Research Proposal: Social Media the Saving Grace for the Performing Arts

Title: Interactive Performance: A Look at the Effect Social Media has on the Performing Arts

Background/Motivation:

The arts are being cut in schools, theater companies are struggling to stay open, more and more people would rather stay home to watch a movie then go see a Broadway show. Typically, the arts are the first to be cut when budgets are low and the economy is bad. Many feel it is necessary to put money into other areas other than the arts in a time of economic crisis.

At the same time, a contradictory picture has been painted of the performing arts in America. On one hand, the arts appear to be booming with the success of many Broadway and opera shows. On the other hand, we see theaters, symphony orchestras and dance companies that are cutting costs and closing their doors. The commercial and broadcast performing arts industry is growing while live performances are struggling. The overall trend we see is that midsized nonprofit organizations are having the greatest difficulty attracting enough of the public to cover their costs.

Motivating Questions:

During my entire performing career, I have seen companies come and go. I want to address the question as to what can be done to fix this? Years ago, attendance at live performances was much higher. Now people can stay home and watch DVDs, television shows like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol. People are choosing to not take the time out of their day to attend a live show. That is evident all of the empty seats I have seen at many of the shows I have performed in. Does one discipline in the performing arts get more attention from audiences than others? While many performing arts companies are already using mediums like Facebook and Twitter, are they using it efficiently? Would social media and other mediums to actively engage audiences provide the arts with the funding they desperately need? Would people be more likely to donate to an arts organization if there was something more exciting to them than just purchasing a ticket?

Methods:

These are all questions I would like to address within my research. I truly believe that with the right social media presence, advertising and audience engagement that the performing arts world can turn their companies around. I hope to complete this research by studying other research people have done within this field. I have already found substantial amount of information on the economy and the arts as well as social media. I also plan to conduct primary research by contacting large and small companies to see if they utilize social media and if it has made any impact on their attendance. I plan to look at the effects of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare have on attendance and funding. Another option I have is to work with Elon’s performing arts department on an experiment where I develop a strong online presence and study any changes in show attendance. I hope that through my research I will have attained valuable knowledge that I could possibly put to use upon graduation.

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