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BWW Blog: Bootlegs - Helpful or Harmful?

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It can be argued that when someone watches a bootleg on YouTube or a filmed version, they no longer want to see the show in person.

Bootlegs are one of the biggest controversies surrounding the theater industry. Many actors claim that bootlegs are harmful to their performances and that they are hurting the Broadway industry as a whole, while many Broadway fans support bootlegs because they allow Broadway to be spread to fans who would not be able to physically see a Broadway show, either because of finances or location. Personally, I believe bootlegs are a good thing for the Broadway community, overall. I am speaking from the perspective of someone who is a designer and audience member, not an actor. I think that Broadway is not accessible to the general public. If someone does not live in New York City, they have to pay for travel, accommodations, food, and then their Broadway tickets on top of it.

As someone who lived in New York City, I was still always rushing shows or trying to find the cheapest tickets because even without paying for those extra things, tickets for shows were still ridiculously expensive. Bootlegs allow people to experience the joy and feeling of seeing a Broadway show without the financial burden. It can be argued that when someone watches a bootleg on YouTube or a filmed version, they no longer want to see the show in person. When it comes to this argument, a prime example we can use to disprove it is the filmed version of "Hamilton" on Disney+. This filmed version was put out to the world for all the people who cannot afford tickets or can go to a city where the show was being put on.

After the release of "Hamilton" on Disney+, TodayTix surveyed their audience about if they still wanted to see the show live after seeing the filmed version. The survey showed that 39% of audience members are more likely to buy a ticket to see Hamilton live after seeing the filmed version. 47% of audience members said that they were unchanged when it came to if they are more or less likely to buy a ticket to the live show. This is actual, physical data showing that bootlegs, or filmed versions of shows, are not going to ruin the theater economy or industry. Personally, I can say that I have seen bootlegs of some of my favorite shows and then went on to see them in person.

At the time of watching the bootlegs, I didn't have access to see those shows live, but I had the opportunity to see them later. I can easily understand where actors who are against bootlegs are coming from. Cameras are very likely to be distracting and could cause a mishap on-stage. Also, stage actors do not sign up to have their performances shared with non-ticketed members of the public. It is important to respect the actors and the people who have created these incredible works of art, but there needs to be an understanding between all the different groups affected by bootlegs. I believe that finding a common ground between the actors and the audience members where shows can be filmed, but still secure, will be incredibly helpful to many in the theater industry.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Paige Rosko