Every time there is some sort of conference in the arts, especially ones concerned with marketing, then you get people leaping about onstage shouting about how the arts can "learn" from one thing or another. From football to shipbuilding everything can help the arts.
Here in TheLab™ we thought they might be onto something (or maybe they've just caught something! Ed!) so we did months of research to come up with the following examples of what other professions and activities the arts could learn from.
What The Arts Can Learn From Arsonists
light 'em up and draw in the crowds. image courtesy of Universal Pictures
These guys are, to be honest, a bit crazy but they do have a good marketing idea. They set fire to stuff and people will gather to watch. If the fire is big enough the police and news people might even send a helicopter and you'll end up on a live news broadcast for free, nationwide!
Take that National Theatre Digital...... whatever!
There are some obvious downsides, like the fact that every single piece you make will have to be fire themed to
cover your tracks so you don't end up doing hard time make the whole "everything is on fire" thing seem plausible.
You will also have to figure out how to keep your audience running from the building screaming in a mad panic (and your performers come to that) but we feel sure that you will think of something. A comedy fire alarm as seen in Gremlins 2 may come in handy.
Extra credit if you combine this marketing method with the gardening one, those fire hoses will come in handy!
What The Arts Can Learn From Gardening
Bear with us here. What do you do in the garden? Well you plant things so they can grow. You till the soil, plant the seeds, use fertiliser, keep the bugs away and trim the leaves as the thing you planted turns into a flower, or a tree, or a cabbage.
All the while you maintain an air of smug superiority because you know what a hoe is used for and a Sunday afternoon gardening trip to Homebase (?) is what you live for.
Now, you want your audience to "grow" so we think this means, should we be willing to stretch this metaphor to the limits of absurdity (and we are willing! Ed!), that you have to randomly throw people down on the ground, cover them in dirt and turn a fire house on them. If you do that you're audience will grow.... geddit?
It's literal but it might just work.
What The Arts Can Learn From Hollywood
The Lone Ranger was both hugely expensive and hugely successful at the box office.... well, it was hugely expensive... Picture courtesy of Disney.
There is a lot to learn from the film industry. First of all they pay their "stars" way too much money (hello pay increase for dancers! Ed!), blow massive chunks of cash on special effects, location shooting and "completion insurance" (whatever that is! Ed!).
It also takes forever to make the films and then get them to market and these folks really know how to market something. 60ft wide billboards are the least of it.
Having spent years in production with the best and the brightest minds the finished film is then put in front of a focus group and if they don't react well to just one little thing the whole film could be re-shot at massive expense because the focus group knows best.
This of course works like a charm and film production company Disney will attest to this having lost more than $500Million on the movies 'John Carter' and 'The Lone Ranger'. Word on the street is that only 5% of movies are actually profitable. We're not sure why people are talking about feature film profitability on the street but there you go.
But that's not the point, because it's all about the process...... man!
What The Arts Can Learn From Supermarkets
Supermarkets are everywhere now. You go to a petrol station, there's a supermarket attached to it, you go to a supermarket and there's a..... well, there's a supermarket attached to it. Ok, so supermarkets are basically in two different places but we see a trend, because more of one thing means a trend... right?
So, theatre's should attach a supermarket to their venue. Think about it! People need to buy some milk and lots of courgettes (..? Ed!) and they're going to come to your theatre to do it.
The checkout folk can "up-sell" tickets to the latest show in the same way you can, inexplicably, buy gift cards for iTunes and sim cards at the checkout in Morrison's.
Most venues would need to be reconfigured to allow for storage of groceries of course and let's face it, most venue seating doesn't have enough room for people with normal sized legs.
Yeah, we just made fun of people who are 5ft 2', deal with it!
Venues could also launch a loyalty or points programme so the more shopping you buy the more tickets you can have for free. £250,000 of spending should get you one free ticket we reckon (and a lot of courgettes! Ed!)
In the marketing world this would be described as a "synergistic, economically cross fertilising, commercial retail developmental strategy". We're pretty sure you can get funding for that.
What The Arts Can Learn From The Police
So the police are not, in general, good at drawing a crowd but they are good at dragging crowds from one place to another, just ask The Met!
When the soft sell doesn't work we heartily recommend getting your henchman (you do have henchman don't you?) to grab large numbers of muggles, dragging them to a venue and literally forcing them to watch your show. Fitting hand and foot restraints to seats will be costly but you can recover that cost and the ticket prices by forcing people to "make bail" to get out of the theatre, all major credit cards accepted.
There are some indications that this practice is already being experimented with as it would explain the large number of people attending Andrew Lloyd Webber shows.
Human rights issues will have to be considered of course mainly because you might be forcing people to watch 'Lord of the Flies'.........(we kid! Ed!)
What The Arts Can Learn from Car Companies
The Things you can add to a new BMW cost almost as much as buying another BMW. Picture courtesy of BMW.
Anybody who sells cars will tell you that the car is not what makes you the money it's the options. If you buy an Audi or a BMW you can add options to the thing the cost almost as much as another car. So, let's start Optionizing™ the theatrical experience.
The most obvious options would be additions to the seating of course. Power adjustable, ventilated and heated premium leather and "hot stone" massage function! Fold down rear seats are also a great option especially if you combine them with the supermarket idea above so more room for the shopping! (synergy! Ed!)
Don't go too far though with stuff like headrest mounted entertainment systems because that might be showing something that's more fun than the hapless punter paid to watch, never underestimate the power of an episode of Coronation Street*
Extended warranty is also another way to go so if the show breaks down or the ceiling falls on your audience's head (more common than you might think) then you get a poorer quality rental show in an alternate venue to replace it until the one you paid to see gets fixed.
*Coronation Street is a UK soap opera that has been on the air since the time of the Visigoths and features characters called Tracy and Ken living their humdrum lives until they are murdered for no reason or crushed by a falling train.