Art Brand and Festival as Producers and Promoters of Cultural Products

Elena Khokhlova Glosaria 2014

A festival is a way to represent rather edgy forms and embodiments of contemporary art and cultural practices. We hardly hear about festivals of popular music or blockbuster films or mainstream artists. A festival is modern to its time. It represents modern art and practices or offers new (and modern) ways to percept art in its retrospective. Obviously, commercial art and cultural production isn’t really interested in festivals, for it obtains its own commercial patterns to present, place and promote products. A festival is an opportunity for rather non-commercial art, it is a way to place less known products and attract randomized publicity. Festivals differ and rarely repeat each other, they don't usually follow assembley line pattern. The idea is to create formally limited space(s) filled with creative dimensions, numerous offers of experience and easy access for publicity. A festival takes place and time, it is experience that lasts. It offers fusion of various art and cultural practices, always unique and deeply connected to the place and time of the festival. When you visit a movie festival, you will most probably remember not only the name of the movie you picked to watch, but the surroundings included in overall experience – the festival, the community, time of a year and particular spot in a city.


We can speak of festivals in terms of marketing. They create opportunities for new or unknown non-mainstream artists to expose the results of their cultural practices to randomized publicity. Alike commercial enterprises, festivals do not focus on selling goods. They, in fact, provide celebration, fun, joy, social interactions, often connected to consuming food and drinks. A festival is of course a social interaction, it is a gathering of random people and groups of people looking for entertainment and less known cultural products. Festival cultural products are immediately exposed and consumed at once and right away without much of preface and introductions. It is a randomized and often unexpected experience, sharp and straight contact with certain product, mixed together with the general impressions of the surrounding atmosphere. Overall experience of attending a festival is unique for it is deeply connected to the temporary-spatial paradigm, whatever visitors come along with. As a cultural product is percept in certain temporal, spatial and conceptual frames, it will always be affected by them for a visitor. Festivals are, as mentioned, non-commercial practices (they don’t focus on generating profits). They tend to apply diversity of techniques to collect money to expose non-commercial art and practices that are not routinely promoted. These techniques are, for example, fundraising, sponsorship, municipal and governmental financial aids, volunteering, voluntary monetary contributions, auctions, selling side products (accessories, food and drinks), and so on. Inviting headliners is another way to gain publicity and audience. Big annual festivals do offer celebrities and famous artifacts as headliners. Headliner is a name or a title that attracts exceptional attention to the festival. It does not only connect more people to the festival, it does provide new level or dimension of festival experience in general. Connecting a headliner to a festival portfolio means the same for a manager as being in touch with an ultimate symbolic value for a visitor. This works out because of art brands.


Art brand is a marketing tool that comes from commercial practices of mainstream arts. It carries the general idea of brand, which is translated to the world of art and cultural practices. Speaking of art, brand is not only reputation of a name, company, producer of certain values, it is the value itself. The presence of its label (or name, title, any straight link to the brand) enriches the symbolical capital of a certain product. Art brand is transcendental, it exists in our mind, it is placed in the modern discourse, it is not material. The symbolical meaning of a brand is rather ideological. Art brand may contain fame, popularity, success, ultimate values, which have no material representation or form. These qualities exist in our perception as ideas, therefore the capital of a brand, or art brand exist as a mental paradigm only. Art brand technique is obviously popular in promoting commercial arts. There are celebrities (Charlie Chaplin, Madonna), titles of movies, plays or books („Star Wars“, „Les Miserables“, „Harry Potter“), names of cinema studios and recording labels („Universal Studios“, „Sony Music Entertainment”) and so on, that work like brands. They ensure certain experience and quality as well as they symbolically transfer certain ideas (mainly of uniqueness, fame and success) to anything they come in contact with. Art brands may be constructed artificially or appear naturally. Modern creative industries are focused on the artificial constructing. If we take a look at modern popular music, we notice various art brands (mainly, performers) of any level, produced according to certain patterns. There are glittering divas (Celine Dion, Whitney Houston), short-termed boys bands (One Direction, Take That), hipster DJs (David Guetta, Tiesto), innocent prodigies (Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez) or shocking punks (Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga) carrying different names but following the same paths and patterns.

