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Reading List: value Theme

A conversation on With the advent of amazing online videos, why are we still so compelled to experience live performance?

We’ve all heard about the TED videos, but there’s also a section of the TED site dedicated to conversations about issues. I found this one particularly interesting for arts and culture leaders. The comments touch on what is “online” and what is “live,”  the importance of context and the gulf that sometimes exists between artists and audience. What do you think? Why are audiences compelled to experience live performances? What is a “live” performance?

A conversation on With the advent of amazing online videos, why are we still so compelled to experience live performance (music, sports games, dance)?


Bon Jovi and the Pay-What-You-Can Experiment

We recently announced a new pricing model for Business of Arts and Culture seminars in which we will ask organizations to name their own tuition. We decided to embark on an experiment with this model after soliciting input from organizations we serve and quite a bit of investigation into how this model is performing – in the cultural sector and in the greater business world. Just after we announced our pricing experiment, I came across a very interesting new example of the pay-what-you-can experiment: Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, NJ. Bon Jovi takes the model a step further than the cross-subsidization most models rely upon by asking those who can’t afford to pay for their meals in dollars to pay through volunteer service – either in the restaurant or in the community. The community is also giving back: a local Whole Foods has donated ingredients.

Read more about Bon Jovi’s Pay-What-You-Can Eatery in Marshall Heyman’s Wall Street Journal article, then browse some other examples of the model at work:


How does pay-what-you-can affect the perception of value? How might this model impact your organization?


Don’t throw that home run ball back!

A bit of a longer leap than usual, but stick with me for a moment. Baseball fans have taken to throwing back home runs hit by the opposing team, a practice this author decries as “the worst tradition in baseball.” This article on the trend made me think about one of the challenges we face every day in arts and culture.

The author is speaking as an expert, as a connoisseur of baseball. For him, you should keep the home run ball hit by your opponent because, in the bigger picture, it is a great souvenir. If you love baseball, you know the game, you follow the statistics, you care about the history and the records, then all home run balls are precious and great souvenirs. But the fans aren’t coming at this from the perspective of the baseball expert and connoisseur. They are coming at it as ardent fans of their team. They get their value in the experience and in being part of that community. They are taking their reward in the immediate, emotional experience rather than a reflective, intellectual appreciation of the trophy or a monetary reward from selling the ball.

The article demonstrates a trap into which experts often fall. The expert’s values are projected onto the audience rather than engaging with the participant’s experience and values. This is where I think there is a  connection to the arts. Our institutions are run by people with exceptional arts expertise, but only a small portion of arts audiences approach their experiences as experts too. Most are more like the baseball fans throwing the “enemy’s” home run ball back over the fence — with their own motivations and values that are very different from the expert’s. This article is a reminder of how hard we need to work to understand these fans and what our institutions do — and do not do — for them.

Don’t throw that home run ball back!


Rethinking Capitalism

In this video interview on Rethinking Capitalism, Michael Porter (of Porter’s Five Forces fame, among other things) shares an interesting take on the new nature of relevance for organizations in society. Porter argues that the old standby “what’s good for business is good for society” that has defined the relationship between U.S. business and society is giving way. He turns this on its head, arguing “what is good for society is good for business.”

For most people in our sector, the traditional capitalist argument probably never held sway. What is really interesting here is Porter’s argument that competitive opportunity will come from rethinking your organization’s relevance and place as a contributor to society. His idea of “shared value” challenges leaders to think about value more broadly, considering both the direct value you create through your activities and the cluster of benefits created (or that could be created) in delivering that service.

While our organizations already have artistic and social missions at their core, there are great questions here to consider. Are we designing programs to maximize the social benefit we create? Are we considering the full cluster of social benefits that we could be creating? Are we using suppliers and every step in the supply chain to create that value? Are we creating new forms of partnerships with corporations who embrace this shared value perspective?

Rethinking Capitalism.


The price behind the choices we make

This piece from last week’s Marketplace is good food for thought given the increasing competition for audiences’ time and money. It’s an interview with Eduardo Porter, who has written a book “The Price of Everything.” The interview and book excerpt serve as a nice reminder that price is actually a transaction. As Porter puts it, “There is a buyer who values something and a seller who will be willing to make that transaction at that given price or not.”

The price behind the choices we make | Marketplace From American Public Media.


Exploring and Defining Influence: A New Study

With most arts organizations racing get more fans and followers online, they may be interested in the results of this thought-provoking survey. Influence (particularly online) has less to do with the size of your audience and more to do with the value of the content you are providing.

Exploring and Defining Influence: A New Study.


How the Magazine Industry Can Save Itself

This is an interesting piece from FastCompany about the challenges of content providers, which I think has important implications for arts organizations. “In the internet age, distribution isn’t a competitive advantage. But highly curated content can be. ”

How the Magazine Industry Can Save Itself | Co.Design.