Performing Arts Management is a role that combines creative instinct with practical know-how. It’s also known as 'Performing Arts Administration’ or by similar titles. However, the job is effectively the same across the board by definition.
Its role is to facilitate people at all levels of an arts organization from performers to investors. You’ll have the business skills required to help a creative company flow in the right direction, from recruiting staff to raising funds. Yet you also have an idea of what it’s like to be in their position, acquiring this through your own passion for the arts and your qualifications and experience gained in the marketplace.
There’s no typical definition of performing arts management. The tasks in hand will depend on the type of organization you work for. You could be working with a small community theatre group or a major opera house. The arts cover a wide spectrum.
An increasing amount of arts administration work is happening in this sector. Collaborating with communities and finding ways for them to tell their stories through various mediums is now a bedrock of the profession. The most important aspect of this is fundraising. You have to secure investment where you can whilst also considering artistic and ethical factors so as you can imagine this becomes very complex. The not for profit sector is also fertile ground for artistic work and requires a lot of organization.
The performing arts manager is a port of call for all individuals in a company. As well as managing the office you’ll be negotiating contracts, hiring and nurturing staff and addressing all employee-related issues. Diplomacy and approachability are key. The arts is known for being a safe space for people to express themselves and these sensitivities must be maintained and respected.
Going the extra mile: Your remit covers business of all descriptions where performance is involved. Therefore your job as a manager is varied and that’s putting it mildly! This extends to the schedule. Many performances happen in the evening so it definitely isn’t a 9-5 gig. In addition, there can be a fair amount of travel involved, such as between venues or internationally. You are the ultimate team player in this regard.
One of the best things about being a performing arts manager is the broad acceptance of candidates with an interest the field. If you can’t break into the industry as an artist but have great administrative ability then it’s the perfect way to be part of the business. On the flipside if you’re an admin in another business looking for an exciting change of pace you can also have a career in performing arts management. You can be extremely qualified or have a diploma from the School of Life. The position works best with a combination of the two sides and there are various ways you can get on board and mix up these disciplines. The wide base which the arts provides means different types of people can be accommodated. Indeed the job has a strong reputation for balance in terms of female representation, just one of the reasons in its favour.
How to launch your career?
Already having a degree in performing arts management is seen as a solid way to get started - though it’s by no means a given! However this path is frequently recommended. There are various options you can look into with regards courses and training. You can combine this with your own voluntary artistic work to make yourself a juicy prospect.
On a brass tacks level you will be expected to have some knowledge of administration (a given of course!), accountancy, budget planning, showbiz law, marketing, general research and above all people skills. You’ll need to be educated or willing to learn. You’ll be communicating all the time as your employer gets their message out there so it’s vital you’re a ‘people person’. Art is by its very nature collaborative and unless you’re planning to sit in a lonely studio with a bottle of wine daubing on a canvas you’ll need to interact with fellow professionals. In this job you can be an essential part of the overall vision of a company and play a defining part in its strategy and the creation of its legacy for future artists.
The best way to summarize the job of a performing arts manager is constant flexibility. The creative and the practical interacting on a daily basis. So before you start your career in performing arts management, remember that the role has to be adaptable as the industry you’re in is always evolving to survive, be it financially or creatively. It has to be a port in a storm but at the same time it must go with the tide.