Art brands that appear naturally aren’t even primarily brands, but they took time and become re-evaluated. It is quite obvious that the name of Mozart is used as a brand worldwide. Just in Brno there are international musical competition, several plays and performances (including an upcoming one), art schools and studios and numerous enterprises carrying the name of Mozart or Amadeus. A statue of Mozart as an adult baby is the „mascot“ of Reduta theater as well. Such art brands do not allow managers of creative industries to manipulate or change them. But usage of these entities as art brands and application of them in production of something new does the work: the „touch“ of art brand enriches symbolical meaning of new products and automatically identifies these products as something familiar („Don’t you know Mozart?“). This transcendental connection brings in another quality of art brands and artifacts that carry their labels. The translation of ultimate value. „The touch of a brand“ transfers its initial message („fame“, „success“, „uniqueness“ and so on) to the product and changes our perception of it. Art brands familiarize any new artifact by adding its well-known qualities, by labeling it with its identity. We know what to expect from Dan Brown or Tim Burton, as well as we can rather easily identify their products. A new book by Dan Brown doesn’t „scare“ us, consumers, by its novelty, because it is strongly connected to familiar name and we do know what to expect to face in it. Art brands have the potential to solve very serious problem of modern creative industries - coordination of new products and navigation in the large offers of art markets. Modern consumer or buyer of art is massively attacked by numerous new and unknown artifacts without identities. To be sure about his next purchase he needs to make a test of a product, which tends to be impossible with the most of cultural products. He may still navigate using art brands and pick new products according to the knowledge of their labels, authors, additional connections to side symbolical capitals. Commercial art brands, however, make it worse and bring in new problems by leaving unique unknown artists and artifacts in the shadow of fame and publicity of others. Non-mainstream artists rarely target their products and perform product placement activities. That’s why we are daily bombed by all the same popular names and titles and rarely notice new talents.


And what if such non-commercial events as festivals take in consideration such commercial tools as art brands? Branding a festival has many options, but there are two major strategies: to create a festival as a new art brand or to attract ready made art brands to join a festival. Connecting ready and known brands is always easier than creating new ones. Inviting a celebrity and applying his name (read “fame”) to the whole event is one of the patterns. Celebrities are brands because they carry ultimate values and have large symbolic capital to share. Whether the festival invites local celebrities or tries to connect brand names or titles to its events, it borrows and spreads the brand value to each part of multidimensional experience it offers to its visitors. It is also possible that inviting a celebrity to a festival will attract extra visitors who would take a look at the festival program because of the connection of the celebrity and the festival (or at least attend the celebrity performance). In other words, both, the festival and the art brand will exchange their audiences: fans or followers of the brand will drag their attention to the festival, while the festival attenders might notice a new brand to follow. Some festivals, like JazzFestBrno, fulfill another function - to collect brands and expose this collection to the audience. The festival management picks well-known names in modern jazz music, which ensures the quality of festival product and solves the problem of navigation in live jazz performances in Brno. But there are festivals that became art brands themselves. In Brno there are, for example, Majáles and Čarodějáles, popular and loved events that are strictly connected to number of city venues, certain music and lifestyle, performances and ideas. The identities of these festivals are easily recognized by various audiences that look for different types of entertainment and socialization. When a festival becomes a brand itself, other artists and artifacts look forward joining it in any form to “steal” a bit of its fame and symbolic capital. For festivals which are rarely concern in generating profits it is a good sign, because they finally get a large scale of participants to choose between. Festivals that work as art brands play considerable role in urban marketing. They help to shape the image of their location or city and attract visitors. It is another way to share the symbolic capital: a festival is capable of enriching the total city experience and changing its perception for foreigners. Some cities are generally known for their festivals. Brno is known as a city where Janáček International Festival takes place, and Litomyšl is known for its Smetana's Opera Festival. The honored composers are largely celebrated in their hometowns and the festivals successfully elaborate the symbolical capital of their names. There are three brands as an outcome: the city, the composer and the festival. Making a new festival is problematic – it might have a strong idea and concept, but it certainly lacks publicity and familiarity – it is new and it yet barely attracts masses of participants and visitors. The main problem of festival start-ups is poor choice of artists and artifacts to expose because of yet low level of publicity and lack of willing artists or accessible artifacts. More publicity a festival gains, more participants are looking forward to join it, higher quality program choice the management has. This is why it is important to employ art branding and gain more publicity in shorter time.

Festival‘s main role is to promote the large scale of cultural products in local venues and to provide opportunities for talented artists to expose their work. While a festival uses art branding in the sake of getting publicity and popularity to expose non-mainstream art to larger audience, it invests in the growth of cultural capital and solves the problem of cultural navigation. Application of purely commercial tools, such as brands, do help to develop non-commercial ideas and promote less known concepts to larger audiences.

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