I was having coffee today with an entrepreneur whose start-up revolves around the performing arts. Although her background is in law and government she is passionate about the arts and determined not only to fight our thirty year audience decline- but to grow the performing arts audience well beyond it’s current base – and who is that base? Well, therein lies a large part of the problem. The same entrepreneur told me a story of being at a show last weekend when the person next to her turned and asked “Who do you know in the show?”, the assumption being the only reason you would buy a ticket is to come support a friend. Why? Because WE ARE OUR AUDIENCE. We are no longer a draw to the lawyers, the babysitters, the waitresses the financiers or the educators of our communities. We perform for ourselves. As Jason Gots said in his recent article about Peter Brook “Why We Need Theater Now More Than Ever”
the small percentage of New Yorkers who ever attend a play fall mainly into two camps: the once-a-year Broadway tourists and the friends of actors, playwrights, or directors.
Art museums have understood for a long while that they can no longer depend on the audience that visits their buildings – their audiences are everywhere and they need to find ways to excite, involve and engage their everywhere audience. The have not shied away from experimenting with new technologies and social media platforms as a way to speak more authentically to today’s wired art enthusiast, and the result is that museums are experiencing a rise in attendance, even as ticket sales to live performance continue on its decline.
What technologies can live performance utilize to expand our audience in our wired world? How can we speak to today’s digital centric community while still being true to the live- performance experience? What darlings must we slay and what aspects of the live-performance experience are sacred? Let’s brainstorm new ways to engage today’s digital community, a community that is eager to create and share, in the live-performing arts.