Webinar #1 –Thinking outside the box

What the creative industries can learn from innovators in other fields.

There are two things that everyone in the arts and creative industries know for sure. One, is that the world is a different place to what it was three years ago and, two, that the pandemic was particularly brutal for our industries.

With the height of the pandemic now hopefully fading from sight, it’s time to reassess how we operate. And ArtsHub has partnered with Creative Vic under the Creative Exchange umbrella to present a series of webinars, podcasts and, later in the year, videos to help you do just that. 

The first cab off the rank will be Webinar #1 – Thinking outside the box: What the creative industries can learn from innovators in other fields.

Watch the webinar

Watch the recording on our YouTube Channel

As the dust settles, it is becoming increasingly clear that there were organisations, both in the creative industries and beyond, that didn’t struggle or even merely tread water during this time, but positively thrived. And some of those did so by utilising the out of the box innovation and bold ideas that have the potential to disrupt the creative sector in fascinating ways.

Learning about these truly creative thinkers and doers will provide the tools and ideas needed to implement similarly bold strategies in the arts and creative industries.  

Our presenters

Co-Founder of REMIX, which explores the future of the creative industries, Peter Tullin will explain how advances in technology and the arrival of new creative players have the potential for major disruption in our sector. 

Just some of the topics he’ll explore include:

  • how immersive entertainment pioneers are influencing exhibition design and collaborating with cultural institutions from Melbourne Museum to the Tower of London to develop new types of cultural experiences
  • how online platforms such as Masterworks have the potential to democratise the way we buy art
  • how alternative funding mechanisms such as crowd equity are being adapted by organisations like Secret Cinema
  • how new business models by commercial players such as Superblue are changing the way we fund creative practice and the relationship between artist and audience
  • what we can learn from the rapid growth of the Creator Economy, which offers new ways to create, share and fund creative practice through platforms such as Patreon and TikTok, and
  • how new technologies shaping the future of storytelling in productions such as Abba Voyage be utilised in other parts of the creative industries?     

Artist and Co-Founder of ArtsPay Lara Thoms will speak on the establishment of ArtsPay, explaining she and her fellow founders drew inspiration from the finance sector and FinTech, but combined that with a strong ethical purpose and mission.

Unlike other payment processing companies, every time a customer makes a purchase at a business using ArtsPay – either in-store or online – ArtsPay uses the payment fees to support the arts. Profits generated by ArtsPay payment processing fees will be distributed back into the arts ecosystem by The ArtsPay Foundation. The ArtsPay Foundation is an independent, artist-led charitable foundation with a mission to support independent artists and small arts organisations across Australia. The ArtsPay Foundation aims to fill the gaps with a permanent, new source of support for artists and small arts organisations. ArtsPay is committed to providing funding that is accessible, sustainable and meaningful.

Transcript of webinar

Ruth Gormley

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the first Creative Exchange webinar for 2023. ‘Thinking Outside the Box, what the creative industries can learn from innovators in other fields’. While we are currently all in different locations, I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners on the lands which we each live and work. Here in Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country we’re enjoying a beautiful, cool wet morning as we move into the season of Waring the Wombat. I pay my respects to the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Elders, past, present and emerging and to any First Nations people who may be joining us today. Sovereignty has never been ceded. I’m Ruth Gormley, I lead the Strategic Marketing team at Creative Victoria and manage the Creative Exchange/ArtsHub partnership that today’s webinar is part of.

My preferred pronouns are she/her. I’m a white woman with short brown hair, thick blue rimmed glasses and a black collared shirt. A bit of housekeeping upfront. This webinar is being live captioned. If you’d like to access the captioning, just select show captions from your Zoom menu or if that doesn’t work click the link that someone will pop up in the chat. We’re also recording the session. So, any questions you ask will be on record. The recorded webinar will be available through the Creative Exchange page on the Creative Victoria website and on ArtsHub. We’ll also be sending out a survey following the webinar. So please fill that in and let us know how we’ve gone and what you’d like to see in future.

