the limitations of audience development - Arts And Audiences

the limitations of audience development - Arts And Audiences

the limitations of audience development - Arts And Audiences


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introduction<br />

<strong>audience</strong>s norway<br />

egil bjørnsen is a Senior Researcher at Agder Research. He holds a PhD from <strong>the</strong> Centre for<br />

Cultural Policy Studies, University <strong>of</strong> Warwick, where he was also Senior Teaching Fellow and<br />

Director <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> MA programme in European Cultural Policy and Management.<br />

The limiTaTions <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>audience</strong> developmenT<br />

Greater focus on <strong>audience</strong>s and <strong>the</strong> idea that Norway’s efforts in <strong>the</strong> field <strong>of</strong> cultural policy have<br />

not achieved <strong>the</strong> goal <strong>of</strong> reaching a wide <strong>audience</strong> now enjoy widespread support among those<br />

involved in cultural policy in Norway. Minister <strong>of</strong> Culture Anniken Huitfeldt is personally involved,<br />

she has been on a study trip to London and she secured funding for <strong>the</strong> continued existence <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

newly established member organisation <strong>Audiences</strong> Norway in <strong>the</strong> last national budget. In connection<br />

with her trip to London, she commented to <strong>the</strong> daily newspaper Aftenposten on 8 February<br />

2010 that <strong>the</strong> increase in public spending on culture in recent years is not reflected in a corresponding<br />

focus on <strong>audience</strong>s, especially in relation to new <strong>audience</strong> groups. She emphasised youth,<br />

‘minority groups’, people with disabilities and people on low incomes in particular. But this rhetoric<br />

also has support at <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> political scale. Ib Thomsen, member <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Storting’s<br />

Standing Committee on Family and Cultural Affairs for <strong>the</strong> Progress Party, argued in favour <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> in <strong>the</strong> Storting’s debate on <strong>the</strong> committee’s recommendation for <strong>the</strong> museums<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> future on 2 March 2010. He emphasised <strong>the</strong> importance <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong>, arguing<br />

that it will lead to ‘increased understanding and inquisitiveness about <strong>the</strong> arts among people<br />

without prior knowledge <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> sector’. In o<strong>the</strong>r words, implicit support for <strong>the</strong> democratisation<br />

<strong>of</strong> a culture that does not necessarily fill its own capacity, generate a pr<strong>of</strong>it or reach a sufficiently<br />

diverse <strong>audience</strong>.<br />

Everyone who is engaged in mediating publicly-funded cultural activities knows that this is nothing<br />

new. Ever since <strong>the</strong> Storting and <strong>the</strong> government, in <strong>the</strong> period after World War II, expressed<br />

a desire to make culture that had previously been reserved for <strong>the</strong> few available to ‘everyone’ –<br />

what students <strong>of</strong> cultural policy call <strong>the</strong> democratisation <strong>of</strong> culture – <strong>the</strong> wish to reach as many as<br />

possible and to reach beyond social and geographical dividing lines has been a priority. To be more<br />

precise, this has been <strong>the</strong> definitive goal <strong>of</strong> cultural policy. The political goal <strong>of</strong> reaching out is<br />


The limiTaTions <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> developmenT<br />

manifested in <strong>the</strong> activities <strong>of</strong> everyone in Norway who works every day to disseminate or market<br />

publicly-funded culture. I would like to stress that my concern here is publicly-funded culture. The<br />

opposite <strong>of</strong> publicly-funded culture is <strong>the</strong> private, pr<strong>of</strong>it-maximising culture industry, which is<br />

concerned with precisely <strong>the</strong> same, but with <strong>the</strong> focus on marketing products that can generate a<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>it. Only customer segments with a market potential are <strong>of</strong> interest, and products (i.e. artistic<br />

works) that do not contribute to this potential are not given priority. As far as I know, producers<br />

and decision-makers in this part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> arts and culture sector are not concerned with <strong>audience</strong><br />

<strong>development</strong>. Their challenges are in many ways less complicated. My primary focus in this article<br />

will <strong>the</strong>refore be on publicly-funded culture.<br />

Audience <strong>development</strong> is based on a desire to democratise <strong>the</strong> part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> cultural sector that cannot<br />

survive in a private market and that <strong>the</strong> authorities intervene in and fund. This is nothing new,<br />

and nor is it typically Norwegian. Most countries in Europe have had <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> (ins<strong>of</strong>ar<br />

as <strong>the</strong>re is consensus on what <strong>the</strong> concept entails) as an important cultural policy goal for almost<br />

60 years. The extent to which this is followed up in practice is ano<strong>the</strong>r matter, and criticism<br />

similar to that made by Anniken Huitfeldt has been voiced in many countries.<br />

To be able to arrive at good <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> strategies, and to debate this issue, we need an<br />

understanding <strong>of</strong> what <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> actually is. I do not believe <strong>the</strong>re is consensus on<br />

this issue in <strong>the</strong> Norwegian arts and culture sector and this is not unique to Norway ei<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

<strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> in a cultural policy perspective<br />

