About the Book

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What’s the book about?

This book is about marketing and audience development for arts marketers in the digital age. It proposes a framework for a modern approach that embraces all the online tools and techniques that are available to the arts industry.

We run an annual nationwide study about how arts patrons use the Internet, where tens of thousands of arts patrons tell us how frequently they check their email, what they think of arts websites, what they think about the messaging they're getting—we gather a broad-based understanding of what patrons are doing online. This book outlines that data, and our conclusions.


What does the title of the book, “breaking the fifth wall,” actually mean?

“Breaking the fifth wall” is term we coined.

In theater, when an actor speaks directly to the audience, that’s “breaking the fourth wall”—the imaginary wall at the edge of the stage, between the audience and the world of the play. When the fourth wall is broken, that can be jarring!

The “fifth wall” is the wall that patrons pass when they exit an arts venue after a cultural experience, and return to their everyday life. When a patron leaves, they’re passing through the (usually literal) wall between the building where they had that experience, and the rest of the world. That exit through the fifth wall can be equally jarring as a fourth wall break during the arts experience—a palpable reminder of the world outside the art, and who they are in it.

Arts marketers need to continually and creatively break the fifth wall, reaching out to patrons in as many ways as possible, outside of the context of the arts experience itself. Developing a one-to-one relationship with patrons will bring them back into a venue again, and can motivate philanthropic support.


Who is this book for?

We wrote this book for several audiences!

Arts executives and leaders: The techniques and strategies we outline in the book are eminently relevant to someone leading an organization. You can learn to use technology to better engage patrons such that you can grow your organization both in revenue and reach.

Arts administrators: If you work in the arts in a position that relates to marketing, development, web design, box office, or anything else business-oriented or patron-facing, this book talks about the best ways to interact with patrons, and the kinds of tools and practices you should be using to make their experience, and yours, as positive and seamless as possible.

Anyone at an arts org who’s already digitally literate: If you feel like you know about most of this stuff already and/or you agree with us about the best ways to reach out to patrons, this book can be a great tool to bring to other people at your organization—whether it's your marketing director, your executive director, your board, or otherwise. It’s a treasure trove of hard data and outside expertise from industry leaders, and it can help give credence to the concept that a strong digital strategy is fundamentally important to your organization. If you work with people who aren’t yet 100% on board with good practices around websites, email marketing, social media, and/or CRM, we think we can help you convince them that they’re great ideas, and they’re incredibly effective.


What topics does the book cover?

We cover the following topics:

Email marketing is something that most organizations have been doing now for decades, but a lot of organizations don't take it as seriously as they should. We like to say that it’s “the least sexy but most effective marketing tool that an organization has.” The book talks about how to actually make your email marketing interesting, and into something that people want to read—and to make sure that you're targeting your patrons rather than just blasting out every email to everybody.

Websites are complicated—the rules of what makes a good website are almost entirely subjective. We did a series of focus groups in which we took a look at arts patrons’ reactions to specific arts organizations’ websites, and we came up with a list of guidelines we feel every arts organization ought to have their website follow.

Social media is the essence of “breaking the fifth wall.” It can be a very powerful tool for arts organizations to develop personal relationships with their patrons—as both a platform, and a form of two-way communication.

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a methodology of relating to your patrons on the one-to-one basis by understanding everything about them. Technology makes that possible. We talk about the history of CRM—and how CRM has become the most important technology for arts organizations to manage their patrons in the same way Fortune 500 companies do.

We also try to predict the future. We focus on mobile technology and other impacts we think technology will have on the future of arts marketing.

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