The hashtags for today’s event are #CreativeVic and #CreativeXchange, which is spelled a little weirdly. One of my colleagues will pop that in the chat for us.

We at Creative Victoria are delighted to be working with ArtsHub again to bring the Creative Exchange to you, sharing interesting concepts, practical advice and inspiration with our sector. In today’s webinar we will get some insight into big and little moves in innovations in other sectors with some pointers about how and what creative organisations can learn from people outside of our sector and how creative people can apply their creativity to their business as well as their art form.

In the first part of today’s session, Peter Tullin will give us a wide-lens view of creativity outside of the creative industries sharing insights on trends from a range of sectors and diving into some of the huge opportunities and challenges ahead in this rapidly changing world. Peter is Co-Founder of REMIX Summits, Co-Founder of CultureLabel.com and a consultant for cultural organisations worldwide. He has spent time at Google supporting the development of strategy for the Google Cultural Institute in Paris. He is a board member of Museums Victoria and Geelong Arts Centre, as well as many other roles and activities with a focus on growing new ideas and helping people and organisations in the creative sector reach for new successes.

Following Peter’s presentation, Lara Thoms will talk to us about drawing inspiration from finance sector and FinTech to create ArtsPay, a payment processing company that directly and deliberately supports artists and small arts organisations around Australia.

Lara is the Co-Founder of ArtsPay. And a Naarm-based artist and director at the Naarm-based arts organisation Aphids. Lara has presented work at prestige venues and events across Australia, as well as having toured the to the UK, the US, India and Europe. Much of Lara’s work is collaborative with people beyond the arts. Including award-winning work with Samara Hersch, child activists and asylum seekers on Nauru and, of course, ArtsPay. We’ll wrap up with a Q+A session facilitated by ArtsHub’s Madeleine Swain. I’m looking forward to today’s conversation. So to start us off, I’ll now pass you over to Peter Tullin. Thank you, Peter.

Peter Tullin

Thanks, Ruth, for that kind introduction. Hi, everybody. I’m Peter and I just want to acknowledge that today I’m speaking from the lands of the Woi Wurrung people and also to acknowledge any Elders, past, present and emerging. My talk is going to be extremely rapid fire. I have got about 15 minutes to throw some light on innovation from a range of different sectors. So, I’m going to go really, really quick. But that’s the benefit of these formats. You can go back and look at the videos and the slides afterwards. So, I’m going to share my screen. And without further ado, get into it.

Hopefully, everybody can see that at home. I’ll make that full screen. OK. Brilliant. So, the first sector I’m going to talk about is the immersive entertainment sector, which is part of the fast-growing experience economy. I picked this one really because it’s a very kind of broad church. But there are a lot of very interesting new business models, creative entrepreneurs, emergent tech all linked to the extreme growth of this sector. It offers a lot of opportunities, particularly for the cultural sector. On our doorstep in Melbourne, there are obviously some examples of that. Such as the LUME in the Melbourne Convention Centre. In its first year, for its first show, over 700,000 people bought a ticket to that particular venue. So clearly, it’s something audiences are engaging with. If we look at this globally, it’s reflected elsewhere in the world. And arguably on a much, much bigger scale than we’re seeing in Australia at the moment. I think there’s a pretty profound change that’s going on within the creative landscape to do with audience changes, to do with these new technologies that are providing incredible possibilities around the future of storytelling. But also, these creative entrepreneurs that are building these new ventures using different forms of finance and resourcing that we’ll talk about throughout this presentation.

So, if you look globally, in 2019, the last time the research was done, there were 755 immersive experiences that were opened. My suspicion is that figure is a lot, lot bigger now in terms of annual openings. It’s a $62 billion industry. A lot of it’s being driven by desires of younger audiences. So, Millennials who are going to be the most powerful consumer cohort in history according to Macquarie, in terms of people who are spending money. Three in four of them are now saying they’d rather spend money on a desirable experience or an event than buy desirable object. Gen Z are showing very similar characteristics as well. A lot of the ways that they’re finding out and exploring what to do is obviously through social media.

