The 6/29/09 edition of huffingtonpost.com published a piece by Kennedy Center for the Arts CEO, Michael Kaiser, that warns of the folly associated with reactive turtling strategies. It is gratifying to see someone else in the business stepping up and pointing out the need to stop panic driven decision making processes responsible for producing a wide variety of long term crippling strategic plans.
We’ve been examining these very same issues since the onset of the economic downturn last fall (here, here, here, and here to name a few) but they all contain the same basic message: don’t make long term plans based on incomplete information. Kaiser’s article goes on to expand on another critical point we’ve been discussing: revenue over expense.
“These approaches to dealing with the current recession all assume that cost is the underlying problem of the arts; conventional wisdom suggests that an arts organization can “save its way to health.”
But this is wrong, dangerously wrong.
Arts organizations across the world have a revenue problem, not a cost problem. We are a remarkably efficient industry, doing more with less. But we do not yet know how to create the revenue streams we need to do our work in a consistent manner.”
Kaiser points out that in order to enhance revenue performance, arts organizations need to remain true to core artistic values while simultaneously focusing on building your market. I simply can’t count the number of times I’ve written about how this business needs to focus more on creating the market instead of allowing the market to define itself based on nothing more than current ticket buying trends.
If you haven’t read Kaiser’s article, head over and give it a read. If you’re curious about exactly what Kaiser means when talking about creating “good art,” look no further than Matthew Guerrieri’s 2009 Take A Friend To Orchestra month contribution. If this doesn’t spell it out beyond a shadow of a doubt then you might want to look for a job in a different industry.
Frankly, we should all be tired of watching groups hobble themselves artistically and institutionally for years to come via panic driven decision making processes. It is time to stand up and push back.