Musical Theatre 2.0 and Beyond

Musical Theatre 2.0 and Beyond

By Jason Cocovinis on August 19, 2009

Technology and the Arts


MTI's Director of Marketing, Jason Cocovinis

In many ways, theatre and the arts have benefited greatly over the years from advances in technology. Technological innovations have helped streamline theatrical operations and management as well as enhance the production value and magic of the theatre-going experience.

Many of the operational tasks of running a theatre organization or school program have gone digital - managing ticketing and seating, creating customized programs and ads, and strengthening their marketing efforts by reaching patrons through targeted email campaigns and online marketing.


Onstage and in the wings, set and scene changes, lighting, sound and multimedia cues can now be managed with the touch of a button.  It's a far cry from the days of ancient Greece, where the only source of theatrical lighting was the sun.  Even the supposed "state-of-the-art" gas light technology of the 1800s is now hopelessly out of date (gas lights not only smelled, but destroyed a great number of theatres by fire).

Technology has also helped make theatre a more participatory and accessible experience - opening up the art form to new generations of audience members and performers. mti_production-4185-webb While becoming the next "Guitar Hero" or star of "Dance, Dance Revolution" are not substitutes for actual music or dance lessons, the idea of performance and self-expression have never been greater in our society.  Both amateur and professional performers can now bridge the divide of time and distance, promoting their talents by posting audition reels and video resumes online (again, this is not an alternative to participating in a casting call, but rather an enhancement to the process).

As the experience of live theatre has changed with the times, so have the many businesses associated with the theatre industry, including Music Theatre International.

MTI Embraces New Ways of Doing Business

In the 1950s, orchestrator Don Walker and composer-lyricist Frank Loesser responded to rapidly changing communications and commercial needs in the theatre industry with a novel idea. The duo created a theatrical licensing agency, Music Theatre International (MTI), to help theatre writers license their shows for live stage performance to schools, community and professional theatres around the country.  Over 50 years later, MTI has taken a leading role in the secondary rights market, not only by cultivating new work, but also in extending the production life of great American musicals.

Over the years, MTI has adapted its business model and operations to meet the demands of 21st century theatre.  Gone are the days of picking shows from heavy, picture-less tomes filled with a lengthy list of titles.  Also gone (and hopefully forgotten), are lengthy hand-written contracts that took nearly a month to fulfill.

Today, all of MTI's titles, along with synopses, audio clips and full-color logos can be found online.  By going digital, MTI has made it possible for many organizations to not only select, but also license shows online in about 30 minutes at their convenience.  There's also no more long waits for materials, as most items are now shipped within 24 hours of receiving a license.

MTI has also added a number of helpful resources to its theatrical toolbox, all made possible by accelerating technology.  For example, many organizations interested in producing musicals don't have access to enough musicians to make up a complete orchestra.  OrchEXTRA® was developed to assist these groups by providing the missing instruments needed to realize a full Broadway score, while at the same time encouraging all available musicians to participate.

Many of these improvements have been made to our business because we listened to and respected the voices of our customers and audience members.  The new technology is just the vehicle for delivering our messages and services.

This type of interactive engagement and participation is the cornerstone for the social media revolution (also known as "Web 2.0"), in which we're all taking part.

What is Web 2.0?

istock_000006889731smallAccording to social media marketing expert and author, Dave Evans,

"Social media involves a natural, genuine conversation between something of mutual interest, a conversation built on the thoughts and experiences of participants.  It is about sharing and arriving at a collective point, often for the purpose of making a better or more informed choice."

What makes social media different than traditional outlets (newspapers, TV, radio, etc.) is the notion of participation.  Web 2.0 uses elements like blogs, photo and video sharing, email, wikis and other funny-sounding names like Twitter, Meebo and Flickr to create a two-way dialogue between "performer" and "audience member."

