NEA FORUM - PANEL 5 - PRIVATE SECTOR / ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
“And the beat goes on.....................”
Scroll down for the Friday, October 16th Wrap UP and the Wednesday, October 14th and Thursday, October 15th entries. To review the previous panels' discussion scroll down and access each entry under the Recent Entries section on the right hand side.
PANEL 5 PARTICIPANTS:
Kristen Madsen - Senior Vice-President – The Grammy Foundation
Terri Clark - Executive Director, The Television Academy of Arts & Sciences Foundation
Cary Sherman - President RIAA (Record Industry Association of America)
Mary Luehrsen Director of Public Affairs & Government Relations, NAMM (The International Music Products Association)
BARRY: The nonprofit arts community has long sought to develop stronger links to, and collaborations with, the ‘for profit’ entertainment industry. Unfortunately, except in a few instances little has emerged from these efforts. Why do you think that is the case? What would motivate the film, music, television and other branches of the entertainment industries to sit down with the nonprofit arts sector and arrive at mutually beneficial goals and specific actionable strategies to achieve those goals?
TERRI: I think like so many things this comes down to a matter of process. And the natural human process is that we tend to operate in silos or have tunnel vision, so steeped in what is just in front of us that we can’t see how taking a step back and looking at it from the 10,000 foot view might actually get us to the goal in a more effective manner. And so we just keep plugging away at it, each in our silos. I happen to believe that the motivation to have the dialogue. Here at the Television Academy Foundation we’ve had success in reaching out to non-profit arts organizations and coming up with creative collaborations that help both of us find those mutually beneficial goals. One example is a partnership with Inside Out Community Arts that we developed and a pilot program, Kid Vid, that ensued from the initial conversation about how we might work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals. Kid Vid targets at-risk high school students and strives to teach them video production skills using the artistry of television as a backdrop but also provide students with life skills and exposure to career development paths.
I think the motivation is there to have the sit down and think that some of the organizations on this panel can be great facilitators of the process. But the key to any successful collaboration is finding the win/win scenario and to be very strategic and specific. And to have an understanding of what is in it for the entertainment industries. Perhaps focusing on one or two issues that are very important to them, such as diversity, which is such a critical issue for the industry at the moment and so any collaboration that might help bring possible solutions would be an incentive.
KRISTEN: The common ground between the nonprofit arts and all other industries (for profit or not) is the exploration and application of creativity in its many forms. The historical conversations about collaboration have generally focused on institutional partnerships. But perhaps the most fertile ground for discussion and learning is not between the staff of corporate and nonprofit companies. It is in the brains and actions of the creative people across those industries – composers, architects, technologists, choreographers, video game designers, writers, researchers, inventors and more.
Gather these individuals together and ask:
- What are the commonalities in the creative process across divergent genres and businesses?
- How are innovative ideas moved from concept to reality?
- What external and institutional influences support or stifle innovation?
- The results of the dialogue would surely yield lessons for the arts in terms of how we utilize our current strengths – individually and institutionally – and how we should prepare new practitioners for the future.
MARY: From NAMM’s experience in collaborating with non-profit music service organizations these past several years and through our work with the SupportMusic Coalition, I see progress in developing stronger links between non-profit organizations and the for-profit music industry. The opportunity that NAMM perceived as we developed strategic partnerships and grew the SupportMusic Coalition was finding, and defining, common ground. And I think this is true for many of our music products businesses that are part of NAMM. For us, common ground is grounded in the NAMM mission and our organization’s belief in the power and benefit of music and that all people, most especially children, must have access to opportunities to learn music. Finding common ground and defining achievable goals is part of the process of collaboration. Too often, non-profit organizations seek only financial support and the for-profit sector has limitations – now more than ever. Sincere desire to advance shared mission and common goals is vital – and good collaborations take time, and the talent for listening.
