In Part 1 of this series, I talked about connecting directly with like-minded people as a way to get people interested in what you do. As I said in that post, I learned through chatting with folks on last.fm that Eastern Europeans seemed to disproportionately like my band.
Had I actually done something with this information, I might be cruising through the Urals in an Iveco right now. Unfortunately, we didn’t even see the opportunity because we were too busy trying to play house shows in Philly and gig my way to SXSW.
Having now been through the start-up ringer, worked on a big data project in the arts, and run my own small business, I would do things differently today. Today, I recognize the value of information.
The phrase “value of information” is pretty self-explanatory. Usually, when defining the value of information, people use money as the counter. (See the Wikipedia entry if you want to start getting geeky with it.) In the arts, though, the value of information might be non-monetary. Either way, you’ve got to have some idea whether information is worth the time it takes to collect before you spend the time collecting it. To know that, you’ve got to know how you’re going to actually use the information you’re gathering.
So how do you use information as an artist? This is an especially difficult question for an individual artist, as what you do is by nature qualitative, not quantitative. The first step toward using information to your advantage is collecting it. There are thousands of books about collecting data, none of which you probably want to read, but there’s a simple concept that can go a long way: counting.
The interactions you have with people can be counted. In fact, every time you interface with others in the context of your work as an artist, you have the opportunity to collect information. Here’s an example: let’s say you have a new music ensemble. You have performances, right? There are two simple numbers that, when collected every time you have a performance, can tell you a lot:
- How many seats are available?
- How many seats were filled with butts?
Not that hard to collect this information, right? If you collect these numbers every time you have a performance, you can quickly find out a) what were your most-attended performances, and b) what venues were they in?
Protip: don’t trust your memory. It’s notoriously bad at this kind of thing.
Maybe it turns out that there’s a size or type of venue that hits a sweet spot for your group, or maybe it’s a particular neighborhood. Maybe you find out that the most-attended performances were ones where you partnered with a particular composer, or another ensemble. Whatever you find out, the next step is to ACT on the information.
In part 3 of the series, I’ll talk about how to test it out!