Web 2.0 is most commonly associated with the term "social networking," embodied by sites like Facebook and Myspace.  Social networking as a concept has real-world implications not only in our personal lives, but also in the way we do business beyond these specific sites.  In a recent MediaPost News article, Ben Elowitz shared the following thoughts on this new way of communicating,

"Let's face it: people are on social networks to do just that, socialize with their friends. Forcing yourself into those conversations puts you in the same class as telemarketers calling during dinnertime. You're interrupting and out of context.

So how can your brand benefit from its fans online? The solution is not to barnacle onto existing social networks, but to create your own -- either building it yourself or using any of the various solutions in the marketplace."

Social networking is a really powerful tool.  MTI uses Facebook, MySpace and Twitter all the time. We have a daily presence on Facebook, and "tweet" all of our important announcements on Twitter.  But MTI recognized a need to capitalize on the interactive nature of the Web 2.0 revolution to meet the focused needs of our customers - and anyone who loves and lives musical theatre.  This is why we created MTI ShowSpace™.

When people connect and information begins to flow, new ideas are generated, innovations take place, and everyone benefits.

Web 2.0 and MTI ShowSpace™

Musicals are a collaborative experience and MTI's role has always been to connect with and encourage the people presenting theatre.  MTI shows have been performed by 60,000 theatrical organizations in the US and in over 60 countries worldwide.  This includes the 35,000 high schools, 15,000 elementary/middle schools and the over 15,000 community theatres, regional tours, religious groups and camps around the globe.  MTI ShowSpace™ lets us expand the conversation, giving us another way to communicate with the artists of today and tomorrow, opening up the dialogue to the creative community at large.  We have created a platform for not only a social network, but a professional network and knowledge database for any involved in theatre.

We see MTI ShowSpace™ as a complement to the social media phenomenon.  We're using our years of experience cultivating relationships with theatres and arts organizations from around the world to build an online community that's specific to the practice of putting on a show.   This is what differentiates MTI ShowSpace™ from similar mediums.

The MTI ShowSpace™ audience often uses many different social networks, but MTI ShowSpace™ is the targeted and specific place where people can go to connect to theatre practitioners and audiences. If you want to post status updates about your new puppy, you'll probably do it on Facebook.  If you want to figure out how to get that puppy to become a great Sandy in ANNIE, you'll be able to do it on MTI ShowSpace™.

In essence, we're giving theatre people with all levels of interest and talent a platform and the resources to participate in vibrant discussions that will shape the future of the art form.

Am I in the Right Seat?:  The Audience for MTI ShowSpace™

Whether you are an actor, dancer, composer, author, producer, educator, student, crewmember, musician, or just a fan of musical theatre, MTI ShowSpace™ empowers you to make your next show your best show.  At a time when the arts are feeling the sting of the economy, the site is specifically designed as a free knowledge destination connecting like-minded users in order to provide support with their current and future productions:


MTI ShowSpace™ empowers the thousands of educators who regularly produce our shows, or who just love musical theatre to raise the next generation of artists and audiences.  Cultivating an appreciation for musical theatre at all levels is crucial to maintaining its rich legacy and also ensuring its future.  At MTI ShowSpace™, teachers will have the ability to:

  • Find and communicate with other teachers and people who have produced a specific show

  • Search for those local educators, community members and leaders who might want to lend a hand or buy a ticket

  • Share, locate or advertise those hard-to-build or hard-to-find sets, costumes or props

  • Listen first-hand as MTI authors provide helpful guidelines and suggestions for performing their works, as well as other exclusive content


Today's students represent the industry leaders of tomorrow. MTI ShowSpace™ encourages students and fans to show off their talents and grow their love for musical theatre.  Young people are already well-versed in social media outlets, and MTI ShowSpace™ is just a more focused way for them to:

  • Meet peers through blogs, photo and video sharing

  • Share their experiences in auditions and rehearsals through online postings

  • Give and receive advice about selecting schools with good arts programs

  • Connect with other students for ideas and inspiration around current productions

  • Show their stuff!

