The Wolanski Foundation Project


Paper no 7









List of papers








By Paul Bentley

29 February 2000


Performing Arts Multimedia Library Pilot Project

Information management

Marketing and audience development

The completion of the Performing Arts Multimedia Library (PAML) Pilot Project in December 1999 prompts an assessment of the project and reflection on the use of digital technology for managing information, marketing and audience development in Australian performing arts organisations. 


The purpose of the PAML project, a joint initiative of Cinemedia, Multimedia Victoria and the Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts, was to explore legal, technical and business issues associated with the creation and distribution of live performing arts in the digital environment.

The long-term aim of the Federal Government, in helping to finance the $1 million project, was twofold: to encourage performing arts organisations to record their performances and to create a digital collection of significant Australian performing arts material. According to the rhetoric accompanying its launch, the investment will assist in improving online delivery of arts products to local and overseas markets, make it easier for performing arts organisations to attract sponsors and other forms of funding, help them attract new audiences and increase ticket sales.

Four performing arts companies were involved. Arena Theatre Company employed digital technology as an integral part of PANACEA, a production aimed at young audiences, then used this material for spin-off products – a documentary, a five-track audio CD, a website and cinema advertising. Chunky Move produced a CD ROM/Web Hybrid and 24-minute documentary exploring the world of choreography. Not Yet Its Difficult (NYID) produced a 52-minute satirical docudrama called The UnMaking Of.

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra created a website, highlighting as its main educational component, Stuart Greenbaum’s commissioned work 90 Minutes Circling the Earth. This invites site visitors to analyse and experiment with the piece using various interactive devices.

So what emerged from the pilot project?

Production and marketing guidelines

A 75-page booklet, From Live Performance to Digital Stage, provides  ‘a 5 step guide to contracting and copyright management of digital recordings for the performing arts’, including setting the scope of digital projects, mapping copyright, negotiating clearances and finalising agreements.  

The booklet can be downloaded from the PAML website, which offers information on management, producing and marketing, including contracting tips for artists and companies, a sample performers agreement, copyright checklists and clearances, a sample 33 page tender document  [from the MSO project], CD ROM and website production flowcharts and information on camera choices.

A copyright management system

Running parallel with the PAML project was the development of Cinemania’s SWIFT copyright management database system that tracks usage, ensures copyright restrictions are met and automatically distributes royalties.  This will be an essential component of Cinemedia’s broadband delivery service that intends providing online access to moving image titles via commercial delivery networks – nationally, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing multiple and simultaneous users, no degradation of prints, no space storage problems. E-commerce mechanisms are still under consideration but are likely to involve a subscription scheme, with usage credited automatically against a central account.


Several lessons, highlighted in a presentation by Cinemedia at Metro Screen in December 1999, are worth noting:

  • Rights. In codifying copyright and contractual issues, the PAML project provides options for navigating the minefield. It calls for a ‘paradigm shift’ on the handling of intellectual property rights, urges anticipation of multiple uses when text, sound and images are being created [‘re-purposing’], and a more flexible, mutually-beneficial approach to payments [forsake awards, consider ‘back-end’ payments].  As the Information Age gathers steam, the management of intellectual property rights has become the major issue. Finding efficient mechanisms for managing them continues to be a challenge. 

  • Technology. The project has underscored the dependency of Internet multimedia products and services on broadband connections. You can’t really enjoy the MSO’s site or streaming features of websites if you have a 56K modem relying on a standard telephone line. Australia is lagging behind North America in terms of speed and cost. But with cable connections and ASDL now available, the future is getting closer.  
  • Funding. One of the reasons for beginning the project was that ‘performing arts organisations are constrained by limited resources and funds in using new technology’. With interactive CD-ROMs costing anywhere between, say,  $150,000 and $1 million, the PAML project has not really addressed this problem and, to a large extent, it is a question for individual organisations to solve anyway. Most organisations will use digital technology as part of their day-to-day operation. Spending a proportion of their budget on particular forms of promotion and particular products will depend on a cost-benefit equation. Financing some digital activity will continue to involve help from other people and organisations - collaboration with kindred spirits and sponsorship arrangements.


Information is created by anyone with a word processor or a pen, a camera or sound recording equipment. The way bits of information are co-ordinated and used, particularly in a digital environment, has implications for the efficient conduct of business [whether from a high-rise office or a home office] and the rewards - personal, commercial and cultural - that might flow from the business. Three areas present themselves for scrutiny: industry and enterprise indicators, records management and preservation of performances. 

Industry and enterprise indicators

To make informed decisions, industries and enterprises need to know how things are going. Knowing how things are going often depends on the availability of information on key business indicators from a variety of sources usually involving computers.

The Cultural Ministers Council Statistics Working Group was established in 1985 to develop, collect and disseminate such information. Their National Cultural-Leisure Industry Statistical Framework provides a system for codifying and analysing activities, inputs and outputs. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has produced numerous reports over the years on what is now described without a blink as the cultural industry. These reports include analysis and data on employment, expenditure and revenue, among other features of the industry.  South Australian academic, Joh Hartog, has written about the creation of The Event Database for the Adelaide Festival Centre and its use in evaluating both business and cultural outcomes.

Improvements to the statistical framework itself and the way the information is collected and collated to deliver more sophisticated information will involve a high degree of planning and promotion by government bodies working with cultural enterprises.

Records management

The PC has had both a deleterious and beneficial impact on information handling. It is more easily created, manipulated and shared. Paradoxically, it is also sometimes harder to find and easier to lose. In many organisations, contexts have become more ambiguous (the old paper file system has disappeared).  Some performing arts organisations have been dazzled, even blinded, by the new technology and have taken precipitous action over records of lasting value. 