The quest for <strong>the</strong> origins <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> cannot be separated from <strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong> democratising<br />

culture, i.e. making cultural activities available to as many people as possible, across geographical<br />

and social dividing lines. In <strong>the</strong> UK, <strong>the</strong> term access is used. It refers to <strong>the</strong> principle <strong>of</strong><br />

making arts institutions more accessible to both large <strong>audience</strong> groups in general and to special<br />

groups, such as young people or people from non-British backgrounds. It is important to note that<br />

<strong>the</strong> discourse on cultural policy has not suggested that <strong>the</strong>se barriers to increased <strong>audience</strong> figures<br />

should be addressed by changing <strong>the</strong> artistic programme. There are none<strong>the</strong>less many examples<br />

<strong>of</strong> organisations implementing artistic or programme-related changes in order to remove barriers<br />

or to reach larger <strong>audience</strong> groups. The inclusion <strong>of</strong> cabarets and musicals on <strong>the</strong> repertoire <strong>of</strong><br />

institutional <strong>the</strong>atres and Christmas concerts or Mozart by candlelight are examples <strong>of</strong> this, but this<br />

has seldom been an explicit part <strong>of</strong> cultural policy. <strong>And</strong> Huitfeldt clearly states that <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong><br />

must not be at <strong>the</strong> expense <strong>of</strong> ‘<strong>the</strong> serious arts’ and that funding will not be switched<br />

to projects with wider appeal (this is also from Aftenposten’s article).<br />

The clearest change in Norwegian practice since <strong>the</strong> 1990s that can be related to <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong><br />

is <strong>the</strong> arts institutions’ increasing emphasis on marketing, a function that has gradually<br />

been introduced by most arts institutions, or at least <strong>the</strong> biggest ones. Of course, part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir job<br />

has been to contribute to (and in some cases increase) <strong>the</strong> proportion <strong>of</strong> self-generated revenues,<br />

i.e. make money, but in most cases, <strong>the</strong> marketing function is in line with a policy whose explicit<br />

aim is to democratise an already existing cultural activity. There has been particular focus recently<br />

on attracting <strong>audience</strong>s from <strong>the</strong> children and youth segments as well as people from non-Norwegian<br />

cultural backgrounds (typically second or third generation immigrants).<br />

It is important to stress that <strong>the</strong> principle <strong>of</strong> democratising culture has always been based on a<br />

specific and narrow definition <strong>of</strong> culture. In <strong>the</strong> context <strong>of</strong> cultural policy, culture is understood as<br />

something that is curated, programmed and selected by experts such as artistic directors, curators,<br />

artistic programmers, bureaucrats and politicians who have <strong>the</strong> ability to exercise cultural leader-<br />

<strong>audience</strong>s norway<br />


The limiTaTions <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> developmenT<br />

ship on behalf <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> population – or, more appropriately in this context, on behalf <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>audience</strong>. In Norway as well as in most o<strong>the</strong>r European countries, it has in practice been implicit<br />

that it is a special culture that is to be democratised. In <strong>the</strong> rhetoric <strong>of</strong> Norwegian cultural<br />

policy, this is <strong>of</strong>ten referred to as pr<strong>of</strong>essional art, i.e. art that is not defined as what it is, but instead<br />

entails an implicit understanding <strong>of</strong> what it does not include, namely art produced in an amateur<br />

context (i.e. not by pr<strong>of</strong>essionally trained artists) or in an industrial context (by <strong>the</strong> pr<strong>of</strong>it-maximising<br />

culture industry). Among politicians in <strong>the</strong> arts field, bureaucrats, academics and <strong>the</strong> publicly-funded<br />

arts sector this is seen, with a few exceptions, as natural and unproblematic. As such,<br />

<strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> is not based on an understanding that <strong>the</strong> population does not have access<br />

to culture in general, but to a specific culture: pr<strong>of</strong>essional art. The goal <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong><br />

is usually to reach and get more people engaged in that part <strong>of</strong> culture.<br />

So, even if <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> as a concept has a certain novelty value, it represents a goal that<br />

is in accordance with a central principle (many would perhaps say <strong>the</strong> central principle) <strong>of</strong> Norwegian<br />

cultural policy, namely <strong>the</strong> democratisation <strong>of</strong> pr<strong>of</strong>essional art.<br />

<strong>the</strong> target groups for <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong><br />

We have established that <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> is an integral part <strong>of</strong> Norwegian cultural policy<br />

and has been so for a long time. But what <strong>audience</strong> groups does <strong>the</strong> policy want to reach? In <strong>the</strong><br />

early 2000s, I was sales manager at <strong>the</strong> Royal Shakespeare Company in <strong>the</strong> UK. I had barely started<br />

before <strong>the</strong> marketing director told me that <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>atre’s <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> work had produced<br />

very good results. That year, <strong>the</strong>y had started putting on family productions in <strong>the</strong> Christmas<br />

period, and <strong>the</strong> result was a massive increase in sales in <strong>the</strong> ‘families with children’ segment<br />

in <strong>the</strong> prosperous suburbs around Birmingham (in o<strong>the</strong>r surveys, <strong>the</strong>y had found that <strong>the</strong>se were<br />

white families with a higher education, a family income <strong>of</strong> NOK 700,000 or more, and with Volvo<br />

or Range Rover as <strong>the</strong>ir car <strong>of</strong> choice). My immediate reaction was that this was not <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong>,<br />

it was simply <strong>the</strong> core <strong>audience</strong> without a babysitter! My own perception <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong><br />

