Lidia Varbanova: The Essence of Going Beyond the Borders

Lidia Varbanova’s professional experience in strategy, policy, capacity building, management and entrepreneurship with a special focus on the arts, culture and creative industries, extends beyond 55 countries. She meets with artists, cultural professionals and students from around the world and actively takes part in workshops and trainings to help them to increase their competence, audiences, supporters and budgets. She is the author of the “International Entrepreneurship in the Arts” and “Strategic Management in the Arts” books.

Ms Varbanova shared some very effective and practical tools during her visit to Armenia, where she conducted a training within the framework of Culture and Creativity workshop with the support of British Embassy as part of EU-Eastern Partnership Culture and Creativity Programme.

Creative and innovative ideas are very different. There are important things to consider when elaborating a business model that leads to increase of self-generated revenues from creative ideas:

– Take an idea that is not just creative, but innovative – that has the potential to bring social and economic benefits, fits to a market gap or follows a trend.

– Analyze the “value chain” and find out how your initial idea can pass through the stages of production, dissemination and consumption to reach the final user. It is important to consider especially the dissemination phase, because majority of business models happen exactly there.

– Think not only about offering the core artistic product, but also-additional and peripheral products and services as well-in many cases they are the one to bring money. For example, selling tickets for a theatre performance brings revenue, but insufficiently. There should be other ways to “commercialize” the theatrical idea-e.g. by offering the text of the play in print or online version, educational classes, sales of souvenirs and many others.

– Put yourself into the shoes of customers, clients, audiences. Consider the external perspective. Why would they buy the product or service? How is it connected with their own life and expectations? How would it contribute to the global challenges which our societies face nowadays?

– Deliver what you have promised. There are many art forms where the buyer buys not the product, but expectation-for example in the life performing arts. Make sure that the initial offer will not be misleading and audiences will be satisfied as a result of participating and spending money and time to buy your service or product.

Field of art, type of organization, essence of the creative project, target audiences, geographical coverage, competence of the management and marketing team that stays behind the artistic creation, and many other factors can have influence on the art to reach broader audience. For the innovative projects and organizations to be able to go global beyond their national borders it is important to emphasize that artists and cultural managers need to look “beyond the box”, to explore the uniqueness of the local resources, to explore the trends and opportunities in the society so that they can connect their creativity with what audiences and buyers are interested in, without of course hijacking the creative concept and diminishing the artistic quality.

If an artistic idea has a value that is understood and relevant to as more people as possible, if there is fun, element of entertainment and telling a story that touches peoples’ minds and hearts, the issue of “accessibility” is much easier.

In 21st century it is not enough to only create , but to know how to disseminate a product or a service as wider as possible. This is why knowing and using the new technologies and online tools is of utmost importance. Many artists are still behind the understanding how powerful these technologies are-not only for the dissemination but also for the creation of artistic products and services.

Emerging artists are inspired, unpredictable and curious. In order for them to gain visibility they need to:

– First of all figure out why they do what they do, to find out their inner motivation and aspiration, and to be able to convey it to others.

-Research more what is going around the world, spend sometime to make contacts and approach key players.

– Be active and apply to international artistic competitions and events that provide opportunities for showcasing their art.

– Know how to design their digital portfolio and be able to disseminate it widely

– Collaborative mode of work also increases visibility-through diverse partnership schemes, online link campaigns and many more.

Networking is very important and is a key element for gaining visibility.

In the fourth and fifth chapter of my latest book readers can find concrete models for gaining visibility, tools for marketing and promotion of artists and their work beyond the national borders. The case studies and examples in the book illustrate specific strategies and models that are relevant to arts and culture sector when expanding abroad.

To read the interview in Armenian, press here

Mane Gevorgyan