Make People Want to Talk About What You’re Doing

Photo courtesy of LA Bitter Lemons

Photo courtesy of LA Bitter Lemons

I agree with Lyn Gardner that Theatre Criticism is not in crisis.

A headlong, destination-uncertain transition perhaps, but not crisis.

How does this relate to selling out a venue? It’s great to have people commenting on what you do in as large a forum as possible. One major structural advantage for sports event marketers, for example, is that there are entire TV networks (ESPN being the leading one) who must talk about their product 24 hours a day on multiple venues. It makes a huge difference.

So part of the discomfort for those who market theater, performing arts and other fields comes from the fact that the relatively little attention paid to their genres is being reduced, and that’s understandable. Attention is currency in today’s economy.

BUT, when people talk about a problem with theater and arts criticism or coverage in general, what they almost always mean is a reduction in highly visible, individual writers in major, old-school news organizations. In other words, the way things were for a very long time, mostly notably from the ’60s to the ’90s. I would say that model’s not in crisis either, because a crisis implies there’s a moment of decision ahead. There’s no moment of decision ahead, because the decision has been made. As a general model, it’s gone.

What’s important though is that there is conversation and attention being paid. Attention is currency, and it used to be that the big local paper was all the currency you needed. That day is (long) gone.

The best strategy is not to worry particularly about formal theater criticism as it’s existed for the last several decades. It won’t vanish, though it probably will continue to retreat some even from its current reduced state. The best strategy is to think about conversation more broadly. In the ’60s, there weren’t many options besides newspaper. Today, that’s just not true.

The great structural advantage of our time is that if you make people want to talk about what you’re doing, they will!

Read Lyn Gardner’s entire piece: Is theatre criticism in crisis?

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