<strong>development</strong> was that it was about reaching beyond <strong>the</strong> ordinary <strong>audience</strong>, focusing on <strong>the</strong> groups<br />

Huitfeldt refers to, for instance youth, people from non-Norwegian (or British) backgrounds, and<br />

people with little education and low income. That was ten years ago, but I still believe <strong>the</strong>re is an<br />

element <strong>of</strong> confusion as to what is actually meant by <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong>. Many people see it as<br />

just a more politically correct term for marketing culture.<br />

As everyone knows, marketing originated in <strong>the</strong> commercial sector and its principles are to identify,<br />

anticipate and satisfy customer needs. This is based on <strong>the</strong> principle that only <strong>the</strong> products<br />

that can contribute to pr<strong>of</strong>its have a right to exist and that one product cannot satisfy everyone,<br />

but that all target groups must have <strong>the</strong>ir needs met by different products. The cultural policy researcher<br />

Nobuko Kawashima attempts to address this issue by relating cultural marketing to <strong>audience</strong><br />

<strong>development</strong>. She argues that <strong>the</strong>re are four different types <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong>: <strong>audience</strong><br />

education, taste cultivation, extended marketing and cultural inclusion. The first three all use<br />

established marketing techniques to increase <strong>the</strong> visitor frequency <strong>of</strong> an existing <strong>audience</strong> or to<br />

reach a larger <strong>audience</strong> not unlike <strong>the</strong> <strong>audience</strong> one already has, i.e. a sales increase in an existing<br />

segment or related segments. The strategies employed vary. For <strong>audience</strong> education, it is <strong>of</strong>ten about<br />

<strong>of</strong>fering additional services that provide increased insight into and demystify <strong>the</strong> artwork <strong>of</strong>fered.<br />

This can be everything from events such as meetings with performers to catalogues, web material<br />

and videos. Taste cultivation seeks to market o<strong>the</strong>r art forms or genres to an existing <strong>audience</strong> – a<br />

typical example from <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>atre sector is to try to promote new drama to an <strong>audience</strong> steeped in<br />

a classical repertoire. Finally, extended marketing denotes <strong>the</strong> application <strong>of</strong> a number <strong>of</strong> marketing<br />

measures targeting a similar <strong>audience</strong> to <strong>the</strong> existing one, which, in most cases, means a potential<br />

<strong>audience</strong>s norway<br />


The limiTaTions <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> developmenT<br />

<strong>audience</strong> <strong>of</strong> middle class people with higher education and a relatively high income. Most people<br />

involved in cultural marketing will be able to identify with this description. Marketing budgets are<br />

limited, and <strong>the</strong> people in charge <strong>of</strong> marketing have to make strategic choices, which means it is<br />

self-evident that it makes business sense to start with <strong>the</strong> <strong>audience</strong> groups closest to hand, i.e. to<br />

ei<strong>the</strong>r entice <strong>the</strong> core <strong>audience</strong> to come more <strong>of</strong>ten and try new things, or to reach out to a potential<br />

<strong>audience</strong> where <strong>the</strong> barriers to participation are relatively low. If such strategies are what we<br />

mean by <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong>, <strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong>re is little to distinguish it from cultural marketing. It is<br />

<strong>the</strong> fourth dimension, cultural inclusion, that presents <strong>the</strong> big challenges.<br />

This is also <strong>the</strong> dimension Huitfeldt refers to. She believes that <strong>the</strong> increase in <strong>the</strong> spending on<br />

culture has not benefitted <strong>the</strong> groups Kawashima refers to as being culturally excluded. She is not<br />

referring to marketing, but to a type <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> that focuses on <strong>audience</strong> groups<br />

that are hard and challenging to reach – <strong>the</strong> groups that pr<strong>of</strong>it-maximising marketing would ignore,<br />

but that <strong>the</strong> publicly-funded culture sector is tasked with trying to come into contact with.<br />

That is <strong>the</strong>ir job. The problem is that <strong>the</strong> success stories are few and far between and that <strong>the</strong> <strong>audience</strong><br />

groups that were excluded twenty to thirty years ago are still excluded, for <strong>the</strong> most part.<br />

Thus, Huitfeldt’s observation is correct.<br />

Giving up is not an option, however. Audience <strong>development</strong>, understood as reaching new <strong>audience</strong><br />

groups with demographic characteristics that are far removed from <strong>the</strong> core <strong>audience</strong>, and that<br />

<strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong> this article will be concerned with, is <strong>of</strong>ten (again, according to Kawashima) based on<br />

<strong>the</strong> following assumptions:<br />

• Pr<strong>of</strong>essional art should and can be made accessible to absolutely everyone.<br />