So, you’ll see that some of the examples we give are very visual in terms of the DNA that’s allowing things literally to spring up overnight, catch fire and generate huge, huge audiences that also generate a very positive word and online reviews that again repeats that marketing cycle. So, I think the landscape’s changing quite, quite profoundly. And you’ll see that within this talk. If we think about the gallery or the museum experience, very little’s changed in 150, 200 years. I think all of that’s been broken apart right now because of these new possibilities. We talked about Australia very briefly in some of the green shoots that are happening in this space. But if you look elsewhere in the world, particularly places in the US, Europe and, this particular case, London, I’m doing some research with the UK Government right now into the growth of immersive entertainment. As part of that I had the joy of spending a few weeks in London at the end of last year. It was interesting, in London alone, I counted over 30 immersive shows – many of them very large scale, audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

We talk about Broadway or the West End as a significant creative cluster globally. I think in places like London, New York, other cities, they are actually getting immersive entertainment clusters already. And that’s really interesting for the cultural sector because what’s starting to happen is the two are kind of blurring. As you’ll find through this presentation, it’s very much not a one-way street. Something like immersive entertainment, it’s a great example of something that partly has a foot within the creative industries, but obviously borrows from things like technology and other sectors, whether that’s gaming or things like virtual reality, etc. And they’re very, very multidisciplinary in what they do. Where you’ve got a cluster of immersive pioneers, if you want to call them that, where there’s a lot of activity happening in a particular place, what is the knock-on effect for the wider cultural or creative industry sector?

A good example is definitely London. You have the rise of these new forms of creative or cultural entertainment or education. And then what’s happening is the cultural institutions are then starting to collaborate with some of these organisations. So, one example of an immersive entertainment company is this particular company, which basically produced an immersive version of Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’. It’s a big warehouse in the centre of the city of London. You basically go through various rooms where the story of the HG Wells novel is told. They use various different forms of immersion. So, some of the spaces are very much set design spaces led by actors and other parts of the experience you use things like virtual reality. They use smell technologies, they use immersive projection technologies. There’s lots of food and drink also integrated into the experience as a way of generating other revenue streams. But layered reality sits behind this particular experience.

They were noticed by Historic Royal Palaces, who are a cultural organisation responsible for things like the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace. They could see that audiences were enjoying this large scale permanent immersive experience and thought ‘what can we potentially do together to tell historical stories in entirely new ways?’ So, they teamed up. They actually spent many, many months just working with each other to find out how a partnership could work, recognising that they both brought very different things to the table. So, in the case of layered reality, they were telling stories, using some of these new technologies right through to using things such as actors, as I’ve talked about. For historical palaces, how you tell a historical story accurately using different sources, the history, the academia that sits behind it, was paramount. Didn’t want to lose that by experimenting with new forms of creative story telling. A lot of that early time was spent together working out how the partnership would work and reflect the objectives and desires of both partners. Then what they did was they found this space next to the Tower of London, a historical space, a kind of big basement space, which hadn’t been used for 20 years. And then they decided they were going to tell the story of the Gunpowder Plot in an entirely new way. I won’t give the game away, but effectively you travel through a warren of spaces. You begin where you find yourselves in a cell as a Catholic and you discover the story of Guy Fawkes. And the idea is you hear from both perspectives. You hear from the Crown. You hear from Catholics. And at the end of this process of going through various different spaces, that use technologies like virtual reality, smell technologies and other things, you basically decide whether you think Guy Fawkes was a rebel and a terrorist or whether you think he’s a kind of freedom fighter. That’s a good example where the two worlds are colliding and learn from each other.

