On November 18th, 2021, CAPACOA’s Director of Research and Development Frédéric Julien and Cultural Strategist, Bridget MacIntosh presented “Your Digital Presence, Let’s Improve it” as part of CAPACOA’s Àndji Màdjitàwin / Reboot / Relance Virtual Conference.

As we designed this presentation, we asked ourselves: “if a performing arts organization could only afford to take one or two steps to enhance their digital presence, what should they do?” We considered the most recent research and development, as well as tried-and-tested methods. We considered the different stakeholders of the performing arts ecosystem and we came up with a short list of calls to action for each one. 

This recap provides highlights of some of the steps presented:

You can check out the full slide deck here and presentation below

Note: The recording is bilingual, with simultaneous translation.

Steps for Everyone

A website with lots of links

Yes, you definitely want to still have a website and you want to make sure that, in designing it, you follow good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices.  

The entire World Web Web runs on hyperlinks, so they are a very important part of online discoverability. Think of your work (i.e. your repertoire, your events listing, etc.) and the part of your website where you describe your work as being part of a larger hyperlink ecosystem. As Josée Plamondon points out, to strengthen your connection to this ecosystem, make sure to have:

  • Internal hyperlinks pointing to the part of your website that describes your work or your main offer;
  • Inbound and outbound links with your social media and streaming platforms; 
  • Inbound links from authoritative sources such as associations’ directories, online encyclopedias (i.e. Wikipedia), and open databases (i.e., Wikidata, MusicBrainz, etc.)

Suggested resources:

Steps for Creators, Producers, and Agents

Release Images using a Creative Commons License

Images are one of the most sought-after types of information/content in the performing arts ecosystem. Yet, oftentimes it can be difficult to clear the rights to use an image. 

To make sure that your best images can be easily reused by journalists, destination marketing organizations or associations, let go of some control. 

A few ways to achieve this: 

Suggested resources:

Modern dancers in black pants and bare chest on stage performing.
This photo of a performance by Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Consequently, it can easily be found on search engines and reused on blog posts such as this one. Photo credit: Tania Victoria/ Secretaría de Cultura CDMX, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Steps for all Performing Arts Stakeholders

Publish open metadata

In a world where nearly all cultural consumption is mediated by digital devices and algorithms, content isn’t enough. You also need to exist in the form of data that can be found and processed.

What does this entail?

  1. A global unique persistent identifier
  2. Minimal descriptive metadata

Entering information about yourself into Wikidata is an effective means of meeting these digital presence prerequisites. Wikidata is an open database – everyone can use it for free – and it is trusted by search engines.

Suggested resources:

Figure representing performing arts activities and how their metadata can flow in Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons and Artsdata.
If stakeholders of the performing arts produce metadata at each stage of the value chain, this metadata can be reused and enriched by other stakeholders, right up to their ultimate consumption by culture goers who are wondering “what can I do tonight?”.

Steps for Venue Managers

Put your venue on the map

Location information is crucial for local SEO. You want to ensure that your venue information can be easily accessed by all context-aware recommendation systems, as well as by tourism offices and event listings.

If it doesn’t already exist, create a performing arts building item in Wikidata. Then:

  • Make sure key location properties are stated: country, geocoordinates, address, etc.
  • Upload images of the building to Wikimedia Commons and link those images to your Wikidata item.

Suggested resources:

Steps for Event Organizers

Structure your events for maximum exposure

Performing arts events are ephemeral. So their digital discoverability is dependent on timely and accurate information. 

At a bare minimum, create a distinct webpage for each event on your website. The web page’s URL functions as a unique ID for each event. And unique IDs are essential for digital discoverability. 

Event plugins or other template-driven tools can also help. They provide a clear and consistent structure across webpages. This makes it easier for crawling bots to index your event pages. 

Events can also benefit from structured data. Structured data describe the nature of the information on a webpage for crawling bots. Structured data can also be scraped (i.e. collected) and then reused in events listings sites.

Suggested resources:

Bonus Step!

Let your association do the work for you

Associations play a pivotal role in providing data about performing artists, organizations and venues from across the country. Many Canadian arts associations are committed to publishing open data about their members.

To take advantage of this, take a moment to contact the associations that you hold memberships with and see if they would be willing to adopt open data practices.

Suggested resources: CAPACOA’s Open Data Strategy.

Conclusion

These aren’t the only means of building a strong digital presence and to become “discoverable” but we are confident these are good, effective starting steps so that performing arts stakeholders can achieve more control over how people can find them online – and what they can find.

In the end, a strong digital presence requires being present in multiple places on/in the web AND linking these individual footprints together to form an integrated, multi-faceted digital presence. No matter what the means, as long as there is some interlinking involved, you are doing the right thing.

A web page for an event at the National Arts Centre and the structured data describing this event.

Two years ago, Nesta and The Satori Lab published a report encouraging arts organizations to publish open data for their events. As there is no data standard for the performing arts, the report notably recommended the use of Schema.org to make it easier for crawling bots to read and interpret event information Fine. But how does one use Schema.org? Here, in a nutshell, is how to use it.

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Banner with a woman working on a computer.

Open data. What is it? What about privacy? Does our cultural organization have data that we can make “open”?

These and other questions are discussed in “Time for Open Data in Culture.”

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Between October 2019 and March 2021, as part of the Linked Digital Future initiative (LDFI), the Digital Navigation Program offered one-on-one digital transformation coaching to arts organizations across Canada. Here is a second case study from one of the program’s participating organizations.

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Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival – Linked Digital Future Initiative Case Study

Between October 2019 and March 2021, as part of the Linked Digital Future initiative (LDFI), the Digital Navigation Program offered one-on-one digital transformation coaching to arts organizations across Canada. Here is a first case study from one of the program’s participating organizations.

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Published by opennorth.ca on December 15, 2020

Thank you to all of our participants who joined The art of data sharing webinar on Nov. 24th, 2020. We are happy to share the recording of the event with you! 

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Here is an excerpt from an excellent blog post originally published on Medium. This excerpt is republished with permission from the author, Margaret Lam.

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Blog Post: Event Plugins and Schema

If you work with a performing arts organization, you might very well use WordPress for your website. And if so, you might use a common plugin for ease of managing your concerts and other events. At CAPACOA, through our Linked Digital Futures project, we are interested in how these event plugins use structured data. 

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CAPACOA and the Conseil québécois du théâtre initiate an international cooperation project to increase the presence of performing arts in Wikidata.la présence des arts de la scène dans Wikidata. 

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