Happenstance: making arts orgs digital by default

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Earlier this week I asked the LSO Pulse project and Punchdrunk to offer what they think other arts organisations can take from the projects they were part of. For Punchdrunk, it was about rethinking how audiences and companies digitally connect with eachother, and for the LSO project, the lessons were purely mobile.

For the Happenstance project it was instead about how organisations think about their digital offering and makeup, and how they go about embracing technology.

“Rather than trying to use technology to fix a specific problem or answer a particular need, the aim was to see how technology (and specifically, technologists) could transform the arts,” said Katy Beale when I caught up with her. “In a way, our aims were similar to those of the Government Digital Service: how could the arts become digital by default, rather than digital as an afterthought?”

Katy admitted that Happenstance has helped make the arts organisations involved more visible to the digital community, “both in the immediate vicinity and through national showcases such as Future Everything or TedX. Digital innovation is inherently social, and the residents instinctively drew on their existing networks and constructed some new ones, which the arts organisations will benefit from longer term. We can also see that Happenstance has application outside of the arts world, into the wider public sector and commercial organisations. And while the legacy will be different for each of our initial participants, the learning from the project has the potential to make a radical, longer-term change in the way that arts and cultural sector embraces technology.”

LSO Pulse and Punchdrunk: what lessons will other arts orgs take from our projects?

October 22, 2012 2 comments

It’s been a short while since my last update (not least because I’ve been on holiday!) and it’s been great to come back to so many views and shares on the blog, so thanks very much!

The last few posts in the series have asked questions of some of the projects (for example, we’ve heard why clarity has been so key for the Happenstance project and how, for the Dero project, success is down to committed project partners) – it’s been interesting to see the different answers and compare and contrast, but there’s a wider question I think needs addressing:

What are the wider implications of these projects? What lessons will other arts orgs take from all the experimenting?

For Punchdrunk, and their digital project, it was about rethinking how audiences and companies need to rethink how they connect digitally, particularly pertinent in this fast-paced world of tech and social media. “The conventional model doesn’t fit and needs to be continually interrogated,” said Pete Higgin, enrichment director at the company. “I think as part of a body of projects in the pilot programme, this one is certainly part of a wave of work that will explore further the crossover between digital and the arts. On a company level, our eyes and ears are opened to new possibilities and we are exploring ways to integrate digital work into our company.”

For the LSO Pulse project, the lessons were in mobile

For Nico Koepke, CEO of KODIME, the tech company involved in the LSO Pulse app programme, the lesson was purely mobile: “Students and other young audiences can be very effectively reached and engaged on the mobile channel, and they appreciate the offer and reward with loyalty. We also feel the project showcased that marketing and selling tickets via mobile including the reasonable complex transaction mechanics does not have to cost a fortune or require a new boxoffice system.”

Jo Johnson, digital marketing manager for the London Symphony Orchestra (the organisation behind the Pulse programme) it was about looking at the bigger picture: “We have taken our prototype app and are in the process of widening its scope to include several other orchestras and venues, making one big student scheme for classical music concerts in London. While collaboration between arts organisations is nothing new, this will be the first time that London’s orchestras have worked together on such a large project, pooling resources – financial and people – to reach more of London’s student population to hopefully get them to classical music in greater numbers. For a group that is traditionally in competition with each other, it feels like something pretty revolutionary.”

… which is exactly what the Digital R&D Fund is all about: creating revolutionary ‘things’ and forming revolutionary ideas to filter down through the ranks so that all arts organisations can get in on the action.

Happenstance: clarity is key and don’t forget the non-digital

September 30, 2012 1 comment

As part of continuing series of posts for this blog, I’ll be asking some questions of the experts behind the Digital R&D Fund to see how their answers compare and what other, perhaps smaller arts organisations can learn from…

Last time we heard from the Dero project, and what the team would have done differently had they had another chance at it – this week we ask the same questions of Katy Beale from the Happenstance project

If you could do the project again, what specific things would you do differently and why?

The programme may look deceptively simple, but actually there’s a huge amount of organising that goes into running it. From recruitment, to trouble shooting to establishing a common language and expectations across the organisations.  Even though, on paper, Site Gallery, Lighthouse and Spike Island are similar organisations, they are each very unique and had different concerns and practical issues to consider before we got going. There was a lot more preparatory work than we anticipated, but this was beneficial because it built relationships and began to get everyone to a shared understanding of what the project was about.

“We worked closely with the three organisations to place complimentary pairs of residents into each of their teams. Although we attracted great candidates and residents, for future iterations we would expand the recruitment process and make sure we were clearer about the residency roles and what sort of skills we were asking the residents to bring.