• What we need to do is to remove physical, geographical, financial and psychological<br />

barriers.<br />

• Access to art can help to combat social exclusion. 1<br />

This is not <strong>the</strong> first time a politician in <strong>the</strong> arts field has observed and reflected on arts institutions’<br />

limited success in fulfilling <strong>the</strong> first assumption that pr<strong>of</strong>essional art should reach as large and<br />

diverse an <strong>audience</strong> as possible. In <strong>the</strong>ir book on Norwegian cultural policy To knurrende løver (‘Two<br />

growling lions’), Hans Fredrik Dahl and Tore Helseth argue that we have experienced at least two<br />

instances <strong>of</strong> what <strong>the</strong>y call ‘cultural panic’ since 1945. The first occurred in <strong>the</strong> mid-1960s, when<br />

politicians and o<strong>the</strong>rs were very anxious about <strong>the</strong> increasing influence <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> international culture<br />

industry. This led to <strong>the</strong> establishment <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Arts</strong> Council Norway, which was partly financed<br />

through a tax on weekly magazines. The second instance was in <strong>the</strong> early 1970s, when it became<br />

clear that <strong>the</strong> big allocations to <strong>the</strong> arts had not had <strong>the</strong> expected effect in <strong>the</strong> form <strong>of</strong> bigger <strong>audience</strong>s;<br />

2 this is very similar to <strong>the</strong> concern expressed by Huitfeldt today. In <strong>the</strong> 1970s, however, <strong>the</strong><br />

response was not <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong>. Instead, attention was redirected from pr<strong>of</strong>essional art<br />

and partly replaced by an increased focus on cultural democracy, where culture was given a much<br />

broader definition and where <strong>the</strong> cultural policy decisions were not to be made by curators, programmers<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>r art experts alone, but by <strong>the</strong> people <strong>the</strong>mselves or <strong>the</strong>ir representatives. The<br />

idea <strong>of</strong> cultural democracy has now gone completely out <strong>of</strong> fashion, however, and <strong>the</strong> concept is<br />

no longer current in <strong>the</strong> cultural policy discourse.<br />

Back to Kawashima’s assumptions. Do <strong>the</strong> culture sector and politicians like Huitfeldt share <strong>the</strong><br />

belief that pr<strong>of</strong>essional art can reach everyone, that <strong>the</strong>re are only physical, geographical, financial<br />

and psychological barriers that must be torn down and, finally, that access to art can combat<br />

<strong>audience</strong>s norway<br />


The limiTaTions <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> developmenT<br />

social exclusion? Of course, it is difficult to see <strong>the</strong> legitimacy <strong>of</strong> a cultural policy that largely benefits<br />

one section <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> population alone, and <strong>the</strong>re are few examples <strong>of</strong> a public good as redistributed<br />

as <strong>the</strong> arts. Everyone pays through tax, but <strong>the</strong> benefits are unevenly distributed for <strong>the</strong><br />

benefit <strong>of</strong> those who already have <strong>the</strong> highest cultural and economic capital. It is natural, <strong>the</strong>refore,<br />

that players in <strong>the</strong> art sector embrace <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> – anything else would be impossible.<br />

But it goes deeper than that: <strong>the</strong> belief in <strong>the</strong> magical powers and civilising effect <strong>of</strong> art is part <strong>of</strong><br />

a discursive practice that manifests itself in <strong>the</strong> arts sector in two ways. Firstly, in <strong>the</strong> belief in <strong>the</strong><br />

goodness <strong>of</strong> art and <strong>the</strong> importance <strong>of</strong> everyone sharing in it. This is repeated again and again in<br />

cultural political documents such as white papers on <strong>the</strong> arts and culture, and in speeches in <strong>the</strong><br />

Storting, in speeches given by and interviews with artists, artistic directors and politicians in <strong>the</strong><br />

arts field. However, no one can explain exactly how an individual’s meeting with pr<strong>of</strong>essional art<br />

can have a positive influence. In my own doctoral work, in which I looked at <strong>the</strong> rationale behind<br />

Norway’s cultural policy, I reviewed all white papers on <strong>the</strong> arts and culture since 1973, how <strong>the</strong>y<br />

were received by <strong>the</strong> Storting, white papers on <strong>the</strong> ‘Cultural Rucksack’ and interviews with several<br />

politicians in <strong>the</strong> arts field, artists and directors <strong>of</strong> art institutions. It was striking to see how<br />

strongly <strong>the</strong> belief in <strong>the</strong> ability <strong>of</strong> art to facilitate personal growth (what I call Bildung, from <strong>the</strong><br />

German Weimar tradition) is internalised in <strong>the</strong> cultural policy discourse. Allegedly, pr<strong>of</strong>essional<br />

art can help people, especially children and young people, to achieve self-recognition and can increase<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir self-awareness and understanding <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir surroundings, which in turn will enrich<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir lives and make <strong>the</strong>m capable <strong>of</strong> utilising <strong>the</strong>ir own potential and so on. This is expressed as<br />

a self-evident truth that does not need to be fur<strong>the</strong>r underpinned and that certainly does not need<br />

to be supported by research. A good example <strong>of</strong> how such an understanding <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> influence <strong>of</strong> art<br />

on <strong>the</strong> individual and society is internalised in what I call a bildung discourse, is Yngve Slettholm,<br />

former State Secretary in <strong>the</strong> Ministry <strong>of</strong> Culture. At <strong>the</strong> opening <strong>of</strong> a national conference about<br />

