Online Video: We All Want The Same Thing

This post also appears as part of the Arts Marketing Blog Salon hosted by Americans for the Arts.

weallwantthesamethingslideThe world of arts management is changing, as all industries are changing, with the proliferation of technology. Especially with the increasing popularity of online media, we as arts managers have had to reconsider the way we see our performances. Is online video footage merely a vessel for our product? Or is it, in fact, our product? Or, can it also be a means to an end?

Many see social media and its democratization of internet content as the tool that will restore relevance to the arts, which critics claim is no longer present.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen changes in the social media landscape that make the issues surrounding performance footage all the more relevant. Twitter is adding video embedding capability. YouTube will soon be able to handle streaming video for content partners. These are signals of a trend that is already in progress—a movement of online video footage becoming not only accepted, but commonplace. Like it or not, online video is here to stay.

It was for this reason that I assembled a panel of experts on the rise of streaming video, and its interaction with our union relationships to speak at the NAMP Conference this November. It will be an opportunity to talk about the challenges that we face, as an industry, when it comes to video footage.

As an employee of an arts service organization and an arts management student at Carnegie Mellon, I’m in a unique position to examine performance footage in social media. Instead of having a vested interest in what would be best financially for a given organization, I can look at what is best for the arts industry as a whole and where the industry stands on these issues.

Over the past year, I’ve been looking at intellectual property issues as they pertain to performance footage. This research will culminate in an upcoming white paper for the Center for Arts Management and Technology. I’ve talked to unions, I’ve talked to organizations, and I’ve talked to artists. It’s fascinating to listen to their positions and how they perceive “the other side.”

Artists sometimes view online distribution of performance footage as a sort of Pandora’s Box: releasing their performance footage means relinquishing control of it and monetization of the content. They see organizations as trying to take advantage of their skills, or reducing the value of their work. Although they understand that organizations are struggling, they are struggling, too.

Organizations, on the other hand, are struggling with the realities of the economic downturn, as well as a decrease in newspaper circulation and in the general effectiveness of advertising in traditional media. They see new media as a lifeline, and take it on in order to secure their organization’s future. Some perceive that artists don’t equate saving the organization with saving the artform and the artist’s own career. This assumption leaves them puzzled and unsure how to proceed.

Although these positions seem diametrically opposed, both artists and organizations have common interests. In choosing and chatting with my panelists, who come from all different disciplines and affiliations, it seemed like there might be some fundamental conflicts between them. However, during our first conference call, I was amazed at how willing we were to listen and how much we genuinely wanted to understand each other’s viewpoints.

More often than not, I’ve found that we are all striving for the same thing—increased attendance, our own ensured success, and in turn, a bright future for the arts in America—we sometimes just have different ways of going about it.