CARY: For starters, it’s probably not surprising that there is a disconnect and occasional tension between more commercial music and those genres that tend to be more associated with the nonprofit arts sector. Whether it’s jazz, folk music or classical, for example, they are all wonderful genres of music with a dedicated base of fans, and occasional crossover opportunities. But they are niche, and that can often pose a real challenge to music companies looking to develop and market music with some potential of widespread appeal. We wish that weren’t necessarily the case, but it is often the reality.
We know that music, among virtually all the art forms, has the greatest ease of entry and (especially so now because of digital models) capability for distribution. An author can write a compelling screenplay but getting it produced is expensive, and requires a multitude of other crafts and skills to bring that work to reality. Moviemaking requires a significant upfront investment to produce even a short film. Not so the case with music. Music can literally be produced by one individual, and now, disseminated virtually and instantaneously.
The nonprofit sector in other fields often serves as an adjunct to the commercial sector and enables new works, new authors, new forms of expression, to help develop and find an audience and financing. That’s a little less important in the music industry. So, it’s probably not surprising that most of the nonprofit work in the music field focuses on the more niche forms of music that need the financial support.
That said, there is certainly potential for the relationship between the music industry and nonprofit arts community to grow and strengthen. Music labels, for example, do have relationships with symphony orchestras and jazz schools, because the latter are the breeding grounds for talent.
You will also find that music industry executives tend to be the biggest benefactors of music education programs. Lots of money is donated by music industry professionals. I, myself, am the chairman of the Board of the Levine School of Music, a truly excellent community music schools servicing the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Like many of my peers, I believe strongly in music education and offering opportunities for kids to make music part of their lives.
So many nonprofit arts programs like Levine do wonderful, essential work. And, understandably, it seems like a lot of the interaction between the commercial sector and the nonprofit arts community is where the latter is seeking funding assistance. That’s entirely appropriate and a logical source. The sad reality of today’s music business is there simply is less money to go around – for everyone. We have shrunk from a $14 billion business (at retail) in 1999 to $8 billion in 2008. Thousands of regular working class musicians have been let go. We’re fighting to survive, and unfortunately, there’s often precious few dollars to support worthy causes.
Despite the differences between the commercial and nonprofit music sectors, there are common interests and rights. Wherever any musician is on the spectrum of distributing music and what model to use, we all should be pro-choice. That is, respect the decision of fellow artists to determine how to market their music. If someone wants to give it away, and the creator makes that choice (not some third-party business or student in a dorm), more power to them. Similarly, if an artist feels strongly about protecting his or her music and holding accountable those who steal it, that choice deserves to be respected too.
Despite issues and occasional differences in perspective, this exercise is a very useful illustration. We have so much more in common than we have differences. At the heart is a love of music, its power and ability to move people. That’s an amazing, extraordinary thing and it can help illuminate more ways to work together.
BARRY: The National Endowment for the Arts theoretically represents ALL the arts – both the nonprofit fine arts as well as the ‘for profit’ popular art forms. But most of its activities, grant making and initiatives center around the nonprofit arts. How might the Endowment better reach out, support and engage the ‘for profit’ arts sector for the benefit of the overall creative economy?
CARY: The NEA could expand its mission beyond the relatively limited scope set forth in its guidelines for the types of music it supports. But so long as it primarily confines itself to narrow niches without significant markets, which is understandable, there won’t be much of a role for the NEA in popular art forms. Given the limits on its budget, that is unlikely to happen.
MARY: I think a shift will occur in that the new NEA leadership comes from the for profit theater production sector – so stay tuned. There seems to be some angst from the traditional non-profit arts sector who rightfully so needs assurances that their service model is understood. One need only compare the price of a for profit theater production with a non-profit arts presenter to understand the difference – two very different business models are represented. I think both sectors would benefit through a new and expanded dialogue and, here I go again, finding common ground for the ways both delivery systems reach and serve audiences needs to be articulated and respected; some technical assistance to grow and sustain arts presenting and service entities could be included by the NEA, including convening and programs about creating, developing and sustaining arts presenting organizations for both profit and public service, non-profit outcomes.
