Stages Not Saved. Whistleblowers. Social Media Trends.

I thought these three articles have potential for discussion topics this month. Stages not saved provides insights about the industry that goes behind the headlines. The whistleblower’s update says a lot about how cultural organizations handle employee complaints. Checking on social media trends seems like a good thing to be doing.

Not Saving Stages?

The article in Pollstar, a publication focused on the global concert industry, highlighted a large gap in the Save Our Stages initiative that was part of the COVID-19 Relief Bill passed at the end of December. Michael Strickland, the owner of Bandit Lites, noted that the bill “does not cover the majority of our industry.” He went on to say that “The independent venues, promoters and managers make up only a portion of the live industry.”

“For many in the live events industry, this is a band-aid on a large cut,” stated Jeanne Moran, spokesperson for the Save Live Events Now (#SLEN) coalition, which issued a press release following congressional passage of Save Our Stages.” Save Live Events Now also was lobbying for support and represents a large segment of the concert industry.

Meanwhile, over at the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), they were cheering the legislation. However, they also noted that “Since it could take many weeks, even months for the funding to flow, the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund, with The Giving Back Fund as its 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor, continues to raise money to assist the venues at greatest risk of permanently going under as we wait for the grants to be issued.” The SOS money will be distributed through the Small Business Administration and hence the warning that the funding could take a while to reach organizations.

As you can see, there was more to the SOS story than was covered in the news headlines. If nothing else, this article could be a starting point for a class discussion about how effective (or not) government action has been in supporting the arts and entertainment industry in America.  

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Being a Whistleblower

When it comes to oversight of cultural organizations, it seems the only remedy is for employees to call attention to often long-standing problems publicly. For example, after Andrea Montiel de Shuman resigned and highlighted problems at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), only then did the “museum embarked on a three-year project to reimagine its diversity policies.” It also then established a “confidential hotline for employees to report matters of discrimination and retaliation.”

It was a similar story at the Akron Art Museum in Ohio. In 2019 the staff sent a letter to the board calling for the museum director’s resignation, which “triggered the board of trustees to launch a legal investigation.” However, nothing changed even after the investigation. A few months later, when 27 of the staff were laid off due to the coronavirus, they went to the press with their concerns about the museum director. Then the board took action.

Obviously, there is a pattern here that raises a larger question about how arts organizations handle employee grievances. It also prompts one to ponder what board members are doing (or not) in their governance and oversight role. If employees don’t feel comfortable raising concerns about the workplace with their supervisors and have to go to the media to be heard, then doesn’t that tell us the HR policies of the organization need tweaking?

This article is a good conversation starter about leader and follower problems in arts organizations. For example, if DIA already had a hotline for employees, maybe Shuman wouldn’t have had to resign from her job. Likewise, would not the museum in Akron be in a better place if the board had acted on the initial complaint? So why do boards ignore employee concerns? What does their lack of action say about the culture and values of the organization?

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Social Media Trends

The TechSoup website offers arts managers all kinds of tools and techniques to use in their organization. The recent posting on social media trends is a good example of the kind of information they offer. Of course, arts organizations using “short video stories” on social media platforms, or Fleets as they are known on Twitter, assumes there are people on staff who can create and distribute this content. Ditto with live streaming.

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has a digital hub that seems to capture some of the ideas noted in the TechSoup blog posting. The Florida Orchestra TFO at Home page also offers an interesting mix of video content. However, these websites do not seem like the right platform for the short video story approach. Check out the Facebook pages for these organizations and assess whether their video content is telling engaging stories.

CSO – https://www.facebook.com/CincySymphony

TFO – https://www.facebook.com/FloridaOrchestra

A good exercise would be to spend some time looking at what other arts organizations are doing with digital content on TikTok or WhatsApp. Is the content engaging, or is it more about selling tickets?

Thanks again for subscribing to these updates.

Bill Byrnes

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Not Saved By Save Our Stages: Majority of Live Business Will Not Benefit From New Relief Bill

12/30/2020, Andy Gensler, Pollstar.com

Finally, after months of what seemed unconscionable political jockeying amidst a global pandemic and economic crisis, this week Congress and the White House approved a long-awaited COVID-19 Relief Package. Beyond providing greatly needed assistance to many financially-strapped Americans, the omnibus legislation includes the Save Our Stages Act, which allotted some $15 billion for independent venues, promoters, managers and agents to be shared with movie theaters and cultural institutions. For those in the hard-pressed independent venue sector, the funding is a lifeline and great news for a vital and beloved part of the live industry; but for a majority of the larger live industry, they won’t see a nickel.

“Save Our Stages was like landing at the beach in Omaha, but we still have to get to Paris,” says Michael Strickland owner of Bandit Lites, a lighting company out of Knoxville, Tenn. “It does not cover the majority of our industry.” Many of whom are in as much of a dire need for financial assistance as the independents were.

Here’s the link to the full story:

https://www.pollstar.com/article/not-saved-by-save-our-stages-majority-of-live-business-will-not-benefit-from-new-relief-bill-147062

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Whistleblowers Spoke Up to Hold Art Institutions Accountable. Here’s What Happened to Them Afterward

01/26/2021, Zachary Small, Artnet.news

Arts workers who publicized allegations of mismanagement discuss their motivations for speaking out against their employers—and what came next.

They finalized protest letters over cups of coffee and under the fluorescent lights of 24-hour diners. They teamed up with colleagues to organize unions in WhatsApp groups. And they called journalists in stairwells to raise allegations of abuse on the conviction that museums and galleries should be held accountable for hurtful practices.

In recent years, a growing number of whistleblowers have put their careers on the line to spotlight trouble within the art world. Such efforts have produced tectonic shifts inside institutions, where executives have resigned under pressure and trustees have bowed to employee demands for improved diversity, equity, and inclusion measures.

But after the open letters are published, the articles are out, and the declarations are made on social media, what happens to the people behind them? Artnet News spoke with a number of whistleblowers to find out what followed their news-making efforts and the emotional costs of going public.

Here’s the link to the full article:

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5 Social Media Trends for Nonprofits in 2021

01/15/2021, Steven Davidson, Tech Soup Blog

There are now 3.78 billion social media users worldwide in 2021 — about a 32 percent increase from just five years ago. These numbers are expected to continue to grow, meaning social media will become an even more useful tool for nonprofits to connect with their communities.

Each year, there are new trends and technologies to keep an eye on, and this year is no different. From new ways to use video to leveraging chatbots, 2021 is packed with social media trends to keep on your radar in order to improve the way your community engages with your nonprofit online.

Here’s the link to the full article:

https://blog.techsoup.org/posts/5-social-media-trends-for-nonprofits-in-2021