Yes, Audiences Will Come Back

Anxiety over losing audiences not just during periods of social distancing but beyond is something I hear a lot from arts managers these days. The good news is this has been figured out for you already.

Spoiler: people do miss it. They down right yearn for it.

In the course of her work with Arts Capacity, violinist Holly Mulcahy has discovered just how much people miss the impact live cultural experiences have, even when other forms of engagement are still available.

She recently published an article about this at Neo Classical that pulls a survey from a prisoner that took part in a live recital program Arts Capacity provided to that facility in 2017.

Unlike the prisoners, we do have access to many online streaming artistic outlets, however they will become very old as we ultimately feel and know we are not as engaged as if we were experiencing a live in-person performance.


But I keep coming back to what I’ve learned from the recitals I’ve given in the prisons. Humans need interaction and humans need art and music. And these words from another prisoner also resonated: “All we get in the dorm are shallow movies, reality TV and news. This [the live recital concert] is a great way to touch humanity and the depths of the human spirit!”

“I didn’t know how much I would miss art and culture until it was gone.”

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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