Build Performing Arts Communities

Published 03 Nov, 2019

In an increasingly online world, building real-life communities comes as a great opportunity to music venues and performing arts organizations.

Human history is a history of communities. People lived and worked together right from the beginning. They built communities, stuck together, defended their communities against others. Communities have also driven the internet and made Facebook, Snap, WeChat, and others to some of the biggest companies in the world – and that often within less than one decade.

Classical music and performing arts have always brought people together. Any performance lives from the hundreds and often thousands of people listening and watching. But have these organizations managed to build audiences? It is worthwhile to take a more in-depth look.

Online communities have been grown exponentially. Facebook prides itself with 2.38 billion monthly users in the first quarter of 2019. This equals almost one-third of the world population. WeChat is estimated to have 1 billion monthly users. While the online communities are thriving, this has not necessarily translated into the physical space. People like to meet online but rarely move from the online area into the physical one. One notable exception is Meetup, which focuses on bringing people with similar interests together in personal meetings, conferences, talks, and other activities in the real world.

Looking at communities in the real world and how they translated into the online space paints a similar picture. Social media is used for marketing, sometimes propaganda, and organization. But one rarely finds real-world communities successfully adding an online sphere to it.

The question is, if the accidental but regular accumulation of people sharing a similar interest sitting in a theatre, concert hall, or opera house, can be successfully turned into a thriving community. Some points would suggest that:

  • Audience members share a similar interest. Their interest is more profound than just reading a bit here or there. They bought tickets and made an effort to come to a venue.

  • We have a growing number of single households in all age groups. Going to the opera, the theatre, a concert is an activity, people prefer to do together and not alone.

  • Music and performing arts performance are often very emotional. People like to share their emotions with others.

So, why isn’t this encouraged besides the friends’ meetings or pre-concert talks? Why isn’t the technology in place to support community building?

It often starts with the basics. Arts organizations have either outsourced ticket sales or their systems are outdated. This means that they rarely have real-time customer data. Yes, especially in Europe, privacy concerns also play a role and need to be considered. But privacy laws do not forbid using personal data. They give people the right to choose whom to share their data with and whom not.

With that in mind imagine buying a ticket for a concert and agreeing to share e.g. your Facebook account with other concert-goers to meet up with some of them before the show for a glass of wine. Suddenly you do not attend a concert alone anymore but as part of a group. Your concert-going experience is significantly more enjoyable.