ADAPT TO CHANGES IN AUDIENCE ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOR
Opplaud.com has launched a new survey to help live theatre producers and venues rebuild their audiences in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The anonymous survey, developed with input from production companies and venue owners from Manhattan to Upstate, is an attempt to provide the independent theatre community with the data they need to adapt to changes in the attitudes and behaviors of theatergoers brought about by quarantine, new technologies and other societal trends.
Every adult who has ever attended a live theatre performance is encouraged to answer the survey, available through Sunday, October 30, 2022 at:
Andrew Andrews, founder of Opplaud LLC, explains, “As we return to ‘normal,’ I can’t help but notice that indie theatre is struggling more than ever to attract and retain audiences. I’m disturbed by the lackluster attendance I see at really great productions that are worthy of a full house, but not getting the attention they deserve. I’ve reviewed 94 performances since July 2021, and despite 4 or 5 star ratings for 52 of those, most houses were at least half-empty, with only a handful sold-out. In talking with theatre companies, I’ve learned that nobody seems to know what to do to win back their former audiences. Masks or no masks? Vax check or not? Require boosters? Lower prices? Pay-what-you-can? But really, I think the issues run deeper, and I want to find out: have people just become more comfortable with staying at home and missing out on real-world experiences? Are they put off by the bad manners and other unsocial behavior that has increased as a result of pandemic-era isolation? What changes need to be made—what assurances need to be provided—to get people back into the seats?”
Most of the 18 questions on the survey are multiple choice, with potential responses that might not be obvious to people who are entrenched in the theatre community, but reflect expectations originating from the “on-demand” nature of streaming services and social media. For example, in answer to the question “For which of the following reasons do you not attend live theatre performances more often?” participants can choose “I am concerned that I will be bored,” “I dislike being unable to use my device during a performance,” and “I dislike being unable to pause the performance.”
In addition to being anonymous, every question is optional, and includes space for the respondent to elaborate or provide an alternative answer. “I hate when a survey asks for my opinion and then requires that I answer a question I don’t like,” Andrews explains, “so I avoided that with this survey. If a question rubs someone the wrong way, they can skip it. If they feel the suggested responses are inadequate, they can expound upon them. The objective is to get as many honest answers as possible, so we can make the most sense from the feedback. I’ve set a goal of 2,000 responses, but it would be wonderful to see double or even triple that number, to get an even better idea of what the masses expect from a live theatre experience today.”
As a “thank you” for participating, Opplaud.com is offering full premium subscriber benefits for every question answered, at the rate of one week of unlimited access for every three questions, amounting to six weeks for the complete survey. At current paid monthly subscription rates, the full reward is an approximate $14 value for just a few minutes’ time helping a community in need.
In addition to making the raw response data freely available to the theatre community to analyze for their own conclusions, Andrews plans to launch a new web site later this year, Opplaud’s Hudson Valley Performing Arts Journal (hvpaj.com), and summarize the results of the survey in a series of articles there.
Since 2016, Opplaud.com has been a resource for promoting live events, attracting nearly 2,000 registered subscribers. “My goal has always been to get more people to attend live performances,” Andrews says. “First, I developed a recommendation A.I. (like Netflix movie recommendations, but for live events) to match audience members with the types of shows they would enjoy. Then, I created Opplaud’s short, unbiased review format to persuade everyday people to adopt indie theatre as their go-to form of entertainment. This survey is the next logical step in helping to build—and nowrebuild—audiences. I’d love to see a world where indie productions don’t just survive, they thrive—ideally on revenue from ticket sales alone.”
The name “Opplaud”—a portmanteau of “Ovation” + “applaud”—was chosen to convey the sense of satisfaction one can only get from attending a live performance. “Nobody ever gives a standing ovation after watching a television show, or applauds a night of binge-watching a streaming series,” says Andrews. “No matter how good it is, it just doesn’t stir that kind of enthusiasm! And I doubt that anyone on their death bed says they wish they had spent more time at home on the sofa. My goal is to get more people out into society—in community with others from all different walks of life—instead of living vicariously through their screens. Narrow-minded, hyper-personalized, isolating media is eating away at our nation, and only meaningful, real-world interactions with people whose values are different from our own can restore the American ethic of E pluribus unum.”
Please email Andrew Andrews at email@example.com with any questions, and encourage everyone you know to complete the survey and supply the theatre community with the booster shot it needs to recover from COVID-19.