<strong>the</strong> Cultural Rucksack in 2004, after making some sporadic references to how art, presented as<br />

part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> rucksack, could help pupils in <strong>the</strong>ir learning and acquisition <strong>of</strong> knowledge, and that it<br />

could have a positive effect on <strong>the</strong> creative economy, Slettholm proclaimed that ‘To those <strong>of</strong> us<br />

who are familiar with <strong>the</strong> value <strong>of</strong> art and culture, it is <strong>of</strong> course unnecessary to refer to research.’<br />

This is an understanding shared by so many people that I would maintain it represents a hegemonic<br />

discourse in <strong>the</strong> Norwegian arts sector. However, as I have already mentioned, few people are<br />

able to articulate exactly how this growth and ability to achieve self-awareness arise. Instead, <strong>the</strong>re<br />

is a discursive practice that is not based on what is said, but on what is left unspoken, because it is<br />

so obvious that no fur<strong>the</strong>r explanation is needed, and this is <strong>the</strong> second way in which <strong>the</strong> belief in<br />

<strong>the</strong> magical and civilising power <strong>of</strong> art manifests itself discursively: through what is so self-evident<br />

that it does not have to be said. This discourse also rests on a shared understanding that popular<br />

culture – which has <strong>the</strong> biggest <strong>audience</strong>3 – does not have <strong>the</strong> same bildung potential as ‘pr<strong>of</strong>essional’<br />

art. Norway’s cultural policy thus has a strong civilising aspect that is based on this understanding<br />

that art possesses a unique potential for personal growth and education in <strong>the</strong> broadest<br />

sense.<br />

This belief that art can be made accessible to all, if only <strong>the</strong> physical, geographical, financial and<br />

psychological barriers are removed, is problematic, however. It conflicts with <strong>the</strong> paradigmatic<br />

conclusion <strong>of</strong> so much sociological research since Pierre Bourdieu presented his study <strong>of</strong> cultural<br />

practices in France in <strong>the</strong> 1960s in his influential book La Distinction. Although Bourdieu’s findings<br />

and conclusions have been much criticised, his idea that <strong>the</strong> ability to appreciate art and become<br />

an active consumer <strong>of</strong> ‘pr<strong>of</strong>essional’ art presupposes knowledge that can help to decipher <strong>the</strong> artistic<br />

message still stands. Such knowledge is most <strong>of</strong>ten acquired through informal socialisation<br />

in <strong>the</strong> family, in childhood/adolescence and through meeting o<strong>the</strong>r people who already have <strong>the</strong>se<br />

<strong>audience</strong>s norway<br />


The limiTaTions <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> developmenT<br />

qualities, for instance in connection with work or education. This is <strong>of</strong>ten contingent on class or<br />

cultural background. People who have not had role models who appreciated art and culture have<br />

little ability to appreciate art and will generally ei<strong>the</strong>r be negative or indifferent to publicly-funded<br />

culture (pr<strong>of</strong>essional art).<br />

Kawashima goes one step fur<strong>the</strong>r and maintains, with reference to Bourdieu, that <strong>the</strong> arts have an<br />

excluding and distinguishing function that divides <strong>the</strong> different social classes. In o<strong>the</strong>r words, it is<br />

a project that is <strong>the</strong> direct opposite <strong>of</strong> a cultural policy aimed at democratising culture. It is clear,<br />

<strong>the</strong>refore, that <strong>the</strong> <strong>development</strong> <strong>of</strong> new <strong>audience</strong> groups that lack <strong>the</strong> necessary habitus to appreciate<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>essional art is a big and difficult project.<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>limitations</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong><br />

According to <strong>the</strong> Norwegian media barometer, Norway’s cultural consumption is increasing steadily<br />

and access to digitally distributed culture means that <strong>the</strong> potential diversity is greater than ever<br />

before: just think <strong>of</strong> Spotify or iTunes. Never<strong>the</strong>less, Norway’s cultural policy is based on living arts<br />

that include visual art, new and live music, <strong>the</strong>atre, opera, dance, various festivals etc. that cannot<br />

survive without public funding. This funding must have <strong>the</strong> broadest possible support among <strong>the</strong><br />

population as a whole on order to legitimise <strong>the</strong> use <strong>of</strong> tax money for this purpose. In addition, as<br />

explained above, <strong>the</strong>re is a strong belief in <strong>the</strong> positive influence <strong>of</strong> art on both <strong>the</strong> individual and<br />

society as a whole. It is against this backdrop and on <strong>the</strong>se assumptions that <strong>the</strong> need for <strong>audience</strong><br />

<strong>development</strong> arises.<br />

If <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> refers to a desire to reach new <strong>audience</strong> groups that are demographically<br />

different from <strong>the</strong> existing <strong>audience</strong> or that are culturally or socially excluded, this is, as already<br />

mentioned, a major challenge. Anniken Huitfeldt mentioned ‘minority groups’ (a better term<br />

would perhaps be ‘people from non-Norwegian cultural backgrounds’) as an <strong>audience</strong> group that<br />

has not benefited from <strong>the</strong> increased funding for culture in recent years and that should be developed.<br />

