MySpace as an Arts Space

Today's issue of The New York Times features "MyTheater, Seeking Friends," an article by Steven McElroy highlighting how various arts organizations are using the social networking site MySpace as a platform for marketing and promoting to younger audiences. For early adopters of technology, using MySpace as a promotional platform for the arts may seem like a "no-brainer," but for many others in field, the why's and how's of adding their organizations to MySpace are not readily apparent. I remember speaking with the director of a university's performing arts series at a recent conference. She told me that she had yet to find a successful tool for promoting her series to the university's students. I asked her if she had considered setting up a profile for the series on MySpace and using that as a platform for promotions geared toward the student and local Gen Y demographic. She admitted that the thought had not crossed her mind - even though she knew that a great number of the students at her university spent time on MySpace.

With a user base of 55 million and 28.4 percent of users under the age of 34, it is more difficult to find a reason NOT to use MySpace to reach out to new or younger audience members.

McElroy's article mentions how musicians and comics have been using MySpace as a promotional tool for quite awhile now. I would also add the independent film community to that list. My organization recently established a MySpace page for our independent filmmakers tour because of the enormous presence of independent filmmakers and film lovers on MySpace as demonstrated by the MySpace Film area. By joining this community, we have been able to promote our calls for entries to indie filmmakers around the world AND notify film lovers of our touring program - all in four weeks.

Next week, IMAGE Film & Video Center here in Atlanta is hosting a "Pimp My Space" workshop to teach local filmmakers (and folks like me) how to get the most out of your MySpace presence. I wonder if they are going to have a session like that at the National Arts Marketing Project conference in November? They should!

When I think about the organized areas of MySpace for film, music and comedy, I think wouldn't it be great if there were areas of MySpace set aside for dance, literature, visual art and other art forms?

  • Places where both emerging and established artists could promote their work - tours, performances, readings, publications, exhibits, etc. Maybe a fledgling modern dance group like Ash Contemporary Dance could become the Dane Cook of the dance world and play to audiences of thousands. (For those who don't know, Dane Cook became a stadium-selling touring comedian by developing a base audience on MySpace.)
  • Places where arts organizations could find hip "friends" to invite to their events and venues. (Did I mention that Dane Cook currently has 1.8 million "friends" on MySpace?)

Don't get me wrong. MySpace is not a marketing panacea for cultivating the next generation of arts enthusiasts - but it sure could be useful!