We talked about the success of the LUME. And Ruth mentioned my involvement with Melbourne Museum. Now again we’ve looked at some of these experiences that are happening, that are generating audience traction. We decided we wanted to develop our own immersive experience. You may have seen recently that Tyama has been happening at the Museum. Which is very much our first foray into this space. I think this is a really interesting example of the use of these new technologies. It’s very, very interactive. It uses immersive projection technologies. It also uses gaming technologies, like Unreal Engine. It’s been hugely popular with audiences. It’s one of the most popular things that we’ve ever done as a museum. But we’ve tried to do it in our own particular way. Rather than famous globally renowned artists like Van Gogh, the Museum very much has a focus on telling stories of science around things like the climate emergency. We have a First Peoples First purpose to what we do as an organisation. And Tyama is a really interesting example of how all these things have come together. So, we have our scientists working with First Peoples to produce this really beautiful interactive immersive experience that looks at the natural world through the lens of First Peoples. As I mentioned it’s been really, really popular with audiences, but it’s telling the Museum’s story. So, it’s something we’ve tried to produce in-house obviously working with other partners. But we’ve also fitted out our main touring hall with these new projection technologies. So hopefully, this is the first of many stories that we’ll tell. Other organisations, like the Grand Palais in Paris, have approached this in a slightly different way. They’ve actually set up a new company called Grand Palais Immersive and this is to produce both immersive experiences for themselves but they’ve also recognised an opportunity to build immersive experiences for other cultural organisations.

We talked about emergent tech. One of the things I saw in London, which was just incredible, was the ABBA Voyage experience. This is set within a purpose-built arena. I’m sure it’s something you’ve read about in global media stories. Effectively, they’ve recreated vintage 1970s ABBA. They talk about them as ABBAtars or holograms. It’s actually a very clever use of screen technology. Effectively, and I can testify to this, you go in and you very much have the sense that ABBA are there before you within this incredible 3000-seater purpose-built arena. And what’s really clever about this, and this is a large-scale project. It was about $140 million to

develop. It involved Industrial Light and Magic. The people behind Star Wars and Jurassic Park and other things. So, it’s very much an experiment and a bold new use of technology. But you’re sat in that arena, and you can see within three, four, five, 10 years how this technology is going to be used in other contexts. You could very much use this technology to bring history alive.

Some of the other immersive pioneers such as Culture Spaces, who are behind Atelier des Lumières in Paris, set within a former iron foundry. I think their technology is very clever, because what they are doing is they’re using these new technologies to obviously tell stories around artists that they’re working with both new and famous historical artists. But they are also transforming how we experience heritage spaces. So, their first site, which had over a million visitors per year is a former iron foundry in Paris. They’ve recently come up with a very clever alternative use for a World War II era submarine base in Bourdeaux. They have a Cold War era bunker in South Korea. They’ve even just opened a space in a former Art Deco bank in New York. And so it’s a really clever use of technologies to utilise heritage spaces in new ways.

Some of the other things that these immersive pioneers are doing are experimenting with new business models. If we think about the current business model of galleries and museums, that’s often working with artists where they’ll be paid a fee to come and do a show or an exhibition, Superblue in Miami is a clever example of where they’ve developed this warehouse type space in the US and they are working with experiential artists. The kind of things that you might see within the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, but have kind of detached that and created that as a

stand-alone platform. What they are saying to artists is ‘actually we’re going to give you a share of the box office’. So, they are working with, initially, some very well-known artists like teamLab, Es Devlin, James Turrell, people that are very well-known experiential artists. And, effectively, they’ve brought them into this space and give them a share of the box office. So, the artist can share in the wealth that their shows are creating, but also gives them a very direct relationship to the public as well.

And Superblue, interestingly, is a new type of business model. It’s designed as a platform so it can open up the spaces all around the world. Other examples of new business models around art. This is Masterworks. Their model is quite clever. This is about allowing people to invest in art by basically fractionalising how you buy art. Not many of us are in a position where we can buy a Banksy or a Van Gogh or something like that. What they do is they effectively buy the work and use a web-based platform where you can invest in owning a small percentage of a piece of a piece of art. So, it’s getting people into collecting art. Obviously partly it’s about investment. It’s not just about buying art and you don’t get the art at the end of it. But I think it’s quite an interesting mode that’s democratising access to have people can buy art and also, whereas you may not know, own the actual space.

