submitting to the listings takes time.
You can order a ton of postcards – if nobody has figured out the plan for distribution, they aren’t going anywhere. Or they’re winding up in places that do you no good – like underneath the eight thousand other postcards lying on a dusty windowsill in a cafe. And those are the hundred or so  you personally managed to get out. Putting up a Facebook event IS easy – for people to ignore if there is nobody monitoring it, using it , feeding fresh content, promoting and publicizing it.

So when I say you can’t afford not to, I mean the money it costs is nothing compared to the amount of time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, grant writing and rehearsing you’ve put into your project. What does it cost you if nobody knows about your show? More than money, I think.

You see where I’m going. When you hire me, you are investing in the success of your own project.  You are getting a marketing plan that we create together, and you’re getting assistance in carrying it out. A marketing plan isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on unless you have someone working with you to make it happen. And thats where I come in. So lets chat.

Arts Planning and Painting. Seemingly different, but very similar – sure a lot of people can do them, but isn’t it better to have someone do it well the first time around?


– got a note from the Toronto Arts Council reminding  me about the City Services survey that I posted about the other day, they’ve shaped it well to talk about the effects it will have on arts and culture, so  have a read and do the survey this weekend over a second cup of coffee or tea. Fill it out, shape your city.

– also a friendly reminder that if you’re wondering how to come up with the cash to initiate a bigger picture strategic marketing and communications plan for your org,  the Ontario Arts Council deadline for their Compass program is June 1.  Happy to chat about how I could help you with both the grant and as the specialist you apply to work with.

Happy weekend! I haven’t decided if I’ll post on weekends or not. You’ll obviously be the first to find out – well, second. I’ll know first.

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