apap Performing Europe 2020: A review to New Business Models in the arts and culture sector
apap Performing Europe 2020: A review to New Business Models in the arts and culture sector

The topic New Business Model focused on two elements:
A theoretical exchange amongst experts, artists and interested partners and institutions.
A practical implementation in three specific Business Models, which have been worked out during the four years period.

The first lab on New Business Model was hosted and organized by the partner organization MCA and took place in May 2017. Experts of all partner organizations as well as apap-artists Ivana Müller and Michikazu Matsune and experts from other cultural institutions in Amiens participated in the lab. An external expert on New Business Model, José Rodriguez from TransEuropeHalles/Creative Lenses, was invited to lead the lab.

In October 2018 the network partner BIT in Bergen, Norway, organized a second lab. This time the focus was on the role of art in the in the market at a somewhat more abstract level.

Why do we regard Art as a necessary part of a society? Is it possible to talk about usefulness connected to an artistic experience? If yes, how do we translate this value into a concrete measure? 

By designing and implementing the three new apap Business Models we followed the three questions pointed out by Clay Christensen, published in Harvard Business School´s journal:

A good Business Model will meet three criteria, following the questions:

Is it aligned with company goals?
A Business Model should deliver consequences that enable an organization to achieve its goals.

Is it self-reinforcing?
The choices tat executives make while creating a Business Model should complement one another; there must be internal consistency.

Is it robust?
Although the period of effectiveness may be shorter nowadays than it once was, robustness is still a critical parameter.

The outcome led to three business models. Centrale Fies in Italy installed a innovative structure to take over tasks for artists and generate income for it, Superamas developed a model in France and Austria to raise money for knowledge transfer and support for emerging artists and their economic survival and SZENE Salzburg is using their spaces to generate income for the artistic budget.

 

Hallgeir Isdahl was keynote speaker in Bergen and published following article:
Not necessarily measurable - but meaningful

When I was asked by BIT teatergarasjen to speak at an apap lab on new business models in the arts and cultural sector in october 2018, my intuitive response was to say  ”no”, and attach a polite phrase like ”but thank you for asking, and good luck with your lab”.
I think it is fair to say that I am rather familiar with business modelling after some thirty years as financial analyst, economist, investment strategist and banking executive. I´ve also been digging  into and applied new generations of business planning tools, inclusive Alexander Osterwalders highly popular Business Model Canvas in working with start-ups, also in the so called creative sector. So, why this intuitive urge to say no?
I´was recently retired at the time I was asked, so time was not an issue.
Given my professional background and my great interest in contemporary art and music I should be on fairly safe grounds talking around these themes.  
I think, however that the answer to my hesitation lay in a growing worry about the increased use of market rhetorics and focus on instrumental values as a means for building legitimacy of public funding of arts, not only from politicians and public decision makers, but alarmingly increasing from artists and arts institutions themselves. Here, in my opinion, lies the greatest danger of derailing the debate of the values of art as a criteria for public funding.
How would then a cautionary lecture from a retired banking executive be received by distinguished members of the art community?
Long story short, I said “yes” and gave a short lecture which I called ”Measuring value – or chasing the holy grail of legitimacy and funding of art”.

The backdrop for my reflections is two fold. The first is the increased focus on means to an end thinking in general following the new public management movement starting in the 80´s aimed at increased effectiveness in public sector. Monitoring effectiveness demands observable and measurable variables. Secondly, in the aftermath of the deep financial crises that started in 2009 public funding of the arts has weakened  in several european countries. These developments seem to have created a perceived need for identifying measurable social and economic  value of art and artistic expressions.
To avoid any kind of misunderstanding of my stands, I´m not against the use of business models in the creative sector or in arts projects.  Nor am I hostile to income generating or market financed projects in this sector. A business model in its most universal form is nothing more than a description of the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers and capture values. This means that it business plan can be a helpful framework also for non commercial organizations in carrying out their mission whatever that may be. The problem arises in the understanding of  the value of art as a base for public funding.

In the wake of increased focus on effective use of scarce resources lies the question:

”Does art create value?” or ”What is art good for?”  Since the 90´s governments has more explicitly sought benefits from their funding of art. The fundamental question here is: “What counts as value?” That question has to a large extent been a base for the renewed discussion on intrinsic and instrumental values in the cultural sector in general and for the arts in particular.

Intrinsic value refers to what has value in itself or is good in itself, while instrumental values has value as a means, or is good for something else. There seems to be an increased government emphasis on valuing arts for its impact  rather than intrinsic value. Focus on impact demands measurability. I think here lies much of the explanation of what seems to be a growing unease in the arts sector in justifying the use of public money. Instead of focusing an what they are actually doing; making and displaying art objects, staging art performances, putting on theatre and dance performances,or in general, creating artistic experience, organizations will instead tend to demonstrate their contribution to a  ongoing political agenda with measurable impact, such as job creation, community development, social inclusion, creation of identity, contribution to GDP etc. etc.

Is this really a problem? Are they not all good causes? By all means, there is nothing wrong with this in itself, but the principal problem is that there will always be a possibility that something different from art can provide the same instrumental value at a significant lower cost. Should art compete with a new aquarium, a football stadium, or a casino for that matter? What would then be the arguments for public funding of the arts? Is there a danger that if art seeks legitimacy from instrumental values that it will undermine itself with respect to public funding?

From time to time I hear the argument that focus on intrinsic value of art is just a simple excuse for not being relevant. I sincerely believe this is a fallacy. I think, on the contrary that emphasising the intrinsic value of art represents a strive for being relevant. This divergence is based on different  perception of relevance. Should relevance be judged in light of its contribution to a wider political agenda or in light of the value of artistic experience in itself? Even though these positions are not necessarily mutually excluding, arts projects with a high degree of measurable impact seem to have an advantage in chasing scarce public funding. Understandable but not necessarily justifiable.

40 years of increased instrumental focus in public management seem to have permeated the cultural sector and influenced our way of thinking about art. Or maybe it has weakened our ability to think of art and artistic experience as a source of reflection, as a disturbance to our expectations, as necessary speed bumps, not as oil, but sand in a machinery. All things needed to develop new understanding, prevent loss of meaning or in general strengthen our ability to think. Not necessarily measurable, but absolutely meaningful. It is fully possible to think that art could be given a significant position in our society exactly for these reasons, and that the rationale for public funding is linked to the need for someone to ask the unanswerable questions.

Hallgeir Isdahl
Recently retired banking executive, now executive chairman in the fast growing music company MADE. Through his banking career he has served as market analyst, Chief economist and investment strategist. The last ten years as an executive with responsibilities in the areas of capital markets, retail banking an corporate social responsibilities. He has held and is holding a variety of chairs and board memberships within the financial sector as well as in the creative and cultural sector. His major non professional interests are closely linked to music and contemporary art.