TERRI: First of all, just being invited to participate in a dialogue like this, I think is a big step. I also think that the NEA could support and engage the ‘for profit’ arts sector by focusing on issues that transcend both sectors, like diversity. This is an extremely critical area for the television industry and although there are a number of diversity initiatives within industry companies, it continues to be a chronic problem. A number of the programs we’ve developed at the TV Academy Foundation, whether its our diversity fellowship program, Kid Vid or our student internship program, are trying to help guide and shape the next generation of diverse artists coming into the television industry.
Also as this question points out, the perception is that the NEA focuses on the nonprofit fine arts. It might be very helpful for the NEA to begin a targeted message campaign that communicates that it does represent ALL the arts and is open to supporting and engaging the popular art forms.
KRISTEN: The most relevant strategic adjustment would be to recognize and leverage the arts role in the recent, revolutionary democratization of creativity. The music industry – which has survived ten years of whiplash between the promises and crises forced by technological innovation – is uniquely illustrative of this democratization.
The technologies that have given musicians the ability to record in their home studio, distribute their music without a middleman, and facilitated one-on-one relationships with their fan base has certainly turned the industry’s traditional economic model on its ear. As these technologies have evolved, they have also allowed for an emergence of a musical “middle class,” and encouraged people of all ages, education, and experience level to create, perform, and distribute music.
An exploration of this remarkable participation in creativity will certainly lead to new programs, products and services for both the nonprofit and for profit segments of society. For example, just a few minutes on MySpace graphically demonstrates the need to reframe the discussion on the lack of music education in our schools. Students are finding their way to create and play music, regardless of what’s offered in their classroom. Certainly there are mutually beneficial goals for the arts, entertainment and tech sectors to explore together in that environment.
A second point for exploration is this: the boundaries between for profit and nonprofit organizations in areas outside the arts are being blurred. Social causes that have traditionally been advocated by nonprofit organizations have gained power either by virtue of consumer popularity (AIDS in Africa via the Red campaign) or profitability in their own right (all things “green”). As this has occurred, many for profit corporations have stepped into the domain of nonprofits – sometimes with tremendous success. It isn’t inconceivable, for example, that for profit “green” companies could put the NRDC out of business in 20 years. (For additional evidence of the for profit encroachment into traditionally nonprofit domains, check out the article on For-Profit Development Work in the fall issue of Good magazine.)
BARRY: A major goal of the nonprofit arts sector has been to establish (or re-establish) sequential, curriculum based, Kindergarten through 12th Grade, arts education in the nation’s schools. The ‘for profit’ entertainment sector seems to support that goal. How might the nonprofit and ‘for profit’ arts work more closely together in pursuit of that goal, and what role might the NEA play in brokering cooperation and collaboration in this area?
KRISTEN: It’s perhaps an understatement to say that the American education system is facing overwhelming challenges. We rank 7th of the 20th richest nations in high school completion rates; 13th in college completion rates. On top of that, our high school students’ scores were below average of the 57 countries participating in the Program for International Student Assessment tests. Place those facts against the backdrop of the global development of a knowledge-based economy that highly values creativity and innovation. And then ask yourself if continuing to advocate for the sequential, K-12 arts curriculum, while a critical and worthy goal, by itself seems almost anachronistic.
If the nonprofit arts were to champion their broader role in the discussion of fostering innovation and creativity in our students and our school systems – imagine a Chief Innovation Officer in every school – we could demand a bigger seat at the table than if we limit our discussion to sequential arts curriculum. Isn’t it time for the arts to take up our rightful role in the larger conversation?
A much more bite-size issue, that fits into the for profit-nonprofit nexus is the technology gap, particularly acute in music education. We have a generation of teachers who did not grow up with access to the technology that their students are nimbly and consistently employing. We can simply wait for the next generation of teachers or we can find innovative ways, with the help of industry professionals, artists, students and teachers together to close this knowledge and experience gap today.
