Theater For The Future

The Art in the Business of Theater – Collaboration Tools and Technology and the Storefront Theater Movement

Been Meaning to Ask…

April 03, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Community Building, Tools

All you arts legal policy wonks out there:

In the age of You Tube and Facebook pages, Is it time to reexamine Dramatists Play Service’s, and frankly, our own playwrights’ and artists’ intellectual property right claims on theatrical recordings? What are the compelling arguments for limiting theater’s marketing potential by not allowing theaters to promote their shows – and the theatrical experience in general – with clips of the show to a potential audience that is increasingly looking to the web for ALL their entertainment?

I guess the writer’s strike got me thinking… Is it time to reexamine our thinking here?

On this issue, I need to give mad, hand-clapping, foot-stomping props to the House Theater here. They have CREATED a theater built to get around and capitalize on this key marketing point. Just look at this:

Did you catch the point where the battle ran up OVER the audience in a 300-seat venue? Do you care that you’ll be seeing a world premiere of new, untested work when you can sample this work before you buy? Why would you rent – or more likely, download – a Jackie Chan movie when you could see THIS live and in person?

I get the Equity argument: Yes, there are probably a great deal of people who would forgo paying for a ticket and would instead download a performer’s work for free on the net. I think we can all agree that entire shows probably don’t need to be posted to best market theater – but entire scenes rather than the tight b-roll limitations may be necessary. At the same time, how many people would also download the video who weren’t planning on seeing the production at all? How many of those people might get hooked on some evocative theater netcasts instead of their incredibly expensive cable TV and perhaps be lured to try a live show on for the first time? And what’s the reason behind limiting a non-equity company’s ability to showcase their work to a younger market?

I’m just saying: In a world where 70 million people will follow the barely compelling theater of LonelyGirl15, and major companies are fighting over the spoils of an ultimately free media platform – isn’t making an exception to a contract rider devised for an older time a way to grow the whole theater industry a bit?

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2 Comments to “Been Meaning to Ask…”

  1. solid points. oh yeh and that video is AWESOME.

  2. I gotta belatedly but emphatically agree. I’m no legal policy wonk, but I don’t think it takes a wonk to see that resisting the new media culture is insane. Or, if not insane, then achingly old school.

    I have a general impatience with business models that call for kings commanding storms. We all laugh at the record labels as they’re dragged kicking and screaming into a world of digital music, but it’s not like the other art forms get a free pass on this. Anything that can be digitized is subject to the new laws of digital dissemination: electrons are cheap, plentiful, easily copied, and multiply at the speed of thought.

    Watching the old guard react with terror to these properties would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. And why be terrified? Yes, it obliterates old models, but god, the power you can wield with those properties! The new business models get this, and they’re running with it for all they’re worth.


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