Monetising Cultural Experiences

Project/Area Lead(s): Gaynor Bagnall, Ben Light, Garry Crawford, Victoria Gosling

Funded by: AHRC, Arts Council England, Nesta.

“Consumers unquestionably desire experiences, and more and more businesses are responding by explicitly designing and promoting them.”B. Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore, Harvard Business Review

Whether it is a spin in a Ferrari around a racing track organised by supermarket giant Tesco, an evening cookery class convened by Le Crueset, or medieval jousting orchestrated by department store John Lewis, it is memorable activities — rather than pure goods or services — that define ‘The Experience Economy’. The term was first coined by Pine and Gilmore in 1998, who argued that the 21stcentury marked a new economic era in which all businesses, no matter the sector, must orchestrate memorable events for their customers in order to sustain a competitive advantage.  Evolving from the age of (1) extracting commodities to (2) making goods and (3) delivering services, Pine and Gilmore suggested companies at the forefront of their market are now in the business of (4) staging ‘experiences’. 

The arts and cultural sector is already characterized, in part, by the social experiences it offers its publics (gallery tours; a night at the theatre; dance festivals). These are not products you can take home at the end of the night or have shipped to your front door in less than 24 hours. Yet when it comes to promoting and selling these experiences (and ultimately, memories) to general audiences, initial research indicates that arts organisations are markedly absent from popular promotional channels such as gift experience sites. Are arts organisations losing out on a potentially significant market, in terms of accessing new revenues, finding new audiences, and providing these audiences with a compelling experience that underscores each organisation’s public mission?

This research, working in partnership with Cambridge Judge Business School, Fusion Research + Analytics, and CultureLabel (now Bridgeman Editions), sought to explore current market segments in the Experience Economy, trends in arts sector funding, and audience barriers to participation – collectively this exploration reveals a clear opportunity for the sector.

Research Outputs:

Bagnall, G., Crawford, G., Petrie, M., & Schutt, B. (2015) Monetising Cultural Experiences, NESTA, London.