Can an Artist Learn to Engage and Activate an Audience?

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An artist’s first job, their most critical, is to focus on craft and creation.

A project manager focuses on tasks, logistics, and facilitating team members.

An entrepreuner focuses on solving problems for customers.

A marketer focuses on engaging and activating audiences.

One could argue that all roles involve service — to audience, team, customer.

But the form of their acts of service are worlds apart.

The artist’s service is created by acting internally with singular vision and “voice”.

On the other end of the spectrum, the marketing manager’s constant role is to ask, request, engage, and activate a large, identified audience.

The project manager finds success in completing tasks, removing roadblocks and helping teams be successful.


I had a realization today that I have never before done audience engagement and activation — or made vague asks of large groups of people I do not know. Success in my career has usually come from acts of project management. That is how I started out — in the software industry facilitating engineering teams — and that is the type of producer I’ve always loved to be — on set facilitating teams, problem-solving, driving to dates, schedules, budgets and tasks.

Today as I prepared for the day, I tried to wrap my head around this vague mass of 300 people who would arrive to each theater on opening weekend. I failed to imagine them. In a moment of clarity, I realized that it’s not that I can’t, it’s that I’ve never learned to do it. I don’t know what it means to request 300 people to engage, activate and spread good word-of-mouth.

Once I realized this, I felt huge relief.

For almost 30 years, Gary and I have been focused internally and with a small team, creating and getting stuff done. No wonder it all felt so vague and unknown to me.

I took a step back and started to redraw the murky group as 300 unique individuals. Once I started to imagine individuals making up the whole, it started to make sense.

It may sound silly, but I had never tried this. I’ve imagined individual audience members. I’ve imaginged large groups. But I had never imaginged groups made up of singular individuals.

Some of this may be because I have never really trusted groups. When the masses are described, they are often referred to as generic, dumbed-down, status-quo and avoiding change and growth.

But… when individual audience members join together to form a group, they can be called fans.


Every day, I read my why statement, review the audience profile and remember the faces from the summer. It is what inspires me to keep going. But until today, I hadn’t connected the dots to how it will influence the release.

Today this helped me guide our designer in finishing the promotional materials. I was having so much trouble picturing coasters in bars surrounded by a see of faces. Once I imagined the exact person I’d want to use the coaster, it came together.


I have great love for all artists.

Artists muster bravery to start their work, complete their work, show their work.

And then after all of that, artists muster bravery to reach out to the people who may want to and need to experience their work.

Reaching out, asking, engaging, and activating is a different skill set, but if an artist starts internally, using their finely developed translation of reality, they can think first of the individual, imagining their faces looking up at them from the crowd. Then an artist can finally translate meaning to the world of external marketing.

♡ Annie

Photo by Nainoa Shizuru on Unsplash


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