In 2018 the research group of the Erasmus+ Project “Entrepreneurial Challenges in Theatre Higher Education Curricula” made interviews with performing arts students in different schools in Europe, asking questions: what does it mean for a student to be an artist, how students imagine their ideal profession and what does the word “entrepreneurship” mean to them. The responses collected from students of Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre show that for performing arts students to be an artist in the first line means: a way to get to know themselves better, to share their thoughts with the public and to change it to the right direction, “... create and … go into a flowing stream”,“(...) to share (...) discoveries and pain with other people and help them to understand things and to talk about it”. The chosen profession also “gives a freedom to fight using artistic means - to express (...) views and beliefs” or “...to be a free person”. The ideal profession the students imagine as being an actor, “being independent” being “ a Hollywood star and to work with Hollywood directors” “(…) participating in the Avignon Festival showcase performance at Palais de Pape…” or even “... not necessarily being in the profession…”. Some students also mentioned importance of an economic drive of the chosen profession: it should “bring pleasure and (...) financial remuneration, because otherwise I will not survive” or “to have a group of people who think like me and with whom I can create what we want. In parallel to have profit making activities - conducting events, advertising for foreign markets”. Students also see different ways how to achieve their goals: “(...) through work and self-improvement only”, “trying to find a contact with course mates and getting together with them”, “(...) doing more than I can imagine” “going abroad for studies or just to going into the market (…)”, “creating a workplace for myself (…)”.
Answering the question what does the word “entrepreneurship” mean two students indicated that “It is a modern form of management, looking for fast, mobile and user-friendly business solutions” or that “it goes in parallel with management, creation of new ideas and their implementation”, however the most common answers were “I never heard about this word”,“I do not know what it is” or “It is definitely not for me”.
The fact that performing arts students do not know what entrepreneurship is should not wonder, because “entrepreneurship” is not one of the theatre terms or commonly use in the artistic field. Despite the fact that artists and entrepreneurs have a lot in common and often share the same personal qualities most of artists avoid any association with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, because it may negatively affect their public image or undermine the artistic value of their creations. The researchers are also unanimous on how the “entrepreneurship” in the arts shall be defined. Many definitions focus on new venture development or self-management. Scherdin and Zander (2011) argue that in “the arts entrepreneurship is about the discovery and pursuit of new art ideas, using a multitude of artistic expressions and organizational forms as vehicles by which to express and convey these ideas to the public,” other describe it as the discovery of new “means- ends relationships” (Shane & Venkataraman, 2000) as well as the creation of a new organization to implement a novel idea (Gartner, 1990).
There are also in theory attempts to make the word “entrepreneurship” more attractive for the artists changing it into “Artrepreneurship” or “Musicpreneurship” etc., however if we try to translate these terms into one of other European languages it would sounds really silly. There is also a separation theory between social entrepreneurs and creative entrepreneurs, which are described as investors in talent – their own or other people’s, and often they do not identify themselves as entrepreneurs. When Vilnius University Business School 5 years ago created and for the first time offered to students of Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater an open elective module “Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development” (with 16 topics and 8 different lecturers) it was a total failure - none of students of the Academy has chosen it. This course was however very popular between students of design and architecture. Why? Because creating a product they have to think about the end user. Later Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre changed the title of the course and offered as its own elective subject to bachelor students of all study programs including Music Performance, Theater Arts etc. calling it “Career Development and Entrepreneurship”. After active “advertising campaign” of its content, lecturers and separate lectures as open lectures the problem was still the same - low participation of students - only 2 to 8 students participated in the lectures. Trying to find out why students are not choosing this subject the coordinator was making small interviews asking students if the content is relevant and why they are not coming to the lectures. The answers were almost the same: “topics are important and useful, but I am too busy” or “I have no time, I need to practice”. Was the word “entrepreneurship” in the title of module the main problem - probably not. After trying different formats Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre decided to integrate the module “Career Development and Entrepreneurship” into undergraduate courses “Professional Internship” making it a mandatory subject, however allowing students to choose the module in the second, third or fourth study year.
