Michael Kaiser wants us to focus on the reason why we do it (the art, silly!), but I’m more struck by his succinct diagnosis of why arts institutions are in scary times:
The development of new technology has given our audience members new forms of entertainment and new ways to spend their discretionary time and money. This has made it far more difficult to sell tickets at prices that cover most, if not all, of the cost of production. People now entertain themselves with iPads, iPods, iPhones and numerous other electronic devices. They are entertained for so little money that high-priced performance tickets lose their appeal.
This is happening, of course, at a time of financial instability. This has made our audiences more price-sensitive and our donors less likely to make major contributions.
Of course, with more competition for entertainment dollars, we have to produce even more exciting and important art — and this often costs more money.
But with earned and unearned income difficult to come by, risk-taking seems death defying rather than simply scary.
It goes on from there – I would quote more, but I’d be re-printing more than half the piece. In short, even as more and cheaper entertainment/leisure options are popping up everyday, the support systems that get people interested in arts institutions (education and media) are fading away. Therefore, arts institutions are under pressure to reach new people by charging them less for cooler stuff, even though cooler stuff actually costs more money than the status quo. All in a time of economic recession. Read the whole thing.