Last month we published Part 1 of Paula Varjack's blog Venues: Working with Artists, which looked at simple, practical ways that venues can help the artists they work with feel welcome, supported and connected. Here, in part 2, Paula delves into tips on finance, collaboration, and artist and audience development.
As creative people, what we have on our side is that we can come up with creative solutions to improve how things currently work. I already see many organisations doing a lot with very limited resources. Here are a few more suggestions….
SHARE YOUR SKILLS AND POOL YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Support artists in applying for public funding
Many artists find the process of applying intimidating and unfamiliar. You could run surgeries in small groups to share your skill set in a way that could be enormously beneficial!
Invite artists to explore audience development with you
When I talk to venues about what they wish artists would think about more, time and again I hear "audience". Why not explore it together? They may have all kinds of ideas you wouldn't have thought of - no one wants to play to an empty to space!
Work with artists to create ‘targeted’ marketing
Artists pour money into having flyers printed that often just sit in a stack in the venue. Venues spend money on glossy brochures that are also limited in their reach. Should more money be spent on distribution or targeted social media? Rethink what targeted means.
Track your audiences for the artists you work with
Everyone benefits from this. Audiences want it to be easy to see work they like. Once they have seen something and liked it, they will be open to seeing more.
So, when people book for scratch nights, introduce and option for them to be notified about the finished work.
When people book to see an artist, have an option for them to be notified about future work by that artist, create artist specific mailing lists this way.
Give artists opportunities to work in the theatre space and experiment with tech
Many companies have little experience or access to technical theatre production. Maybe group several artists’ companies together for a day and allow them to experiment in the space with the tech staff.
PAYMENTS AND PROCESSES – BE REALISTIC
Give a clear timeline in advance
If your organisation requires an artist to be added onto a system, before raising a purchase order, before invoicing, and you know this process can be lengthy, inform the artist and add them to the system as soon as possible - ideally as soon as the booking is confirmed. This means the invoice can be sent as soon as work is completed. When possible, ask artists to submit invoices on the final day of work. This also saves you chasing.
Put yourself in their shoes
Paying an invoice is sometimes made to feel like an admin task outside of the norm but freelancers should be thought of in the same way staff on the monthly payroll are. Late payment of an invoice can cause a great deal of stress in an already precarious industry.
Support Expenses for Scratch work
With scratch, showcase opportunities, rather than running as unpaid schemes, find ways to offer expenses such as travel or small prop and costume budgets. Not making money from a showcase or scratch is one thing, losing money on it is another.
"Emerging" - what does it mean and who is it for?
It's a term that funders and producers seem to be more fond of than artists, who often see it as a translation for we will pay you as little as possible.
Don’t conflate the term “emerging” with young. I started my practice late, at 30, and I am not alone. However, a 24 year old could have as much or more experience than me, more relationships with venues than me, and even know their way better around applying for funding.
And remember to consider the tricky mid-stage career where there can be very little support offered. Most artists I know are neither emerging or established, they are navigating the in between.
and last but not least, DELEGATE!
- Give artists a role in scouting new work.
- Create artist sounding boards to feedback on how you approach artist development.
- Invite artists to shadow your board meetings. Better yet, give artists a role in governance - have an artist on your board.
Paula Varjack is a writer, filmmaker and performance maker. Her work explores identity, the unsaid, and making the invisible visible. These suggestions were borne out of Paula’s personal experience and countless conversations with artists about the difficulties they face during the creation and touring of her show, Show Me the Money, which explores how to make a living as an artist in the current economy.
Read Part 1 of Paula's blog for more practical, simple suggestions of ways in which venues and artists can work better together.