There is a difference between Clients and customers in the business world....and in theatre?
(a riff from one of Seth Godin's blog posts: posts: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/07/clients-vs-customers.html )
For a Customers you might say "I made this and you should buy it". You give them reasons and try to "sell" it. They buy it or they don't. They have no hand in "making" it.
Clients, on the other hand, say "I need this thing," and if you are smart, you find a way to make it for them. Sometimes that doesn't have to be a thing, it can be a service. Like a voice lesson. Or a massage. Or a theatre? Yes, because NPT thinks of itself as a "service" to the community.
The customer doesn't get something custom-built. They have to take what you give them. Most theatres operate this way.
But the client gets to help you create your product or service.
Audience members usually = Customers, to most theatres. Donors sometimes get to make a suggestion or two. Board members always get to air their opinions. But who is providing you with a revenue stream via tickets and butts in seats again?
Should they be clients? Shouldn't you let them, enroll them, into helping you create your "product"? Not superficially thru your Facebook page, but face to face. Genuinely interested in what they have to say.
Yes, Art is a product. But to avoid the argument over "commercializing" art here, let's invite our audience/clients to help us create this "product", or piece of art. Or art venue. We can't dance around the money subject here. It is needed to finance Art. If you are looking to locate your virtual theatre in a community wouldn't it be prudent to scope out local businesses? NOT just to ask them for money, but to ask them what they want in a local, professional, theatre company?
I am not saying you are wrong if you want to paint, sing, create in your basement or for 10 people in a theatre. We need that too. I am just saying that some of our missions need to reflect the idea of Clients/Audience members offering their sometimes wonderful advice and brainstorming ideas to our development.
Enrolling an ever-connected community in your theatre's development is not only smart $$ it's smart Art.