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Amplifying independent voices by shaking up the arts market model

Richard Watts

New bursaries for indie artists, cultural capacity building, and new public programs help ensure APAM 2018 will be more diverse than ever.
Amplifying independent voices by shaking up the arts market model

You don't have to jump through hoops to get to APAM. Image: Between Tiny Cities. Photo credit: Thoeun Veassna.

The most significant event of its kind, the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) attracts hundreds of delegates from dozens of countries to the Brisbane Powerhouse for five days of networking, deal-making, tour brokering and discussions.

‘It’s our largest internationally focused industry event and it covers the entire gamut of contemporary performing arts,’ explained APAM Executive Producer, Zohar Spatz.

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Featuring a range of showcases from Australian and New Zealand companies, including full-length productions and extracts, as well as works in development, APAM provides a rare cross-section of the performing arts sector’s current projects and concerns. Delegate passes are now on sale via the APAM website, with limited early bird prices available until sold out.

As well as pitching directly to international presenters, the market also enables participating artists, producers and companies to learn firsthand from industry peers about the ins and outs of planning and managing tours.

‘There are some Australian artists and companies who tour overseas 11 months of the year. Often there are a range of artists and companies that are trying to engage in that international marketplace, and so APAM is also a chance for national colleagues to meet with one another and find out how they do it,  what their relationship is and who their advocates are,’ said Spatz.

The sector’s collegiate nature is on display at APAM, she continued.

‘Sometimes we forget that this national sector of ours is incredibly supportive and you don’t need to do things alone. If you do have a well-connected colleague and they’re able to help put you in front of the person you’re really keen to meet, use them – it’s just about taking advantage of your connections and thinking outside the box.’

MAKING ACCESS EASIER

New additions to the APAM program for 2018 will make the event more accessible than ever before.

In recognition of the challenges faced by independent practitioners, the Brisbane Powerhouse – with the support of the Sidney Myer Fund – are offering 10 bursaries for independent artists and producers to attend APAM 2018.

‘We’ve kept our ticket price pretty much the same across the last three editions of APAM … but nonetheless that price can still be quite a barrier for independents once you add in the cost of the delegate registration and all the travel,’ said Spatz.

‘The priority for us is having a diverse range of voices in the room. It’s such an imperative to making the market relevant. And so this bursary makes sure that there are some of those independent voices in the room and it’s cost-effective for them.’

Diversity is an important element of another new APAM initiative for 2018, the capacity-building program, Performing Asia.

‘It’s really important for us to make sure that APAM includes new voices, so we’ve selected three Asian facilitators, all of whom are very active within the region, and we’re going to have a group of 30 artists and producers go through the Performing Asia program,’ Spatz said.

Participants are required to be either developing or presenting an intercultural project within the Asia-Pacific region with a collaborator from another country.

Contemporary Asian Australian Performance's In Between Two. Photo credit: William Yang.

Another new feature reflects the fact that attending a performing arts market for the first time can be a bewildering event. The First Timers’ Program will equip inexperienced attendees with the tools they need to successfully engage with the APAM experience, Spatz explained.  

‘It’s open for up to 60 Australian and New Zealand delegates who are first timers to APAM. Based on responses to the EOIs of what your objectives might be, what you’re trying to get out of APAM and what type of work you make, we all match-make these artists and producers with industry consultants – people who  have been at APAM numerous times and have connections and networks.’

Newcomers will be assisted in preparing their pitch in the lead up to APAM, while on the first morning of the market they will have some valuable one-on-one time with their consultant.

‘Trying to get seen, trying to break through, they’re all really tough elements of making sure that you have a successful market, so having someone there to be a guide is really exciting and I think it’s going to be a positive outcome for those who participate in the program,’ Spatz said.

Pitching your work, whether in a formal presentation or casually over drinks, is one of the most important skills to master at a performing arts market.

‘You need to be really clear about what your work is and why it should be in the marketplace that you’re pitching to,’ Spatz advised. ‘I think you’ve got to take some time and plan out what your market really is and who your audience is and why that particular presenter might want your work in their venue. Research is so important.’

BRISBANE ON SHOW

As anyone who’s attended an arts industry gathering will know, sometimes it’s hard to see much more of the city hosting the event than the conference venue, your hotel, and the short walk between the two.

In recognition of this fact – and also to help ensure greater connection between APAM delegates and the people of Brisbane – APAM 2018 will feature a program of public events at selected Brisbane locations, including a number of free activities.

‘We’ve offered six companies who were selected as part of the official program the opportunity to have public-facing seasons where they can earn 100% of the box office and make that little bit of extra money to help pay their way to APAM,’ said Spatz.

‘We’ve got work from Queensland,  South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia and work across theatre, dance and music. It’s a really exciting opportunity for Brisbane locals to finally get a chance to experience what APAM is and see world-class Australian work on Brisbane stages. And then we’ve also got quite a significant program of large-scale outdoor work, presented with our partner, Brisbane City Council, which I think is incredibly exciting because it helps us showcase Brisbane as a city.’

Two of the outdoor events will be open to the general public, including Branch Nebula’s Snake Sessions at Paddington Skate Park, a collaboration with the local skater community.

‘The free public program also includes three nights of music and entertainment on the Turbine Platform at Brisbane Powerhouse. We’ll have work from Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, and a range of Australian artists, and that will create a really great party atmosphere. It’s going to be a really great program where the general public and APAM delegates can mingle together and hang out.

‘So I’m really looking forward to the next APAM; I think it’s going to be a really special one,’ Spatz concluded.

Australian Performing Arts Market
www.performingartsmarket.com.au
19-23 February 2018

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R.

The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the board of literary journal Going Down Swinging and on the Committee of Management for La Mama Theatre. He is a former member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.

Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts

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