In this context, it is appropriate to ask what sort <strong>of</strong> cultural activities this <strong>audience</strong> wants<br />

and is interested in. The government’s white paper on ‘The Year <strong>of</strong> Cultural Diversity 2008’ mentions<br />

two potentially conflicting cultural policy challenges: <strong>the</strong> challenge <strong>of</strong> how, on <strong>the</strong> one hand,<br />

a ‘majority society can help groups and individuals from minorities to participate in and fur<strong>the</strong>r<br />

develop <strong>the</strong>ir own cultural activities’ (my emphasis), versus ‘how can <strong>the</strong> established culture sector<br />

reflect <strong>the</strong> multicultural society to a greater extent’, on <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r. In connection with <strong>the</strong> latter<br />

challenge, <strong>the</strong>re is also <strong>the</strong> issue <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> extent to which it is expedient to integrate minorities in<br />

‘<strong>the</strong> majority society’s established systems and institutions.’ This is a key cultural policy issue, not<br />

just for ‘minority groups’ from non-Norwegian backgrounds, but also for large <strong>audience</strong> groups<br />

who do not currently take advantage <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> culture already on <strong>of</strong>fer. Should <strong>the</strong>y all be included<br />

and involved in <strong>the</strong> established systems and established institutions or should <strong>the</strong> focus be on<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir cultural needs instead? The idea <strong>of</strong> cultural democracy that prevailed in <strong>the</strong> cultural policy<br />

rhetoric <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1970s was based on people being given an opportunity to participate in and develop<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir own cultural activities. Instead, <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> is about integrating large groups (including<br />

groups with demographic characteristics that are different from <strong>the</strong> core <strong>audience</strong>) in established<br />

systems and institutions. In practice, this would mean (see Kawashima’s assumption<br />

presented above) that <strong>the</strong> two largest groups from non-European backgrounds in Oslo, i.e. people<br />

from Pakistan and Somalia, can and should take advantage <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> culture <strong>of</strong>fered by <strong>the</strong> capital’s<br />

arts institutions, such as <strong>the</strong> National Theatre, <strong>the</strong> National Museum, <strong>the</strong> Norwegian National Opera<br />

& Ballet and <strong>the</strong> Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. This is an enormous task. To be fair, it would<br />

also have been an enormous task if <strong>the</strong> target group had been <strong>the</strong> white working class in Oslo and<br />

Akershus. It does not make business sense to spend an already limited marketing budget on devel-<br />

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The limiTaTions <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> developmenT<br />

oping <strong>the</strong>se target groups. But, as already mentioned, this is not about traditional marketing, but<br />

about <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> for <strong>the</strong> purpose <strong>of</strong> cultural inclusion.<br />

I have already referred to Kawashima and do so again. She distinguishes between two types <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong><br />

<strong>development</strong>: target-led and product-led. 4 Kawashima claims that most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> British <strong>audience</strong><br />

<strong>development</strong> up until that point (her paper was published in 2000) was product-led. This means<br />

that those who wanted to develop a new <strong>audience</strong> wanted to establish contact between new <strong>audience</strong><br />

groups and an existing art product. This practice is part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> cultural policy goal <strong>of</strong> democratising<br />

culture. Kawashima is sceptical, however, <strong>of</strong> whe<strong>the</strong>r this is possible if <strong>the</strong> goal is to facilitate<br />

cultural inclusion (i.e. to reach groups whose demographic characteristics are significantly<br />

different from those <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> core <strong>audience</strong>). I believe <strong>the</strong>re are few examples <strong>of</strong> arts organisations<br />

that have had any great success with this kind <strong>of</strong> product-led <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> strategy. 5<br />

Instead, Kawashima argues that an <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> strategy that endeavours to achieve<br />

cultural inclusion must be target-led in order to come into contact with a new <strong>audience</strong> on <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

own terms. One example <strong>of</strong> this practice is <strong>the</strong> Norwegian film production company Motlys, which<br />

is holding a test screening <strong>of</strong> its latest film Jeg reiser alene (I travel alone) at which <strong>the</strong> participants are<br />

interviewed afterwards and can <strong>the</strong>reby influence <strong>the</strong> final editing <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> film. This is common<br />

practice in Hollywood, where, for example, different endings to a film are tested on a panel <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>audience</strong> members. The goal here, <strong>of</strong> course, is not to engage in charitable <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong>,<br />

but to maximise <strong>the</strong> film’s earning potential. The British dance company Motionhouse has tried<br />

something similar by allowing a younger <strong>audience</strong> to be present during rehearsals <strong>of</strong> new dance<br />

productions to make <strong>the</strong>m as interesting as possible for this target group. They want to reach a<br />

new <strong>audience</strong> group and have extensive experience <strong>of</strong> working with marginalised groups such as<br />

prison inmates, who naturally are also given a chance to participate in <strong>the</strong>ir artistic work through<br />

workshops, movement <strong>the</strong>rapy etc. This can be a (perhaps relatively modest) form <strong>of</strong> target-led<br />

<strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong>. If <strong>the</strong> goal is to reach <strong>audience</strong> groups that are really far removed from <strong>the</strong><br />

core <strong>audience</strong> (for example, if <strong>the</strong> National Theatre wanted to develop first-time Somali immigrants),<br />

it would probably be necessary to go much fur<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

This is a completely different way <strong>of</strong> working that many artists have extensive experience <strong>of</strong> (art<br />