There’s lots of potential for things like NFTs and other technologies where you can potentially own a version of that art even though you don’t physically own the main piece.

Another example I want to talk about is the creator economy. I think this is a really exciting area we can learn from and engage with as a cultural sector. I’m talking here about – if we ignore the politics for a second and some of the issues associated with them – platforms like TikTok or Patreon. TikTok, for example, regularly has a billion users a month. After Facebook, it was the first platform to have 3 billion app downloads. A number of cultural institutions are starting to either work with creators or are doing things in-house themselves to take advantage of the opportunities to engage with audiences in new ways and to do marketing in new ways. So if you look at what’s happening in that space, we’re seeing a huge growth in the number of creators. It’s been talked about as the rise of the creator middle class. You can see that hockey stick line, a handful of what you would have previously called social media influencers into hundreds and hundreds of thousands of creators that have their own niche audiences. What’s exciting is you’ll see through platforms like Patreon is that people are able to generate income from this for the first time in a way it can become their day job.

So, let’s see how this works in terms of the cultural sector. Some of you may recognise this. You probably recognise it more as the filming set of Peaky Blinders. But this is the Black Country Living Museum, which is a museum in Dudley in the West Midlands in England primarily focused on telling the story of the Industrial Revolution. During lockdown, the museum closed, but they recognised they had all these incredible spaces, recreated Victorian buildings. What they did was they empowered their staff to go off and create videos for TikTok. Bear in mind, this isn’t a museum that has brand power like the Met or the Tate or one of the big global cultural organisations like that. But they have actually become one of the most followed museums in the world globally in terms of their social media following through TikTok. And initially, they started by doing the things that resonated quite well with audiences on TikTok. They were doing clips of music videos and things like that. But once they’d really built up the audience, started to diversify into alternative content. You can go on to their TikTok channel and experience wha it might be like to have a lesson, a school lesson in Victorian England or what they would have eaten, they do cooking lessons and things.

Another example in Australia, and I think this is a good example where these worlds are starting to mix, is a project we did with State Library Victoria called Alchemy. The library was looking for people to basically come up with new forms of experiences, that would appeal to different types of audiences. What we came up with as an idea and a platform, was let’s put that out to the wider creative community and hopefully they can help us come up with new types of experiences we might not think of or we might not be the best people to deliver. But also ideally we want people to develop creative businesses out of this that make them sustainable. So we just put it out there: come up with an experience at the Library. We had a huge number of responses – far more than we ever thought we would get. But incredibly broad. So, we had people who were designing computer games applied. We had an amazing guy who was one of Australia’s leading escape room designers.

Lara from ArtsPay wearing her APHIDS hat did an amazing project with the Library through this particular program. We had experiential tours. But one of the people that applied was Mary McGillivray. Now Mary has quite quickly become one of Australia’s leading TikTok stars who tells incredible art stories in new ways. So, she delved into the Library archive. One of her projects, for example, was this really obscure typeface. It was buried away in the archives. And of course, Mary in her inimitable way basically came up with this clever way of telling the story of this typeface. Which then had hundreds and hundreds of thousands of views. For something that was very obscure, very kind of hidden away. It’s a great example of how a cultural institution can collaborate with a creator. To tell those stories in new ways. To reach new audiences. And now she’s gone on to work with the ABC and other cultural organisations as well.

Just to finish up this section and then my particular contribution, what’s exciting about this both with people like Mary, but also for cultural institutions is, one part of this is obviously reaching audiences through platforms like TikTok. But up until recently, the challenge was even if you had a very big audience, if you were relying on advertising revenue to make this add up, it just wasn’t going to work. It was never going to be a full-time let alone a part-time job for somebody. Very few creators are in a position where they can do deals with brands directly. But the rise of things like Patreon have been a real game-changer in a number of different ways. This is allowing the fans or the communities of these creators to literally give them billions of dollars on a recurring basis to allow them to create the content that they want to experience. And this is throwing up some really interesting models that I think again are part of this disruption trend.

