How Theatre's Future is Shaped by the Road

What Broadway Marketers Can Learn from Theatrical Touring

Like what you see below?
Get more stories like this in your inbox by joining our newsletter.

Sign Up


On the heels of the Spring Road Conference, I’ve been thinking about the expanding demographics of Broadway-goers, the innovations, the collaborations in tech on the horizon, and the importance of touring to the health of our industry.

Every theater lover remembers their first theatrical experience. For most American audiences, the magic of theater was brought to life for the first time in their hometown, not on Broadway. Growing up in Tennessee, making it to New York to see a big Broadway show may have been out of reach, but getting to see a touring production of Miss Saigon wasn’t. When the helicopter landed in the final moments of the show, I couldn’t believe what was happening on stage. It’s hard not to think that the magic of this experience didn’t propel me into the work I do today. 

A Healthy Touring Industry = A Healthy Broadway

It’s these memories that remind me of the importance of the theatrical touring industry. The quality productions that travel the country act as an introduction and gateway to live theater for so many. The new variety of offerings on tour is better than ever before. A mix of new musicals and long-running Broadway hits keeps subscribers and single-ticket buyers engaged with their hometown venue. Shows like Beetlejuice and Mean Girls, which have found popularity with Gen Z, are accessible outside of the TikTok content that introduced them to those shows. The road acts as Broadway’s biggest promotion. What’s good for the road is good for the Main Stem.

The State of Touring Right Now

The theatrical touring industry has seen strong sales in the years since the COVID-19 shutdown. The Broadway League reports that across 3,090 engagements domestically, over 44.1 million tickets have been distributed since August 2021. That’s over 12 million MORE tickets than Broadway has sold during that same time period. 

It’s clear that in the wake of the shutdown, the need for shared experiences has grown even stronger, and the touring markets have made them accessible across the country. Marc Viscardi, Senior Vice President of Account Strategy and Partnerships at Bond Theatrical, a tour booking and marketing agency currently representing more than 20 tours on the road, knows the work that’s been done to make that happen, saying, “Subscriptions are up nationwide because there’s been such an emphasis on customer retention, especially during the pandemic. A loyalty between the community and their local presenters has been fostered for years, even when shows weren’t performing.” That loyalty is an asset for Broadway and the theatrical touring industry alike.

What Broadway Marketers Can Learn from Touring Industry Success

As marketers, we want to lean into this shift and invest in new ways to talk to these audiences. Here are a couple of ways:

  • Expanded use of First Party Data: Where presenters would typically use their subscriber and single ticket buyer data for email and direct mail communications, leveraging these audiences to find wider audiences is key to growth.
  • Programmatic beyond Display: Media-buying platforms like The Trade Desk now get even the tightest of budgets access to big screens. CTV and Digital Out-of-home inventory is available, and to make campaigns even more efficient, behavioral data can be applied to reach the most qualified potential buyer.
  • Urgent & Localized Messaging: Clear, concise messaging to let ticket buyers know exactly what’s available is key to driving sales. “Tickets Available This Week,” “See It Now on Broadway,” and “See It in New York” may seem obvious, but to novice ticket buyers, it helps to be explicit.

The Future of Touring

I know there’s been a lot written about the crowded nature of the 2023-2024 season, but in the wake of this week’s conference, it’s clear the wealth of shows is destined to help the theatrical touring industry. Big, bold productions based on stories people love have captured the attention of Broadway audiences, and that excitement is about to reach cities around the country. Whether these new shows will continue to grow interest in Broadway overall is still to be determined, but I have hope that the ongoing relationship between touring productions and Broadway spells out a brighter future to come.

Join our newsletter list to hear our insights, data, and perspectives on your industry.