The back page ad in Arts Professional recently has been for Blackbaud, who provide ‘innovative ticketing, fundraising, marketing and CRM solutions’. That’s the second half of their pitch – the first half was what caught my eye. Blackbaud, it says, has ‘helped hundreds of arts and cultural organisations to fill the gap in government funding through innovative ticketing...’ (My italics.)
It’s interesting because it seems to be underpinned by a model of 100% government funding for a supplier-led arts world with the customers filling the gap, rather than a ‘market failure’ model which see government funding as making possible valuable things which cost more than the market (ie paying customers of one sort or another) can afford, or a demand-led model with funding encouraging consumption. And it’s a commercial organisation putting it forward.
I may be reading this too closely, of course. It could just be smart marketing people playing to their audience. And the quote from Su Matthewman at West Yorkshire Playhouse is much more positive in its view of customers. But if the CRM specialists make this kind of Freudian slip, what does it say about how audiences – people who put their hands in their pockets to pay for art they want – are seen by arts organisations? Or about how those organisations see their business models?