So, this is Neil of RMC on the right. He is a creator in the area of telling stories around the history of computers. It is what he’s particularly into as you can probably guess from his Space Invaders jumper. He’s a digital native first and foremost. His channel has a similar kind of YouTube following. I just pulled out three or four of the biggest cultural institutions that focus on the history of computing combined. You think of organisations like Bletchley Park in the UK – which is the famous Enigma Code breakers. Background, there’s a national video game museum in Sheffield in the UK. There’s a computer history in Silicon Valley. We obviously have ACMI on our doorstep. All fantastic institutions with big in-person audiences that run into the million. And Neil has a similar online footprint to those organisations combined. Because that was his day job. But what Patreon allowed him to do, and also platforms like Kickstarter as well is to invert that. He started in the online space. But he’s now gone to his audience: like what if we built a physical space? It’s not quite a museum. It’s a bit more a kind of clubhouse that celebrates the history of computing for his particular audience. But he’s created a viable offline physical kind of an institution using platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter. Because he effectively said to his audience do you want to hang out in person? Perhaps we tell these stories in new ways. Not quite the way a museum would tell these stories, but definitely kind of similarities. So, he’s used that huge online audience to effectively fund the creation of a physical space. And he’s one example of many others that I think are going to pop up over the next few years that have started online and moved into the offline space.

I’m aware I’m running out of time. I’m going to talk about one more example. How you pay for these new types of creative activity is one of the ways that we’re really seeing people borrow innovation from other sectors. Secret Cinema is a good example of this. This is an immersive entertainment company from the UK. They really pioneered the idea of people experiencing film in new ways. So, what they would do is they would build the world of the movie. In this case you can see Star Wars. They partnered with people like Disney, Netflix, others. And they would have hundreds of thousands of people would attend these shows. Their audiences these days are up to 400,000 per show. So, in places like the UK, it is to become one of the ways that people see films. They will spend several hours wandering around the world of Star Wars and then watch the movie as part of that experience. Now they built this huge audience and community around what they were doing. But they also were looking for a way to grow and expand and to be sustainable beyond people just buying tickets. They decided they would use crowd equity as a way of doing that to fund their growth. So, with their database and social media following of several hundred thousand people passionate about what they did, they said to them, we would like you to help support us to grow. So, this particular organisation, they used a platform called Crowdcube. We’re probably very familiar with things like crowd funding, where you can get an idea or a project funded just through the goodwill of people who want to make that thing happen. What crowd equity does is it allows people to have an ownership stake. Because you might go, ‘I love going along to Secret Cinema, but I also think that’s a really great creative business that I want to be a part of and I want to help it to grow. If it does grow and it is successful, I want to benefit from its success.’ So, crowd equity allows you to spend small amounts of money to become a shareholder. If enough people do that, that creative organisation or technology company, it doesn’t have to be a creative organisation, can then raise funding to grow what they do. And I guess Secret Cinema is one of the first examples of how that successfully happened in the creative industries. So, they raised nearly 10 million Australian dollars by going out to their community.

So nearly 6000 people invested in that particular business based on that audience. I’m aware, I’m kind of at the end of my time. So, I’m going to go to the end and I can maybe pick up on some of these other examples within the Q and A. If you are interested in this stuff, we’re holding a big national creative industries conference in Sydney in June. A lot of the examples that I’ve talked about will feature at that event. That’s a way of delving further. You can go on to the REMIX website where there are a lot of free talks and things on there and these examples as well. That’s me. Hope it’s been useful. I’m going to hand over to Lara in a moment. And Lara is a really great example I think of borrowing and ideas and innovations from another sector but also developing a product that brings the cultural sector together to do something that would be very hard for an individual organisation or an artist to do. I’m completely biased. I’m involved in ArtsPay, I think it’s fantastic. I’m going to hand you over to Lara who’s going to tell you a bit more about it. So over to you, Lara.

