Let’s cut right to it. The results of our 2019 survey have been tabulated and analyzed and I’m excited to share these with you. Some of the data confirmed assumptions I had about Playlist, other data points surprised. Before we dive into the details I’d like to give a huge thanks to our survey consultant: Jamie Schumacher. The work done by Ms. Schumaher was incredibly thorough, and hiring an outside consultant allowed for more honest and candid feedback from our community. With that lets contextualize this data with how it was collected.

Process

Utilizing google forms, our survey was conducted over Oct and Nov of 2019. The survey was distributed through our social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) and our weekly email newsletter. As such, respondents heavily reflect those individuals already connected to Minnesota Playlist. Additionally, two focus groups (facilitated by Ms. Schumcaher) were held on Saturday Nov 9, and Monday Nov 11.

All of this data was compiled and analyzed by Ms. Schumacher over Dec 2019 and Jan 2020 and presented in a final report to me in late Jan 2020. If you’d like the full survey results and accompanying appendices, I’ve made that available via a public google drive folder at the end of this article. The remainder of this article are some of the highlights of the survey along with my reflections on the data.

Statistics 

Target goals

  • 2-4 focus groups of 2-4 people each
    (goal met - 8 total participants over 2 sessions)

  • 10-20 from active talent profiles (3-5% realistically - ideally up to 10%)
    (goal met - 68+)

  • 100 - 400 general responses (2-4% of Facebook likes)
    (goal met - 237)

Survey Subset

  • 90+% of those responding to the survey self-identified as white

  • Less than 10% self-identified as mixed-race of POCI.

  • 95% of survey respondents that shared location were located near and around the Twin Cities metro.


Notable Callouts and Surprises

As Minnesota Playlist turns 13 years old this year it has become an established resource for the performing arts, primarily in the metro and major suburbs. As such there were some “knowns” that the data reinforced. These included:

  • The Minnesota Playlist brand is stable and largely positive.

  • A majority of survey respondents use the site for looking for opportunities, second is posting opportunities, reading: third, calendar: fourth.

  • Classifieds is the most frequently used and traveled section of the website.

  • Highest utilization seems to be within the performing arts industry.

  • The site is not mobile-friendly.

  • Minnesota Playlist user demographics are not aligned with the demographics of the MN community.

  • Perception notes a downward trend in quality and quantity of reviews.

In my third year as owner it was reassuring to see that my understanding of the site’s successes and deficiencies are relatively accurate. But there were some surprises in this survey as well.

The first was that “a significant number of users (40+%) attended a show they learned about via Minnesota Playlist.” This was really exciting to see that Minnesota Playlist is connecting industry individuals to new shows. Typically industry folks are in the know about what is happening in our community. To see that a significant percentage of users are learning about something new was very encouraging. One of my goals for Minnesota Playlist over the next few years is to broaden the site's reach to more general audiences, and this data nugget helps inform that future pursuit

Another surprise was what seems to be a general lack of knowledge of Minnesota Playlist’s business model and how the site works. In light of sharing all this survey information I’d like to take a moment to provide some clarification around Minnesota Playlist’s operations.

  • Minnesota Playlist is a for-profit organization, an intentional choice by founders Leah Cooper and Alan Berks. One of the reasons was to not compete with the granting opportunities that most of our community relies on. Additionally, Minnesota Playlist needs to continue to adapt to provide value to our community. We rely on that value translating into a service and product that the community is willing to pay for. 

  • On average only 18% of annual revenue is earned through talent profiles while 73% of annual revenue is generated from classified ads. The remaining 9% of revenue is generated from business profiles, general advertising, and other small revenue streams. As such, companies, organizations, instructors, producers, etc ensure the ongoing viability of Minnesota Playlist. As the survey highlights there is a need to create new revenue streams that do not rely on an advertising model. Until those streams can be developed talent profiles do remain an important aspect of Minnesota Playlist’s revenue portfolio.

