(The following article by Ken Davenport appeared on Mashable, June 26th, 2009.)
Ken Davenport is a Broadway and Off-Broadway producer and the founder of the social networking website, BroadwaySpace.com. He is the author of TheProducersPerspective.com, a blog about producing theater, and was featured in an iPhone commercial.
Broadway is one of the biggest businesses in New York City, with almost a billion dollars in sales reported for this past season alone. Amazingly, though, this powerhouse that provides so much fuel for the economic engine of the city itself, is about ten years behind in terms of its adoption of new technology, such as social media.
It makes sense, however. The majority of today’s Broadway audience were born well before the PC era. Marketing 101 will tell you to speak to your audience in the language that they understand, and one of Broadway’s prime demos is the “55 Year Old Woman.” But for the people in our industry that recognize tomorrow’s audience grew up in front of a laptop instead of a TV, there is a concerted effort to begin to speak in the new language of social media.
And as luck would have it, doing so helps us overcome one of the greatest challenges we have in the industry: the permission to speak to our customers.
Broadway producers, are like movie producers and book publishers, in that we don’t actually sell our product directly to our customers. All of our tickets are distributed through third party ticketing agents like Telecharge and Ticketmaster (and the ever growing StubHub-like “secondary market”). Since we are not a part of the transaction process, we have no access to the customer’s information, thereby making it impossible for us to know who exactly is purchasing our product and negating any opportunity for us to market to our customers directly. It’s a Marketing Director’s worst nightmare.
Social Media has given Broadway, and the other industries like it, a workaround to this communication issue. Here’s how a few shows are using it to their advantage.