Guest editorial: The online and offline impacts of Covid-19 on arts and cultural marketing

Ian Fillis (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)
Kim Lehman (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)
Ruth Rentschler (University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Boram Lee (University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)

Arts and the Market

ISSN: 2056-4945

Article publication date: 10 April 2023

Issue publication date: 10 April 2023



Fillis, I., Lehman, K., Rentschler, R. and Lee, B. (2023), "Guest editorial: The online and offline impacts of Covid-19 on arts and cultural marketing", Arts and the Market, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 1-3.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

We are delighted to serve as guest editors of this special issue of Arts and the Market on The online and offline impacts of COVID-19 on arts and cultural marketing.

In our original call for papers, we noted that until recently, consumption of arts and cultural experiences was predominately carried out face to face, with many consumers attending exhibitions, performances and festivals several times per year. Now, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen clearly in terms of a dramatic cultural and economic downturn (Banks and O’ Connor, 2021; Khlystova et al., 2022; Walmsley et al., 2022). Prior to COVID-19 most cultural organisations engaged with the Internet, social media and other digital platforms by interacting with potential and actual audiences. Although a significant percentage of these interactions were initially marketing focussed, an increasing number of organisations were using digital platforms as performance and exhibition “spaces” (Jeannotte, 2021; Rentschler and Lee, 2021). During the pandemic these mechanisms for audience engagement became the only means of providing an arts and cultural experience due to lockdown restrictions. This presented cultural producers and audiences with a limited choice of engagement modes.

Critical to any discussion around the digital offer of cultural consumption is whether the online platform can succeed in delivering the same experiences as a physical visit, or whether a hybrid model of audience engagement is the best way forward. Nonetheless, the position is now much more optimistic as the world returns to some sort of “normal” situation. Galleries and museums are starting to see visitation heading towards pre-COVID-19 levels (da Silva, 2022), and festivals are returning to cultural calendars around the world (Rentschler et al., 2021). Recovery and reset are now the main aims for the sector as cultural organisations are looking to maximise revenues, maintain audiences, and survive in the longer term. Still, there is much to be learnt from exploring how the arts and cultural sectors navigated their way through the last few years of the pandemic.

There are three papers in this special issue plus our own critical literature review. Digital Audio-visual Content in Marketing and Distributing Cultural Products during the COVID-19 pandemic in Greece was written by Maria Matsiola and Nick Grillakis. The aim of the study was to reflect upon the use of digital audio-visual content for the marketing of cultural events in the relative organisations and foundations during the turbulent times of the COVID-19 pandemic by drawing on insight from a series of expert interviews. The main question that the study interrogated was whether the digital audio–visual techniques implemented by cultural foundations and festivals in Greece during the COVID-19 pandemic were efficient in promoting artwork. There was a particular focus on stressing social presence and whether the marketing and distributing processes of artistic and cultural products managed to attract audience engagement and further enhance the foundations' brand. Issues investigated included digital content creation, arts marketing, use of digital media and new technologies, brand identity and strategy building. An effective combination of interesting audio–visual content, precise brand aspirations in terms of identity and vision, are what will lead a foundation to the audience it desires. Adaptability was crucial in assisting the foundations in the turbulent times of a pandemic and creativity is what made some foundations differentiate themselves from others. The digitisation that the pandemic brought can be considered as a positive dimension, since foundations can continue to combine digital and physical spectacles in the future.

“We need to keep making stuff, regardless of what the situation is”: Creativity and the film festival sector during COVID-19 was written by Jessica Pacella. In-person film festival experiences have faced uncertain futures since the spread of COVID-19. Snap-lockdowns, unclear and rapidly changing rules to public density allowances in theatres, distribution and challenges of “working-from-home”, have become prominent issues to creative and cultural workers employed within the film festival ecosystem. The paper drew from a series of interviews with film festival directors, organisers and workers within Australia, offers insight into to the working lives of those employed within the film festival sector during 2020. The results highlight common concerns of the legacy precarity has on professional and creative practice for those engaged in creative and cultural work, but also of unusual and unexpected opportunities for creativity and new film festival delivery beyond the dominant mode of in-theatre only experience pre-COVID-19.