  • Is the site an online journal funded by artists? Is the site a performing arts Craigslist style marketplace with some articles? What is Minnesota Playlist? This was a question that came up in the responses of the survey. Regardless of what you think the site is or isn’t, it has become clear that there is work to do to reach the initial vision of a “virtual town square for Minnesota’s performing arts”. I would go so far as to say that most people probably haven’t read the “about us” page on Minnesota Playlist to get a sense of what the value proposition of Minnesota Playlist is. Hopefully the results of this survey start to pave the way to changes that can work toward achieving that vision.

  • Another misconception that popped up here and there in the survey results is that I’m personally driving content choices. While I certainly make updates to the site and select various highlights I try to minimize my role and certainly attempt to randomize the selections as much as possible. Additionally:

    • Playlist has public calls to the community for writers (we’ll be announcing another request in March of this year)

    • The shows that are reviewed are chosen by the writing team. Writers choose what interests them and what aligns with their schedule.

    • I try to randomize content selections. The next version of the site will have that baked into the operations so it isn’t being selected by me, but is an automated process.

Additionally, there is a misconception about how content appears on the site, or put another way - that I act as a gatekeeper for content in the calendar, classifieds, etc.

  • All postings (classifieds, talent profiles, and calenard listings) are created and posted by the users of the site. This survey highlights that there is a need for improved guidelines around posting. For example: what constitutes a good marketing image for the calendar, what makes a good headshot. This type of guidance should be more clear so users posting content can help maintain a quality look and feel across the website. But like the MN Fringe Festival, the content is not subjected to any kind of critique or censoring other than functional restrictions built into the site itself (ie. minimum size of a file). 

  • The community driven aspect of Minnesota Playlist is the primary focus of the business model. It allows this full-time resource to be managed by two very part time staff (myself and lead editor: Erin McNeil). Any future iterations of the site will continue to maintain this as a core aspect. This means there are tradeoffs: quality, duplicity, etc. But I believe those are acceptable in light of a service that is affordable and whose value remains because of  community created and managed content.

More than anything these misconceptions provide me with a roadmap for the future of the website. Clear communication about what Minnesota Playlist is, how it works, and how it is being financed will hopefully provide the level of transparency that maintains the trust of our community.

Where do we go from here?

This survey represents the first step in a new build of Minnesota Playlist (Playlist 3.0). Having community input remains a critical factor for me as I make decisions to maintain (and hopefully improve) the value of this resource. With that in mind here is a short laundry list of hopes for version 3.0. This list includes both changes to the website and the business itself. In no particular order:

  • Broaden Minnesota Playlist’s value to include more of Greater Minnesota (features, opportunities, etc)

  • Create more randomized functionality in the website to reduce bias.

  • Connect more with communities of color, determine how the site can provide (or currently provides) value, and build or strengthen those aspects.

  • Create a new revenue stream: potentially third-party ticket sales a la Goldstar.

  • Drive traffic to the site from a broader non-industry audience base.

  • Move to free talent profiles to minimize the financial burden to working artists (cost) and consequently provide a more robust database to Minnesota performance companies and producers.

  • Provide additional functionality that automates the connection between artists and talent seeking work (auditions, employment, etc) and those posting opportunities (companies, instructors, etc).

  • Create more value for performing arts technical community members.

  • Create greater interconnectivity of the current functions of Minnesota Playlist: magazine, classifieds, artist and business profiles, and the calendar.

  • Remove third-party advertising entirely, focus on industry-specific, local ads in particular locations.

  • Streamline the site for simplicity and use in mobile format.

  • Provide greater tools for using the site and understanding the ways a user can utilize the site.

I am incredibly grateful to all of the individuals who participated in the survey and focus groups and took the time to provide so much robust and comprehensive feedback. Your input is critical to the future of Minnesota Playlist. If you were unable to participate in the survey or focus group and would like to provide feedback, or if you have feedback on the survey or its results you can email me at [email protected] As always thank you so much for continuing to utilize this service, it remains an humbling experience to steward this incredible community resource.

 

Link to google folder with full survey results.