There’s a new resource on the block for arts marketers in the UK that leverages the Internet’s natural talent for sharing. Combining crowd-sourced resource aggregation with expert curation, CultureHive is a search engine for arts marketers that aims to ensure all results are relevant and high quality. The site is a joint creation of the UK’s Arts Marketing Association (AMA) and Arts Council England in partnership with The Audience Agency, a national audience development organization. The goal is simple: to help grow audiences by offering the best possible information to the professionals who draw new people into cultural institutions.
Launched in April, CultureHive currently hosts over seven hundred resources organized into four categories: guides/toolkits, research, case studies, and articles. The AMA has a team of experts gathering resources and creating new ones on a freelance basis, and users are encouraged to submit their own examples of good practice as well.
The platform itself looks great and couldn’t be simpler. The homepage highlights the most recently added and the most popular resources, but it’s really all about the search box, which stretches the length of the page.
I tried typing “youth” into the search box, hoping to find resources about marketing to and engaging young people, and up came fifteen results, all downloadable pdfs. Narrowing the results further to case studies, there were nine choices left that covered pricing strategies, membership structures, orchestra models, family concerts, libraries, and museums, all with a special focus on young people.
Three things seem to set CultureHive apart. First, while CultureHive isn’t the first online repository of helpful resources for arts marketers, it might be the first to balance specificity about marketing for cultural organizations with relevance to diverse corners of the arts sector. In the U.S., for example, the Theater Communications Group and the National Guild for Community Arts Education have online collections of marketing resources, but they cater to their particular slices of the arts world, so they lack broad applicability – and they provide limited access for non-members. Conversely, some sources do cover multiple arts fields but go a bit too broad, neglecting arts-specific information in favor of something akin to Marketing 101. This seems to be the case for the one-size-fits-all marketing resources provided by many state arts agencies, such as those in North Carolina and Texas.
Second, simplicity and speed are paramount in CultureHive’s design – the site is extremely easy to use. Americans for the Arts’s Arts Marketing Project has an online resources section with a lot to offer, but it’s not keyword searchable and can require some digging to locate what you need.
Finding this combination of breadth, depth, and user-friendliness in a single place is rare and could make CultureHive a go-to site, but I would argue that its success is contingent on the third distinguishing factor: an emphasis on sharing. At the bottom of every single page is a link that says, “upload a resource.” The fact that this is a living collection of materials sets the site apart most of all – but only if it keeps growing. Since launching in April, the site has been getting about one submission per week. For CultureHive to really take off, this pace will probably need to pick up considerably.
We’ll have to wait and see if CultureHive lives up to its promise. I’m also curious whether arts marketers outside the UK will find the site useful. At present, the resources available are largely for and by UK arts marketers and organizations. There are some resources featuring examples from the States – including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island, and the San Jose Symphony Orchestra – and CultureHive hopes to expand its bank of U.S. information over time. (American readers, feel free to lend a hand with the internationalization: head over to CultureHive and upload away.)
For the moment, in a world where a Google search of “arts marketing to youth case studies” will get you nearly 22 million hits, it’s nice to search for exactly what you’re looking for in a catalogue of material vetted by experts. CultureHive provides a valuable service that will only improve as its pool of resources grows. In the best case scenario, CultureHive could help spur more effective marketing across the arts sector, leading more people to buy tickets, take classes, visit exhibitions – and hopefully like what they hear, see, do, learn and feel enough to keep coming back.