So that was 2010 digital developments in the arts!

Avatar of AmbITion By AmbITion
21 December 2010

Hannah Rudman on big screenIt’s that time of year again for Hannah Rudman to sum up the 2010 digital developments in the cultural sector. Generally, we’ve seen more audience participation online and in venue, and digital access to culture becoming a mainstream activity.

Here’s my pick of the main developments in each art form: for more detail on what individual arts organisations have been up to, especially in Scotland, visit the AmbITion Scotland website for video case studies.AmbITion logo

Music
2010 was the year the music industry got its way, when the graduated-response method of dissuading piracy was adopted by parliament. Digital downloads hit £370m this year – a fifth of UK music sales – but 76 percent of downloads are ‘illegal’.
—1.2 billion tracks downloaded illegally (source: Harris Interactive) – retail value: £984,000 (source: BPI).
—That’s 76 percent of all downloads (source: BPI).
—P2P use was up 7% (source: Harris Interactive).
If the Digital Economy Act measures get implemented, labels will have recourse against illegal P2P, the primary unauthorised channel. They spent the rest of this year turning their attention to websites which host songs without authorisation [source]. (Whether they’ll go after Google, who of course direct so many to so much “free” music…)

Classical Music
For the past few months, the SPCO has been experimenting with on-line coupons to reach new audiences. In May 2010 they trialled their first on-line coupon venture via Groupon, and sold about 80 coupons for a specific concert (of which 60 were actually redeemed). They then trialled Travelzoo. In October, they offered an inexpensive two-concert “flex pack” for the current season, and sold more than 500 of them. In December 2010, they offered a season pass for Thursday and Friday night concerts for the rest of the season via Living Social, and sold more than 1400 passes — an amazing number for a one-day sale! [source].

Many classical music and ballet organisations have been simulcasting concerts with great success – the business model works, and this has been proven by the Met Opera, now three years down the line.

Opera
In 2006, the Met began transmitting live, high-definition opera performances into movie theaters, beginning with six shows in 248 theaters in eight countries. The current season features 12 operas in 1,500 theaters in 46 countries. Last season, 2.4 million tickets were sold to nine different shows. The Met’s share of the gross was $24 million, and after subtracting production costs and revenue-sharing payments to its unions, the company realized over $8 million in net revenue.

Said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, “For the first time in its recent history, or maybe in all of its history, the Met has discovered a new source of revenue that has expanded its capacity and is helping to ensure the education of future audiences at same time.”

Last season, each HD transmission reached an average of 267,000 paying customers (Mr. Gelb notes that a successful opera DVD today sells 20,000 to 30,000 units world-wide), a major audience boost. The company also has picked up about 7,000 new individual donors thanks to the transmissions, a valuable resource for an institution that relies on contributions to supply about 40% of its annual operating budget. In addition, even given the recession, paid, nondiscounted ticket sales increased to 85% of the box office last year, compared with 76% when Gelb took over. [source]

Theatre
2010 has seen the success of distributed live performance through simulcasting begin with UK productions – see my blog about National Theatre Scotland’s experiment at Traverse Theatre, and increased audience acceptance of pre-recorded theatre. These are new business models for UK theatre, and have created new audiences interested in the new hybrid format at a new pricepoint. NT Live (see too this blog) and & digitaltheatre.com are the biggest success story so far, digitaltheatre.com utilising the internet as a global distribution channel for sale of HD recordings – video on demand (VOD) and download to own (DTO).

There have been interesting experiments this year where filmed performances have been distributed digitally live (think NTLive! simulcasting to cinemas), and on-demand (think digitaltheatre.com). But what about making work available to closed, finite networks to increase access, and enhancing it with distributed live elements such as Q&A with the cast? That’s what Arts & Theatres Trust Fife are up to this December: screening a special free performance of its Christmas show, Jock and the Beanstalk, by award-winning theatre company Wee Stories, from Dunfermline’s Carnegie Hall to children’s wards in six hospitals across Scotland via a private Web TV channel provided by Solus, enabling the show to be transmitted across various digital media on Fife’s network of linked screens to a wider audience as well as the hospitals. Staff from ATTFife staff went to all the 6 locations in Scotland, to facilitate a live webcast Q&A session with the cast and children at each location on the afternoon of 21st December.

Dance
Dance has been the core content of the year’s most popular digital developments: 3D film, and the natural user interfaces (NUIs) of gaming devices like Wii (you could liven up the post Christmas lunch slump in front of the TV with a family game of Dance on Broadway for Wii…).
The pressure to come up with new and exciting dance moves often keeps choreographers thinking outside the box. but 2010 has posed a new challenge: with the flood of 3-D film releases, they must also think outside the frame.

“It’s not just the choreography within the frame but the frame itself,” says Jon Chu, director of “Step Up 3D. With 3-D, the frame becomes a much more active partner, and it becomes a duet between audience and dancers.” [source]

Literature
The iPad and the Kindle have been changing the marketplace for e-books, ensuring their popularity and lower price point. Many e-books now have interactive elements too. However, the paper book is not dead, even if some of the mega/cahin paper bookstores are. Curated, local independent bookstores are thriving, supplementing book sales with live events and reading clubs. [source]

Visual arts
Audience and Experts have co-curated the Walker Art Gallery’s latest exhibition, aptly named 50/50. Using a digital kiosk in a Walker gallery and an online survey at walkerart.org, individuals cast nearly a quarter-million votes on whether particular artworks should “definitely” or “maybe not” be included in the exhibition 50/50. Crowd curation at its best!

Museums
Brooklyn Museum’s had a great time working with GPS location game FourSquare, rewarding the Mayor on the first Saturday of every month with an annual membership, and incentivising other Foursquare users with offers and prizes. and the Museum of London has given its archive a new lease of life on anyone’s smart phone and on the streets of London via an augmented reality application “Street Museum“.

That of course is just the tip of the iceberg. Please do review my 2010 blogs for more case studies. Thanks for reading this year, and I’ll be back in 2011, probably with some predictions of where I think we’ll be at in the arts, with digital, by the end of 2011!