<strong>the</strong>rapy, for example, is an established practice, <strong>the</strong> Cultural Rucksack has probably also contributed,<br />

and Norwegian artists and art mediators have had to acknowledge that <strong>the</strong>y operate in a<br />

cultural policy climate in which a big proportion <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> arts budget is aimed at children and young<br />

people, and that <strong>the</strong>y have to produce art for this target group). However, I believe <strong>the</strong> arts institutions<br />

(especially those that are allocated most funds through <strong>the</strong> Ministry <strong>of</strong> Culture’s budget) have<br />

far less experience <strong>of</strong> and are perhaps less open to this kind <strong>of</strong> practice. The success stories are also<br />

few and far between in <strong>the</strong> big arts institutions in <strong>the</strong> UK. This type <strong>of</strong> target-led <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong><br />

relies to some extent on <strong>the</strong> cultural democracy <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1970s, in which <strong>audience</strong> groups were<br />

allowed to influence what was <strong>of</strong>fered more than curators, artistic directors and o<strong>the</strong>r decisionmakers<br />

in <strong>the</strong> culture sector. This represents ano<strong>the</strong>r type <strong>of</strong> cultural leadership, one that is less<br />

predicated on an arts sector driven by artistic goals, and more on a desire to combat social and<br />

cultural exclusion. The question, <strong>of</strong> course, is: are <strong>the</strong> arts institutions prepared for this?<br />

conclusion<br />

I began this article by claiming that, even though <strong>the</strong> concept is relatively new, <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong><br />

has always (at least in a modern cultural policy context going back to 1945) enjoyed wide<br />

support in <strong>the</strong> Norwegian arts sector. Never<strong>the</strong>less, it is not clear what this concept entails. I have<br />

tried to distinguish between <strong>the</strong> two concepts <strong>of</strong> <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> and cultural marketing,<br />

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and suggested that <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> that targets groups that we know to be susceptible to<br />

<strong>the</strong> art product we are <strong>of</strong>fering, and that are demographically relatively similar to our existing<br />

<strong>audience</strong>, is not very different from traditional marketing. If, on <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r hand, we, by <strong>audience</strong><br />

<strong>development</strong>, mean a desire to achieve social and cultural inclusion, that is something different<br />

entirely. Marketing is after all a principle taken from <strong>the</strong> pr<strong>of</strong>it-maximising business sector, while<br />

a desire to include culturally excluded groups is a social goal.<br />

The question that art mediators, art marketers and o<strong>the</strong>rs who wish to prioritise <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong><br />

must ask <strong>the</strong>mselves is whe<strong>the</strong>r what <strong>the</strong>y want is a larger <strong>audience</strong> with a demographic<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>ile that is similar to that <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> core <strong>audience</strong>. If that is <strong>the</strong> case, <strong>the</strong>n all <strong>the</strong> tools <strong>of</strong> marketing<br />

are at <strong>the</strong>ir disposal, such as pricing, <strong>the</strong> ambience <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> art venue, promotion, <strong>the</strong> use <strong>of</strong> social<br />

media etc. However, if <strong>the</strong> goal is cultural inclusion, <strong>the</strong> situation is very different. The tools <strong>of</strong><br />

marketing are <strong>of</strong> no use, <strong>the</strong> existing art product (which we all want to protect, which is so dear to<br />

us, and which is perhaps <strong>the</strong> original reason why we chose a career in <strong>the</strong> arts) is in <strong>the</strong> way, and<br />

<strong>the</strong> budgets seem infinitely small. If <strong>the</strong> goal is to combat social exclusion, <strong>the</strong> big question is what<br />

can be achieved through pr<strong>of</strong>essional art. If <strong>the</strong> core product has to be set aside in favour <strong>of</strong> engaging<br />

new and culturally excluded <strong>audience</strong> groups on <strong>the</strong>ir own terms, this involves great challenges<br />

in relation to <strong>the</strong> arts organisations’ strategies and <strong>the</strong>ir approach to cultural leadership.<br />

This article was originally written in Norwegian and is translated by Allegro AS.<br />

notes<br />

1 The Minister <strong>of</strong> Culture has also stated that this is an explicit goal <strong>of</strong> Norway’s cultural policy.<br />

2 Nor did <strong>the</strong> increase in <strong>the</strong> amount <strong>of</strong> culture on <strong>of</strong>fer in <strong>the</strong> 1980s and 1990s lead to an increase in <strong>the</strong><br />

consumption <strong>of</strong> culture. George Arnestad, for example, describes how <strong>the</strong> number <strong>of</strong> institutional <strong>the</strong>atres<br />

doubled in Norway, from ten in 1973 to twenty in 1998, as a result <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> establishment <strong>of</strong> a number <strong>of</strong><br />

regional <strong>the</strong>atres in several counties. The number <strong>of</strong> performances also increased significantly, from 4,700<br />

to 6,800. However, this increase was not matched by a corresponding increase in <strong>audience</strong> figures, which<br />

remained relatively stable at approx. 1,366,000. This meant a decrease in <strong>the</strong> average <strong>audience</strong> per<br />

performance, from 290 to 200. http://www.dagbladet.no/kultur/2000/11/23/229391.html<br />

