The saying goes; "numbers don't lie", unless you work for the United States Supreme Court and you want George Bush to be President that is.
When we talk about dance the numbers are usually pretty small. Small companies, small audiences, small tours, small budgets. Sometimes the talent is huge but everything else is small, it's a small business.
Last week Media By Numbers, a company that monitors US box office performance for films, released detailed statistics on the ticket sales for all summer releases across the country and these numbers are anything but small.
Despite the US film industry crying wolf with claims that their business is failing because of piracy, BitTorrent and global warming (ok, maybe not global warming) they managed to sell over 600Million tickets to US customers over the 18 weeks of the summer season. That's two tickets for every man woman and child living in the United States.
The revenues from these ticket sales top $4Billion. By the end of the year ticket sales will be over 1.5Billion with revenues of over $9.5Billion if ticket sales continue to outstrip last years efforts.
Dance, of course, cannot possibly hope to achieve such numbers. For one thing, dance companies cannot perform in 3000 theatres simultaneously for a month at a time, that would be silly! (no kidding! Ed!)
What dance can learn from the film industry, at least the American film industry, is a few lessons in promotion and publicity. Big film studios spend almost as much money promoting their films as they do making them. Every possible avenue is saturated with ads for their productions. The advertising is on the web, television, radio, cinemas, newspapers, magazines. You name it, its got an ad for a film in it.
They run promotions with food companies, toy companies, computer games companies, any kind of company that can carry an advert.
Films from rival studios often promote each other by the clever use of trailers, you may have seen a few the last time you were in the cinema. The point is, it's all coordinated and interconnected.
Of course money is an issue, dance companies don't have any. However, the avenues available to dance companies, NDA's, theaters and everybody else to help promote dance are either under exploited or ignored.
So let's ask a few questions;
1. Why don't dance companies promote each others shows on their websites?
2. Why don't theatres run video trailers, prior to dance performances promoting other dance performances in the same theatre or nearby venues?
3. Why don't NDA's carry a synchronised listing of all dance performances on their websites for the whole country?
4. Why don't big, successful companies promote the shows of smaller, new companies?
The technology is available to do all of those things, all that's lacking is the effort to make it happen. Article19 has been using Upcoming.org for over a year now to run our listings. It's a social event management system and anybody can add events to our listings and it has lots of nifty features for keeping people up to date about events automatically.
We even wrote a piece about it, explaining how it worked, which thousands of people have read.
Do you know how many listing have been added in the last year by other people? Zero!
Contemporary dance is not a competitive sport, dance companies are not in competition with one another for audiences and venues are not in competition with one another for ticket sales. There are plenty of people to go around, we know they exist, we can see them walking about on the streets.
Stop acting like it's you vs the world and try and help each other out a little bit, if you don't know how, then ask us, that's why we are here.
As for the answers to the above questions? We could call and ask all of the people involved but that would be a lot of effort to make when we already know the answers.
Just make a sentence from the following words and apply to any of the questions; "arsed we sodding be can't!"