ARTS ORGANISATIONS AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
Arts Multimedia Library Pilot Project
and audience development
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.
ARTS MULTIMEDIA LIBRARY PILOT PROJECT
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.
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
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.
what emerged from the pilot project?
Production and marketing guidelines
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.
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
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.
lessons, highlighted in a presentation by Cinemedia at Metro Screen in
December 1999, are worth noting:
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.
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.
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
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.
and enterprise indicators
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
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
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
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
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
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.
AND AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
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
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.
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
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
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.
at Metro Screen. 15-16 December 1999. Presenters: PAML Pilot Project Manager,
Helen Simondson; Jamie Wodetski, legal adviser; Ross Gibson.
computerized gaze and the performing arts / by Joh Hartog. Australasian
Drama Studies 32, April 1998: 109-130.
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.
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,
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,
management: Australian standard AS4390-1. Homebush, NSW: Standards
Newsletter. The Rocks,
Sydney: The Orchestras of Australia Network Inc, various issues.
Association of Sound Archivists <http://www.activemedia.zed.com.au/asra>
Cultural Ministers’ Council <http://www.dcita.gov.au/cmc>
Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts <http://www.dcita.gov.au>
Film Commission <http://www.afc.gov.au>
Association of Sound Archivists <http://www.llgc.org.uk/iasa
Office of Information Technology and Management <http://www.oit.nsw.gov.au>
State Records Office <http://www.records.nsw.gov.au>
Arts Multimedia Library <http://www.cinemedia.net/PAML>
Symphony Orchestra <http://www.mso.com.au>
Wolanski Foundation <http://www.twf.org.au>