Sunday, June 5, 2011

Digital Marketing Leads Theatre and the Entertainment Industry Into the Future

Our Time

Broadway and theatres around the country have really begun to jump on the digital marketing bandwagon. Discounts, blogs, Twitter, video teasers, Facebook ads and fan pages are all at our beck and call. A few brilliant theatre professionals have even experimented with streaming live productions. It’s most definitely a new age.

Remember the early days of the Internet, when the movie and film industry would spend huge amounts of money to make sure tantalizing video trailers would appear before our eyes every time we logged on? Well, we’d have to wait several minutes for it to download, but we waited because it was something new and exciting. 

Now we have YouTube and many other ways all of us can now share video content with a few simple clicks of the mouse. We now live in a digital society. Television, radio, cell phones, mobile devices, Internet, social media… all digital. Just to think, I can still remember when the only reference to something “digital” was my Mom and Dad’s alarm clock.

In a 2008, New York Times (NYT) article, Gregory Schmidt explored Broadway’s step into the online marketing and digital arena. At that time, MySpace was all the rage and a small number of producers began using the new social media outlet to market their shows. Sample songs, video and anything to tease the senses are more effective than old school print advertisements. It’s all about making a connection.

The article went on to feature clever ways Broadway productions were attempting to stand out. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and genius behind In the Heights produced some highly effective parody videos to draw attention to the show. offers one series, capitalizing on the popular MTV series, Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods. Spring Awakening was another Broadway show that capitalized early in the new market.

Broadway Theatre and Digital Marketing
A few ways digital marketing has changed the way theatre’s inform and sell us their product include:
• Targeted Ads and Email Lists Based on Consumer Habits
• Twitter Updates, Live Actor Q&A’s, Special Last Minute Deals
• Facebook Fan Pages and Ads
• Company and Show Websites Featuring Unique Engaging and Interactive Content
• Pictures, Video and Streaming Live Content on Websites, Through Social Media Sites Like YouTube
• Quick and Easy Evaluation of Digital Content for Theatre Marketing Through Free and For-Pay Services such as and
• Links, Contests, Giveaway Promotions, Databases, and so much more

Social Media is the NEW Thing, not EVERYTHING.
Jim Glaub, Creative Director of Art Meets Commerce, made some great observations about using social media at a recent Theatre Resources Unlimited (TRU) panel discussion. He pointed out that targeting social media for advertising was the wrong approach. It should be used for developing relationships and building the brand. Glaub said, “Think of your product as a person and remember that this person has a voice”.

Glaub went on to say that show websites are different from theatre companies’ main websites. He said, “theater companies want to be the brand, but each show also has its own brand.” Moderator Bob Ost reminded that theatres needed to brand the company at the same time as the show, making the most of the opportunity.

The TRU panel also discussed the importance of behavioral targeting on Facebook and through other forms of social media. This is accomplished by the scanning of a consumer’s profile, activities and likes and dislikes, allowing for targeted marketing opportunities. In most cases, people are sharing their preferences without even knowing it.

Live Theatre Streaming Over the Internet
The latest frontier is streaming digital live theatre, for pay, over the Internet and to select movie houses around the country. One of the first projects to experiment, merging live theatre with technology, was Better Left Unsaid in January and February 2011. Shot with multiple cameras and mixed live in front of a studio audience, it was streamed to Internet audiences for $8 per view.

Taping and streaming live performances for broadcast in movie theaters is a relatively new marketing tactic.  The Metropolitan Opera has successfully done this for a few years. Rent: Live On Broadway became the first Broadway show to try this new method of reaching potential audiences across the country. A handful of other productions have followed suit.

Nothing beats a live theatrical performance and nothing will ever replace it. Still, with a nationwide market for Broadway shows and the skyrocketing costs of national tours, streaming live content is a necessary and viable option that can’t be overlooked.

Until teleportation is possible…it’s the next best thing.

Boyett, J. (2010, March 17). New Trends in Marketing for the Arts and Effective Uses of the Internet. Theatre Resources Unlimited. Retrieved June 3, 2011 from

Jacobs, L. (2010, September 22). The Era of Live-Streaming Live Theater Has Arrived. The Clyde Fitch Report. Retrieved June 4, 2011 from

Schmidt, Gregory. (2008, December 25). Broadway’s Marketing Turns Interactive. The New York Times. Retrieved June 2, 2011 from

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