By Jim McCarthy Jun 3, 2009 0 comments

2 Frame-Breaking Strategies for Theatres to Build Audience Faster

Yesterday, we talked about a 3 painfully 20th Century Things that Theatres Do, and in the intervening 24 hours, I’m sure venues across the land have reversed course on all of them. :)

So, just to keep you busy today and tomorrow, I have a couple of ideas that are what I consider frame-breakers.  I’ve talked about frame-breaking before, and it’s important.  Here’s a little snippet from my earlier entry on the topic:


“This is a worldwide time of frame-breaking.  Almost nothing is too bold to be unacceptable now.  Very few of the old norms will withstand the next few years in business, entertainment, and in many other areas of our lives.  This is not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, but it is real.  That little voice in your head telling you that things are changing rapidly is the one you need to be listening to.

At TED, Daniel Liebeskind said ‘We always respect the well-mannered box.’

But it may just be that the age of the well-mannered box is over.”

And in the intervening months, I’m more confident than ever that this is true.  The world is not just changing.  Hell, the world is ALWAYS changing.

Instead, the world is being re-made, and it’s the frame breakers who will decide what it looks like when the process is done.

So with all that build-up, here they are:

Start before the show starts; don’t end when the show ends.

All the media technology that has developed over the last couple decades has facilitated fan obsession in a way that was never possible before.  If you were, say, a fan of a certain musician 30 years ago, you could go see a concert, buy a t-shirt and wear it, read a fan magazine, possibly get together with other fans at an annual convention, but then what?

In other words, it was hard to be a total geek for something in those days.  It’s much easier now.

But what are most theatres or live entertainment venues doing to capitalize on that? Pretty close to nothing, I’d say.

Who’s to say, though, that a “show” has to be contained within the well-mannered couple of hours that you’re sitting in your seat in the venue?

Several years ago, there was a game called Majestic that crossed just about every boundary that a video game can cross.  You played it on the computer, but on its time, not yours.  You got emails, faxes, even phone calls from (automated) people within the game that would give you information in real time that you had to react to.

In other words, the game came to you, and the subject matter was creepy enough that, frankly, after a couple weeks, I found it unsettling.  (Then 9/11 hit, and the whole thing felt so wrong for the moment that I think it folded.)

But taking the core of that idea, does a show have to start and end in the two hours you’re in the building?  Is there some way that you, as a participant, can get involved before and after in a way that feels important to the experience?

Another way to think of this is the way that the TV show Lost has made “the Lost experience” part of being a fan.  They’ve created a world of content and participation that makes Lost more than just a show for its fans.

What’s interesting is that although it’s difficult to create this, it isn’t expensive.  It’s about content creation, which theatres and other venues should be good at.  It’s about hustle, not resources.

The payoff is that your fans take over.  Go check out Lostpedia and see what happens when you give fans something more to sink their teeth into.

How can live entertainment venues do this?  I leave that to the professional content creators, but I’m confident it can contribute dramatically to audience development and success in the venues that figure it out.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Making Sure You’re Not Starting from Zero on Each Show.

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