How To Use YouTube In Theatre Marketing
This post is a bit lengthy. That’s because I wanted to go a little deeper than I have on previous posts at Sold Out Run. Believe it or not I actually had to trim some things back because I felt like the length was getting a little out of control. I also strongly considered breaking this into multiple posts spread out over a few days, but ultimately I decided that I liked how this flows as a single (albeit large) post.
So with that being said, YouTube has grown to one of the most popular sites on the Internet, and you should absolutely be using it to promote your show and fill the house. No idea how to get started? Read on.
Making a video
It’s easy to get intimidated about the idea of creating videos to promote your show. You’re probably not a professional videographer. You probably don’t have access to the best equipment. But the landscape of online videos doesn’t require that of you.
It’s okay to work with what you have. You can always look for a creative way to pay a professional videographer, but YouTube has plenty of videos that were done by people just like you and me with whatever inexpensive equipment they could get their hands on.
High production quality can only help, but as long as someone can see and hear what’s happening, the content of your video is going to be the biggest factor in your success. So what should you be capturing?
The good news is you probably have access to a stage that is already rigged with powerful lights.
Okay before we jump into content it’s worth pausing for a moment to think about how you are going to be getting footage. Many newer mobile devices can do a passable job of capturing video. My wife is constantly shooting short videos of our two-year-old daughter with her iPhone and posting them up on her blog.
Here’s what I can tell you from those videos. It definitely works, but mobile devices are not very forgiving about light. Good light is important when shooting video regardless of the equipment, but it seems like this is even more important when using a low-end camera. The good news is you probably have access to a stage that is already rigged with powerful lights. Take advantage of that.
And if you’re doing a show outside…
- may God have mercy on your soul and
- make sure you’re shooting video on bright sunny days.
With only a slightly larger financial investment you can get your hands on a Flip or similar pocket video camera. These are comically easy to use and will give you a slightly better video. The only real complaint I have with the Flip is that built in microphone is a little weak. Although I’ve never used one, I understand the Kodak zi8 is a comparable camera with an external microphone jack if you want to take the quality of sound in your video up a notch.
If your video segment is really short (like less than 20 seconds) you can get by without doing any editing. That isn’t the best approach because editing lets you do things like add contact information inside the video, but a raw video clip is better than no video clip at all.
The longer your video is, the more important your editing becomes. The Internet has trained us to have short attention spans when looking at things online, and anything longer than 20 seconds needs different camera angles, transitions, and some basic elements to keep things interesting.
If you do end up using a camera like the Flip, it’s going to come with some basic editing software that you can install on your computer. I think the best approach here is to dive in and play with it. I don’t think there’s a magic formula for exactly how your video should be set up.
Just trim some of the video segments you get down into the best pieces, connect them together, and see how far that gets you. Seeing what you can create with even this basic software really is fun.
If you don’t have even basic video editing capabilities on your computer, YouTube has actually made some lightweight features available. You can take videos that you’ve uploaded on YouTube and trim, add transitions, and insert music to create compelling promotional videos. As an example, here’s a video with some clips of my daughter when she was very little that I pieced together in about 5 minutes with the YouTube editor:
If you have the means and want to get a little more advanced, there are a few editors that are still free that will give you a few more options. On Windows machines that’s Microsoft Movie Maker and on Macs your software is Apple iMovie. In both cases the learning curve is a little bit higher, although they are still pretty easy to dive into.
If you are using software more advanced than any of these mentioned above, you certainly don’t need to be listening to me about video editing. 🙂
What to record
Now that you know how you’re going to do it, it’s time to point the camera and shoot. I could say just leave the camera running, and you can sort through it all later when you’re editing. The first problem is that’s going to give you a lot of footage to sift through. No reason to create that much work for yourself if you don’t need to.
The other problem with just letting the camera run is you’re probably going to be setting it on a tripod and leaving it there. So all of your footage is going to be from the exact same spot. That isn’t the end of the world, but having some different angles to cut to will make your video much more engaging.
This is one of the easiest things to grab. Especially if you have some scenes with big movement, getting shots of this can be very compelling as you’re promoting your show.
Most affordable cameras have a very limited range on how far away they can pick up sound. If you’re filming from down in the house, you may lose a lot of the dialogue going on. One approach might be to embrace that and just splice a bunch of visually interesting shots together and put a song on the video that plays all the way through. (YouTube editor has some royalty-free songs you can add right from their interface, and you can find all kind of resources with a quick Google search for royalty free stock audio.)
If everyone’s eyes are glued to their book, that doesn’t look particularly entertaining.
Also remember that it’s absolutely okay to grab footage from early rehearsals. You may not have costumes, set, props, or even be rehearsing in the performance space, but that’s okay. All of those things will help as they become available, but it’s completely acceptable to shoot a video two months before open where everyone is in plain clothes.
I will put out there, though, that you probably don’t want to see scripts in the hands of the actors in these videos. If everyone’s eyes are glued to their book, that doesn’t look particularly entertaining. Someone watching the video can imagine the lights and the stage filling in later as long as they can see some emotion and connection in the faces of the actors. Everyone looking down isn’t going to convey that.
Mini-interviews with cast and production team
It’s a fantastic idea to pull the cast and production team aside one at a time and ask them some questions. These moments (which can and should be edited) will give people a chance to see how charismatic your on stage talent is and how thoughtful and dedicated your team behind the scenes is.
Whenever I’m trying to decide if I want to see a production, one of the first thoughts in my head is, “Do the people doing this show have the chops to pull it off?” Interviewing your people is a great way to answer that question.
This is also an attractive option because it is relatively easy to pull off for any show. Even if your show is very focused on the dialogue and lacks fantastic visuals to build a video around, asking the actors questions about the show will likely give you some great material with which to hook a casual viewer.
Here’s some questions to consider:
- What attracted you to this show?
- What’s it like working with [name of some other person in the show]?
- Tell me about your character. (Note: actors can always tell you why their character is fascinating.)
- How is this different than other shows you’ve done?
- Who would like this show?
Call to action
So once you’ve gotten someone to watch a minute or two of video about your show, you want to capitalize on that warm sentiment. Now is the time to give them crystal clear information on what you want them to do next. Do you want them to call the box office? Should they go to the website to see more videos?
Depending on your video editing capabilities, you may be able to put some text up on the screen with a phone number or other information. If you’re working with simpler software, you may just want to film a 10 second tag to put on the end of your video with the director speaking into the camera about how to get tickets. In fact depending on your director and/or the style of your show you may want to take that approach regardless of your editing capabilities.
Putting it on YouTube
Once you have your polished video, take a moment to celebrate. You’ve accomplished a lot.
Now if you want that video to translate into sold tickets, you have a little more work ahead of you. Don’t panic, though, because it’s pretty straight forward.
Create a channel
When you create an account on YouTube (which is free) you are automatically given a channel. If you don’t have a YouTube account, here are the steps:
- Go to YouTube.com and click the “Create Account” link in the top right corner.
- Fill in the short form. Be sure to use a valid email address because they are going to send you an activation link.
- Go to your inbox and click the activation link from YouTube.
- Return to YouTube.com and click the “Sign In” link in the top right corner.
- Now click the “Upload” link at the top of the page to put your first video up.
- You can go to your channel by clicking your username at the top of the page, then selecting “My Channel”
Now you’ve got the basics all set up. That’s all you really need to do with your channel, but if you want to go a little further down the rabbit hole you can tweak some of the colors of your channel page and rearrange the layout. This is definitely nice-to-have not need-to-have, so don’t get bogged down here.
When you’re viewing your own channel, you’ll see these buttons at the top. Just dive in and start clicking. There’s nothing there you can’t undo, so experiment wildly if the spirit moves you. 🙂
Title and description
While most of the things you can do to your channel on YouTube are superfluous, there are some things you want to edit on your individual videos that are critical. When you are on the page of one of your videos, you’ll see a button near the top left that says “Edit Video Detail”.
Pushing this button is going to let you change the title of your video and enter a short description. The title is the most important here because when you embed the video in other places (which we’ll get to in a second) people are going to see the title before they press play. You want to make sure it catches someone’s attention.
You can also enter a category and tags which are useful if you want to show up in searches on YouTube. The more videos you have, the more important I would say this information can be. If you’re just getting started, though, it’s okay to skip these.
Embed and share on social networks
Now you’re ready to leave the nest. Just because your video now lives on YouTube that doesn’t mean it’s the only place you can use it. One of the best things about YouTube is it allows you to share the video other places on the web, and YouTube will take care of streaming the video to visitors on those other web sites.
First up is your website. Whether you created a unique website for this show or just have a page on the website of the theatre where you’re putting on this production, I highly recommend putting your video up here.
Just click the embed button below your video, and YouTube will give you a few lines to copy and paste into any web page to display the video there.
Next up you should include a link to the video on Facebook. It’s very straightforward. When you are posting a status update, you have the option of clicking on “Link” to share a link. Copy and paste the address of your YouTube video there, and Facebook will give you a fancy status update that embeds the video and shows the title and description you created.
Note: there is also an option to click “Video” which will allow you to upload a copy of the video from your computer to Facebook. This is a personal preference. I prefer the simplicity of directing all of my online efforts back to my YouTube page, but the important thing is just to get your video in front of as many potential audience members as possible. Do what works for you.
Keep this activity going. Share, mention, and link to the video on all your social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn. If there are online theatre forums you participate in that allow this level of promotion, share the video there. You should even send an email to the people in your contact list that you think would appreciate it with a link to either your channel or an individual video on YouTube.
Then share the link with your cast and crew. Encourage them to spread the video. You can even send them a link that will jump directly to the part of this blog post about where and how to share the video: https://soldoutrun.com/how-to-use-youtube-in-theatre-marketing/#share
You’ve done great, and you’re almost done. Now I just have one more step for you. In the comments section at the bottom of this post leave a link to your YouTube video so we can all see examples of how people are creating their own theatre marketing videos, and we can all celebrate your success.
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