Marketing versus Making

Photo by wnstn, used by Creative Commons

Last week, over at Technology in the Arts, there was a post about the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland creating an opera for the festival, via collaboration on wreckamovie. It’s a fascinating article and you should read the whole thing. But here’s what you need to go to read my post-
  • The title and plot were decided on by “crowdsourcing” or involving the public, via the wreackamovie platform.
  • Teams of professionals in libretto writing, composition, and staging will guide the process of crafting the final opera, but again, the public is involved.
  • Even once the opera moves to production, and the online crowd can no longer participate in that, they are still involved by creating an animated movie.


As I am working on an opera right now, I found this concept really interesting. It prompted a discussion between my director, the lovely and talented Farin Rebecca Loeb and I on new arts/opera performances.

Farin: It's interesting... but this is the type of gimmicky arts marketing that I think derails real artistic integrity. It's more about the marketing and process than the art and performance itself.
Nicole: So true. I think artists have become so concerned about marketing, we forget to be making.

With the #supplydemand discussions and the constant struggle for audience members who have more entertainment options than they can use in 2 lifetimes, have we started to make gimmicky art? If so, is that OK? I mean, gimmicky art gets attention, right? It puts butts in the seats.

I think gimmicky art is a short-term view. A problem that has plagued theatre, and many arts organizations, for ages. We are so focused on this production, this season, that strategic planning, sustainability and a long-term vision never really get addressed.

Once you get the butts in the seats, what do you do with them? Do you have plan to keep them involved? Are they going to never come again, because this production was so unique, it can never be done again, and you go back to business as usual? To use this as an example, are you going to keep this audience when you do a traditional opera? Or have you created just another niche audience?

I know marketing is sexy. And we need it. But, if we haven’t spent the time and effort on creating excellent art, why are we trying to promote it? Have your marketing meetings started to rival your production meetings, or even your rehearsals in terms of time and effort? Is your gimmick helping you make art? Or just helping you market it? Gimmicks will get you to buy 100 knives at 2am. They get you to buy a ticket to a show. But, in the light of day, is it going to be a forgettable (or even regrettable) purchase?

I’d love to hear from you  guys on this. I think this is a touchy subject, especially as we all strive grow our art and our organizations. So- What makes it a gimmick, versus a creative, out-of-the box idea? Are gimmicks OK? As an artist, are you spending your time making art, or making buzz? If you were to spend your time making art, could you trust it to be good/interesting/challenging/different enough to cause its own buzz?

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2!