Industry Pro Newsletter: Do 'Influencers' Bring in An Audience?

Across the pond, a dispute at Guildhall over teaching standards leads to Patsy Rodenburg’s Departure

By: Mar. 04, 2024
Industry Pro Newsletter: Do 'Influencers' Bring in An Audience?
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As theatre marketers continue to try and find new ways to market their shows - and in a very crowded Broadway season new ways to break through the noise - there is a strong trend to chase the next shiny thing. One of those elements of marketing that is newer to the marketplace is the use of influencers - but Cara Joy David got out and did some on the ground reporting to uncover whether or not the influencers are actually being influential. Elsewhere, we have some more job shifts, including the departure of Patsy Rodenburg from Guildhall school, a signal of a major shift in the way UK actors are being trained.

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Employment Opportunity

Finance Manager - Dramatists Guild Foundation

Dramatists Guild Foundation (DGF) seeks a self-motivated and efficient professional to help provide support to our Finance department. Reporting to the Director of Operations and Finance, the Finance Manager will assume responsibility for financial reporting, non-profit bookkeeping, accounting services and other administrative responsibilities to support the Finance department.

Industry Trends

Industry Trends Weekly: Do Theater Influencers Have a Huge Influence on Ticket Buyers? By Cara Joy David

In recent years, we’ve talked a lot in the theater about influencers. There is good reason for this—in terms of the broader landscape, influencer marketing has grown to an over $20 billion industry, as per numerous studies. According to a post by SlickText, 38% of shoppers rely on influencer reviews when online shopping. But I’ve long wondered whether influencers are directly selling theater tickets. And, in my polling of 200 theatergoers, the answer was: “Very very rarely.”

That’s not to say influencers are irrelevant. The Broadway League demographic survey has some stats that may shed light on how they are useful. “What motivated you to see this show?” is one of the questions asked on the League survey and, while TikTok isn’t an answer option oddly, 7.3% of decision-makers selected Instagram as one of the motivating factors, 2.5% Facebook and 1.8% Twitter. (I should note that the percentages all add up to over 100% because you can select multiple entries, so I think a hard number would be more useful than a percentage, but I don’t decide these things.) While most of this is likely from friends/family on social media, and could also include any of the theater sites promoting content on those sources, I don’t doubt that some of this is influencer impact. Additionally, “Where do you look for theatre information?” is another question on the survey and a considerable amount of people get some of their theater information from those three social media outlets, with just over 1/5 of survey respondents getting information from Instagram.

But the League doesn’t ask patrons to rank the primary driver in their ticket purchase. (Individual shows sometimes do in their own research surveys. I’ve heard various figures from producers throughout the years—and most are similar to what I found. Though it has varied to a certain extent show to show.) That’s what I asked of people—what truly drove their purchase. I went to musicals as well as plays from last spring to this fall; I did not poll at any show running over two years. For Shucked, a show that several people told me greatly benefited from influencers, I spoke to twenty people during previews and then another fifteen people later in the run. In total, two of 200 people I spoke to said an influencer was the primary reason they purchased a ticket. Both of those people were under 30. Several others had seen influencer content, but that content was not the primary reason they purchased tickets. (Source material, stars, personal recommendations, and press topped the reasons; show specific obviously.)

There are likely many reasons that influencers are not driving ticket sales. According to the League, last season the average theatergoer was 40.4 years old, older than the typical influencer target. Theater tickets are generally expensive, so it may take more than one person’s word to take the plunge and buy. But, additionally, most influencers that push theater consistently are so-called "theater influencers" and primarily have their content pushed to theater fans. Therefore, of the people I spoke to who had seen influencer content, all had spoken to friends about the show and had read press on it. The results would perhaps be different if a wider range of influencers were pushing theater regularly.

Broadway/New York

Scott Ellis To Remain Second Stage Theater's Interim Artistic Director Through 2025-26 Season

Scott Ellis will continue serving as the Interim Artistic Director of Second Stage Theater until the conclusion of the 2025-26 season. Ellis took over last season following the passing of longtime Artistic Director Todd Haimes. The board is currently undergoing an extensive search for a new Artistic Director to take the helm in 2025 and overlap with Ellis.

American Theatre: HERE Announces New Leadership Structure

HERE Arts Center has announced a new leadership structure, with Artistic Director Kristin Marting stepping out of her role. Amanda Szeglowski has been promoted to Co-Director, and the company is searching for two other co-directors to ideally be in place by June. The leadership changes reflect HERE's commitment to fostering collaboration and innovation in the arts, as well as its dedication to supporting emerging artists and experimental theater. With the new leadership team in place, HERE looks forward to a dynamic future of artistic exploration and community engagement.

Regional

American Theatre: Managing Director Frank Mack to Leave Charleston Stage

Frank Mack, the Managing Director of Charleston Stage, has announced his departure from the organization to take on the same role at Encore Musical Theatre Company in Michigan. He was the first Managing Director in Charleston Stage’s history.

International

Waterloo Region Record: Citing Harassment of Staff, Governance Concerns, Waterloo Region Halts Arts Fund

Waterloo Region has suspended its arts fund due to concerns over harassment of staff and governance issues within the arts sector. While the suspension of the arts fund is intended to address these issues, it also raises questions about the future of arts funding in the region and the broader impact on cultural institutions and artists. The move underscores the need for accountability and transparency within the arts community, as well as a commitment to fostering safe and inclusive work environments.

The Guardian: Patsy Rodenburg Departs Guildhall Over Teaching Standards Dispute

Rodenburg is one of the preeminent teachers of voice and breath work in the world, and has worked with Guildhall and the Royal Shakespeare Company for more than four decades. Her departure comes as the school (and many schools across the globe) continue to shift their focus away from preparing students for a life in theatre, and more towards work in film and television.

Missed our last few newsletters?

February 26, 2024 - North Carolina Theater Files for Chapter 11, Second Stage Gives Up the Kiser

The restructuring of the industry continues - in North Carolina, Raleigh has lost one of its major institutions (for the time being) as North Carolina Theater suspends their 2024 season and files for bankruptcy. The labor movement continues to notch wins in New York, as the Atlantic Theater workers have voted to join IATSE. All of this, as Cara Joy David explores, as the contraction continues in the field of arts criticism.

February 20, 2024 - Who Benefits from the NYS Tax Cut for Broadway?

Another regional theatre has announced their closure, with Cutting Ball in San Francisco becoming the latest to look at their financial situation and decide that there was no viable path forward. This is something that we’ve been watching closely at BroadwayWorld, and moving forward we’ll have more coverage here and in our marketing update about the things that are working for theatres that have found a way to thrive in the new normal, and what is contributing to the closure of other theatres that haven’t been able to find their footing post-pandemic.

February 12, 2024 - AEA Members Authorize Strike, Boston Theaters Fight for Survival

AEA members voted to authorize a strike against the Broadway League of the development agreement - while this doesn’t mean the union will call a strike immediately, it does give them another bargaining chip in their ongoing negotiations with the League over the development contract. Regionally, we have a lot of stories of announced retirements and new leaders stepping into roles at institutions of all shapes and sizes. We’re also sharing a Boston Globe story this week that details the struggles of Boston area theaters to emerge from the pandemic.

BroadwayWorld Resources

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