Wednesday, May 06, 2009

SF and TCG

I just received an email that reads as follows:

Theatre Bay Area (TBA) and the Theatre Communications Group (TCG) recently released new data from a snapshot of the San Francisco Bay Area’s theatre community that I thought you might want to share on your blog.


Taking Your Fiscal Pulse: A Report on the Fiscal Health of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Community” (attached as PDF)


Among other findings, the report reveals that in the face of economic adversity theatre companies are returning to their mission. Instead of scaling back, companies are embracing new social networking tools to develop personal relationships with their stakeholders.


The Snapshot report provides preliminary findings; a more comprehensive report will be coming out in the fall (September/October).

Now, there's part of me that wants to make another crack about the TCG's recent discovery of Facebook, and how this report (or at least this email about this report) apparently sees it as the savior for a failed business model. Oops! I guess I did make another crack... But seriously, does anyone else think that sentence is weird: instead of scaling back, SF theatres are using Twitter more? Wha? And does anyone really think that Twitter and Facebook really "develop personal relationships"? And "stakeholders"? Stakeholders???

Anyway, if you want the report, email me and I'll send it as an attachment. It might actually have info that is useful, who knows?

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CRS said...

Facebook, twitter, and other social networking tools have helped me to inform and excite people about my projects.

These tools allow a flexibility that more traditional marketing doesn't, allowing me to keep people informed about scheduling changes, canceled performances, added performances, cast changes, and special events.

More importantly to me, these tools put me, the artist, in direct contact with my audience. They also put the audience in contact with each other. Leading up to and just after a performance, this group dynamic helps the audience feel that they are a part of the process, and can result in powerful word-of-mouth interest in the production.

In the current atmosphere of theatre struggling against dis-interest and centralization, I can only see benefits in engaging our audiences and patrons directly in a format that is comfortable and exciting for them.

You have shown your ability to take anything popular and label it "Bad for Theatre", but in this post you haven't even tried to explain your view.

What am I supposed to take away from this? That you like asking questions rhetorically to imply that your opinion is the obvious answer? That might work, but in this case I don't even know what your opinion is, except that you're vaguely against social networking for unspecified reasons. And of course you distrust TCG, but I didn't need to read another post to know that.

Scott Walters said...

Actually, I fully endorse everything you're saying. What I mean is that the idea that using social networking tools represents "not scaling back" seems to overstate the case a wee bit.

Scott Walters said...

By the way, I'm not certain how you've come to this conclusion: "You have shown your ability to take anything popular and label it "Bad for Theatre." I have?

CRS said...

What I intially took out of the phrase was that "scaling back" would involve following the same practices, but cutting corners and doing less. In the context of today's theatre, which I think we agree in too many cases has become bloated, irrelevant, and emptied of it's power; I read "scaling back" as still sending junk mail but sending less per season, still doing cotton candy shows but using half the musicians, still missing the target but firing less rounds.

So my initial reading was "Instead of scaling back because of a lack of resources, companies are trying to get more for their money (and get more money) by exploring new marketing methods.

Now I see your point that this does represent a sort of scaling back, in a different way. Here in the land of $400 tickets to Mickey's Bubblegum Revue, this kind of scaling back is exactly what we need. In fact, creating a more intimate theatre with a more honest connection to it's patrons is so desirable (to me, at least), that it doesn't feel like scaling back at all, it feels like stepping up.

So I think we are in agreement here. I see now that you were responding more to the spin that was being put on the situation than the actual methods companies are turning to.

Tony Adams said...

I'm not sure I see the issue with trying to return to their mission and trying to reach out to those in their community through social networking.

For some of these it's the first time they've reached out from the Ivory Tower. I'd see it as a good first step.

What is the issue here?

Scott Walters said...

Thius is what I get for posting quickly when I don't have time to explain.

I enthusiastically agree with experimenting with social networking applications to open up the process. Hell, I have been using show blogs for several years now to let people hear what's happening in rehearsal. Facebook and Twitter have been very effective in amplifying word of mouth.

I think what I was trying to do, and what Christopher put into words, was object to the spin of the email. First, social networking is no more "personal relationships" than sending out emails to a mailing list. It is cheap, and possibly effective, marketing, but there are more to personal relationships than following somebody on Twitter. As someone who is committed to the value of having an ongoing, personal relationship with one's audience, I don't like to see that idea transformed into Facebook.

Second, I didn't see how using social networking was evidence of "not scaling back." There seem to be a lot more pertinent data (e.g., size of casts, budgets, staff, etc) that would actually demonstrate this conclusion.

Third, I found the use of the word "stakeholders" a bit odd. Perhaps business has expanded the definition to include anybody who happens to interact with your business, including customers, but my understanding of the word involves a bit more active involvement.

Yes, Tony, I applaud first steps -- you're right, that should be acknowledged. And this post was a little snarky -- I tend to not like self-serving emails that are clearly sent to a mailing list (Dear Walt, mine began -- if you actually read my blog, you'd know I am not "Walt") suggesting things I might like to put on my blog. Get your own damn blog!

E. Hunter Spreen said...

I'm assuming when it says that theater companies are embracing social networking tools, we're refering to theater like ACT, Berkeley Rep, San Jose Rep? Or are they including smaller companies in that report as well?

Melanie said...

After reading the interesting discussion that’s followed, I think a few clarifications are in order on the media alert and the fiscal snapshot report I sent Scott.

The “Taking Your Fiscal Pulse” snapshot provides the first comprehensive look of how the Bay Area not-for-profit theatre community is faring since the economic downturn.

Instead of scaling back on performances or staff, independent San Francisco theater companies are returning to their mission to connect with their donors and stakeholders. They are doing this both through reinvigorating time-honored methods of donor cultivation and embracing new social-networking technologies for the first time.

A few clarifications, in response to some of the posts above:

- The data represents a snapshot survey of independent not-for-profit theatre companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. So yes, smaller companies are well represented.

- The report shows companies are using more new media and social networking tools as a way to engage their supporters—and, yes, finally discovering facebook!

This is a first step in engaging stakeholders with new technology and much experimentation and learning is, no doubt, underway.

- The report also shows that the theatre community is also doing more hand holding with donors, cultivating the personal relationships that are at the heart of their mission.

- This is just a sampling of the findings and much more is contained in the full report.

Theatre Bay Area and TCG hope that other regions and theatre communities can learn from the survey. The full report is accessible for download online at:

A more comprehensive report will be released in the fall (September/October).

And my apologies to Scott for any missteps! You and your community of readers here are exactly the people whose insight and thoughts on the report we are most looking forward to.

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