Live Streaming Hits The Big Time

A recent thought piece by Mark Shenton of the UK-based The Stage titled “Now audiences are Facetiming theatre shows – what next?” caught my eye.

I’ve been writing positively about the advent and potential benefits of live streaming in the arts for a long time. My first post on the topic (“The Live Video Phone-ization of the World”) was published on this blog way back in 2008. In a more recent post from 2016 titled “The Next Hottest Thing (Not Yet),” I wrote:

I still think every arts organization should start live streaming something – a backstage tour, a pre-concert lecture, a season announcement, etc. Despite the fact that live streaming hasn’t taken off as something all consumers are participating in, I’m sure it’s coming.

Well now, almost one and a half years later, it seems like more and more people are live streaming as I predicted, and organizations ought to address this “problem” as an opportunity. In yet another post called “Streaming the Future,” I suggested a solution:

So, rather than telling the audience when they can’t use their phones, how about if we start telling people when they can — not only to post pictures (as I blogged about here ) but also to live stream. Let’s give people a good reason to use their mobile devices — one that helps our organizations grow!

When mobile phones first started to become more mainstream, organizations responded by inserting pre-show curtain announcements reminding patrons to shut their phones off. This seemingly worked at the time until mobile phones morphed into pocket-sized computers with high-resolution cameras. Again organizations responded to this with signs posted in the theatre and designated ushers patrolling aisles, reminding patrons not to take photos.

Well now that people are live streaming during actual performances, it seems like we need to address this head on as well. The way I see it, you have two options. Either you ban it completely and explain why, or embrace it and find a place for people who want to stream. But in all cases setting ground rules for a shared experience is the obligation of the event producer. As Shenton writes:

Actually, it’s all about respect – for your fellow audience members and the performers – in a shared experience. And if we need a few rules to make what is and isn’t acceptable a bit clearer, so be it.

In this realm, things will evolve quickly in the next few years. It’s likely next generation live streaming recording devices will be more like glasses that can record without anyone knowing it (Snapchat Spectacles were an early example of this). Since this will be an increasingly commonplace part of our lives, it’s up to us to creatively adapt.

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