Benjamin Coy


Arts management

July 9, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I just tweeted NPR’s printing of Alan Fletcher‘s remarks at the opening of the 2013 Aspen Festival. I think there are some highly valuable points in there, and I want to add my own perspective on one in particular.

“I fear many musicians undervalue the essential contributions that management, operations, marketing, finance, and education departments make, and especially fundraising departments.”

The business of arts management is changing dramatically. It has grown up from artists who do what they can to keep things moving to true professionals with specialized training. Fletcher touches on the debate about how much “business sense” is appropriate in the field, but there are many people more qualified than me to continue that discussion. Instead, I just want to talk about what really good management is like.

Great management teams are creative. They invent new market opportunities, invent the programming that appeals to those markets, and invent the marketing campaigns to spread the word. They think outside the box to realize far-reaching artistic visions on limited budgets, and they find ways to make resource-starved projects qualify for grant opportunities.

Great management teams are flexible. They constantly rearrange any and all variables to make the square peg fit in the round hole. They mix and match artists, venues and audiences to find the combinations that resonate. They rebrand everything from individual performances to the entire organization to best highlight the artistic product. They work around medical emergencies, weather catastrophes and equipment failures so smoothly the audience rarely even notices.

Great management teams are visionary. They extrapolate from past successes and current strengths to determine the long-term artistic direction of the organization. They examine their communities and their communities’ resources to imagine new possibilities to be explored. They analyze the socioeconomic trends to prepare for the artistic implications (both positive and negative).

Great management teams are engaged. They are leaders in their communities and form genuine relationships between civic organizations. They are involved with rehearsals and performances and stay inspired by the product they help create. They converse with audience members and listen to their ideas and concerns to help the ensemble stay responsive.

Great management teams are the ninjas of our industry. They are talented, courageous, and nimble. When the curtain goes up, we musicians have to hit the high notes in front of a hall full of people. But, the curtain went up and the hall is full of people – and for that, we should thank our management!

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