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How doubling down on NetX breathed new life into digital assets at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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About Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Founded in 1958, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater consists of multiple departments:

  • The Joan Weill Center for Dance in New York City
  • Two touring dance companies
  • One full-time dance school
  • Public classes through The Ailey Extension
  • A number of community arts education programs
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The Challenge

With over sixty years of photography, program collateral, and video from each of these departments, Alvin Ailey’s digital archives run deep. When Chad Sutton was brought on board as director of information technology five years ago, he was faced with a six-year-old on-premise DAM (NetX Digital Asset Management Software) that had never been formally implemented due to a lack of time and ownership. Most of the team’s resources were aimed at running the solution, rather than configuring and using the system. None of the assets were tagged, no one could easily find what they were looking for, and Alvin Ailey’s digital history was in danger of slipping through the cracks.

Alvin Ailey's Goals

Alvin Ailey needed a system that could allow parties in multiple departments to quickly find digital assets to support marketing efforts, educational initiatives, and community outreach. They required a DAM to be:

    • Well-organized
    • Intuitive to use
    • Easy to integrate with other systems
    • Simple to share assets outside the organization

The Solution

Alvin Ailey fixed the problem of findability by hiring a DAM consultant with a library sciences background to work with Sutton and other stakeholders throughout the organization to create an org-wide taxonomy and metadata schema.

Next, with all their digital assets properly categorized and tagged, Alvin Ailey took another look at their DAM to make sure NetX was still the right choice for them. After reviewing other vendors against the latest version of NetX, Alvin Ailey determined NetX was the best option available.

It met their criteria:

  • The tagging and metadata system allowed them to organize their assets
  • The Brand Portal made finding and downloading assets intuitive for everyone
  • The fully-documented API opened up possibilities for integration with other systems

It made it simple to securely share links from within NetX with reviewers, venues, and others outside the organization

Implementation

Sutton and his team went through NetX’s onboarding process to ensure the software was fully implemented and configured to their needs. This included building on the DAM consultant’s efforts by integrating the new taxonomy schema into the software in a way that best leveraged NetX’s functionality.

NetX’s team also helped Alvin Ailey convert their on-premise license to a cloud-based solution that requires less maintenance and upkeep.

After launching the newly rebuilt system, Sutton identified and trained content managers in every department to manage uploading and tagging assets.

Outcomes

Now, stakeholders from throughout the organization can quickly find what they’re looking for via top-level folders or the search interface. “The Brand Portal is night and day,” said Sutton. “There’s nothing distracting or confusing in the interface; it’s very clean and easy to use.”

Alvin Ailey can also more easily and securely share assets with reviewers, venues, and others outside the organization. Rather than searching for and uploading the correct assets to a file-sharing service, users can now simply and securely share links to assets in NetX.

Lastly, because Alvin Ailey no longer has to manage their own servers, their DAM is now less expensive — and less cumbersome — to run.

“Everyone we talked to on NetX’s consulting team — their professional services people, engineering people, and support people — they were all great to work with,” said Sutton. “NetX went from the vendor we were ready to cut loose to the vendor we all love.”

Photo by Andrew Eccles. Ailey company members Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Photo by Andrew Eccles (150 dpi)
Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation’s home, The Joan Weill Center for Dance. Photo © Frederick Charles
“Everyone we talked to on NetX’s consulting team — their professional services people, engineering people, and support people — they were all great to work with. NetX went from the vendor we were ready to cut loose to the vendor we all love.”
Chad Sutton - Director of Information Technology, Alvin Ailey

Chad Sutton
Director of Information Technology, Alvin Ailey

Media courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

  • Alvin Ailey and Judith Jamison, 1969. Photo by Jack Mitchell. © Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Inc. and Smithsonian Institution.
  • Ailey company members Samantha Figgins and Jeroboam Bozeman, 2018. Photo by Andrew Eccles.
  • Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation’s home, The Joan Weill Center for Dance. Photo © Frederick Charles
  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jamar Roberts and Jacqueline Green in A Case of You by Judith Jamison. Photo by Paul Kolnik (150 dpi)
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