Discover U: Breaking a Leg in the Digital Age
In 2018, Paradise Valley Estates launched a speaker series called Discover U. The series brings invited speakers to our Life Plan Community who share their expertise in science, nature or the arts with residents. The events, which are free, take place in the Club after dinner, a venue that promotes stimulating conversation and informal interchange between residents and speakers.
In February, our guest was Buck Busfield, producing artistic director of the B Street Theatre in Sacramento, who spoke to a near-capacity crowd. Buck shared his insights into what it takes to build audiences for live theatre today.
As newspapers steadily become less important in influencing decisions about leisure activities, social media increases its’ hold on our attention. But it isn’t as simple as switching advertising expenditures from newsprint to digital media. Demographics play a large part. Busfield briefly sketched how lifestyles have changed from the comfortable, safe world we grew up in to the fast-paced, risk-laden one we have now.
The challenge for the box office is how to grow the audience from the small percentage of “Elite Easies” (theatre lovers, steady subscribers) and the larger percentage of “Many Maybes” (those who would become steady customers if you could win them away from television-related entertainment to return to theatre) and tap into the largest percentage of “Seldom Someones” who have never been to live theatre and don’t know what they are missing.
Among this last category are the Millennials, the theatre-goers of tomorrow. They are the greatest challenge and have the most reward potential in terms of audience size. However, they make decisions about how to spend discretionary income differently from their elders.
Millennials do not plan a long time in advance as many of us do. We plan in years; they plan in the moment. We may decide to do an activity alone, or make advance plans with a few friends; they go in a pack. Decisions are made via Facebook, Twitter, or a variety of digital group conversations. They tend to drink a lot and they like to socialize.
Convincing Millennials to subscribe to a season of theatre productions is the objective shared Busfield. Given their behavior profile, B Street has embarked on a free beer night in the new theatre complex, advertised on social media among other plans in the works.
Next month on Discover U, we’ll hear from Alison Murray who will describe her research in microbial life in the Antarctic, and on a NASA project to investigate possible life forms on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
Photo from B Street Theatre.