Happy New Year and welcome to another year of product conversations with industry leaders on our podcast, Product Talk. We start this month off with a fantastic discussion lead by our host, nate Product Marketing Lead, Patrick Blute. He welcomes to the mic Kyle Wright, the Director of Digital Product at The Shubert Organization, a company at the forefront of Broadway and live theater. Listen to the full episode to learn about the future of broadway tech, and how an industry with live events at its core is pushing forward into the digital market.

On the evolution of Broadway tech

The Broadway industry is a unique one in that its history spans over a century. That longevity is also reflected in its community members, with individuals sometimes staying with a company for decades. With digital being comparatively young, this allows industry professionals a comprehensive view of the evolution of tech within the live theater space. 

“What’s interesting about what digital means in that world is people come and work, and then never leave these companies. You have careers that span decades. So, the people who I have the privilege to work for today, in the 80s and 90s, started using credit cards, online transactions, and e-commerce sites. Over the last 30, 40 years, it has been a continual process. We find that innovation, particularly in the technology space, comes in waves.”

“We are no longer just focused on how we understand who’s sitting in our seats. Now, we’re really focusing on how to create better experiences. How to create more exclusive experiences and expand the worlds of the stories that are being told so that people have access to them in xR, VR, AR and immersive. We’re really thinking about the next 5-20 years of live storytelling.”

On discovery

Broadway is a 1.5b industry with over 14 million attendees in a season. As Kyle puts it, “that’s no small potatoes”. In a niche market with such high customer loyalty, cross-consumer opportunities are significant. Kyle gives listeners a peek into the Broadway Tech Accelerator and how digital entrepreneurs can push the future of live storytelling.

“We’ve really tried to be careful about how we select the people that we work with. Meaning, how transparent we are about the process, and how we provide infrastructure support. So, that has led to the development of the Broadway Tech Accelerator. Basically, it’s a more formal way of putting some guardrails up around our development and technology innovation, and how we invest in technology outside of our business, for our business, while also protecting these entrepreneurs.”

“Our goal is to push our business forward in three main areas. First; to create efficiencies in the production process. Second; to help market and widen our audience base to ensure we’re getting as many different voices in the room and sitting in the seats as possible. And third; to really think about how we meet our audiences where they are and how we push the boundaries of storytelling in ways that are supplemental, not competitive, to the live Broadway experience.”

On a post-pandemic return

For an industry that depends on groups of people enjoying an experience in close proximity to each other, the pandemic made a particularly poignant impact. However, the questions remain the same as in other industries. What is the best route to a successful return, and how to make certain that attendees are comfortable in the process.

“A lot of that development work is happening. We have a great number of product managers thinking about technologies that we’ve been using for years and how to tweak or, in some cases, overhaul them.”

“Keep in mind, if someone isn’t comfortable in the fall but maybe next spring, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy Broadway. That doesn’t mean that they can’t engage with our stories or that they can’t contribute. It just means that we need to think about the future of streaming, and the future of world-building around those primary stories being told on stage, but in VR, XR, and outdoor immersive.”