Thursday, July 14, 2011

Know Thy Audience

Know Thy Audience
-or-
How to Avoid Pulling Your Pud in Public

Theatre.  Huh!  Good Gawd!  What is it good for?

Hopefully not absolutely nothing.  But aside from entertaining your family and friends, do you have any idea who would be interested in your art?  And if you knew your audience, truly knew your audience, how would that inform your choices?

Seth Godin tackles just this thing in a blog entry entitled "Articulating your preferred use case (what's it for?)"

First, what is a "use case?"  Per Whatis.com:  "A use case is a methodology used in system analysis to identify, clarify, and organize system requirements."  In other words, it's a way to figure out what you make, how people find and interact with what you make, and what results come from that interaction.
Thus spaketh Seth:
There are two reasons to articulate your use case. First, it helps your staff, your designers, your marketers and your sales force get on the same page about what they're building and growing. And second, it might be unrealistic. You might be hoping for a market that's far bigger than it is, or to solve a problem that's too easy (or too difficult).
From my experience, a lack of coordination of goals is an absolute team killer, and there is no stopping a group that has harnessed the power of a true collaborative process.

Seth invites us to answer the following questions:
•How does someone find out about what you do?
•How much do they pay for it?
•When they're engaging with you in the very best way, what happens? What's accomplished?
•What do they do after they use it?
•How often do they return?
("How much do they pay for it" reminds me.  I've been meaning to air out my thoughts on the "Pay What you Can" model.)

I firmly believe that since the audience is one half of the theatrical equation and since they don't join us until well after production meetings, casting calls, rehearsals, etc., understanding the audience is key.  Defining the preferred use case will take us pretty far in the direction of figuring out an answer to that great, existential question, "Why Theatre?"

And finally:
You'll often be wrong about what the market is and what it wants. When that happens, time to either shift your use case (and the way you're organized around it) or stick it out but be prepared for a long, tough slog.
It's okay to be wrong, especially in the arts.  The important thing is to grow and evolve, staying sensitive to the needs of the audience.  After all, they are the reason we do this stuff! 

Now -- who the hell are they?

BONUS BLOG:  Go Into The Story, a screenwriting blog I follow has an interesting take on the subject of qualifying the customer.  A couple of choice quotes:
You may have the greatest pitch in the world, but if the customer doesn't really want to buy it, you're going to have a tough time making that sale.

You may be in the Closer Hall of Fame, but if the customer doesn't want what you're pushing, you are set up to fail.

Qualify the customer. Find out what they want. Then give it to them.
and:
What is it about your story that will motivate that customer to get off their ass and go to a movie theater to see your movie? Why do you want to see my movie? If the resulting list of reasons you come up with is thin, then perhaps you're not writing a big or compelling enough story.

If the reason you're making theatre is "it makes me feel good," you're violating Stanislavsky's Golden Rule; loving yourself in the arts rather than the art in yourself.  I never really understood ol' Uncle Konstantin's point until I started doing burlesque.  There's no mistaking an artist who's doing it for the audience for an artist who's doing it for themselves.  It's tangible.

Self-aggrandizement, tooting one's own horn -- that's all well and good.  Part of the show.  But when you hit the boards, you best be shining your light for the people in the dark, not pulling your pud in public.

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