Governments have responded by adopting ‘whole-of-government’ policies for managing information and introducing new legislation and auditable programs for record keeping in government agencies. At the centre of these policies and regulations is the notion of life cycle management. The distinction between records and archives has become blurred. The person who creates a piece of information has now become responsible for its fate.

In the absence of requirements in non-regulated environments, industry associations are well placed to promote policies for managing information in constituent organisations. Performing arts organisations could also take the initiative. Citations on the Wolanski Foundation website and material available from the NSW Records Office and the NSW Office of Information Technology may be useful starting points for large and small organisations beginning to address the problem.

Preservation of performances

Performing arts organisations, not surprisingly, regard the preservation of archival sound and visual recordings as less important than filling today’s auditorium and attracting tomorrow’s audience.

Australian organisations have nibbled at the question of an archive of Australian performances for some time. The Australia Council created a short-lived committee to examine the issue in the mid-1980s. At least one major performing arts organisation – the Sydney Opera House – wrestled with the issue without satisfactorily resolving it by the mid-1990s. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation remains a key player in the recording and selective preservation of live performances.

The preservation of recordings of performances is a simpler question for orchestral bodies than for other types of performing arts bodies. Orchestral performances are well served by a sound recording, whereas theatre, dance and opera companies require a visual element and more expensive production equipment.

The PAML Pilot Project set out to test issues using $1 million of $3 million that had been allocated to create a multimedia library of Australian performances. The systematic development of an archive of Australian performances was implied. The project has not addressed questions concerning selection and methods of creation, capture and preservation. Policies and approaches still need to be articulated at national and enterprise levels. Tomorrow’s trawlers of the past will discover only what companies have placed in their time capsule.


There is no shortage of ideas on how to attract, maintain and build audiences. Commonsense has been joined by creative techniques, science and competitive intelligence to devise ways of engaging prospective customers. The TOAN newsletters of May-June & July-August 1999 provide a quick overview of the territory. The Australia Council has just released a report, Selling the Performing Arts, on the subject. 

Most performing arts organisations now recognise the necessity of websites and tourist kiosks as communication and marketing tools. Many have used digital files to communicate with sponsors. Organisations at the top of the tree are involved in broadcasting performances and making recordings for commercial distribution. Some will even contemplate cinema and television advertising. 

Many orchestras will produce CDs. Some will contemplate producing interactive CD ROMs. The Australian Government’s Australia on CD program encouraged collaborations between arts organisations and multimedia producers by providing substantial sums to 12 consortia. One of the titles produced, Stage Struck, brought together NIDA, the Sydney Opera House, Opera Australia, the Australian Ballet and the University of Wollongong. Copies were placed in every school in Australia. It has won a host of international awards including a British Academy of Film and Television Arts [BAFTA] award. Commercial success, however, remains a high-risk proposition. Quality is important. Quality means money. Money can be pooled through collaboration. The education market is important. The global market is important. The right distributor is crucial.

In her article, Reaching Out – New Approaches in Marketing [TOAN newsletter July August 1999], Sharron Dickman encourages us “to think laterally, think imaginatively and think about opportunities to connect with all the people out there doing things”. She suggested shopping malls, among other locations and events, to promote the interests of orchestras and music making.     

Let me add to that list by suggesting museums and exhibitions. The SciTrek Science and Technology Museum in St Louis, Exploratorium in San Franciso and Cité des Sciences in Paris, among others, have provided a glimpse of possibilities. The Scitrek exhibition What Makes Music? explored sound waves, harmonics, patterns, acoustics and electronics using both multimedia, traditional tools, and the videorecordings, What Makes Music and The Symphony Orchestra: a Triumph of Technology. The Cité’s offering in 1994 included such exhibits as the Parabolic Sound Screen, the Sound Chamber, Birth of a Voice, Voice-activated Note-gobbler, The Ear is a Detective, Melodies in Your Ear, Fine-Tuned Ear and the Bach Machine. Each of these exhibitions engaged the minds and senses of its intended audience.

If a group of orchestras were to produce something similar for presentation in local museums, to what extent would it contribute to the making of the committed concertgoer of the future? Hard to know, but worth considering. 


Digital technology offers exciting possibilities. Further work is required by governments and industry organisations to help performing arts companies make the most of it.  



Cinemedia at Metro Screen. 15-16 December 1999. Presenters: PAML Pilot Project Manager, Helen Simondson; Jamie Wodetski, legal adviser; Ross Gibson.


The computerized gaze and the performing arts / by Joh Hartog. Australasian Drama Studies 32, April 1998: 109-130.


For the record: documenting performing arts audience development initiatives / written and researched by Paul Connolly and Marcelle Hinand. Washington DC: Association of Performing Arts presenters, 1998.


From live performance to the digital stage: a 5-step guide to contracting and copyright management of digital recordings for the live performing arts. Melbourne: Cinemedia with Multimedia Victoria and the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, 1999. 


Making it happen: the cultural and entertainment industries handbook / co-ordinating editor Ruth Rentschler. Kew, Victoria: Centre for Professional Development, 1999: See in particular The Impact of multimedia section, pages 235-272. 


Records management: Australian standard AS4390-1. Homebush, NSW: Standards Australia, 1996.


TOAN Newsletter. The Rocks, Sydney: The Orchestras of Australia Network Inc, various issues. 



Australian Association of Sound Archivists <>

Australia Council <>

Australian Cultural Ministers’ Council <>

Australia Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts <>

Australian Film Commission <>

Fuel4arts <>

International Association of Sound Archivists <

NSW Office of Information Technology and Management <>

NSW State Records Office <>

Performing Arts Multimedia Library <>

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra <>

The Wolanski Foundation <>



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