Many leaders in for profit industries care about arts education in the schools; even more of them are also parents who care about education reform generally. Finding a way to motivate the nonprofit and commercial sectors on the issue of innovative learning experiences is a remarkable place for the NEA to be engaged.
TERRI: I think the most interesting role here for the NEA is as a convener. Invite everyone to the table that should be part of the conversation and let them discover the collaboration organically. Anything else will be a lot of dialogue with little or no concrete outcomes. The NEA needs to find a way to be that bridge between non-profit and for profit endeavors, which comes out of a true understanding of the mission and goals of each.
CARY: Many prominent artists and music organizations have spoken out in favor of arts and music education. For example, NARAS (a fellow commenter for this blog) is an exceptionally active and commendable organization. So is the VH1 with its Save the Music campaign. These are laudable efforts and, frankly, I’m not sure that formal partnerships between for-profits and non-profits will make much difference in terms of the effectiveness and impact of these efforts. What’s most important is that we all speak out at every opportunity.
MARY: In my view, the NEA’s greatest opportunity for the goal of improving and expanding access for arts education in US schools is to collaborate with the US Department of Education in a clear and goal-oriented way, to establish strong ties with and through the Arts Education Partnership and to set a clear and deliberate and collaborative plan with the DOE and AEP to facilitate state and community-level leadership and commitment to adequate support for high quality arts education teachers and access for every child. This can also include on-going efforts to train school leaders and educators about best practices for arts education as part of the core curriculum and define local and state education reporting about access to arts education. The NEA’s arts education leadership program has made important strides in this area and is hitting the right chords to move access forward – more work is needed. I hope this train stays on its track.
The Panel 5 discussion continues tomorrow..........
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 14TH
BARRY: Some suggest that the nonprofit arts sector is a farm system for the ‘for profit’ entertainment industries. The argument is that many artists and technicians learn their craft in the nonprofit world before moving over to the ‘for profit’ entertainment sector. Do you share this view? Is today's education system and work experience system such that the nonprofit arts play a much smaller role in preparing workers for the ‘for profit’ entertainment sector than they did in the past?
TERRI: Being a non-profit entity in the ‘for profit’ entertainment industry whose mission is to inspire the next generation of the television industry by supporting programs that educate and provide professional and personal skill development, career guidance, and mentoring, I think I would definitely fall into the category that says we’re preparing workers for the entertainment sector. I think the nonprofit arts continue to play a vital role in training and offering up opportunities to develop the artistry and craftsmanship for the entertainment industry than ever before.
KRISTEN: Education and experience paths are far from linear today. At the same time, business leaders looking at the most important business trends through 2020 rate both knowledge management and differentiation high on the list (The Economist Intelligence Unit: Foresight 2020). By “knowledge management,” they refer the areas of business most significantly impacted by innovation, creativity, and interpersonal strengths. “Differentiation” refers to the demand to customize products and services for individual consumers or find other ways to be set themselves apart from competitors.
Something that Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang said on a panel we presented in conjunction with Americans for the Arts to congressional leaders 10 years ago is perhaps even more resonant today. He said that when he looked to recruit new employees at Yahoo, he didn’t look in the computer science or math departments; he recruited from the arts departments because that was where students learned how to develop their creative and innovative prowess.
It might mean that an education in theater leads doesn’t potentially lead to a career in film anymore. Instead, training and experience in the arts might lead to a career in a creative position in an international manufacturing corporation. There is a remarkable opportunity here for nonprofit arts educators, but also for entrepreneurial and collaboration minded nonprofit arts organizations as well.
CARY: That is true for some niche markets, like classical, jazz and folk, where nonprofits can serve as a breeding ground for music labels that specialize in those areas. But to be candid, at least as it pertains to music, there will often be limitations on potential given the niche music genres.