Talking about entrepreneurship in the context of theatre higher education it is important not to focus on the word itself, but on the content - which skills and knowledge the students should acquire during their studies, necessary dealing with career development uncertainties, risks and aiming to help them making a living from their art. The risks related to career development are mainly related to reduction of public contributions to culture, growing number of temporary employment contracts, competitions in the cultural and creative industries and changing consumer habits. Theatre students very soon learn how to become a freelancer or self-employed, however often don’t know advantaged and disadvantages of being self-employed, what are other options and main risks. “The Magic Carpet” exercise we used several times in the Project meetings asks students to look at their careers from different perspectives drawing fringes of a carpet. This exercise allows students to generate new ideas and to see their career perspective from different angles - from acting in the biggest theatres to teaching activities, singing, creating own theater company. This exercise gives more interesting career projections if the carpet is drawn thinking about their career paths in a foreign environment. For example, asking students a question which career opportunities would have Lithuanian actors in France, Portugal etc. From these brainstorming sessions it is important to go one more step forward and help students finding an answers to what are their strengths and weaknesses choosing specific career path, but also thinking about external issues which may prevent such career or provide new opportunities.
On the one hand the aging theatre audience may be considered as a threat for a career in theatre, however on the other taking into account increasing life expectancy and more active participation in the culture of older audiences it may be also considered as an opportunity. The main goal of an entrepreneurship courses for performing arts students should be to see the bigger picture of what is the audience and analyze it. The audience and its behavior changed a lot in the last 10 years. Culture and media sectors in the broadest sense now also include video games, electronic publishing and print industries (International Labor Organization, 2018). The recent analysis shows that average US adult will spend 3 hours, 43 minutes on mobile devices in 2019, just above the 3:35 spent on TV (eMarketer, 2019). The State of Online Gaming 2019 research report which is based on responses from 4,500 consumers in France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States age 18 and older who play video games at least once a week, shows that people who play video games spend an average of seven hours seven minutes each week playing. Playing time has increased 19.3 percent in the year 2018. Gamers 26 - 35 years old play for 8 hours 12 minutes per week. This increased more than 25 percent in the last year.
People have unlimited wants, but have to face limited resources. Time is one of the scarcest resources we have. So how to attract young people to a theatre in the Information Age, when there is a plenty of choices of leisure activities? The facts we know about the theatre and its positive impact on person’s emotional, physical and social development are not sufficient or right arguments to pursue a youngster to choose theater performance instead of playing video games, watching series on VOD platforms or sharing information on social media. Innovative theatre marketing approach and innovative cultural education measures may however contribute to building long-term relationship with new audiences. According to Boorsma and Chiaravalloti (2009) the adoption of marketing principles in cultural institutions is the result of increased pressures on these organizations to be more accountable for their behavior, to become less dependent on public funding, to stimulate audience participation and to compete with the entertainment industry. However, do theaters, actors and theatre directors really know their audience and analyze their behavior which is influenced by different factors: cultural, social, personal, and psychological?
Cultural education in professional performing arts institutions in Lithuania (Baleviciute, Juskys, Sindaraviciene, 2018) shows that cultural education projects of Lithuanian professional performing arts institutions lack innovations, long-term planning, these institutions also lack necessary resources for expanding their cultural education activities. The study also showed that one of the most commonly used measures of cultural education in Lithuania is an excursion to a theatre backstage. But is it really a proper cultural education measure building new audiences and creating and strengthening long-term relationships with it? Probably not. An entrepreneurship course for theatre students shall provide knowledge on how to analyze the market, how to make target audience profile (how to know better the audience - not just who they are but who they could be) or how to develop the audience. Children theatre directors and actors have very clear picture about their audience - children. But do they also think about the decision makers - parents and how to make the performance attractive also for them? Not always.
The quote “Marketing is everything and everything is marketing” (McKenna, 1991) today has even more important meaning, because no business succeeds without good marketing. Marketing today should not be considered as only selling and a tool to generate demand. Marketing should now be considered as “a processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for consumers, clients, partners, and society at large” (American Marketing Association). The results of the study “Marketing in Lithuanian Theatres” (Kalanta, Naujokaityte, Jasiene, etc., 2018) showed that Lithuanian theatres lack long term marketing strategies, there is also a lack of cooperation in the marketing field between different parties, theaters tend to define their audience too abstractly and too broadly. For changing the status quo theaters usually do not have sufficient funds. This is only one of the reasons for theater professionals to think about themselves as a brand - “actors who build sustainable careers are usually those with the right combination of acting talent and self-promotion skills (Timoney, 2017). Another reason - changing employment conditions and practices. According to the study results of the International Labour Organization on Challenges and opportunities for decent work in the culture and media sectors (2018) in some countries public theatre workers are equivalent to public servants whereas the vast majority of actors and musicians are self-employed workers and precarious. Actor as a self-employed person for succeeding in the world of work needs specialized knowledge on fundraising, financial planning, marketing, relevant legal frameworks, contractual negotiations and other administrative procedures.