Lara Thoms

Thanks, Peter. Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Lara Thoms, I’m one of the Co-Founders of ArtsPay. I’m a pale woman with blue eyes wearing a grey shirt. I currently have blond hair and my roots are showing. So, I’m due for a session at the hairdresser. I’m coming to you from Wurundjeri Land in Naarm. As it was said I’m an artist. I run an experimental arts organisation called APHIDS. And a couple of years ago I started ArtsPay with my friends Marc [Goldenfein] and Alistair [Webster]. I want to talk to you about how we’re getting money for the arts by taking on the big banks and Silicon Valley. So as the artistic director of an experimental arts organisation and through my own personal practice, I use experimentation and collaboration to make work with all kinds of people in all kinds of places, including shopping malls, funeral homes, theatres, galleries. I’ve also worked as a producer on festivals, been an advocate for the arts by sitting on panels and boards, and also seeing how other countries support artists through touring internationally.

I love making work that disrupts expectations of what art can be and do, but I never thought I would be disrupting the payments industry. I actually had no idea there was a payments industry before I started working on ArtsPay. So, the payment industry is multitrillion-dollar industry, multibillion-dollar profits in Australia. And we just want a little fraction of those profits to go back to the arts community. So how did we begin? Back during COVID was first hitting, we all really felt it in the arts community. I had hundreds of emails, I had 12 shows cancelled. It felt really scary. So, then myself, an artist, a tech marketing guy and a government policy guy came together to walk around a park along with every other person in Naarm during the lockdown. We talked about the challenges in the arts and acknowledged COVID was just the tip of the iceberg.

So many of us know that this is an industry of low wages and virtually no job security and insecure funding. So, I’m a huge lover of government support and philanthropic grants. But we always know that there needs to be more money. And it would be great to see funding that can be responsive, that can be sustainable and that can be very meaningful to our arts community. And that’s where we came up with ArtsPay. So why do payments processes exist? It’s a strange industry and it’s basically happening in an invisible way.

So, behind every single transaction, whether it’s in a shop or online, the payment processer is transferring that money around the world and the company is asking you to use your credit card which, in turn, the money of, usually between 0.5 and 2% of the sale goes back to the payment processer. So, it’s like the toilet paper of business. You need it, you use it every day, you can’t get away from it. And it’s not something you really think about. Everyone does use toilet paper and everyone who accepts credit card uses a payments processer. Businesses haven’t had much choice. They have to pick a bank or a Silicon Valley operation like Square. And we are providing that other option. So every time you tap your credit card for buying a coffee or a beer or a ticket to a show with a business partner that uses ArtsPay, that money is going to the arts. And this is already happening. We have been operational for a year. So somewhere in Australia right now, someone could be buying a pot plant and that money is going back to ArtsPay. We have a plumber that’s using ArtsPay for their invoices. I could get on my phone and buy a guitar and see, probably, $1 going back to ArtsPay. We’re currently working with 195 businesses around Australia, including some very familiar names like Readings, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Max Watt’s and TryBooking. In December we processed over $23 million.

So, 90% of the time we are able to offer businesses a cheaper rate than what the banks and Silicon Valley are offering them. So not only are we saving businesses money, but their fees are going to good. We’re able to do this by partnering with a global payment processor called Fiserv, whose infrastructure we use that provides the security, experience and technology that would otherwise be out of reach for us. So, after creating this start-up and volunteering for a couple years, we’ve been able to expand, hire our first staff member to assist our clients in marketing, who I’m happy to say is also a practising artist.