MARY: NAMM is most interested in promoting and advocating for opportunities for all people to learn and make music. In essence, we feel strongly that every person is innately musical. Talented, creative and highly motivated individuals will find their way on various artistic pathways. With sufficient tenacity and perseverance, the life of a musical artist can be sustained via for-profit or non-profit sectors – and sometimes both (combing teaching for a non-profit community music school and working freelance on gigs and in recording studios, for instance). What matters is access to learning and education in the arts early in life so the opportunity to pursue creative interests in any of the arts – either vocationally or a-vocationally – is part of one’s life in a capacity that meets personal goals.
BARRY: The arts would dearly love to have more public support of ‘A’ List celebrities– to tout the value of the arts to American society, to the education of our youth, to the promotion of tolerance, and to the role American culture might play in foreign relations. Yet, in spite of years of effort, relatively few successes can be pointed to. Are the ‘celebrity’ culture and cultural policy largely incompatible? What should the arts community know about the motivations of celebrities to more effectively attract them as a partner and resource?
MARY: The issue is, with maybe the exception of sports stars, most of the ‘A” list celebrities are IN the arts – actors, musicians, authors, visual artists – and from my experience they are engaged in advocacy as their lives permit. However, the political process is difficult to understand and some artists are not comfortable in the role of advocate and this is very understandable to me – a certain “artists’ freedom” is at the core of what defines an artist and there are also issues of personal space, time and privacy. We have benefited recently by the participation of what I consider “A” list celebs – Robert Redford, John Legend, Linda Ronstadt, Josh Groban – in 2009 US Congressional hearings about the value and importance of arts and arts education including $50mm in economic stimulus funds for the NEA to sustain jobs in the arts sector. Celebrities are passionate about their field and their work as artists; often, they need to feel compatible with an organization that can help them carry a message to policy leaders – and organizations must respect a celebrity’s boundaries and goals for associating with a cause. For NAMM and its WannaPlay campaign and music education advocacy activities, our association with celebrities is a sacred trust that we value highly; again, it is a collaboration around a shared goal.
TERRI: Part of the issue may be that I think the celebrity factor only works if it is organic to the cause and there is a true connectivity. I think the motivations of a celebrity are fairly simple. It comes down to a passion for the message, an effective use of their time, and enhancing their image. When approaching a celebrity, if the arts community can deliver on at least 2 of the 3 it has a chance of engaging them and if brings all 3 to the table then it has a much better chance at achieving the desired outcome.
KRISTEN: There is a finite pool of “A” List celebrities who are being asked to service the entirety of charitable causes – not just the arts. The task is large. I actually think that the arts do quite well in terms of getting celebrity spokespeople behind their cause. Even a quick scan of looktothestars.org, an unscientific gathering of celebrities and their causes, shows 250 celebrities currently listed who actively support the category “Creative Arts.”
Ultimately, celebrities support causes for exactly the same reasons that funders and volunteers do: they have a personal connection to the cause, to the organization or to the person making the request. It’s about figuring out how to make as many of those connections in the process of developing the “ask” as possible.
CARY: This will remain a never-ending challenge for all of us. It’s extremely challenging to generate significant attention to ANY issue, even laudable ones like arts education. Part of it is quite probably the constant, incessant, diverse demands placed upon today’s popular musicians and bands. Demands for their attention are extensive, and there’s no magic formula to penetrating and commanding their attention. If you can get even one “A List” celebrity to pay attention to, and advocate, your cause, take it and be glad for it.
The Panel 5 Discussion continues tomorrow.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15TH
BARRY: Do your organizations ever consider how you might collaborate in some way with the National Endowment for the Arts? To what extent is the agency considered a partner or potential partner in your work or planning?
MARY: NAMM has collaborated with the NEA on a few occasions when mutual short –term projects can meet the needs of our shared mission. In 2005, NAMM supported a conference that was part of the White House Conference on Aging that brought forward ideas about the role of music in the creative aging process. NAMM funded music research about creative aging contributed to the dialogue about the role of the arts in community and medical settings. Within the past year, NAMM has collaborated on a conference at the Kennedy Center about the role of disabled persons in the field of arts administration. We have an open and ongoing dialogue with persons at the NEA to stay informed of their efforts and to contribute – ideas, networks and support – as appropriate.
