Archive for January, 2006

Four Days, Forty-five Hundred People, and We Go Forth

Monday, January 30th, 2006

This past week we were at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters convention in New York city. If you’ve ever wondered how programming at your local performance center is created, this convention provides some of the answers. There are three main activities at the convention: selling, meeting and showcasing.

For the selling, agents, artists and a few national organizations have booths covering three floors of convention space at the Hilton Hotel that highlight their artistic works ready to tour: chamber music groups, dance companies, soloists, theatre ensembles, magicians and other speciality acts. The noise, multitude of opportunities, and occasional glimpses of desperation can all be quite daunting. Still, it is amazing to see so many possibilities for programming and so many determined to make it happen.

Meetings were organized around topics — Buzz Marketing, Digital Marketplace, Focus on Research, Global Perspectives, for example. At the ones we attended, the divide of the selling (this one’s offering, that one’s buying) was broken down for easy panel presentations and honest questions. One lesson was clear: both the makers and presenters of work can feel very much alone in their endeavors; they need to share knowledge, experience, and points of view.

The showcasing took place all over New York — from concert halls to small theatres to hotel meeting rooms. Here, agents would hustle and artists would perform (sometimes whole pieces, sometimes just a sample) to any and all willing to enter. Always the best selling point is the work itself. You have to tip your hat to performers trying to make their mark in a windowless room better designed for faceless bureaucrats sitting at a table with water, mints and hotel notepads.

For us, the best part was the opportunity to speak with current and future users of this site. From these conversations it was made clear to us how much this site can be of service to each constituency of the convention: artists, presenters, and national organizations.

For those centers that host festivals, they can input all their updated programming, ticketing, resources and practical information directly via the email link on their page on our site. (And email us to add their festival if we don’t have it already!)

For the artists, they can send us links to their work: reviews, profiles, samples of music, and photographs. When they appear at a festival this information will be used to create links from that festival’s page on our site.

As we round the track on our first half of beta testing, these kinds of additions move us from a site solely produced by us to one that is mutually produced with the field — and that field includes the audiences.

More to come on additions, designs and tools.

- Bill Reichblum

Welcome Home Party

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

From the most recent feedback, during this second phase of testing, we have been re-thinking the home page.

Originally, we thought of the home page as an equivalent to a newspaper’s front page: Here are the lead stories of the week; here’s the context for what you will find on the site; here’s what’s inside; here’s how to get there. Sounds like a lot, right?

Instead of a review of web-use home page research, practice and theory, think about the issue in terms of a party for someone coming home from a trip.

After traveling to far and bizarre lands for months and months, you come home to your house where your family and friends (maybe a few enemies just to make it a better party) have been waiting to hear all about your long trip. How do you start?

One way:
“Well, on the first day, I got off the train and…On my second day, I woke-up to find…On the third day, as the sun began to rise…”

Another way:
“Here’s the map showing everywhere I traveled. What do you want to know about first?”

It’s easy to fall into using the first way. You’ve been on your own for so long, you want to talk! You are so excited to be able to finally share! You want them to know that every day was full of revelations. The problem is, though, your audience might feel overwhelmed: telling them about each and every tree before you’ve described the forest. If you haven’t ruined your party, you certainly have slowed it down.

The second way begins with the forest: the map. It invites your audience to guide the event. Stories are shared. There are jumps from one story to another — from the expected to the startling, from the pedestrian to the mystical, from the sublime to the ridiculous. A better party, don’t you think?

So, we are now working on the home page to create a better party for you.

Soon you will see the movement from our “front page” to more of a “cover page”: linked headlines and markers for what’s on the site — click and go there.

And don’t forget that as you click your way down through the site at each and any stop you are invited to add information.

Just like the party: make sure it’s not a monologue. Add to the tale. Make it a great party.

- Bill Reichblum

Beta II, On the Verge

Monday, January 9th, 2006

We are now preparing for Phase II of the beta test. (In case you are curious, we have planned three phases of beta.) Now that we know the structure of the site works, this next phase will be focused on user experience — from different points of view.

The comments, suggestions, and the occasional yelp (of pleasure, we presume) from the first phase have been incredibly helpful. In the next version, you will see these ideas, along with our own planned roll-outs, incorporated into the site: emphasis on the map; tabs to get you to the top of a page; headlines of festival and content news; fluidity of movement between festival page and other pages.

When we began, all of the information — on festivals, about artists, and with background context — was gathered by our own research. We have now begun to add information provided by you - our stakeholders.

If you work with a festival, you can update any segment of information directly from your festival page by going to the bottom of the page and clicking on

If you are an artist and you and/or your company is going to perform at a festival, you can update any information, including links to your own site, previous reviews, feature stories, photographs, and future plans through

If you are not connected to a festival or artistic company, but have valuable information to add, please do let us know through

Ana Maria has started a great chain in the community forum {} on “Festivals I dream about going to.” Her thoughts are completely captivating and poetic.

Maybe it is not as captivating and poetic, but we will be going to the convention of the Association of Arts Presenters {} in New York. [Another kind of beta-test: my first convention since I stopped smoking.] A good opportunity for more face-to-face feedback from artists and presenters.

Be sure to try your own “yelp” with the next roll-out of the site and let us know how it sounds.

- Bill Reichblum