3 According to <strong>the</strong> Norwegian media barometer for 2009, young people’s consumption <strong>of</strong> home-based<br />

aes<strong>the</strong>tic culture, such as TV and music, keeps on increasing. In 2009, 53% <strong>of</strong> all young people in <strong>the</strong> 9 to<br />

12 age group played TV games or computer games every day, 85% watched TV for an average <strong>of</strong> 115<br />

minutes every day, and 49% listened to home-based music every day for an average <strong>of</strong> 32 minutes (this<br />

proportion increases to 78% and 103 minutes for people aged between 16 and 24 years) www.ssb.no/<br />

medie/. Fur<strong>the</strong>rmore, a survey carried out by BI Norwegian School <strong>of</strong> Management showed that 49% <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> 15-29 age group had downloaded music during <strong>the</strong> first six months <strong>of</strong> 2009 and that <strong>the</strong>y downloaded<br />

201 songs on average, that 48% <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> same age group used MySpace and that 31% <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> under-30 age<br />

group used <strong>the</strong> subscription service Spotify, which was started as late as in October 2008, http://www.bi.<br />

no/no/Om-BI/Nyheter-fra-BI/Nyheter-2009/Spotifysuksess-og-okt-digitalt-musikkforbruk/.<br />

4 Here, ‘product’ refers to <strong>the</strong> arts organisation’s core product – i.e. <strong>the</strong> art product, for instance a concert, a<br />

play or an exhibition, as opposed to <strong>the</strong> product surround, which refers to <strong>the</strong> ambience <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> venue or<br />

gallery, <strong>the</strong> restaurant’s food, <strong>the</strong> quality <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> chairs etc.<br />

5 Oslo’s <strong>the</strong>atres have perhaps had <strong>the</strong> greatest success when it comes to reaching a younger <strong>audience</strong> (and<br />

I do not mean projects such as school <strong>the</strong>atre schemes and <strong>the</strong> like, but young people who attend <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

own volition). For example, at scenekunst.no, Vidar Sandem, director <strong>of</strong> Det Norske Teatret, points out<br />

that Huitfeldt could have saved herself <strong>the</strong> trouble <strong>of</strong> going to London and visited his <strong>the</strong>atre instead to<br />

see <strong>the</strong> results <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir work on <strong>audience</strong> <strong>development</strong> in relation to children and young people. As to<br />

whe<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> marketing department at Det Norske Teatret has analysed this new <strong>audience</strong>'s demographic<br />

background (i.e. criteria o<strong>the</strong>r than age, including parents' educational level, for example), I would guess<br />

that <strong>the</strong>y have largely developed an <strong>audience</strong> consisting <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> children <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> existing core <strong>audience</strong>.<br />

<strong>audience</strong>s norway<br />


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references<br />

Arnestad, Georg: ‘Kulturkrise?’, Dagbladet, 23 November 2000, http://www.dagbladet.no/<br />

kultur/2000/11/23/229391.html<br />

Bourdieu, Pierre: Distinksjonen: en sosiologisk kritikk av dømmekraften (Oslo: Pax, 1995).<br />

Dahl, Hans Fredrik and Helseth, Tore: To knurrende løver: Kulturpolitikkens historie 1814 - 2014 (Oslo:<br />

Universitetsforlaget, 2006).<br />

Hurum, Eirin: ‘Finkulturen skal ut til folket?’, Aftenposten, 8 February 2010, http://eavis.aftenposten.no/<br />

aftenposten/67648/archive/demo/?page=30&query=anniken+huitfeldt%2C+london<br />

Kawashima, Nobuko: ‘Beyond <strong>the</strong> Division <strong>of</strong> Attenders vs Non-Attenders’ (Coventry: Centre for <strong>the</strong> Study<br />

<strong>of</strong> Cultural Policy, Working Paper 6, University <strong>of</strong> Warwick, 2000). http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/<br />

<strong>the</strong>atre_s/cp/publications/centrepubs/ccps_paper_6.pdf<br />

The Ministry <strong>of</strong> Culture and Church Affairs, 2006. Report No 17 to <strong>the</strong> Storting (2005-2006): ‘The Year <strong>of</strong><br />

Cultural Diversity 2008’, Oslo.<br />

Slettholm, Yngve, ’Kunst og kultur – mer enn pynten på kransekaka‟.’ Speech at <strong>the</strong> opening <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> National<br />

conference on <strong>the</strong> Cultural Rucksack, 7 June 2004 http://www.regjeringen.no/se/dokumentarkiv/<br />

Regjeringen-Bondevik-II/kkd/Taler-og-artikler-arkivert-individuelt/2004/kunst_og_kultur_mer_enn_pynten.<br />

html?id=268450<br />

Media use surveys:<br />

The Norwegian media barometer: www.ssb.no/medie/<br />

BI’s survey on culture consumption: http://www.bi.no/no/Om-BI/Nyheter-fra-BI/Nyheter-2009/<br />

Spotifysuksess-og-okt-digitalt-musikkforbruk/<br />

More information about <strong>the</strong> Motionhouse Dance Theatre: www.motionhouse.co.uk<br />

<strong>audience</strong>s norway<br />


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