Mark Cuban Is Right, Again

Mark Cuban

Photo by Alex de CarvalhoCreative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Do you believe the economy is in the toilet, newspapers are dying, and the music industry‘s future is selling cds as coasters?

It doesn’t have to be that way: the economy will turn around; newspapers could find a better model; and, the music industry might be finally waking up to digital possibilities. This is possible if we listen to Mark Cuban.

Cuban, the NBA’s best owner and co-founder of HDNet, Broadcast.com, and MicroSolutions, has always been quick to see both a trend and those who stand in the way of an opportunity — for business, sports, and the arts.

In a recent blog post, Cuban takes the newspaper and music industries to task for holding onto the least viable aspects of their businesses. He is so dead on target; those of us in live performing arts should take note of a line in his post:

I think people are choosing out of home entertainment… they are choosing inexpensive out of home entertainment.   If it costs less than $10 per person and it’s outside the house, it’s probably a business that is doing well. From movies to restaurants.

This week in KArts Culture News, we posted a story from Billboard noting that the festival business is, in fact, doing well.

This can hold true for the near future as long as festivals honor Cuban’s strategy:

1) Provide Bang-for-the-Buck Entertainment
2) Pay attention to Your Price Point
3) Stay True to Your Mission

Provide Bang-for-the-Buck Entertainment: Festivals thrive when they offer an individual, a dating couple, or a family all encompassing events that allow audiences to reconnect with known artists, discover new ones, and find joy in being together. The way for festivals to beat the megalith one artist performance tour is to make sure to create a full festival experience: from the acts onstage, to the food, to the people standing next to you. It’s about a live art vibe. It’s about a multi-layered event. This turns art from a show to a destination.

Pay attention to Your Price Point: Pretend you have a teenager or a college age kid. They come to you to borrow money so that they can go do something with their friends. In addition to the event cost, they also want money for gas, food, and just a little extra in case of an emergency. If the parent adds up these costs and thinks it makes sense, you are at the right price point. If it’s more than the cost of a good suit for their first job interview, then the cost is too high.

Stay True to Your Mission: Remember when newspapers used to report only the news? They hired really smart people, who would travel to really distant places, get to know really key players, and write really well about what was taking place. Today, it seems as though only a quarter of a newspaper has real news. The rest is devoted to eating, shopping, and style. It doesn’t matter if it’s on paper or online. Give me something I can’t get elsewhere. The reason newspapers are dying is that they have strayed from their core mission: to provide in depth reporting of the news. Festivals thrive when they, too, stay true to their core mission, and give me something I can’t get elsewhere.

Listen to Mark Cuban. Live entertainment has no need to fear at-home entertainment; it only has to fear trying too hard to copy industries that are no longer useful.

- Bill Reichblum

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