LA Dance Project. Photo by Jonathan Potter, courtesy LADP

Why Social Media Campaigns Don't Always Lead to Ticket Sales

We've all been there: You see the craziest/most beautiful/oddest/wildest clip of a dance on Facebook and you simply have to see more.

But do you actually get yourself to the theater and sit through a 90-minute performance? The consensus, at this point, typically seems to be: No.

There is no clear correlation between a company's social media campaigns and how many seats they fill in the theater. That doesn't mean social media isn't, of course, vital. It simply means that "social media campaigns operating without other marketing campaigns don't cut it," says Rob Bailis, associate director of Cal Performances at UC Berkeley. "But campaigns without social media are far worse off."


Social Media Is Its Own Art Form

Part of the complication is that concert dance doesn't translate to video particularly well: "It harkens back to the problem dancemakers have had presenting themselves to funding bodies," Bailis explains. "They have to capture, in a three-minute clip, something cogent about their aesthetic intentions." A piece that builds over 60 or 90 minutes cannot possibly be grasped in 30 seconds. Nor do most dance companies have the tools one needs to create high-quality, commercial-grade video content.

Digital platforms being what they are, the question becomes: "How do you make something that is its own thing, that lives on its own platform?" says Brian Carbine, communications manager for L.A. Dance Project.

More and more artists are creating content meant exclusively for viral consumption: Think of Justin Peck and Robert Fairchild tap dancing through a New York City subway station, or Houston Ballet parodying "The Office" using characters from story ballets. These videos are not clips of performances, but short dance films that take on their own form and require a whole different set of skills to produce.

Another strategy dance companies use is posting behind-the-scenes footage, which gives audiences a thrilling sense of intimacy. "When I started with LADP, I wanted to emphasize process," Carbine explains. Along with rehearsal photos, many companies showcase class footage or video shot from the wings.

"Having a 360 on the work from inception to creation to performance is something social media does well," Bailis says. It also takes the pressure off those who feel intimidated by dance. "As an audience member, you can celebrate people doing something interesting in process as much as you can enjoy the finished dance."

What Actually Translates to Tickets

The presence of viral dance content in someone's personally tailored feed may not cause them to suddenly buy tickets to performances. But it can help make dance feel less unfamiliar, "causing us to think of movement as something we can relate to," says Bailis. "That does influence whether you'd imagine yourself at a dance show."

Part of an audience imagining themselves there, how­ever, sometimes has little to do with their love of dance: It may have to do with someone else they love—or, more likely, an influencer—posting about dance.

Or it might have to do with boosting their own online presence. Via social media, people want to be seen in interesting places. They wonder, "Will I be able to capitalize on that performance with a visual for my social media?" (Think of all those shots of people posing with their Hamilton programs.) " 'Can I get a picture of me in that?' " says Bailis. "Or 'How is my presence at the performance valuable to my social media presence?' "

Still, it takes practice for new audiences to be ready to watch the most complex forms of concert dance, says Bailis. "You can condense a work into those short, beautiful moments online—but in the theater, the audience still has to absorb the rest of the piece. But if you can develop that concentration, dance can change people. It speaks to who we are at the deepest level of embodiment."

Latest Posts


Matthew Murphy, Courtesy DKC/O&M

MJ The Musical Casts Its Michael

MJ The Musical has found its Michael Jackson: Ephraim Sykes.

If there's anyone who's up to the task, it's easily Sykes. The Tony-nominated triple threat has proved his mettle time and again in six Broadway shows. No stranger to the soul and pop genres, he was in the casts of Memphis and Motown The Musical, and is currently starring as David Ruffin in Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

Dance Magazine Award Honoree: Sara Mearns

Sara Mearns is a force. There is a monumentality to her dancing that was apparent even as a young corps member of 19, cast in her first Swan Lake with New York City Ballet. She threw herself into the role heart and soul, stretching each shape to the limit, trusting the music to carry her to a deep place (and her partner to save her should she go too far). In the 13 years since, her dancing has gained in power and focus, while never losing that edge of risk.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
contest
Enter Our Video Contest