Should the Live Audience Stay Connected Online?

At the Magic Castle, it is well-known you can’t have your cell phone, i-pad or other devices on during a show. You cannot take photos or videos. No texting. These rules are posted at the front door, and repeated in each showroom at the beginning of each show. It is increasingly hard to enforce.

Do people in your audience stay connected to the internet during live performances?

Do you try to stop it? Encourage it? What do you think?

What is changing in live performance?

The Pop Haydn show in the Palace of Mystery at the Magic Castle last Spring tried a different tack:

We may be moving into an era when people are always with divided attention. In vaudeville, the audience talked, ate food, walked around, sometimes threw stuff. Our audiences may be more like that in the future, and less like the passive movie and television watchers…

Sometimes, people are tweeting to their friends what a great show they are watching.

People will be secretly videoing shows with their cameras–this will be streaming online at the same time.

It is a new world.

Are we planning for it?

What was a Shakespearean audience like? Quiet and respectful, you think? Or rowdy hecklers?

I don’t think this is going to change. The distracted audience–half here/half connected to the online world–is here to stay.

It is the new reality. People will not go to events where they must disconnect from the hive. Live entertainment may need to incorporate and accept the presence of distracted audiences.

We need to learn to deal with it and to use it. I think we ought to develop strategies to take advantage of it.

“Say something nice about us on Twitter!” “You can buy that right now at…” “If you were to Google magnetized water…”

Perhaps live shows need to find a way to incorporate the digital world, rather than trying to fight its encroachment.

We may be applying the standards of the second half of the twentieth century to the situation we are in here in the 21st.

Do we learn to take advantage of the new “expanded” live, or do we try to force a new and different audience into an old bottle?

If we want to reach the younger audience, we will have to bend to do it–I think they will not go to live entertainment if they have to cut their umbilical cord to the online.

I noticed that only a couple of people in each audience actually utilized their devices, but when we told the audience to light up their I-phones if they wanted, the reaction was almost always clearly pleasant and relieved. They get tired of being lectured and told to do things–especially at the Castle where they get it in every showroom.

What is the alternative?

Here Disney is using the Second Screen concept to give everyone in the theater an app that allows them to interact online during the movie.

What ways might we be able to use the internet to enhance our live performances?

The show has to be designed to accommodate this. You can’t do the same kind of things as you did in a darkened house. This really has to be a “second screen”–one that enhances the experience of the live show and extends it into the after show.

I think the idea of a passive audience, quietly sitting in the dark with their full attention on the stage is going to be more and more rare. It will be a special thing like Jazz or Opera–for a more disciplined audience. The world of live performance is going to increasingly be an interactive happening shared online in real time. We need to think of ways to adjust and benefit from these changes.

Using the internet, it is possible to enhance and enlarge our characters and backstories, connect with the audience in new ways, and even sell them stuff. We can hook them into our content-oriented websites, as a way of getting them to spend time with us, to want to come back and see more, and to want to come back and join us in a live show.

Live show business will be immersed in the online world. We should be looking for ways to take advantage of it, not shut it down.

Posted on December 10, 2013, in Art and Theater, Entertainment, Magic and the Magic Castle, Pop Haydn's Post-Modern Medicine Show, Pop's General Merchandise and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi Pop,

    Thanks for your in depth take on this subject, you are one smart cookie. You have me taking a new look on this subect and I can see that this goes far beyound the surface. We are changing and becoming something else as human beings. However the one thing that does not change is everything is an illusion other then love.




  2. This is one of the things I’ve been thinking about for a while, now. I’ve only let the magic bug take over for a little bit of a year now as my mid-life crisis and, in addition to the few shows I’ve been able to do, have been busking either at festivals or a few locations in St. Louis (which is definitely not the easiest market for busking magic). The majority of my site, as you’ve seen, is mainly reposting performances by the more accomplished in our field, but I’ve been thinking of adding interactive tricks, such as maybe Jim Steinmeyer’s “Nine Cards” that someone coming to the site could do along with me. It’s a hard call for me, though, trying to come up with something that does not rely on tech. Given that I’m in IT in my day job, I tend to shy away from tricks reliant on software in any way. Working in the streets or festivals, though, I certainly have no way of getting people away from their devices, so I’m very cognizant of where you’re coming from. Then again, I think I’m still at the stage where I don’t end up on YouTube for all the wrong reasons from my act. I think your idea, though, is one that is way too true with how things are evolving.


  1. Pingback: Daily Dose of Magic – Pop Haydn “The Amazing Miracle Oil” | Jason Stack, Magician

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