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Roundtable Roundup: Monetizing Online Arts Content

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

On June 15, the Rozsa Foundation hosted a community conversation around the topic of monetizing online arts content. While a comprehensive digital strategy has been a goal of many arts organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic made online content and programming an immediate and pressing project. Simon Brault of the Canada Council for the Arts called the pandemic a "wake-up call for innovation."

The need for online programming may be obvious, but technology and expertise required for its creation, the means of delivering to patrons, and the pricing of events and programs are not typical elements of existing arts models and companies. In fact, they are so new to the field in general, and especially in Calgary, that ready answers are not available.

This is not to say that arts companies and arts creators across the province have not jumped into the ring. Whether driven by immediate revenue needs or enthusiasm for the opportunities inherent in this medium, (or a mix of both!), companies large and small have created and delivered arts events, festivals, and other content online in the past few months. The Rozsa Foundation brought several of these innovators together to discuss their experiences, strategies, rationale, and results with the wider Alberta arts community to both inspire and fuel future projects.

Kerry Clarke of the Calgary Folk Music Festival, Shelley Youngblut of Wordfest, Erin Jenkins of the Calgary Queer Arts Society, and Victoria Bucholtz of Cabaret Calgary joined Simon Mallett on a panel to elaborate on their recent and future online projects. Jason Mehmel of Sage Theatre, Peter Hemminger of the Calgary Quickdraw Animation Society, Mary Jenkins of the Rozsa Center at the University of Michigan, Kodi Hutchinson of JazzYYC, and Xtine Cook of Calgary Animated Objects Society also shared their experiences.

While no definitive answers, processes, or platforms were established, the discussion beautifully showcased the daring, creative, adventurous, and innovative people and arts companies working in and around Calgary. The discussion remains open and on-going, but there is no doubt that the Alberta arts community is facing current challenges head on with enthusiasm and innovation.


Video Timings:

00.00.25 - Geraldine Ysselstein introduction and housekeeping

00.02.16 - Land Acknowledgement video

00.06.20 - Simon Mallett topic introduction and context

00.12.22 - Kerry Clarke of Calgary Folk Music Festival discusses their Virtually Live concert series

00.24.55 - Erin Jenkins of Calgary Queer Arts Society discusses their Online Fairy Tales Film Festival

00.39.28 - Shelley Youngblut of Wordfest discusses their Online Happy Hours and upcoming Eugene-a-thon

00.49.59 - Victoria Bucholtz of Cabaret Calgary discusses their Patreon subscription model and productions

01.03.52 - Simon Mallett introduces the roundtable discussions

01.04.20 - Peter Hemminger of Calgary Quickdraw Animation Society discusses their recent event Animation Lockdown

01.10.57 - Jason Mehmel of Sage Theatre discusses their fundraising efforts at their recent IGNITE! Festival Online

01.13.07 - Peter Hemminger discusses the security risks involved with monetizing on the ZOOM platform

01.14.27 - Mary Jenkins of the Rozsa Center at the University of Michigan discusses their beta testing of moving programming online via Facebook Live

01.19.07 - Simon Mallet wraps up and give some closing remarks regarding some emerging themes:

  • The issue of how to prove value of online arts content vs in-person experiences or other made-for-online content, such as Netflix

  • The timing of moving from free content to paid content. Vertigo will be trying a free trial experience followed by paid experiences.

  • The question of how much to charge proves to be challenging. Most have priced it less than their regular event pricing, but the need to provide some earned revenue to offset production costs remains.

  • There seems to be an opportunity/need for leveraging loyalty; to taylor content towards loyal patrons and supporters while still providing them value for their support.

  • Statistics in the introduction came from a Nanos Research and Business and the Arts study of Canadian arts patrons. This study can be found here:

  • The Rozsa Foundation is partnering with other community funders and Stone-Olafsen research to undertake a similar Alberta-focused longitudinal study. The first findings will be shared the week of June 20, and the information can be found here:

Resources Mentioned:

Calgary Folk Music Festival:

Calgary Queer Arts Society:


Cabaret Calgary:

Calgary Quickdraw Animation Society:

Calgary Animated Objects Society:

We ran the Dolly Wiggler Cabaret on Zoom and restreamed it to Facebook Live, Youtube, Twitch, and Twitter. Artists mostly pre-recorded. Hosts were live. We sold tickets to the Zoom event through Eventbrite, and offered Free tickets if people signed up as “Lurkers” to obtain the social links. We also asked for donations, and had a 50/50 draw, with a chat moderator pasting links into the chat windows of how to do that.


We ran 28 livestreams and 20 pre-recorded videos from April 30 - May 27. No monetization, but a massive learning curve for the technology and audience side of things (Originally was a 3 day live community Festival). Didn't feel monetizing was appropriate in context with the time-frame. Will run monetized fest in November.

Sage Theatre IGNITE!:

Rozsa Center at the University of Michigan:

Simon Mallett Wrap Up:

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