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Michael
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Very interesting dialogue you are sowing here. But I'm afraid that neither the post's author, nor Linda, is acknowledging that for many artists, you can't simply create an opportunity given the entrenched funder/presenter systems in place. One needs to a) disrupt the system or b) grab on to the coattails of a disruption (hell, an interstice!). Now I'm in NYC, so that's the "ecosystem" (fuzzy word) I'm describing. In fact I'm a Marketing Director and also a choreographer, so I see both sides of the imbalanced "ecosystem". The proposed leverage situation in the main article is totally inaccurate for a few reasons in nor particular order: 1) Producers/Presenters and venue's trap patrons emails and info through their ticketing systems (or at least their websites). Those little "sign up for the artists list" clipboards in the lobby probably account for <20% of the emails the presenter can trap. VERY few venues are willing to just pass off those emails (and privacy laws make it hard to do so, unless that is part of their email signup form). Of course I think they should. But as of now, they don't; they can't afford to. 2) For upstart self-produced shows, the majority of audience members are friends of the performers. This is a result of small Marketing budgets, no preview press coverage, and no pool of regulars that a producing venue has cultivated. We all have friends; hardly leverage. 3) Press coverage creates vastly more leverage than fans in dance, theater & other performing arts (but not necessarily music). A NY Times or Time Out review will be seen by tens of thousands. A self-produced show (unless the artist is a trust fund baby) will be seen by hundreds at most. Press favors covering long-running shows in established venues by established producers. Fortunately this seems to be changing, although I'm not an expert... 4) 5 shows in 3 years is ridiculous. Of course I'm a choreographer, not a playwright, so I guess that's my personal perspective. 5) Performing arts aren't exactly a commodity and shouldn't be treated like the plastic arts. Yes there is a capitalist system at work, but there are many other factors at play (as Paul has alluded to). For example, most dance companies stay afloat (and maintain their tax-exempt status) through education and workshops. Finding ways to support the arts outside of ticket sales should not be taboo. It is a reality that many industries grapple with on an on-going basis, like journalism. The same NY Times article can be funded through philanthropy, or subscriberships, or banner ads, or (gasp!) a paywall. If the negotiation imagined in the article above, were to be the playwrights sole basis of supporting their art, that is a risky, ill-fated endeavor. Now I don't think the situation is hopeless at all. Such possible interstices: 1) Facebook: This is where friends ARE important, since they can be tracked. And a person's Facebook page is way more attractive on Facebook than most producing/presenting organizations. 2) There is a tide of critics, theorists, bloggers etc. who are interested in covering work that is outside-the-system, new work, and work were they can have a deeper interaction with the artist. Relationships with these champions is key. 3) Working entirely outside the system: too big a topic for what is already too long a post, but I'm sure you all have ideas for this. Thanks!
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Apr 5, 2011