The Arts Council of England?s Contemporary Music Network (CMN Tours) is a funder and producer of 10 to12 contemporary music projects each year, writes Marcel Jenkins.
Established in 1971 by Annette Morreau, it aims to increase the range and access of high-quality contemporary music to audiences across England.

Unknown Public (UP) is a subscription-based journal that aims to inform and enlighten with its own unique compilation CDs and associated essays and writings. Attracting new audiences for a one-off live experience to the kind of music that they both promote is difficult in an increasingly competitive marketplace, so what better than a free, beautifully packaged CD sampler of the CMN Tours? 2000/2001 touring season, mailed to both CMN and UP mailing lists and distributed through 40 venues across the UK, to get the message across? Descriptive publicity material with strong images can only go so far in communicating the wide range of music which CMN produces, and it was felt that a sampler CD would give audiences the chance to connect the description directly with listening to the music in advance of the tour.

The core principles of the project were discussed and agreed with designer Lucy Ward: high production values; comprehensive artist and recording information; tour dates and venue contact details; free distribution to audiences; and a product that would have life beyond that particular touring season. It was important to establish the best way of using the CDs to help sell tickets and to monitor new audiences, and to enable the impact of the CD as a marketing tool to be evaluated. With this in mind the design incorporated tear-off slips ? one for each tour ? which would include tour date information and could be exchanged at the box office for a ticket discount. The designer worked out a shape for the packaging that incorporated tear-off slips, so that once all were removed the CD booklet would fit into a CD rack.

UP?s expertise covered licensing, contacts, selection of tracks, editing, and information gathering on the technical aspects of the recording ? none of which should be underestimated in terms of time, cost and energy. The final CD, entitled ?.comp? was a real treat. It contained one track from each of the forthcoming tours in the same order as the tours, and really worked as an album.

Distributing the CD was a particular challenge. To comply with the Data Protection Act, CMN needed to clean its mailing list so .comp was offered as an incentive to re-join the free list. As well as mailing the old list, the offer was advertised on tour publicity material for the whole season, and on the CMN website. There was an excellent response from people across the country and requests came in from all over the world. The volume of response, however, was difficult to manage. Information arrived in four different formats - by letter/fax, telephone, email and through the website - so recording and collating it was a difficult and time-consuming process. CMN?s free mailing list grew from nothing to nearly 3,000 over six months, but because of the scale of the project and the number of venues and different box office systems involved it was impossible to make full use of the tear-off slips. Because of this it was impossible to fully monitor the effects of .comp in terms of actual attendance at CMN events and most of the feedback was anecdotal. But we still get requests for it and there is a valuable legacy for CMN, UP and the artists featured.


Marcel Jenkins was formerly CMN Administrator for the Arts Council of England e: trigger31@talk21.com Some copies of .comp are still available. To obtain a copy contact CMN t: 020 7973 6504 w: http://www.cmntours.org.uk e: cmntours@artscouncil.org.uk