By Michael Hadjijoseph, Co-founder & CEO.
De-risking experimentation and the future of Discovery in theatre.
Currently, a fraction of new productions might get listed or reviewed online or in print, but when it comes to theatre, space is at a premium. With over 2000 performances every year, good shows still get missed.
On the upside, according to @ticketmaster’s State of play Report 2014, theatre audiences are evolving, becoming increasingly open to “experimentation” and trying new things, as long as they can be confident they will be worthwhile.
There are however certain “norms” within the theatre industry which aren’t necessarily making it easier for people to explore and support new work, in new venues, by new production companies.
Lately, I have read a couple of interesting posts on this subject. For example, @westendwilma questions whether theatre prices are too high for audiences to take a “gamble” on, while @arcstockton takes us through the case study of the ARC who are trying out a new pricing model, essentially asking their audiences to choose how much they want to pay, after seeing the show… hence encouraging them to try out new work. Finally, @lyngardner for the @guardian suggests the introduction of “disloyalty” cards to encourage audiences to try new venues, an interesting idea that’s contrary to the current membership model.
Ticket pricing is hardly the root cause of the problem.
My belief is that pricing is hardly the root cause of the problem. People agree that after having watched a great theatre performance, they believe “if it’s good, then it’s worth the money”.
Lowering the price of a new show, doesn’t actually lower the risk of someone not enjoying it. It just lowers the impact of that risk i.e. they will “lose” less money, which is better but still not great. They’ve still lost their time and energy, which they will never get back.
Discovery should be a credible and trustworthy process.
The key to “de-risking” experimentation in theatre, lies in improving the discovery process. Something we obsess about here at @Stagedoor. Discovering new theatre should be a trustworthy process with personalisation and relevance at the core. Currently, a lot of the more experimental theatre goers rely on word of mouth and people whose opinions they trust.
However, not everyone is in the privileged position to get enough trustworthy opinions on which to base a decision on. This often leaves a lot of theatre goers — especially the newer ones — at the “mercy” of a “chaotic” web, where information is scattered around newsletters, social media, theatre performance reviews, websites etc. and is often oblivious to their personal taste or preferences. At this stage, it is fair to say that any decision they make is quite likely to be a gamble.
The future of Discovery: “replicating word of mouth”
With Stagedoor, we aim to change the way people discover new theatre, hence, making it easier for people to get closer to the industry.
We want to make the process as personalised and social as possible, to enable existing and future theatre goers to have a reliable and trustworthy source where they can discover shows from their favourite venues, theatre professionals, as well as shows recommended by people whose opinions they trust. In many ways, “replicating word of mouth in theatre”.
A lot of other industries have utilised technology and mobile applications to improve on the discovery front. For example @vivino has done it for wines, @foursquare and @zagat for bars and restaurants.
I’m personally a huge fan of Foursquare which in my opinion has nailed “Discovery”.
Living in a big city like London it lets me discover all the cool new bars and restaurants that my friends have recommended, or that suit my personal taste, allowing me to filter quickly through options and get the most reliable source of information there is.
How we aim to do it
This is what Stagedoor is here to do for the theatre industry. Provide the most personalised and reliable source of Theatre information, in every major theatre-loving city of the world.
The team at Stagedoor wants help audiences become more experimental, bring more people closer to theatre and at the same time empower great work to surface at the top.
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