CMT: Jacob Hale Russell, in the Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2006, Page P1, has a thought-provoking and disturbing essay on the growing tension in philanthropy— ‘Hunger vs. the Arts’, as he calls it. Today's philanthropists prefer to fight disease and poverty instead of—not in addition to or balanced with—supporting cultural causes. It's a rising concern for many potential donors to the arts: “We get the ‘ask’ from every charity and non-profit. What is the justification for donating to chamber music when the money could help stamp out malaria?”
DSM: The issue has been a factor in philanthropy for a long time. But it’s more prominent now as some of the world's wealthiest people have directed large gifts recently to address humanitarian crises—think, for example, of Warren Buffett’s $30 billion donation to causes like AIDS and tuberculosis initiatives through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And this type of donation symbolically sets the agenda for other donors: it defines what’s fashionable, what’s “in”. But if people insist that spending on cultural activities is only morally acceptable after all hunger and homelessness and illness have been solved, the community will be much the poorer for it. A diversity of experience is fundamental to a stable and vibrant society, and you must not hold that dignity and diversity of experience hostage to the bottomless pit of human suffering. The world will always have malaria, disasters will continue happening, children will continue to be homeless and hungry and die. Those have been a part of the human condition since time immemorial. What’s new is the implication we see more and more in the U.S.—the implication that those humanitarian needs trump all others; that somehow other values are morally inferior, comparatively speaking; and that giving to other causes is somehow not as commendable as a gift to mitigate hunger or poverty or disease.
CMT: I agree with your notion of diversity of cultural experience as a common good or a utility. It's up a notch or two on Maslow’s triangle, admittedly. But cultural experiences are essential for both personal and community development, and for the maintenance of a free and humane civil society. You get a sense of this when you witness the re-emergence of the arts after genocide or civil conflict or natural catastrophes—Rwanda in the late Nineties or today, for example. The arts and sport and so onthey spontaneously reappear soon after destructive events, in part because they are addressing an elemental human need. The dignity you refer toit isn’t so far up Maslow’s triangle at all. So the arts should be regarded as a public right, not unlike basic health services or education. By the way, it’s characterized that way in the enabling legislation of public arts subsidies and governmental agencies and NGOs. In other words, earlier generations’ public leaders held the same beliefs as the two of us have just been discussing, and they enacted laws and policies based on those beliefs. But we need more than restoring or re-examining the public ‘right’ to the arts, or support of the arts as a public good or utility by the government. We need to get private donors and philanthropists to think of the arts in this same way. It is a ‘public good’ and it adds value to the fabric of the community, every bit as much as, say, a new community soccer complex for kids' athletics.
DSM: In this era of the "long tail" new-economy business and cultural pluralism, we should also look at segments of cultural life that happen not to have big market share. Not everything is as popular as kids' soccer or Mozart. If we don’t do this, cultural policy regresses to nothing but a coercive and “colonizing” popularity contest—whether it is a high-brow elitist popularity or a low-brow, mass-market, lowest-common-denominator popularity. There is today a sort of unhealthy detent or pseudo-peace found in hi-tech democracies—North America and Europe, anyhow; the places we two have direct experience with. Is this cultural pseudo-peace not a de facto type of imperialism or exceptionalism? Today, the nonprofit sector remains a creative, vibrant and unique feature of American life, with thousands of organizations, both large and small, working together to create a better world. Unlike its commercial for-profit counterpart, the public good, rather than personal gain, is at the core of its activities. And any effort to address issues within the nonprofit sector must take into account the sector’s diversity and complexity and avoid the unintended consequence of stifling its vitality. Further, any policy changes must be aimed at strengthening the great American traditions of giving to, volunteering in—and serving as leaders, directors and trustees of—our charitable organizations, including chamber and classical music organizations. You have to have more diversity; you have to engage the strength of the constituencies in the long tail. To get back to Jacob Hale Russell's WSJ essay, I think that an exceptionalism that privileges a few dimensions of human experience (disease, poverty, health, hunger, housing, social exclusion) and disenfranchises other dimensions (culture, arts, sport) undervalues the contributions to human dignity and to cultural sensitivity and peace and understanding and other benefits that are associated with the arts in civil society. It drives toward a monoculture—not enough species, nothing but corn in the fields, nothing but white pines in the forest, not healthy. Do you think so too?
CMT: Yes. As some donors have diverted their giving to other humanitarian social causes, arts organizations have continued, I think, to depend overly much on their traditional base, people who deeply interested in the arts and old money and wealthy philanthropists—bigger donations from fewer donors. As more of the traditional donors allocate more of their giving (or in some cases all of it) to humanitarian causes, arts groups need to enlist the support of the next generation. The Boston Symphony Orchestra has done this reasonably well. Under Peter Brooke, the BSO has overtly tried to appeal to new donor types. It's brought in more celebrities, put on glamorous gala benefits, created task forces to target executives in specific industries including life sciences and investment banking, and positioned itself as an organization that is strategically related to the city's economic development. In February, the BSO invited doctors to an afternoon reception and private chamber-music performance before an evening concert. It was the third event organized by a committee of doctors that includes Robert Mayer, a trustee who's also an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a dean of admissions for Harvard Medical School. At the reception, about 100 physicians talked with each other and with other attendees/guests about trends in healthcare, as much as they did about the afternoon's lecture on Schoenberg's music. Dr. Mayer says they're following up with the guests to encourage them to subscribe or donate. I’m not sure how many chamber music presenters (as opposed to standing chamber orchestras) have things like done this. But it seems like a promising avenue to try.
