The challenges of cultural management

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The challenges of cultural management

In today’s society, management is a fundamental element in all economic sectors. If done poorly, it can bring financial or reputational harm to a company, financial institution, or organization. However, it needs to be adapted based on the type of institution being managed, the sector it operates in, and personalized according to the type of individuals the manager is directing towards success. In our case, we are talking about artists who are often temperamental and sometimes misunderstood, requiring greater attention compared to an engineer, doctor, or teacher.

Given the aforementioned, the following question arises: how different is cultural management compared to other forms of management? Surely, the answer to this question cannot be concise, so let’s gradually discover the challenges faced by a manager administering a cultural institution.

Firstly, we need to understand that cultural institutions are divided into two categories: state-funded institutions supported financially by national authorities or the government of a particular country, and private institutions that self-finance with the help of the audience present in the venue.

Although the differences may not seem significant at first glance, the source of funding is the main challenge faced by a cultural institution manager. In both cases, the audience is the lifeline of both categories, and the ticket price set by the manager is the starting point for smooth operation. You might wonder why the first step is not establishing the program, selecting artists, or arranging the concert hall. The answer is simple: all of these factors need to be determined after knowing how much the audience is willing to pay for a ticket and how frequently they can afford to purchase one.

The artists who enter a cultural institution are selected based on the financial capabilities of the city where the concert takes place, as well as social peculiarities. Therefore, the manager must determine the appropriate ticket prices and proportionally allocate the proceeds to the artists, ensuring fair financial appreciation of their performances.

Simultaneously, the ticket price must be calculated carefully, taking into account the concert hall’s administrative costs, facilities, stage space, and seating capacity. These elements are important considerations for artists when accepting to perform at a specific venue.

So far, we can observe that the challenges faced by a manager differ from those of a company that relies on production. The final product offered to the audience in the case of a cultural institution is not a physical one but rather a human and spiritual experience that is difficult to value, as it involves more than just production costs and profit.

Moving past this initial step, assuming that things have been sufficiently clarified, let’s briefly discuss artists. As mentioned earlier, they are inherently temperamental and sometimes quite demanding, whether they are permanent employees of the institution or invited guests for certain events.

Every artist has their own vision, especially when dealing with world-class artists, and the audience wants to see them precisely because of this characteristic. However, what happens when an artist wants to present something new or experiment with new personal approaches to the audience? In this case, the manager of the institution comes into play. They must understand their audience and, most importantly, anticipate the reaction of the audience present in the concert hall. Together with the artist, they decide whether the “New Product” is suitable for presentation to the existing audience. It becomes evident that in these circumstances, the manager has a challenging task when engaging in discussions with the artist, particularly if we refer again to the general characteristics of the “Misunderstood Artist.”

Last but not least, in both public and private institutions, reputation in society, as well as in the media or social media, is of utmost importance. Due to technological advancements, even culture has shifted online, or more precisely, its promotion has. However, when it comes to promotion, the online environment becomes a viable solution that cultural institutions must embrace. Promotion, communication with the audience, and even with the press are challenges on the manager’s list, as a flawed execution of these aspects can negatively impact the entire institution, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

These are just some of the challenges and peculiarities of cultural management. If we were to present them all, we would need to embark on a series containing multiple volumes. However, these are the most important ones, and by starting from them, we can grasp the difference between a manager organizing a cultural institution and a manager leading any other type of company or organization, following the classical idea of profit and relating everything to production costs.

In the hope that we have captured your attention, we would like to announce that this section will feature more testimonies and interviews with managers of institutions and even artists who will reveal their personal experiences.

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