Digital Skills for Performance: a framework for assessing current and future digital skills needs in the performing arts sector was written by Aleksandra Webb and James Layton. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to embrace digital ways of producing work and reaching audiences in hard-hit sectors such as the performing arts. In the context of post-pandemic recovery, this paper explores the notion of digital performance and proposes a framework for categorisation of digital skills currently associated with the digital making and sharing of performance work. It also aims to review the current digital skills offering in performing arts training at Scottish universities and suggests strategies to drive accelerated digital skills development in performance education. While all of the programme specifications mentioned the use of “digital portfolios” and “digital performance”, there was little specific detail concerning “baseline” (transferable) and “specific” (technical) digital skills such as competency in the use of specific technologies. More notably, there was a complete absence of content relating to digital aesthetic identity.

Our own literature review paper, Arts marketing during COVID-19: A critical review and theoretical integration provides clarity on arts marketing during COVID-19 by undertaking a critical review and theoretical integration of published cultural and creative industries (CCIs) data on the pandemic. The study draws on the findings from a content analysis of published refereed journal articles and research reports between 2020 and 2022. This study clarifies how scholars in the arts marketing field have examined the concept and identified core dimensions. It also brings together these conceptual categories into an integrative multilevel framework of relevance for arts marketing during crises, such as a pandemic. The framework outlines interconnected processes as well as dualities, such as digitisation, monetisation and sustainability of the CCIs and poses a future centred on entrepreneurial actions.


Banks, M. and O'Connor, J. (2021), “‘A plague upon your howling’: art and culture in the viral emergency”, Cultural Trends, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 3-18.

da Silva, J. (2022), “Visitor Figures 2021: the 100 most popular art museums in the world—but is Covid still taking its toll?”, The Art Newspaper, available at:

Jeannotte, M.S. (2021), “When the gigs are gone: valuing arts, culture and media in the COVID-19 pandemic”, Social Sciences and Humanities Open, Vol. 3 No. 1, 100097.

Khlystova, O., Kalyuzhnova, Y. and Belitski, M. (2022), “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the creative industries: a literature review and future research agenda”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 139, pp. 1192-1210.

Rentschler, R. and Lee, B. (2021), “COVID-19 and arts festivals: whither transformation?”, Journal of Arts and Cultural Management, Vol. 14 No. 1.

Rentschler, R., Lee, B. and Subramaniam, N. (2021), “Festival innovation in times of crisis”, Event Management, Special Issue on Event Innovation and Resilience During Uncertainty, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 80-101, doi: 10.3727/152599522X16419948695062.

Walmsley, B., Gilmore, A., O'Brien, D. and Torreggiani, A. (2022), Culture in Crisis: Impacts of Covid-19 on the UK Cultural Sector and where We Go from Here, Centre for Cultural Value, Leeds.

About the authors

Ian Fillis is Professor of Entrepreneurship at Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University. He a leading entrepreneurial small business researcher, with other research interests in creativity, cultural entrepreneurship and arts marketing. He is the Editor of the Edward Elgar Handbook on Marketing and Entrepreneurship. He is co-editor of the book Exploring cultural value: Contemporary issues for theory and practice.

Kim Lehman is a Visiting Researcher at Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University. He has extensive research experience in the arts and cultural sectors, with streams investigating marketing, entrepreneurship, development, management, tourism issues and incorporating engagement with the visual arts. He is co-editor of the book Exploring cultural value: Contemporary issues for theory and practice.

Ruth Rentschler OAM is Professor Arts and Cultural Leadership at the University of South Australia. She has published widely including research books, for e.g. The Entrepreneurial Arts Leader Brisbane: University of Queensland Press; Creative Marketing Palgrave MacMillan, London (with Ian Fillis); Routledge Companion to Arts Marketing Routledge, London (with Daragh O'Reilly and Theresa Kirchner); Marketing Museums: Competing in the Global Marketplace Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxon. (with Anne-Marie Hede); Innovative Arts Marketing, Allen and Unwin, Sydney. She has published extensively in journals such as the Journal of Business Ethics, British Journal of Management, Australian Journal of Management, Personnel Review and International Journal of Cultural Policy. She is on the editorial board of various international journals. She is book editor for the International Journal of Arts Management.

Boram Lee, PhD in Finance, is a Senior Lecturer in Arts and Cultural Management, University of South Australia. She specialises in the field of accounting and finance with an emphasis on behavioural studies based on psychological approaches. Boram also has a wide range of research interests in cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary studies, covering the valuation of arts and culture, creative fundraising, arts governance and accountability, artists' labour markets, well-being and entrepreneurship. Prior to her academic life, she managed international tours of highly respected theatre companies, worked as a producer at arts festivals, and participated in many visual arts projects.

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