DSM: It isn’t that old money has to be substituted with new money. It’s really has to do with diversity and sustainability—and cultivating additional new donors whose larger numbers and whose diverse motivations will diminish the organizations’ cashflow variability and “lumpiness”. There is nothing you are going to do that will stem the tide of fashion—whatever the traditional large donors elect to do, patterned after the Gates or Buffet or not. You are still going to seek the big gifts and endowments and so on from the deep pockets, as always. But offering more product, more programs and series, and more experience types to more diverse audiences and donor constituenciesis one way for chamber music presenters to reduce their vulnerability.
CMT: The vulnerability isn’t just the dependency upon a handful of big private donors. The National Endowment for the Arts' budget is $124.4 million this year, down 23% from 1995. And state funding has fallen 27% from 2001 to 2006 according to Americans for the Arts. The vulnerability is the tandem dependency on flagging public-sector funding.
DSM: So what we need, probably, is more corporate sponsorship. And corporate donors are being more parsimonious about their giving—many prefer to support branded programming these days, where they are the exclusive sponsor and can leverage the promotional aspect of that. They prefer to sponsor a particular concert or series, rather than give a contribution to the chamber organization’s general fund, where it gets mingled with the contributions of several dozen other companies in the community. They’re disinclined to give when the gift is a “me too” gesture; they want exclusivity and the visibility that goes with it. We didn’t see this as often 10 years ago.
CMT: One of the challenges for arts groups is to convince potential donors of the benefit that their gift will deliver. If you're a healthcare institution, you show the donor a sick child who was helped, and it's easy. Selling donors on the cultural benefits of chamber music is a lot harder, more abstract. For prospective donors who are business leaders concerned with economic growth of the community, you need to show them objective facts about the relation of your programs to hiring and retention in their industry, in addition to softer things—cultural amenities that enhance the the community’s rank as a desirable place to live and work. Arts & Economic Prosperity: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts Organizations and Their Audiences, released in 2002, reveals that America's nonprofit arts industry generates $134 billion in economic activity every year, including $24.4 billion in Federal, state, and local tax revenues. The $134 billion total includes $53.2 billion in spending by arts organizations and $80.8 billion in event-related spending by arts audiences. The $53.2 billion represents a 45 percent increase (from $36.8 billion) since 1992, when Americans for the Arts last studied spending by arts organizations. The $134 billion in total economic activity has a significant national impact, generating the following:
- 4.9 million full-time equivalent jobs
- $89 billion in household income
- $6.6 billion in local government tax revenues
- $7.3 billion in state government tax revenues
- $10.5 billion in Federal income tax revenues
DSM: Those facts are helpful. But to grow those numbers, and specifically to grow them with new corporate donations and groups of individuals, I believe you need to expand the diversity of the programs. There's always fear among classical music artistic directors and executive directors, about the risk of offending their traditional donors by diverging too much from the frequently-played parts of the canon. To please one or a few individuals is to alienate 10 times as many otherswho would have found a more diverse repertoire (or specific portions of it) more exciting—more intellectually or emotionally engaging, more stylish, more “cool”. To survive and thrive, chamber music presenters—all classical music organizations, really—need to be producing programming for the “long tail”, and adjust the pricing and marketing of each of the program lines or series to match the needs and capabilities and preferences of the “niche” in the long tail that that audience segment has.
Concerning these cultural policy and arts marketing and long-tail topics we’re exploring, here are a few of the online sources that I like:
- Business of Arts and Culture Program, National Arts Strategies, Washington DC
- Performing Arts in a New Era, RAND
- Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts, RAND
- The Arts and State Governments: At Arm’s Length or Arm in Arm?, RAND
- Arts Policy, Research, and Information Center, Americans for the Arts, Washington DC
- Economic Impact National Report, Americans for the Arts, Washington DC [7 MB pdf]
- Congressional Arts Handbook, 2006. Americans for the Arts, Washington DC [3 MB pdf]
- Creative Industries, 2006. Americans for the Arts, Washington DC
- Arts Resources, 2006. Americans for the Arts, Washington DC
- U.S. Census Bureau Tables.
- Chris Anderson Long Tail blog.
- Chris Anderson. The Long Tail, and the Tyranny of Choice. AlwaysOn, 26-SEP-2005.
- Daniel Terdiman, Continuing the legacy of 'The Long Tail, CNET News.com, 24-JUL-2006.
- Bill Dyszel, Classical Music at the Crossroads, M-notes, Summer 2006.
