Home How Digital Media is Attracting New Arts Audiences

How Digital Media is Attracting New Arts Audiences

In the age of 1080p HDTVs, when almost every home has at least one computer and state-of-the-art mobile phones are seen in the hands of grade-schoolers, its hard to remember a time when viewing media required a trip to a theater. We’ve come a long way since those days, but theaters still put on plays and musicals, symphonies still perform, and musicians still entertain – but how can they compete with new media in hopes to attracting a younger audience? As the old saying goes: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Reaching Out with New Media

A study released this month by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) found that people who engage with the arts through various digital media are three times more likely (59% over 21%) to attend live arts performances, and do so twice as often (6 events per year over 3) as non-media participants. Titled Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation, the survey concluded that “media-based arts participation appears to encourage – rather than replace – live arts attendance.”

The report, which can be viewed in its entirety online for the first time this year, outlines several examples of how arts organizations are reaching out to audiences with online media initiatives. The New York Public Library, KQED Public Media and the Smithsonian Institution are just a few of the groups providing arts media online via services like YouTube and iTunes U.

St. Louis-based television network Higher Education Learning Channel takes its offerings to the next level, providing iPhone and iPad apps for new audiences to engage with videos and sound recordings of local performances.

“We are faced with the Internet, social media, and other new technologies, and I believe the arts field must embrace them and integrate them into our work,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman.

Digital Performance

But the reach of new media in the arts doesn’t end once organizations attract audience members to their venues; many performing arts productions are integrating technology and interactive media into the actual performances. Last summer, the National Symphony introduced real-time program notes that were delivered to the audience via Twitter.

Composers have even begun to write music that specifically calls for the use of computers and technology during performance. Computer programs that allow for the live processing of sounds created from the actions of the performer have widely expanded the possibilities of sound creation beyond the normal realm of instrumentation. Other programs can produce rich visualizations based on live sound inputs, creating unique artistic experiences with each performance.

Other music composers, like Eric Whitacre, have gone as far as to use social media to create virtual crowdsourced performances of their music. For his choir works “Sleep” and “Lux Aurumque,” Whitacre released a video of himself conducting each piece so that users could record the various tracks (soprano, alto, bass, etc) and submit them. Whitacre then synced them together to create “virtual choir” performances which were then published on YouTube.

It’s terrific for a music lover like myself to see social media and technology used in these unique ways to increase awareness for the arts among new audiences. These last several examples only focused on music, but there are many other ways new media is being used in theater, dance and other live arts.

Photo by Flickr user DeusXFlorida.

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