It seems that the theatre is dying. But…
Broadway audiences 2015-2016
While the Broadway League reports a record breaking 13.3 million admissions to Broadway shows in 2015-2016, our smaller theaters struggle to keep the lights on.
63 percent of those Broadway ticket purchases were from tourists, a demographic that does not seem drawn to smaller regional and community theaters. Why not? Why don’t people from out of town want to go see local theater?
Broadway is a theatre destination, synonymous with glamorous musicals and a history of producing excellent new work from people like David Mamet and Sam Shepard. This certainly helps. Broadway doesn’t seem to be in danger of shutting down anytime soon.
But what about the regional and community theaters in the non New York markets? How do we get people coming to those shows?
What we need is more marketing!
A lot of weight is put on theater marketing. “If only one of our marketing campaigns went viral!” “This YouTube video has 5000 views but no one is coming to the show.” “Our Facebook page has 300 likes but our seats were almost empty last night. WHY?”
All the social media marketing in the world likely wont pull enough weight to put butts in every one of your seats. That doesn’t mean we should eliminate our marketing efforts.
Social media, email lists and word of mouth are still valuable in developing an audience but as much as we like to think “I just need a better marketing campaign.” marketing alone isn’t the answer.
What we really need are people that love theatre. We need people that WANT to go see plays, new works and established pieces.
A Penniless Theatre
We need people that want to put money into producing staged work.
I wrote this short article on a penniless theatre years ago. It briefly touches on what I think we need, a show business renaissance.
Not only do we need people to invest money in shows and actors but we need people to invest money in both theatre education and general education.
Arts Education is Paramount
Arts in Education builds theatre audiences and it has a whole host of other benefits, too.
- According to the Broadway League, the average age of the Broadway theatregoer, was almost 44 years old.
- Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 80% had completed college and 40% had earned a graduate degree.
Educated people are theatregoers.
Some interesting theatregoer demographics.
While we’re talking about stats, here are some interesting demographics from the Broadway League on Broadway theatregoers:
- Sixty-seven percent of the audiences were female.
- Seventy-seven percent of all tickets were purchased by Caucasian theatregoers.
- Personal recommendation was the most reported influential factor in show selection.
You can read more of these statistics in their Demographics of the Broadway Audience, 2015-2016 season report.
Where’s the interest?
A lack of theatre audience is partially caused by a lack of interest in theatre all together. It’s likely one of the most difficult challenges to overcome, too.
What can your theatre organization do to try and get the next generation interested in going to live shows, outside of the big, splashy Disney/Andrew Lloyd Webber productions that proliferate Broadway?
Here are a few ideas:
- We absolutely must create work that interests and inspires young people. This is a tall order. With YouTube, NetFlix, Nintendo and iPads the competition is stiff. For me, seeing a high school production of Peter Pan when I was fifteen inspired me to want to be an actor.
- We have to produce engaging work. I am not saying it has to be Tony award winning material, but our work has to be good. I’ve seen a number of shows that, if I was not an actor myself, may have contributed to me not bothering to see a live show again.
- We’re going to need some serious and repeated positive word of mouth about our shows. Social media can get the word out, and of course our social media campaigns should engage with blog/text, video, social channels etc. If people aren’t saying good things about your show, developing your audience will be very difficult.
- Teach and inspire. From my own experience I can think of no greater way to build an audience than to teach and inspire them.
I like to think of this blog as a place we can all share and develop ideas that will ultimately strengthen our theatre community and help us develop audiences in the 21st century. This topic is a challenging one.
Please comment and share.
I would love to hear your thoughts on helping to build the 21st century theatre audience.
Please leave your thoughts in the comments and share this article on Facebook, Twitter or whatever fine social media channels you enjoy.