To realise the aims of a marketing campaign requires an effective distribution strategy appropriate to your product. Having a Web presence still requires a strong distribution strategy to drive online audiences to the site. Companies with strong educational links can often make use of the direct sale distribution network already in place, while others exploit the point of sales at venues to sell programs, CDs, posters and other merchandise. Some organisations make use of the established sales networks and marketing skills of a distributor. This final option can be an expensive option since a distributor can command a sizeable percentage of income from the sale of the product. Artists and companies therefore must ascertain what distribution mechanisms are available to them and which of those will be the most suitable for promoting their products. The following section provides details of a number of distribution mechanisms relevant to the performing arts industry.
National and international film festivals are widely accessible distribution paths for all filmmakers. Several of these accept unsolicited material for review - particularly short films and documentaries. The Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane Film Festivals incorporate short film competitions, each year focusing one part of the competition on a particular theme such as dance on film. Companies with performing arts recordings, documentaries, or short dramas can enter the festivals for a fee of about $20-$40 per film. Entry forms are available on the Web or from the festival itself.
International Film Festival catalogues often carry a list of all film festivals in the world including their contact details. These can be accessed through Australian film schools. It is a good idea to read the entry requirements to ensure the festival has the facilities to screen the film, eg access to video projection, 16 mm etc. Check also for the festival's requirements for promotional material and for special categories that may apply to your film, eg "Theatre on Film."
Distributors are frequent viewers of film festival material and often select material from these major industry events for theatrical distribution.
Free to air and broadcast
Programming is a rapidly shifting area in cable and free-to-air-television. Networks employ program managers to direct content for documentaries, feature films, current affairs, sitcoms or children's work. You can send your material for consideration directly to the Head Programmer. Review the program guide beforehand to determine whether your work will be suitable. Given the volume of material considered for television it is often difficult for programmers to review all unsolicited material so including information about the credibility of artists and/or the company will be of assistance.
The World Wide Web
Many claim the World Wide Web will be one of the greatest distribution avenues for the performing arts. The wide number of free Internet resources (free Websites, free audience tracker services etc) make this an extremely attractive option. Anyone in the world with an Internet connection is now able to build and maintain a quality Web presence for little cost without any knowledge of technology. Services such as Tripod and Geocites, which can be found on the net, provide free user-friendly and intuitive Web presence services. These come complete with tracking services that allow organisations to assess the success of their online distribution strategies (traffic numbers, points of origin).
The Internet for the performing arts
A customised Website provides total control over both the content and context of a company's brand. Many performing arts companies fail to realise the full potential of their online presence, settling for simple session times and rudimentary information about the company and its members. A well planned Web presence can communicate with a number of different audiences simultaneously, segmenting visitors into audience, potential sponsors and company staff/actors, and delivering slightly different branding messages to each segment.
Your target audience also needs to be able to find your Website with ease, this means ensuring the Web address (or URL) is communicated via both offline (promotional literature, advertisements etc) and online channels. Securing a prominent listing for your Website on the major Internet search engines, and establishing paid or free links from other Websites will help draw traffic to your location. Additionally, associations with other sites will impart additional messages about the positioning of your company.
Some broad recommendations listed below may help you to develop more effective online communications:
With traditional offline sponsorships becoming more and more difficult to secure, innovative performing arts companies with an Internet presence could gain access to more online traffic through partnerships with mainstream Internet sites that match their target audience.
Securing free banner advertising as a form of sponsorship is a cheap way of gaining access to traffic. Many large, successful Australian sites have surplus advertising inventory which they may be prepared to trade for some form of performing arts affiliation.
Database links with eCommerce enabled venues could support online ticketing purchases for even the smallest performing arts company. Payment processing could be handled via a third party financial service provider, such as a bank.
Performing arts companies with a Web presence could quickly and easily sell products and promotional items directly from their Website without requiring complex online store and transaction processing capabilities. Services such as store.yahoo.com, provide and promote online communities of performing arts companies with "mini-portals" to ensure online audiences interested in certain kinds of performing arts are able to find all Australian performing arts companies of that genre.
Tips for Websites
In recent years the use of the Internet has grown exponentially. Growth has been so rapid that organisations are still developing new modes of design for online presentations. A Website that communicates effectively with your target audience is critical if the Web is to become the key delivery mechanism for your organisation.
- Simplify your Web page address (URL). Users may not have access to your address but may try to find material through logical searches of subject matter or titles.
- Update your site regularly.
- Try to limit presentations to screen size. Long scrolling pages of text can be useful for research papers but not for sales or pitches.
- Structure your site thoughtfully. Provide site navigation assistance. Avoid having pages that stand alone. Allow users to move around the sight without having to follow a linear path in and out. Users should not have to return to the home page to access other material.
- Avoid long download times, particularly for home pages.
- Avoid complicated Websites if your target audience does not have the bandwidth to download the site.
Broadband delivery and digital television
Broadband is a high-resolution mechanism for delivering large amounts of digital information quickly. It is used to provide high-speed Internet delivery. At an even higher resolution it has the ability to stream real-time audio and video services for digital television, a service that is due to begin in Australia on 1 January 2001.
Companies such as Phillips Business Information of the UK estimate Australia will have four million digital receivers in homes by 2005, that is 57 per cent of Australian homes or 40 per cent of the current number of sets. Other government figures however suggest that full implementation of digital TV will not be until later into 2008. This raises the question for current producers, of whether to digitise now for broadband delivery or to store information at a higher resolution (high definition television resolution - HDTV) for future use.
Digital TV will fuse elements of cinema sound, traditional television and the Internet, thus opening a new avenue of distribution to all producers of multimedia products. Digital broadcast will provide consumers with enhanced television and radio services opening up opportunities to provide new kinds of information and entertainment services, including interactive services.
Digital broadcasting will provide viewers with an unprecedented control over their viewing material. Viewers may be able to simultaneously watch multiple programmers, block programmers (such as those unsuitable for children), or elect to watch a program at a time that suits the viewer. Viewers will be able to access additional information on a program, (particularly applicable to sports presentations). This application on a screen will have the look and feel of a Website but may be screened on a large screen television, computer screen, home theatre or mobile receiver.
Service capabilities of the digital network fall into six main categories:
- Supplementary program information.
- Pay-per-view (education, entertainment).
- Transactional (shopping, bill paying, reservations, polling).
- Online multimedia services (full interactivity - games).
- Community (localised information, email, chat).
- Business and mobile applications.