What role will digital play as arts venues return?
As many arts venues will use this opportunity to get back on track to re-open, how will the public begin attending events and performances again? How have they coped without it? And what role will digital play in reigniting the passion and love for music, film, and theatre?
Recently, the government announced they will be releasing up to £1.52bn of funds to help support the arts affected by COVID-19 in the UK. In the form of grants and loans, this support aims to help world-renowned venues across the UK remain operational.
Performances at home
During this pandemic, many arts venues have found alternative methods to bring performances to their audiences. Using the power of technology, they have hosted recorded productions, cast & crew interviews, and behind the scenes footage.
Leading the way was National Theatre at home, as it hosted productions that were streamed online and accessible from the safety of one’s home. By leveraging streaming platforms such as YouTube, they were able to stay connected with audiences and produce great content. This also provided the venue with an avenue for income generation via public donations.
In return, by allowing audiences to access a digital platform, this can provide venues with rich data insights into their audience’s interests and tastes. These insights can help shape future content and performances.
Closer to home, venues such as Phoenix Cinema, have had to build upon their current website platforms to remain connected with their audiences. Phoenix Cinema has done a great job in building together a curated resource of recommendations for what to watch, read, and listen as cinema temporarily sees itself move online.
Curve theatre has also made great strides in delivering digital content ranging from interviews and archive footage via their ‘The show must go online’ campaign.
Elsewhere, we have also seen this year’s Glastonbury move onto a digital space via BBC iPlayer, as it was hit by the pandemic. Footage of previous years was made available, which helped fuel the audience’s love and desire to see live performances. Music, being a universal language, should never have to be stopped by a global pandemic.
Reopening arts venues
As venues being to reopen their doors, more pressure will be added to ensure they are ‘COVID secure’ and provide the public with necessary safeguarding.
Digital will play a vital role in this as it serves to inform the public of key information at all times. The wonderful nature of digital is that it can be broadcast instantly and directly to individuals. SMS, emails, notifications, and announcements can be retrieved instantly, so in the event of another outbreak, the public can be well-informed.
Venue websites have an important role to play too in communicating COVID related information. This can be done in the form of campaign pages, email newsletters, and video content.
Video content, in particular, could prove to be a vital asset to lead with as it can physically demonstrate all the safeguarding in place which, in return, can instil trust and confidence amongst audiences.
Booking seats or tickets will need to be refactored to provide the necessary requirements for social distancing. Would this need to be fully governed by the venue itself or would booking platforms need to be reconfigured to allow users to pick & choose where they can safely sit?
Track & Trace will most likely be part of the booking process. This could be leveraged onto the website and streamlined as part of the customer experience. Ticket booking sites already require key information about individuals, for example where they are seated? on which day? and how best to contact them. All of which could provide for a more accurate and reliable Track & Trace operation.
As time passes and more and more venues open, we may begin to see a shift in how they operate and deliver content. One thing for sure is we are going to see greater levels of communication and announcements via digital channels. Venues will need greater flexibility to react to the current global situation. With the landscape changing regularly, flexible websites are going to be a must for all venues.
Looking beyond, are we going to see venues continue to share performances via streaming platforms? Is the passion and desire to return to live performances going to be the same amongst audiences? Or are we going to witness the emergence of new technology, such as VR (Virtual Reality) performances to try and bridge this gap?
Recently, Wireless Festival broadcasted their event virtually, with the help of MelodyVR, to provide audiences an interactive and immersive 360° virtual festival experience. Many more festivals and events are now beginning to embrace the power of VR as it brings audiences closer to the real thing.
It may be a challenging time for art venues and their audiences but it could prove a catalyst for new and exciting opportunities within the realm of digital.
Thanks for reading