#TBT: “The Transforming Fire of Machines … ”

Happy #TBT! Here’s an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: “The Transforming Fire of Machines … .”

Is not a tagline from the upcoming Terminator Salvation movie [circa 2009], although it might work for that, too.

Instead, it’s one of the “New Rules for the New Economy,” which, although not so new anymore, are still highly relevant because they were ahead of their time, back in the benighted year of 1998.

In full, it’s this: No one can escape the transforming fire of machines.

Before you call John Connor to help you put together a rag-tag band of resistance fighters, look at the bright side! I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords! (ID that reference, and I’ll buy you a coke. I couldn’t resist. :) )

The point of Kevin Kelly’s provocative statement here is not the destruction of the human race or even of businesses. It’s that as we move into a new economy (and if 2008 didn’t convince you we’re moving into a new economy, we’ve got to talk. It’s not just a downturn, it’s a remaking), you’ve got to adapt to the new rules.

If you do, you’ll prosper. If you don’t, well, transforming-fire-a-palooza. But in a bad way.

An example, you ask? Fair enough.

How many arts organizations have asked whether a full season subscription is a good model for them to push forward as their lead product?

I’m not saying it’s not right for some organizations, but it’s right for far fewer organizations than the number of those who think or would like it to be.

If, strategically, your desired audience is under age 40, I can almost guarantee, without knowing anything about the specifics of your productions, that a subscription model shouldn’t be your centerpiece. Not only do today’s younger people not want a subscription, they also don’t even really get it. They wonder why anyone buys subscriptions, and it isn’t entirely a matter of money.

Amanda Ameer wonders aloud sometimes about an ‘all you can eat’ model of admission to a venue, and while I think she’d be the first to admit that the idea is still (generously) in the half-baked state, let me add a potential refinement.

How about the idea of membership? You pay a fixed rate to be able to drop in when you want on performances, and part of the house becomes more like a lounge with drinks and comfy chairs than a place where you sit quietly and stare straight ahead. (You’d still have to be quiet during the performance, naturally.) If you want a better seat on a given night, just log on with your membership and pay a small upgrade.

You could use the venue’s website to coordinate meeting up with people at the venue at a given time, making it a truly social experience. Intermissions become fun rather than kind of a drag. The whole thing takes on a different color. Throw in a free drink with every visit, and you might have a winner.

Or not, but the point is how thoroughly is the organization asking the question?

The transforming fires are there whether you’re asking the questions or not. “Change” used to be something you could go find at your leisure, like that really good out-of-the-way Brazilian restaurant your friend told you about. Now change is after you like a bill collector.

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