AGENCY MODEL

WHERE IT STARTED:

Over the past 5 years BAU has been hosting an ongoing series of Open BAU Meetings. These meetings have been a valuable opportunity for the independent dance and performance scene to convene, exchange ideas and discuss their own unique attributes, needs and dreams as a diverse and independent sector in the performing arts.

Each Open BAU Meeting included an introduction to BAU and an update on BAU’s activities and was dedicated to a specific topic or question, most often with a guest host and/or guest speaker. During the meetings there was also time set aside for the makers to present and share their comments, questions and concerns. 

It is from those meetings that a collective call for a new agency emerged from the makers themselves. The BAU New-Agency Research Project is a reaction to that call from the scene and the focus of two Open BAU Meetings.

WHERE WE ARE NOW: Proposed model of the agency

The partner venues and programmers, the agency members and makers, the digital platform, and the office – they together are the agency.

KEY FINDINGS

IDENTITY: Cultivating and facilitating a new identity based on diversity

The independent scene in Amsterdam is very diverse. That is a strength, but a new agency representing this scene will need to cultivate a more coherent identity that celebrates the diversity of the scene and the wide range of work that is made. This is a topic that has been discussed often by the BAU Core Team, and put to the makers themselves in the Markers Survey in 2019.

It will take time for the scene to become more unified and more marketable/sellable as a concept. With this in mind we have developed an agency model that is scalable; starting small and local, and able to expand organically as the participation of the scene grows. The more work that gets sold via the platform, the more likely makers would be interested in being a part of it. The more presenters utilise the platform to book work, the more opportunities there will be for work to be presented.

A number of smaller collectives such as Jacuzzi have emerged more recently around a shared education, a shared history or shared ideals which could serve as inspiration and model for the larger scene.

BAU can provide space for meeting and dialogue, and the agency can provide a platform where work to be seen, but the makers will ultimately decide how to define their sector.

MARKETPLACE: Representation and selling

  • The new agency will focus on the selling and the (re)presentation of work that is ready-to-be-shown. In our model the agency will not produce. De-coupling will allow the agency to serve many more artists at one time, and react more quickly to changes in the marketplace.
  • The agency will essentially “sell” the concept of a vibrant Amsterdam independent dance and performance scene while promoting the work of individual makers. This will work best if a larger number of makers participate and the range of work made in our scene becomes more visible – to each other, to the audience, to the programmers and to policy makers. 
  • In its starting phase the agency will not sell individual work, but will sell the concept of the new POW platform to venues/spaces> In this way they will become collaborative, curatorial partners with the agency. These partner venues will choose works from makers associated with the agency to create unique events for their public. In that way the agency will function more like a vibrant “marketplace” and less like an “exclusive store”

THE WORK: In the spotlight 

The new agency will work to make the field more visible. It will do this first and foremost by promoting and showcasing the wealth of inspiring productivity in the field.

Most existing agencies in our field currently promote makers, often over a longer period of time. We have heard again and again throughout our research that programmers and curators like to develop long term, trusted relationships with the artists. Some artists also like being allied to a certain venue. While this is a proven concept, the result is that only a limited number of makers who manage to produce work on a regular basis (generally within the project subsidy mechanism) have the possibility of being represented by an agency. 

Unlike their more structurally or institutionally supported colleagues, independent makers do not always create in standard formats, nor do they create works on a regular or seasonal basis. Without fulfilling standard formats, nor being on the radar consistently, these makers can have a difficult time connecting with venues, programmers and curators who could support and present their work. In order to give experimental work, incidentally produced work, and work produced for uncommon or unknown spaces a platform, this agency puts “the work” in the spotlight, not the maker.

DIGITAL/HUMAN: Combining the best of both worlds

  • An agency needs a human face and a person or team to meet or speak with. This was made clear by both the makers and the programmers. Members of our focus group believe direct contact is vital for a properly functioning agency.
  • Digital technologies on the other hand offer new routes to direct engagement and marketing. A digital platform that is accessible to makers allows them to take representation into their own hands.
  • Combining both forms of representation in smart ways will allow for a cost-effective structure and the possibility for the agency to grow organically over time.