TERRI: Honestly the NEA has not been on our radar but after this series of conversations I think it definitely should be.
BARRY: Would any of your organizations be amenable to a summit meeting to discuss these and other issues as a way of shining a spotlight on the challenges and opportunities for both sectors? How might the NEA go about organizing such a convening?
TERRI: Absolutely! There are many ways but to start but one would be asking panelists from this forum who else they might identify as important participants to invite to be part of the dialogue. Hosting the summit in the entertainment industry’s backyard would be another. Making it easy and familiar for the sector you’re trying to reach always helps. And a focused strategic agenda with actionable items so that everyone feels their time is being used productively is essential.
MARY: In 2008, NAMM hosted about 200 arts and arts education leaders from the Arts Education Partnership at the NAMM Show that takes place in Anaheim, CA in January. Every year, we host national and international music service organizations and their leadership at the NAMM show and would sincerely welcome a collaboration with the NEA to help convene sector or cross-sector participants at this annual gathering of the music products industry. From our experience, NEA staff is effective in identifying key stakeholders and convening thoughtful idea exchange.
BARRY: The nonprofit arts sector regularly seeks financial support and political influence from the entertainment industry. What, if anything, does the commercial entertainment industry seek from the nonprofit arts? What do you think the nonprofit arts have to offer the entertainment industry that they would value enough to increase public and financial support for the nonprofit arts? For example, all artists have an interest in intellectual property rights – as do both nonprofit arts organizations and ‘for profit’ entertainment companies and the writers, directors, authors, musicians, etc. Why haven’t we worked closer together on this and other areas of mutual concern?
CARY: It’s understandable that nonprofits tend to be less focused on public policy issues. They usually have scarce resources and it is not their primary mission. As much as we’d honor and benefit from their support on issues of mutual interest, we understand it can be difficult to organize and bring about.
When nonprofit arts groups are engaged, though, they can be a powerful voice. Look at local symphony orchestras and the music community’s campaign (http://musicfirstcoalition.org/) for a performance right on terrestrial radio (the right for performers to be compensated when music is played on FM/AM radio; every other industrialized nation compensates the performer, not simply the songwriter). When they have engaged, members of these orchestras have been among the most persuasive voices in support of this campaign.
KRISTEN: Bill Ivey has spent a career living, thinking and writing about this subject, most recently in his book, “Arts, Inc.” It’s essential reading for anyone even peripherally interested in this subject.
BARRY: The high tech sector is deeply involved in work related to the arts, especially the media arts. In spite of this involvement, the sector has only a limited direct connection to the nonprofit arts sector. Why is this the case? Is the potential synergy between these two areas largely imagined? What might the nonprofit arts do to engage the high tech sector?
KRISTEN: The synergy between the arts and high tech is no more or less imagined than between high tech and any other industry. There are a handful of “deliverables” that currently remain compelling to consumer product industries, among them: access to a market demographic they desire; access to influential users of the product, and content to make available through their product. If the arts can show they can deliver any of these – or other – desirable resources, a joint venture will emerge.
CARY: The high tech sector is an increasingly important partner in the distribution of all genres of music. For example, some orchestras are offering free downloads of their concerts in order to better connect with audiences. One marvelous aspect of the Internet is that it allows musicians to more easily find and cultivate their fan base, no matter how narrow and niche or mainstream.
There will inevitably be plenty of opportunities for smaller high-tech start ups to develop business models that enable musicians to locate and connect with fans of niche music and help get the message out.
