Silver Bullet

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Michelle Lefevre

There has been a lot of chatter lately about how to use the internet to promote your work, yourself or your company. Some of the discussions have come to the conclusion that the internet, as useful as it is, is not really helping to get the word out about dance and increasing ticket sales into the bargain. So what's the problem?

If you look at dance audiences on a local scale they are, relatively speaking, very small. On a regional level they are a little bit larger. When you move up the national arena they are larger still and on a global scale the audience for dance, which probably numbers in the millions, is huge.

Unfortunately that huge audience is not going to be able to make it to your performance in the small town in the North of England or Macon, Georgia (which is a real place) because your show is probably too far away.

Think about it like this. Let's say you have a Facebook company page with 1000 "fans" or a Twitter account with 500 "followers". You have a single night performance at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. You hit both your Facebook fans and your Twitter followers with an update informing them about the show.

What are the chances that enough of those people are going to be in the right place at the right time and will be available to come to your show to make a real difference to your ticket sales? If it's more than 1% you're probably doing really well.

The problem here is that you're using a global communications solution to crack a local nut.

Signal Noise

Looking at this issue from the perspective of potential audience members; What you are asking them to do is follow the updates, mailing lists, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages or any one of a thousand other things for dozens of individual companies, possibly hundreds of individual companies. The sheer volume of information that everybody has to keep up with is vast. Is it any wonder that they don't even try?

More and more people are learning to trim the number of services they use to keep them up to date. RSS feeds are being purged, Facebook groups are being left and mailing lists are being unsubscribed from.

It's always puzzling when arts orientated websites have "send to" buttons for services like Digg, Reddit and Mixx. In the whole, short history of those sites when has there ever been an arts related news story or event that generated any significant interest?

Keep it Local Keep It Simple

The best conduit for any dance company to selling tickets at a small or mid-scale venue is the venue itself. Their local knowledge, mailing lists, email lists and contacts are what you need to get the word out about your show. It's the venues that understand their local audience and how to reach them.

It's the venue that needs to build followers and fans on social networking sites because there is a very good chance that those people will be in the right place at the right time to catch your show.

Theatre audiences will probably be more inclined to want updates from their local venues. If they get information about your company performing in London and they live in Manchester (some 200 miles away) then they will probably ignore it.

Better still would be if small and mid-scale theatres joined forces within a local area and built up combined lists of followers on social networking sites. Breaking it down and keeping it simple for the audiences is a more practical way forward. They have less clutter in their online world and the venues, and visiting companies, have access to a potentially larger audience base.

As audiences move around they can remove themselves from lists and affiliations that are no longer practical for them so the mailing lists and contacts stay as current as possible and fewer resources are wasted.

Some detritus will remain but the more information people receive that is not relevant to them the more inclined they are to remove themselves from your list. It's always better to get at a few hundred people who really want to know rather than trying to get at five thousand people who couldn't care less.

Feeding the Beast

Feeding the venue's information is your own publicity material and this starts with your company's own website. This means your site needs to contain as much pertinent information as possible so the venues can cherry pick the right parts to run on their own site and place into their own publicity mail-outs. Pertinent information means good written material, images and video material.

From a design perspective keep your website simple and the content quality to a high standard. Keep it simple, keep it clean and keep it up to date!

Your own site can also have satellite content, for both pictures and video, on sites such as Vimeo and Flickr. The advantage of that content is the ability for it to be easily embedded into other websites. Content platforms shouldn't be used in the one ten thousand hope that people will stumble across your material. You need to put the content there and then get proactive in letting the people that need to know how they can use it.

It's amazing to us, here in TheLabā„¢, just how few companies link to the high quality video material of their own work on this website for publicity reasons. Only recently have a few featured companies been providing venues with links to their own work. We know this because we can track the inbound links from those websites.

A notable example is Verve 08. The company is managed by the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and within 24 hours of the video feature going live it was being linked to by NSCD themselves and four of their touring venues. If the information is there then link to it, take advantage of it!

Try not to spread yourself to thinly with the satellite content though. Pick the best tools for the job and stick with them. Don't get freaked out by counters and the other numbers these sites spit out to give some representation of how popular you are. The same analogy for the venues applies here. Five hundred people engaged with your work are better that five thousand people that dropped by and forgot about you two minutes later.

Scatter Gun

The internet offers many tools that could potentially spread the good word about dance and help build audiences. Those tools need to be deployed by the right people and in the right way. If the wrong people are getting your message at the wrong time then the effort will be wasted. Blasting information around on dozens of networks in the hope of hitting the target is as hopeless as it is unsophisticated

Contemporary dance audiences for live performances are small and very tightly located within specific geographic areas. Encouraging venues to build local followers on socially orientated websites will serve both your purposes more effectively. The venue can more easily reach their audience and you, as a professional dance company, can more easily get that audience interested in your show.

As a dance company, when you have finished in the studio constructing your work do your very best to construct an online presence that feeds the publicity needs of your target venues.

The internet is not a "silver bullet" solution to the problems facing the arts in its attempts to reach a wider audience. However, it can play a significant role if everybody involved puts in the effort and starts using the tools in a more focused way.

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[ Vimeo ]
[ TypePad ]
[ Flickr ]

[ Top Image by JorgeVilla ]

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