"I just love waiting on line for Broadway tickets," said no one, ever. Equally unlikely to be said is, "I'm really looking forward to spending thirty minutes on the phone with Ticketmaster and paying those completely fair fees." So in a world where we order dinner with a tap, choose our clothes with a swipe, and pick our dates with a pinch, why are we still buying tickets for the theatre the old-fashioned way?
In 2013, mobile purchases finally exceeded desktop sales for all retail orders. For years, the theatre has treated mobile sales (and most digital purchases, in fact) as supporting players. On Broadway, mobile ticket sales made up just 0.08% of all purchases, or about $9 million, for the entire 2012-2013 season. If Broadway producers and ticket brokers would get their heads out of their gaslights they would realize the epic market share they are ignoring and why mobile sales need to be treated like stars with top billing. Every show has a Facebook and hashtag now, but why are we still making the ticket buying process as uncomfortable as the bathroom line at intermission?
Fortunately a crop of tech-savvy, theatre-loving entrepreneurs have stepped into the spotlight in with a deus ex touchscreen. Among the new ways to buy Broadway tickets is TodayTix, a mobile app for both iPhone and Android. The app has unlocked a new generation of theatergoers, breathing life into many productions through online promotions and the easiest interface yet. Brian Fenty and Merritt Baer, co-creators of the app, are lovers of the theatre but also shrewd businessmen who see that Broadway has to adapt or get left in the dust while other industries race toward successful sales on our phones.
"As passionate theater fans and entrepreneurs, we wanted to offer customers the ability to make purchasing discount and full-price tickets an effortless experience from show selection to ticket pickup," said Baer and Fenty. No strangers to the short attention spans of your average shopper and consumer, duo go on to, "In short, our goal is to offer tickets to our customers exactly as they want them: Quickly. Simply. Affordably."
Of course there will always be analog options for those who don't trust shiny mobile devices. But embracing the same 21st century technologies that have allowed so many other industries to thrive isn't something to be feared. It's just a little progress being applied to an art form that thrives on its classical foundations.
Tickets aren't the only sector of Broadway getting a little help from those with a keen sense of modernity. Recognizing the need to preserve our planet so there are people still around to even see shows, the Broadway Green Alliance has organized the theatre community around improving energy efficiency, paper waste, and reusable materials. They are among the many smart operations turning to social media to spread their message and organize performers, theatre owners, and patrons nationwide. Broadway Impact, a grassroots organization of theater artists and fans mobilized in support of marriage equality, has also mobilized eager change-makers in the theatre community using modern technology.
Sure, Broadway's power is not built upon technology-artistry coupled with (occasionally) brilliant marketing still take center stage- but unless the Great White Way wants to continue playing second fiddle to other entertainment industries that moved to a mobile-first marketing strategy, it had better grab the baton at strike up the band for a highly-digital second act.