Wrap Up Tomorrow.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16TH – PANEL 5 WRAP-UP
BARRY: In many ways this was one of the most important panel discussions in this whole NEA Forum, for our ability and success in developing meaningful links and intersections between the nonprofit and the ‘for profit’ sectors will have enormous consequences for the future of the nonprofit arts & culture field in the next couple of decades. As one panelist pointed out, technology is already blurring some of the traditional lines between the two universes and changing long established delivery systems and thus economic models. And beyond the changes wrought by technology in enabling individual artists across all disciplines (to take greater control of the creation of their art, to develop new collaborative opportunities in that creation, and to employ new means in the distribution and access to the finished works) – there are other developments in how the society perceives creativity, and its value and role in the wider economy and education system that mean significant changes in what we in the arts do and how we do it.
I want to note that we made numerous attempts to include more people from the private sector ‘for profit’ industries – entertainment, and specifically high tech companies – into this discussion -- which entreaties, unfortunately, met with little success. This panel was composed principally of those at organizations that have long been our allies and sympathetic supporters – the entertainment industry foundations and industry associations. We earnestly sought high tech representatives – including specifically those from Google, You Tube, Twitter and Facebook, and our experience was disappointing at best. It is virtually impossible to make contact with the right people at any of those or other high tech companies via telephone or email. They all have elaborate gatekeeper systems to insulate them from any sector that might want to explore the possibility of a dialogue with them. Like most of corporate America today, their telephone answering systems and websites discourage the most intrepid of sleuths from ever ascertaining whom at the company might be the appropriate connect person, let alone actually getting to that person directly. I am fairly tenacious in this kind of exercise and have some past experience and knowledge about how to penetrate these barriers, but even I was ultimately no match for the obstacles these companies erect to keep anyone from initiating contact with them. They want to sell you things; they want you to buy what they are selling. Beyond that no matter how big they are they really want you to leave them alone. If something doesn’t originate with them, they have little interest in pursuing it. They pay great lip service to wanting to reach out into communities, but by and large it is only lip service. At times it seems the high tech industry has the same regard (or disregard) for any entity outside its narrow sector that the finance and banking industry seems to hold for most of America – a conclusion echoed by a number of people within our community whose help I sought in trying to get to the high tech companies. I am, apparently, not the only one to have met the great wall.
I was able to identify who I think were the “right” people at each of my target companies – the person in charge of governmental / public policy affairs, or communications at each – but was unsuccessful in identifying a phone number to call or an email address to send a message to. And I tried. We did in the final analysis send each of these people a certified letter, return receipt requested, via the U.S. mail inviting them to participate in this Forum. We got no reply from any of them. I sort of felt a little like I was in a Michael Moore movie.
Now I have no doubt the Endowment Chair, high placed government officials, elected or otherwise, and a slew of prominent corporate leaders (and quite possibly some from our own field with greater credentials and cachet than I have) could probably penetrate these defenses where I could not, and I would hope the arts sector can somehow enlist some of these people to do just that so that we might somehow engage in a dialogue with key high tech companies with which we might have substantial common ground and interests – for our mutual benefit. The reality is we share many agenda items and we can help them as they can help us.
The very fact that it is so difficult to approach these companies is emblematic of a problem for the arts sector. If nothing else, it is certainly testament as to how far on the outside we are, and how far we have to go. These are the type of companies that are rapidly gaining monopolies, at least of the high tech delivery systems for creative output, and if we don’t soon develop a relationship with them, gain access to those delivery systems (in part on terms somewhat favorable to us), and convince them we have mutual interests and that cooperation and collaboration will benefit them as well as us, then we are going to be locked out of some of our own future.
As several panelists noted, there have been, and are now, successful collaborations between the arts and the entertainment industries – many on a smaller, more individualized level. But it occurs to me that perhaps more progress might be made if there was an effort on a grander scale to facilitate this kind of cooperation – ultimately manifesting itself in smaller, more localized projects and efforts. Again this is an area the Endowment might take a lead position in. They are likely our potentially most effective convenor.
