How to navigate around the gatekeepers in dance.

I’m going to talk about dancers and choreographers and the arts in general about futureproofing themselves for when there is even less funding to support the arts.

Organisations and individuals have seen the ‘no funding’ hurricane looming on the horizon for years but aren’t fully preparing for it because they think the sun will shine forever. For some it will  continue to shine but they will become run of the mill, middle of the road, bums on seats organisations and artists. Venues will take less risks than they do now because they will also have less funding. They will become the McDonalds and Marks and Spencers of the dance world. Not that risky and pitching to a mass market.

We see trends in many other industries where niche is leading the way. People are able to choose in a way they have never done before. Phone packages, bread and coffee all allow the consumer to choose.

However in dance and the arts in general there is still a top down order. We are still stuck in the realm of – if it’s funded it’s good, if it get’s a good review it’s valid and if the work is on a certain venue and liked by certain people then we should all like it. Thing is you don’t need a huge dedicated audience to like you and your work, you just need the right audience.

There is no reason why we can’t let our audience choose what they want to see, by settting up alternative pop up venues and creating work for different environments. Creating content that is purely made to be experienced online is a key area to develop especially if you want to develop an audience for your work.

However funding is not always a reflection on how good the work is. It is often political. We’ve all been to see something that is funded and maybe you’ve wondered how, why, am I missing something here?

My mission is to create a model that is sustainable for artist to connect with their audience and be supported in an alternative way. I want you to be able to:

  • Be less reliant on funding
  • Seek alternative ways to generate income
  • Sidestep critics
  • Choose yourself – Why wait for an artistic director of a venue to validate or like you or your work? There is no need to wait for them to pick you to build and audience or distribute your work.

We live in an amazing time where each of us, who is connected to the web, effectively owns their our own media company with access to billions of people via the internet. There is estimated to be 2.87 billion smartphone users by the end of 2020, we have the opportunity to put our work in front of those people without anyone saying whether we can or not. No one can stop you if you have a minimum of a smartphone, an idea and an internet connection. So what are you waiting for? Funding, to be picked or someone to do it for you?

The gatekeepers are holding the gates closed to such a small market share. Since you have the ability to literally be in your audiences pocket, your focus and energy should be on builiding your ‘tribe’ and not pleasing those that once had the authority over you, those days are gone. Be brave and say to the gatekeepers ‘My work isn’t for you, I’ll move on and find those who want to engage with what I do’. The energy and time one spends banging on the door, you may as well use that energy to find your followers/supporters. Put things out there and let the market decide or you’re never going to know what YOUR audience wants.

Everything you try learn from it, if it doesn’t work there is learning in that – you know how not to do it next time. If you’ve ever played a video game or tried to get a new piece of choreography and failed, you try again, you want to get to the next level or fear of looking crap on stage, there is a bigger ‘why‘. What is your why that’s going to get you through the setbacks and put downs, because there will be. If you want to be successful you better get used to failing first – enjoy the journey.

Peace and Blessings

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