“The benefits of integrating digital technologies into the everyday working culture of the arts organisation include better internal communication, greater tolerance for risk and failure (because when technology fails, it doesn’t signal the end of the project) and a more collaborative, open culture. Something we didn’t anticipate is how much the residents changed the non-digital aspects of the host organisations: at Lighthouse, particularly, they influenced the wider team culture and this might be something we would put more emphasis on in future iterations.”

The Dero project: public broadband just doesn’t cut it!

September 18, 2012 1 comment

As part of continuing series of posts for this blog, I’ll be asking some questions of the experts behind the Digital R&D Fund to see how their answers compare and what other, perhaps smaller arts organisations can learn from…

We’ve already heard from a few of the projects their answers to the first question (what do you think the key to success has been for this particular project?) but now it’s time to hear what they have to say about question number two:

If you could do the project again, what specific things would you do differently and why?

Claire Harvey, one of the digital bods behind the Dero project at Sage Gateshead, offers her thoughts:

“The project can been seen as a success in what we learned, rather than necessarily by delivering a product perfectly. In hindsight, we could have chosen a more populist programme of concerts which would have boosted the viewing figures, and spent more on marketing the concerts.

The other key problem was relying on the public broadband network which let us down at a number of critical points. This really affected the Mixed Arts Venues who were forced to abandon concerts. We are immensely grateful to their audiences and their understanding of the R&D process and inherent pitfalls! While the public broadband network is expected to improve, at the moment it is not sufficiently reliable to deliver live streaming to rural and remote locations.”

Punchdrunk and podcasts

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment

As part of the next series of posts for this blog, I’ll be asking some questions of the experts behind the Digital R&D Fund to see how their answers compare and what other, perhaps smaller arts organisations can learn from…

Previously we heard from Jo Johnson, digital marketing manager at the London Symphony Orchestra, and Claire Harvey, one of the digital bods behind the Dero project at Sage Gateshead. This week we ask the same question of Pete Higgin, enrichment director at Punchdrunk, and find out about what he thought was the success to his project.

Question 1: What do you think the key to success has been with this particular project?

“The key to success has been good communication between all teams involved. The challenge was always to co-ordinate a project in New York, which was being conceived and built in London, Boston and New York. Undoubtedly the support, resource and opportunity offered by the project team in New York was key to making the project successful too.”

We’ll be asking this question of the other projects in due course, and finding out their answers to some more. In the meantime, have a listen to the latest Arts digital R&D podcast, the third in the series. This one is all about using digital channels and technologies to distribute arts and cultural content and reach the widest possible audience, including new and international ones.

The Dero project: make sure all the partners are committed and content

September 4, 2012 2 comments

As part of the next series of posts for this blog, I’ll be asking some questions of the experts behind the Digital R&D Fund to see how their answers compare and what other, perhaps smaller arts organisations can learn from…

Previously we heard from Jo Johnson, digital marketing manager at the London Symphony Orchestra – next up is Claire Harvey, one of the digital bods behind the Dero project at Sage Gateshead.

Question 1: What do you think the key to success has been with this particular project?

Claire says that for a project like Dero, where so many different partners and organisations are involved, success rests on commitment and a willingness to take the plunge!

“The Dero project has been a very happy and successful project because all of the partners were committed to working together to making it happen.  One of the key risks to this project was the number of partners. We are 11: 3 orchestras, 4 mixed arts venues, 2 tech partners and 2 research partners spread from Berwick upon Tweed, through Northumberland, Yorkshire, Manchester to Cambridge and London. We also had 3 media partners including the Guardian Online, Medici and BBC Classical Music Magazine. We set up a virtual project office immediately and ran the project through fortnightly calls which were well attended. The project was very process driven, and that created a structure for the myriad of issues to be sorted and agreed.

We were helped by 2 key factors: All the partners were incredibly generous with their time, their expertise, their willingness to take the plunge, and their optimism. And secondly, we were developing a new product out of new processes, but using existing technologies which reduced the risk to manageable proportions.”

The LSO Pulse app: good project management key to success

August 28, 2012 2 comments

As part of the next series of posts for this blog, I’ll be asking some questions of the experts behind the Digital R&D Fund to see how their answers compare and what other, perhaps smaller arts organisations can learn from…

Question 1: What do you think the key to success has been with this particular project?

Jo Johnson, digital marketing manager at the London Symphony Orchestra, says that the project’s success was dependent on good project management.

“The nature of our project was such that good project management was key. We had quite a short amount of time to get something planned, built, tested and out into the market and the only way to get this done on time was to set out the deadlines, requirements and expectations from the start and stick to them rigidly.

“Of course it helped that we had a very clear idea of what the project was before we took it into the application process, so we were able to get going on it before the ink on the contract was even dry! And because we were basing it on an already existing student scheme, with an already existing audience to market it to and test it on, the only question as to whether it would succeed was whether the students would adapt to this new bit of technology easily or not, rather than whether the idea itself would work. Thankfully they did!”