Here are some of the points made by Panel 5 participants that I found noteworthy:
- As to more collaboration by and between the nonprofit and ‘for profit’ sectors, three areas of focus might benefit us: 1) Center on issues of mutual concern – we need to avoid just asking for money all the time. What areas do the potential collaborator and we both care about and want to advance? And we should think in terms of the “big” issues as a starting point – thus, for example, the whole issue of diversity is equally challenging and important to many sectors and might be a good starting point for convening and dialogue; 2) Center on creative individuals (instead of institutions) to find both commonalities and understand the process of moving forward; and 3) Center on education as a mutual area of interest.
- As to the NEA outreaching to the private sector more, Cary suggested that the Endowment needs to expand beyond its exclusive focus on the niche art forms to support for popular arts forms as well – if it wants to broaden and expand its representation of the full breadth and depth of creativity. While that might be both controversial and arguable to some, I think his point was that the Endowment needs to find some way to champion both emerging art forms and those fully developed to the point of being mainstream. – both traditional “fine” arts and current “popular” arts. Certainly asking the question how the Endowment might promote and facilitate a ‘bigger tent’ might lead to an interesting and perhaps valuable discourse and exchange of ideas. If, as earlier panels have suggested, the time is ripe for a redefining of the agency, its role and purpose and how it might discharge its responsibilities to the American public, the question of the Endowment itself being a ‘bigger tent’ seems relevant.
- Technology is already changing business, economic, delivery system and other models in both the nonprofit and ‘for profit’ sectors. One only need look at the music industry model – from creation to delivery to the economics to see how dramatically technology has already changed an art form. As one panelist put it: “There are a handful of “deliverables” that currently remain compelling to consumer product industries, among them: access to a market demographic they desire; access to influential users of the product, and content to make available through their product. If the arts can show they can deliver any of these – or other – desirable resources, a joint venture will emerge.”
- The blurring of nonprofit and for profit involvement is also readily apparent in social causes – e.g., the green movement – where the nonprofit mission has melded into the private sector bottom line of profit making. Who knows what kind of marriages might exist between the arts and other sectors. Though, of course, some in the arts may find these marriages a negative, not a positive.
- With respect to Arts Education, Kristen observed that: “Students are finding their way to create and play music, regardless of what’s offered in their classroom,” and further noted that: “If the nonprofit arts were to champion their broader role in the discussion of fostering innovation and creativity in our students and our school systems – imagine a Chief Innovation Officer in every school - we could demand a bigger seat at the table than if we limit our discussion to “sequential arts curriculum” struck me as a newer approach that might yield better results. She continued: “Many leaders in for profit industries care about arts education in the schools; even more of them are also parents who care about education reform generally. Finding a way to motivate the nonprofit and commercial sectors on the issue of innovative learning experiences is a remarkable place for the NEA to be engaged.”
- All four panelists echoed the call for the Endowment to be more of a convenor in bridging intersections between the nonprofit and ‘for profit’ sectors.
- As to recruiting more celebrities as active arts supporters and spokespeople, Kristen pointed out the Looktothestars.org site and its list of 250 celebrities who self-identify as supporters of the creative arts as a place the Endowment might first look if it were to want to have these people play a greater role in mustering support for arts & culture.
- Perhaps the time has come for another attempt by the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities to try to convene a national group of ‘A’ List celebrities and recruit their star power to our cause. [Harriet Fulbright (former Executive Director of the President’s Committee) and I enlisted the help of Terry Semel (then co-chair of Warners and Vice Chair of the President’s Committee under Clinton) back in the 1990’s and came this close to making a major milestone advance with the entertainment industry – but that’s a whole other blog].
- The idea of a Summit meeting convened by the Endowment with arts leaders and for profit companies in those sectors we wish to engage was supported by our panel and these four contact points are perhaps another good starting point for the Endowment.
Up next: PANEL 6 – The Working Artists (the LAST Panel in this forum). Begins Tuesday, October 20th.
Have a good weekend.