Community, Regional and Professional Theatre Members

MTI's global audience includes the many community, regional and professional theatres whose outreach programs introduce audiences to new works and help re-invent treasured classics.  MTI ShowSpace™ is a way for directors, designers, producers, arts administrators and other professionals from a wide range of theatrical organizations to:

  • Query other experts worldwide who have produced the show they are considering

  • Talk about staging a show in the face of budget cuts

  • Ask for advice on costuming and props

  • Post job listings that target theatre professionals, administrators and performers

  • Exchange technical information about equipment and rentals

  • Provide innovative ideas for lighting and sound effects and fundraising

  • Build relationships with current and future audiences

MTI ShowSpace™ Features and Applications

Creating a knowledge database as a musical theatre destination is a long and evolving process.  That's the nature of things with Web 2.0.  In order for the site to grow organically, we've planted a number of seeds and that we hope will bear fruit.  So for starters, here are some (and by no means all), highlights of the exciting features we've created for our users:

The Green Room

screen-greenroomWhen individuals arrive at MTI ShowSpace™, the first place they'll visit is The Green Room.  Similar to the break room in a theatre where performers mingle and wait to go on stage, The Green Room is the site's personalized home page where users can get an overview of all recent updates and activities.  It's the jumping off point for further exploration of the site.

Photos, Videos and File Sharing

screen-photoboyAll MTI ShowSpace™ users are able to view and share a dynamic array of images, videos, promotional assets and more from amateurs and professionals around the world.

Forums and Blogs

screen-forumsThis is the place where users exchange best practices and ideas around a number of engaging topics.  Of special note are the Forums dedicated specifically to meet the needs of our customers including "In the Classroom" - a knowledge database for producing the school musicals and enhancing curriculums. "Community Theatre Matters" is another area where users can brainstorm about holding auditions, raising funds, securing a venue and producing a great show.

Community Rentals

screen-rentalsThis is the online marketplace where theatres can locate, share, rent, swap, buy and sell props, sets and costumes.  Our newly enhanced design includes new functionality such as adding photos of items and includes a map indicating the item's specific location.

Event Calendar and Show Promotions

screen-calendarOrganizations can help promote their shows to different audiences by creating event calendars, group pages and inviting peers and colleagues to check them out.


Connections are an incredibly valuable resource, especially when looking for jobs or work in the theatre.  Users can post and respond to opportunities right in their area or wherever they might be going.

Show Support

screen-supportTo continue providing professional advice for schools and teachers, MTI is moving its popular Show Support resource to MTI ShowSpace™.  Show Support is a free service for any of MTI's licensees currently performing a JUNIOR (Middle School) or KIDS (Elementary School) title.  If there's a question about any aspect of putting on a show, our experts will answer it - and put that answer online for the benefit of others!

Exclusive Content from the MTI Vault

screen-vaultRegistered users have access to a host of current and historic video conversations with authors and other rare archival media treasures gathered over the past 50 years.

Special Offers

Members of MTI ShowSpace™ will also have access to ticket discounts and promotions in their areas, while also taking part in a number of exciting contests.

Continuing The Conversation

The development process of MTI ShowSpace™ is akin to the process of putting on a show.  Right now, we've just finished up our casting - and it turns out that everyone landed a part. What happens next in the show is up to you. MTI ShowSpace™ is an evolving entity where your thoughts and opinions matter most.  The site is yours.  We've provided some notes on blocking, but where we ultimately end up is determined by listening to and implementing your feedback.

We're all very enthusiastic about the opportunities made possible by new technology, but this technology is not a substitute for engaging with our customers.  If anything, MTI ShowSpace™ will help further our core business of issuing licenses, scripts and our mission of keeping the legacy of musical theatre vibrant and alive.  We hope MTI ShowSpace™ allows you to make informed choices in selecting and producing the right show for your organizations, while having fun in the process.

We look forward to taking this next step together as we collectively shape the future direction of musical theatre.

Visit MTI ShowSpace at