Most business entrepreneurship programs focus on how to generate new business ideas and create ventures. Some authors indicate that arts entrepreneurship educational programs tend to focus on the specific management skills in cultural and creative industries, which should help train artists and cultural managers to promote the fruits of their creative impulses, to cultivate partners and networks, and to adapt their innovative skills and habits of mind to the business side (Kuhlke, Schramme, Kooyman, 2015). Entrepreneurship in the Arts program requires not only creativity, but also managerial innovativeness, which can be integrated through at least three structural blocks: (1) a set of vocational qualifications (essentially limitless and requiring continuous training, adaptation, renewal); (2) a block of social skills (from psychology to intercultural competences etc.); and (3) a block of managerial competences. The content of all these different parts, the applied methodologies par excellence has an open format, changing, requiring constant monitoring and updating, so that the study process corresponds the dynamically changing environment, and resonates with it.
After analyzing 20 different arts/performing arts/cultural entrepreneurship courses available online (mainly from the United States), the authors found out that these courses mainly focus on developing the student’s entrepreneurial potential, recognizing entrepreneurial opportunities in the arts, addressing and developing opportunities into an arts related venture, how to explore the feasibility or potential of artistic practice and providing students with a roadmap for converting ideas into project and plan for its implementation. Arts entrepreneurship modules can be easily constructed around creative projects - going one more step further and integrating additional exercises on how to run the project, identifying the risks, thinking about marketing, legal issues related to the project etc. The topics of the analyzed modules cover subjects from career planning to project management and new venture development: mapping oneself; personal career options; dealing with changes, risks and motivation; artistic mission and vision; choice of legal forms; artist as a brand; developing ideas for cultural service/product; target audience; marketing; partnerships and cooperation; negotiating and contracting; authors’ and related rights; business model; business/project plan formulation and presentation.
Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater very recently made changes to the curriculum of the Master’s Program “Theater Arts” and introduced a new module “Creative Project Management”. The aim of the module is to provide a structured platform for students' professional self-realization, to stimulate their search for new practical applications of creative activities, to develop generic and subject competences related to the ability to properly initiate and organize creative projects in different socio-cultural contexts. The Creative Project Management module provides knowledge and practical skills on generating creative project ideas, their selection, project vision, planning, implementation and evaluation stages. It analyses the psychological factors influencing the project implementation process, the impact of the creative outcome on the audience and sociology. Theoretical lectures and seminars help to assess the legal framework and organizational environment that influences the performing arts. The acquired knowledge in principle encourage the student to develop the diverse information processing and management skills necessary to successfully realize creative ideas and integrate them into the stream of contemporary performing arts processes.
Topics related with “psychological block” (social skills and self-management)
1. The concept of positive psychology and its practical application in the creative process.
2. Analysis of creative thinking, strategies, models of creative thinking based on various psychological theories.
3. Creative project idea: case study, idea generation and selection. Coaching.
4. Vision of creative project: development of creative idea.
5. Psychological principles of presentation and presentation of a creative project. Interaction between image presentation and viewer emotion.
6. Coherence of personality expression and character creation. (Analysis of Literary Leaders by Alice Miller Contemporary Psychology "The Fight for Freedom Drama and the Unheard of Body Cry of Friedrich Schiller).
7. Practical use of self-analysis and proficient methods in the creative process.
8. Personal vision and mission of the creator: principles of self-management: portfolio creation, web page presentation.
Theoretical part (lectures and seminars)
1. Introduction to Culture and Art Management. Historical examples. Application of classical management basics and theories in the context of performing arts.
2. Legal and administrative environment of cultural and art functioning: factors, actors, institutions. The situation of a freelance artist.
3. Organizational and legal forms of theatre / performing arts. Theatre organization as an open system. SWOT, PEST as analysis tools.
4. Creative project planning: stages, action plan, team building and leadership.
5. Creative project resources: search for partners and funding, analysis of project support conditions, application forms.
6. Creative project implementation: roles and responsibilities in the project, quality supervision. Evaluation of results and impact.
7. Examination (presentation and evaluation discussion of planned / ongoing projects).
Twelve years ago Gary D. Beckman (2007) in the national study of emerging arts entrepreneurship programs in higher education made a conclusion that building successful and relevant curricula it needs three main elements: “reassessing the nineteenth-century romantic aesthetic in arts education; supportive and visionary leadership; and defining entrepreneurship in a manner that informs and guides the effort”. Entrepreneurship courses in theatre higher education curricula will not offer any guarantees for artists, but will increase the likelihood of their career success and will contribute to finding new ways on how to make a living from their art.