How a concert crushes a Broadway show when it comes to marketing.

Have you been to a concert lately?

Look around the theater at any point during the night, and you’ll see thousands . . . that’s right . . . thousands of smartphones and even dumbphones in the air, taking photos and shooting video.  And I’d bet that at least 75% of that content gets shared in some public way: through social media, or email, or just showing it off at the water cooler.

Just think about that for a second . . . so at one concert performance, just one, there are thousands upon thousands of photos and videos of the event shared tens of thousands of times.

And it costs the entertainer nothing.  The audience becomes their advertising agency. For freebies.

This can’t happen at Broadway shows, of course.  The concert experience is a different one than the theatrical, not to mention that it would be way too distracting to the rest of the crowd (although at Godspell, we pulled off the Tweet Seats with no disruption to the rest of the audience at all).

But just because something can’t happen, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognize the power of the initiative and find some way around our obstacles.

For example, could we allow encourage the taking of photos and videos during the curtain call?  What about before the show?  (I still see ushers telling patrons to put away their cameras every now and then . . . when all these folks are doing is taking a pic of the curtain!?!)   Could we allow it during one immersive-like number in a show?  Could we . . .

Wait.  I’ve got an idea.

But I bet you’ve got others.

I tell you what, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.  Just give me a couple o’ weeks.

In the meantime, comments are open to hear what you think we should do!

  • Matt says:

    But a concert is a highly limited experience. Even in a case like Billy Joel’s run at the Garden, each individual show is a unique experience. The recordings are one of the few ways for people to commemorate and share that experience.

    While, as much as we like to tout live theater of being “different” each night due to certain variables (audience reactions, for example) the intended performance as a whole is repeated 8 times a week….ideally for years on end.

    That being said, I am ALL FOR the recent increase in streamed/taped stage productions. Let Netflix’s taping of Oh, Hello usher in a wave of recordings. Sure, there’s the debate over broadcasting shows while they are still on Broadway versus waiting for closing, but I think either option gets more eyeballs on your show. And isn’t that the ultimate goal?

  • Erin says:

    Some of my favorite photos to capture and share surrounding a Broadway show are stage door photos after the show. It’s exciting hoping that you will be able to see some of the main actors up close. I think it’s an opportunity for actors to spend a few minutes of their time to convert audience members into lifelong fans.

    I definitely give actors bonus points for spending the extra time at the stage door, and I even find myself thinking a little less of those who don’t come out.

    I understand that not everyone has the time or energy to do autographs or individual photos after every single performance. However, every time I am waiting at a stage door after a show and hoping that someone in particular will come out, I think to myself…if they would just step outside and wave, I would be completely satisfied!

    If it was common for the main actors to at least make a short appearance at the stage door, many more people would wait at the stage door, and many more photos marketing the show would be shared.

    I don’t know any Broadway actors personally, so I would love to hear what they think about the stage door experience from their point of view. It seems like a great opportunity to not only promote the show but to promote themselves as actors, and yet, not everyone is doing it.

  • AnnW says:

    Aren’t there sections of many musicals called the reprise? That is where they sing half the same song again. Why not let people record or take photos of this number or another limited period? Also add the curtain calls. If these limited free for alls get posted to Facebook, Instagram, etc, the production will benefit. Why not have a trial period for this notion, and see what happens.


    Dress rehearsal before the show begins previews.Open the house to the public either through free tickets or low cost tickets with the proceeds going to the actors fund.State that audience members are encouraged to take photos and share on social media.Could also offer 2 free tickets to a regular performance for the top 3 who have the most shares by opening night.

  • TC says:

    You are 100% right that Broadway needs to address this issue, because in just a decade or two, everyone who goes to shows will be a person who films and posts their lives for all to see. Are any of them really going to want spend big bucks to sit silently enjoying a show they cannot share ever at all except with verbal recommendation? Probably not so much.

    My ideas for the interim transition period?
    1. How about social seating sections? The whole mezz alit with smart phones sharing while the premium stuffy ticket buyers enjoy their concert like statues in the orchestra. Or everyone in the balcony gets to be out of their seats filming and dancing.

    2. Social Session Saturdays or Sundays—what if certain performances or even rehearsals/tech were advertised as social sharing opportunities like batting practice?

    3. Social Show Week—a week a each season set aside to allow social sharing from all houses all week. Not only would it generate a ton of press, it would build the brand of Broadway as an institution as a whole. Even if we’re all separate show states, that week, we would be one Unites States of Broadway. Garnering so many impressions in a massive burst would be an opportunity to share our passion with billions more people around the world. The educated elite and international tourists already come here, but most people see it as inaccessible or snooty partially because they have no basis for understanding it. Most folks have never been to a show and may never get that opportunity, unless they have a personal connection to it and decide to make it a priority. I want to get “go see a Broadway show” on more bucket lists in middle America and beyond.

    4. Right now, Broadway needs to get into this century and at least let people take photos in the theatre before and after the show. It’s never a young persons phone ringing and disturbing the audience in the middle of a performance, its a blue hair who can’t figure out how to silence their phone. Shoot there might even be technology that block phones from making sound signals while inside, but allow outgoing signals to share.

    When I’ve gone to see concerts on Broadway, it’s not just the lack of smartphones that makes it less like a concert, it’s the general stuffiness of everyone in the audience sitting completely still and stone faced, not singing along. When I finally saw Mamma Mia, I thought, yes here’s a show where people will be dancing in the aisles and really having themselves time like you see in the commercials, but no, there my friend and I were, the only ones swaying side to side in our seats just mouthing the words silently that we longed to sing out. Everyone else sat there like they weren’t in the room with a party, rather watching it like a TV—disengaged and not a part of the party.

    Most musicians don’t perform in a vacuum so people can sit silently watching. They perform to elicit emotional responses from the audience and feed off that fervor and energy in the room. I’d be interested to hear their perspective on how playing to a non-reactive seated Broadway crowd effects their song choices and overall performance. I know its challenging as hell for me to sit silent and still when I want to be up dancing and singing along.

    It’s all about engagement on social—what’s the point of doing it if no one can see it? When a tree falls in the forest, it makes a sound, but if no one is watching/listening it falls on deaf ears and never happened. We’re always trying to drive engagement on social with our shows, but then at the theatres themselves, its not just discouraged, but completely banned? That’s counterintuitive and bad long term strategy.

    I wish more in our industry would not just embrace change, but seek it out and actively participate in moving it forward. The only constant is change and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

  • Thought the same thing last week at Cold Play. 80,000 phones snapping and posting for 2 hrs. Engagement and sharing is encouraged, and the marketing value is beyond measure. Know it’s a different animal, but lack of opportunities for sponsorship integration would be considered a related “miss”.

    Whatever the time is that’s most appropriate to snap/share (good ideas above), ideally it becomes an industry standard where theater-goers know when it’s time and you can have some fun. Tough in a more serious setting, but that’s no different for serious musicians.

    Great initiative – good luck

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