Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Boston Theatre - Boston Foundation Report

I posted about the Boston Foundation's report before Christmas.

Thomas Garvey has read it and doesn't like what he sees there:

But then there's a lot they haven't articulated to themselves - perhaps the central issue being their MBA-driven mindset. To the Boston Foundation, the art itself seems almost beside the point - instead, they're obsessed with the art "marketplace," a word authors Susan Nelson and Ann McQueen use repeatedly, and which is inherently deceptive. To be blunt, the arts don't operate in a "marketplace." Even though, yes, people buy tickets to the arts, said tickets can't pay all the bills (this is due to the fact that in the modern economy, profit is squeezed out of scale, industrialization, or digital innovation; if
only a hundred people could use Google at a time, trust me, they'd be in financial trouble too). Instead, arts organizations depend on philanthropy to survive; donations aren't a "nice-to-have," they're a "have-to-have," and usually in the arts world audiences follow the donors, rather than vice versa.

But with classic MBA tunnel vision, Nelson and McQueen's analysis
concentrates on the metrics consultants routinely apply to start-ups: price points, scale, capacity, unrestricted net assets, etc., as if a theatre company or gallery could simply "scale up" its offerings (in one unguarded moment, the report suddenly admits this is impossible), or charge lower price points when these are generally set by rental demands. Indeed, it's clear as you ponder this report that the BF thinks it's operating in the venture capital la-la-land of McKinsey and Bain, where you can toy with capital targets and net present values to your heart's content.

No comments: