Beyond Live: digital innvoation in the performing arts

Hasan Bakhshi, Juan Mateos-Garcia, David Throsby

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


The UK has in recent years undergone a digital revolution. New technologies such as digital TV, music downloads and online games are ripping up established business models. Last year, the UK became the first major economy where advertisers spent more on internet advertising than on TV advertising. This digital revolution has caused upheaval in the creative industries – in some sectors, it has enabled creative businesses to reach audiences in new ways that were unimaginable in the analogue age; but in others it has ‘cannibalised’ their established revenue streams. In all cases, digital technologies have produced seismic changes in consumer expectations and behaviour, and social media platforms are becoming more important as venues for the discovery and discussion of creative content. Unlike film and recorded music, live performance organisations produce ‘experiential goods’ whose features are less easy to translate digitally. Yet, digital technologies are impacting on live performance bodies such as theatres, live music, opera and dance companies too. The National Theatre’s NT Live broadcasts of live productions to digital cinemas may contain broader lessons for innovating organisations in the performing arts sector. With this in mind, NESTA has been conducting an in-depth research study on the two NT Live pilots that were broadcast last year – Phèdre on 25th June and All’s Well That Ends Well on 1st October. The research shows how this innovation has allowed the National to reach new audiences for theatre, not least by drawing on established relationships between cinemas and their patrons all over the country. It confirms the centrality of ‘live’ for the audience experience – both in the theatre and in cinemas. Cinema audiences report even higher levels of emotional engagement with the production than audiences at the theatre. They also claim that they are now more likely to visit the theatre in the future, suggesting that there may be positive spillovers on the wider sector. All this suggests an appetite for cultural experiences that are live, going against the prevailing logic of ‘consumption on demand’, where individuals are free to choose the place and time where they access content, but do so detached from the unique circumstances where it was produced in the first place.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon, UK
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010

Bibliographical note

ISBN 9781848750753


  • National Theatre (NT)
  • Performing arts
  • Creative industries
  • IP
  • Innovation


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