I went to a talk last week by Leila Johnston about her ‘digital-artist-in-residence’ project at Rambert. The talk was entitled ‘does dance need tech? does tech need dance?‘ and whilst it didn’t really answer either of those questions (or try especially hard to really) it was an interesting insight into what can happen when the right amount of curiosity and expertise is smashed together, with no brief, and left to get on with things.
I think Leila would perhaps be the first person to admit that her residency came up with very little in the way of answers, or obvious paradigm shifts or any real, big shiny things. But perhaps that’s really how these things should work. Talking to a friend afterwards we both agreed that perhaps these things are most successful when really they don’t have any tangible outputs immediately. Sure it would’ve been cool if there had been some sort of big thing as a result of this but what is far more interesting and will probably have a deeper and more meaningful impact is that change that it appears Leila managed to at least begin to trigger – namely interesting the dancers (and aspirational choreographers among them) in technology and how it can extend and deepen their practice. It was refreshing to hear about her approach and her open and honest interest in the dancers as people and how she could trigger and facilitate their curiosity. Ultimately if Rambert had wanted a big, shiny digital thing then they could just pay an agency to come up with a big, shiny digital thing. It seems that this project is far less focused on specific outcomes, and that is probably to be admired and applauded.
Leila fielded some pretty tough questions at the end of her talk – to be honest I think a lot of people in the audience were expecting (and disappointed by the lack of) a big, shiny thing, but she made a convincing case for her approach and, by the end, everyone seemed fairly convinced it was the right way to go about things.
Anyway, you can read about what she did at http://hackingrambert.com/ – it’ll be interesting to see what the subsequent digital-artists-in-residence come up with, but I think Leila has set down some laudable foundations.
This morning I got an email from Wiggle (the cycling/running/whatnot shop):
The Wiggle ‘Platinum’ scheme is automatically offered to anyone who has spent over a specific amount of money within a specific period (more than £500 in the previous 365 days – that Platinum status is then activated for 365 days from the day when you meet the threshold and is maintained if you spend more than £500 during the subsequent 365 days). I needed to get a few bits anyway so I promptly went and spent £80 on new cycling and running stuff and lo my discount is secured for another year. This seems like a relatively straight-forward and easy-to-administrate way of encouraging customer loyalty and incentivise people to spend more whilst also giving an obvious benefit to customers.
It got me thinking about the various loyalty/membership/multibuy/etc schemes I’ve seen in the arts sector, which always seem fantastically complicated. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that has been as simple to explain (the benefit, the criteria, the everything) as this example from Wiggle, whilst I understand that there will always be arts audiences who want priority booking and all the other benefits that usually come with being a Friend (or whatever the membership scheme is called) why isn’t anyone trying something ‘simple’ like this? It seems to be a straightforward way of trying to get people to spend more without all the extra complexities of a multibuy scheme or membership structure. People won’t always want to spend a load of money in one go (which is what multibuys often require) and not everyone wants the faff of joining a membership scheme (if all they want is a discount this seems like overkill). It seems like there’d be numerous benefits for venues, you’d reasonably expect it to trigger an increase in some people’s spend (to meet the threshold) then once that threshold had been met you might also reasonably expect those people to try events they may not have otherwise considered (thanks to the discount).
I may simply be unaware that people are already doing this? Are there any venues that say ‘once you spend £x within a certain period we will offer you % discount for the following number of days’?
Equally I may be blissfully unaware of the 100s of perfectly valid reasons why this would never work. Either way, I’d be interested in hearing what people more qualified than I think about this.