Once the business does sign on to ArtsPay, the funding is very consistent. It comes in every month. And it’s really quite unlikely that our businesses will switch away from their payment process in any short amount of time. It creates a really sustainable source of income over several years. So, I’m sure many of you are asking and thinking what we want to do with the money that is generated? So, the funding generated by ArtsPay will go to a foundation called the ArtsPay Foundation, which is a charitable foundation to support small arts organisations and independent artists across Australia and across different art forms. When I say sustainable art sector, what do I mean? When we first started thinking about ArtsPay, we knew we didn’t have all the information. And we spent 12 months consulting with the arts ecosystem. We interviewed dozens of peak bodies and, importantly, independents about what is missing. This was all revealed in our report called ‘ArtsPay: A Turning Point in Arts Funding in Australia Today and Tomorrow’ – you can download that from our Foundation website.

And with those interviews whether it was like a writer in Sydney or a dancer in Western Australia or a muso Melbourne, each interview was saying it’s extremely hard to make a liveable wage and it’s extremely hard to get beyond the cycle of small project grants. So, we know the Australia Council acknowledges there is a large level of unfunded excellence in the arts sector. Many great artists and orgs are unable to access funding because of the lack of the pool. And we also know a lot of government funding goes to major performing arts companies like Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet. So, we want to support the smaller end of the sector, we want to make sure artists stay doing what they’re doing within ongoing support beyond a single project. We want to make sure the support is administratively simple and accessible. And we want to value the work of artists to ensure that they can reach something that looks more like a liveable wage.

We also want to advocate and make sure that we’re contributing to a vibrant arts ecosystem around Australia. So, our ArtsPay Foundation has a board of directors with a wealth of experience in grant making, arts community and business, including the iconic Jane Crawley, ex Creative Victoria. And we’re opening our pilot program for grants in the next month. So that pool isn’t huge. We’re still very much building the business. But I will tell you that our application forms will be extremely simple with just one short question, hopefully, minimising the unpaid labour of the arts community. Do keep an eye on our ArtsPay Foundation website for that grant round. And just to finish up, any business or organisation can work with ArtsPay. We can all help build this funding pool together. It could be your aunt’s candle shop, your local council, your university, your brother’s weird online computer shop. It’s really open. And they can choose ArtsPay and be part of a solution. They don’t have to be an arts lover. Just be interested in seeing those payment processing fees go to good rather than to the banks. So I hope that gives you a bit of an overview and thanks for having me.

Madeleine Swain

Hi, everyone. I’m Madeleine. Managing Editor of ArtsHub and we’re co-producing these webinars with Creative Vic. We’re running really tight on time. So, we’re just going to run straight to the questions. We have a couple here. Anonymous attendee has asked: Are you looking at possibly working with a ticketing platform Tessitura in future, Lara?

Lara Thoms

Great question. We have been in conversation with Tessitura and are unable to work with them at this time. We do work with TryBooking and Ferve Ticketing, which are really great partners. But unfortunately Tessitura have their own payments processing.

Madeleine Swain

What about Shopify stores? Demelza asked that.

Lara Thoms

Similarly. Unfortunately, they are a competitor where they made it so it’s unable for other processors to be involved with Shopify. But there are many other web platforms that we do work with.

Madeleine Swain

OK. I’ve sent a message in the chat that if anybody doesn’t get their questions answered, email me and we’ll try and answer them after the webinar. We’re really running out of time. So, I just want to say thank you to Peter and Lara today for both your presentations. Fascinating. Peter, I grew up a stone’s throw from the Black Country and never knew about that museum. So, thank you for that.

Do look out for our next webinar in the series in late May and there will also be a deep dive podcast after this, which will come next month, which will look a little more in depth at some of the topics that we’ve raised today. Until then, I think that’s just about everything.

Remember to use those hashtags, the #CreativeVic and the #CreativeXchange ones that we shared with you earlier. Thanks everybody for joining us today. And we’ll see you next time.

Madeleine Swain is ArtsHub’s managing editor. Originally from England where she trained as an actor, she has over 25 years’ experience as a writer, editor and film reviewer in print, television, radio and online. She is also currently Vice Chair of JOY Media.