- Tyler Cowen, iTunes Fact of the Day, 11-FEB-2006.
- A Musical Tail of Hits and Misses, The Guardian (UK), 17-AUG-2006.
To be an artist is to suffer for your artto be a bit tortured, at least by questions and doubts. The questions about relative value never let upIs it beautiful? Is it moving? Is it relevant? Here are some books on different dimensions of that, and how to communicate about value with donors and with cultural policy-makers:
- Abbing H. Why Are Artists Poor? Amsterdam Univ, 2004.
- Anderson C. The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand. Random House, 2006.
- Anderson C. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Hyperion, 2006.
- Balfe J. Paying the Piper: Causes and Consequences of Art Patronage. Univ Illinois, 1993.
- Benedict S, ed. Public Money and the Muse: Essays on Government Funding for the Arts. Norton, 1991.
- Booth E. The Everyday Advocate. Chamber Music 2006 December;23(6):70-74.
- Burk P. Donor-Centered Fundraising. Burk, 2003.
- Burnett K. Relationship Fundraising. Jossey-Bass, 2002.
- Carr E. Wired for Culture. Patron, 2003.
- Caves RE. Creative Industries: Contracts between Art and Commerce. Harvard Univ, 2002.
- Cherbo JM. The Public Life of the Arts in America. Rutgers, 2000.
- Cowen T. Good and Plenty: The Creative Successes of American Arts Funding. Princeton Univ, 2006.
- Cummings MC, Katz RS. The Patron State: Government and the Arts in Europe, North America, and Japan. Oxford Univ, 1987, 350-368.
- Cummings MC, Schuster JMD. Who’s to Pay for the Arts? The International Search for Models of Arts Support. ACA Books, 1989.
- Dixon L, Jinnett K. New Framework for Building Participation in the Arts. RAND, 2001.
- Doulton A-M, Forrester S, Lloyd D, eds. The Arts Funding Guide. DRC, 2002.
- Frey BS, Pommerehne WW. Muses and Markets: Explorations in the Economics of the Arts. Blackwell, 1989.
- Heilbrun J, Gray CM. Economics of Art and Culture. Cambridge Univ, 2001.
- Hesmondhalgh D. Cultural Industries. Sage, 2002.
- Hopkins KB, Friedman CS. Successful Fundraising for Arts and Cultural Organizations. Oryx, 1996.
- Horowitz J. Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall. Norton, 2005.
- Jensen J. Is Art Good for Us? : Beliefs about High Culture in American Life. Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.
- Johnson J. Who Needs Classical Music? Oxford Univ, 2002.
- Kotler P, Scheff J. Standing Room Only: Strategies for Marketing the Performing Arts. Harvard Business School, 1997.
- Lebrecht L. Who Killed Classical Music? Birch Lane, 1997.
- Lewis J, Miller T, eds. Critical Cultural Policy Studies. Blackwell, 2002.
- Marquis AG. Art Lessons: Learning from the Rise and Fall of Public Arts Funding. Basic Books, 1996.
- McCarthy K, Brooks A, Lowell J, Zakaras L. Performing Arts in a New Era. RAND, 2001.
- Miller T, Yudice G. Cultural Policy. Sage, 2002.
- Mokwa MP, Dawson WM, Prieve EA, eds. Marketing the Arts. Praeger, 1980.
- Newman D. Subscribe Now! Building Arts Audiences through Dynamic Subscription Promotion. TCG, 1981.
- Nicholas J. Pinpointing Affluence in the 21st Century. Bonus, 2001.
- Noble DW. Death of a Nation: American Culture and the End of Exceptionalism. Univ Minnesota, 2002.
- Panas J. Mega-Gifts. 2e. Emerson, 2005.
- Prince RA, File KM. The Seven Faces of Philanthropy. Jossey-Bass, 2001.
- Puttnam RD. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon & Shuster, 2001.
- Rosenfeld A, Dodge NT, eds. Art of the Baltics: The Struggle for Artistic Expression under the Soviets. Rutgers Univ, 2001.
- Rosenfield J. Marketing Metamorphosis. Chamber Music 2006 October; 23(5):67-70 [1 MB pdf]
- Rosso H. Achieving Excellence in Fund Raising. Jossey-Bass, 1991.
- Scott AJ. Cultural Economy of Cities. Sage, 2000.
- Schuster JMD. Informing Cultural Policy. Center for Urban Policy Research, 2002.
- Schuster JMD. Supporting the Arts: An International Comparative Study. NEA, 1985.
- Schuster JMD. “Questions to Ask of a Cultural Policy: Who Should Pay? Who Should Decide?” Culture and Policy 1996; 7(1).
- Smiers J. Arts Under Pressure. Zed, 2003.
- Throsby D. Economics and Culture. Cambridge Univ, 2001.
- Wolfe DB. Marketing to Boomers and Beyond. McGraw-Hill, 1992.
- Yudice G. The Expediency of Culture. Duke Univ, 2004.
- Ziegler JW. Arts in Crisis: The National Endowment for the Arts vs. America. Chicago Review Press, 1994.