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Removing Barriers to the Arts Through Tech
by Startacus Admin
Stagedoor App- Removing Barriers to the Arts Through Tech
If you are a theatre buff, then you will like this one.
Self-starters Alex Cican, and Michael Hadjijoseph have created a Mobile App Solution to the challenge of keeping up-to-date with the all the happenings on the London theatre circuit. But much more than that, Stagedoor App is already being praised for its ability to remove barriers to entry in the arts, and broaden the ability of the people to enjoy the wealth of theatrical arts happening across the city. Some have even called it ‘the IMDB of theatre’.
We chatted to Michael to further explore the apps potential impact, and its position within the industry.
Hi Michael. So firstly, can you tell us a little about the Stagedoor App. Who is it for and what features does it have?
Stagedoor is a theatre discovery app. It’s especially designed for theatre lovers, providing accessibility to a holistic catalogue of information about what’s on, where, who’s in it and what people are recommending. It’s the first app which covers the whole spectrum of London theatre, from big West-end shows to smaller Fringe ones.
During the design process we focused on meeting the needs of “hardcore theatre lovers” i.e. people who go to the theatre more than 12 times a year. We’ve created features like the ability to follow their favourite Creatives (Actors, Directors, Writers etc), their favourite Venues as well as Production companies, enabling theatre lovers to stay up to date with these and get smart, personalised recommendations based on their preferences.
While focusing on the “hardcore theatre lovers” we now realise that Stagedoor is becoming really helpful for people who’ve always wanted to go to the theatre more, but never knew what to see, or had nothing reminding/engaging them to do so. Features like the “Saved list” where users “Save” all the shows they want to see, sorting them by “Closing date” and reminding them a couple of weeks before a show finishes, to Re-engage them and increasing chances of attendance.
Lastly theatre lovers can rate a show and keep an Archive of the shows they’ve been to. When a user recommends a show, all of his/hers Facebook friends / Twitter followers who follow them on Stagedoor will receive that recommendation. A bit like word of mouth, which according to a recent study accounts for 33% of theatre discovery.
Some have called Stagedoor “a social iMDB for theatre”.
What is wrong with the traditional way that people access theatre schedules, and what kind of feedback have you had from both users and theatre folk?
Traditionally, theatre schedules and information about shows are scattered across venue websites, mailing lists, magazines and outdoor advertisements. Theatre lovers can get bombarded with a lot of information about current and future shows. But is that relevant information? Filtering through the noise is hard. Our research and feedback from our users shows that Theatre lovers, often miss out on shows they would have loved to go to. This happens either because they didn’t hear about that show in time, or for those that did, they didn’t realise the closing show had passed.
So Stagedoor helps on both those fronts, giving Theatre lovers real-time information when a friend recommends a show, or when their favourite actor has just announced a show as well as enabling them to “Save” all of these recommendations and get reminded in time. Essentially it is helping audiences visit the theatre more.
Discover apps like Stagedoor have been on the rise especially in industries where information is scattered and fragmented all around the web in a chaotic format. Vivino for wines, Spotify for music, Artsy for the Arts.
Give us an idea of the current state of the App and where you envision taking things in the future?
The app was released in stealth mode about 10 months ago. And it’s already becoming a favourite amongst Theatre audiences growing organically month by month. Since the release we’ve conducted a lot of user research and released some Key features including our latest Venue and Theatre company pages, which is a super quick and easy way for users to see what’s on at a specific Venue or upcoming work of a specific Theatre company - without having to Google for their website.
In the future we want Stagedoor to become the go-to app for theatre discovery and booking of tickets. We want it to become a new home for all stakeholders of the industry where content is shared between Creatives and Theatre lovers in order to make the experience of going to the theatre even more engaging.
We expect to launch in all other major “Theatre loving” cities, an obvious one being New York.
What have been your key wins to date?
One of our latest and biggest wins was securing our initial round of Seed investment in December 2015. This will help us to grow our user base, and keep improving the app.
Can you give us some insight into your marketing plan? Which strategies are you finding most effective in attracting users?
I’m a firm believer in the power of community. Especially for companies like us at such an early stage, you really need to focus on creating and fostering a community of the “early adopters” of your product. These are the guys who are most passionate and will evangelise about it.
We’ve created the Stagedoor Circle, which is the community of people who really resonate with Stagedoor’s purpose "Bringing people closer to theatre”. These guys are all massive theatre lovers, some are theatre bloggers, some are creatives from the industry ( actors, writers, directors) and others just plain old theatre addicts. By identifying ways we can give back to these guys, we create a strong community around our product which really helps getting the word out.
Another way we plan to grow is by partnering up with Venues and Theatre companies. We’ve just launched Venue and Theatre company profiles which they can claim and Verify in order to grow their following on the app.
What have been some of hurdles that you have had to overcome in bringing Stagedoor App to market, and how have these compared to your expectations?
As with any technology product, one of the initial challenges is to really understand what it is your (potential) users need. There’s a million different ways one can implement an idea, so really cracking that and making sure we are building the right thing was of crucial importance during the first couple of months.
The project initiated with a big research phase where we took nothing for granted, assuming we knew nothing. My co-founder Alex Cican, then spent a lot of time creating prototypes in Flinto, which we used to gather further feedback and iterated before even a single line of code was written.
Following that as soon as we had a first working prototype, we paused development, and held a big user testing session in my flat in London where we invited about 30 people from the theatre industry and watched them use the app as well as going through questionnaires that Alex prepared. That proved to be one of the most important challenges we’ve overcome, resulting in amazing new ideas and improvements on the existing product. As people we always underestimate what we don’t know. At especially at these early stages, being methodical and assuming you know nothing can really produce great results.
What are your thoughts on the rate of technological innovation within theatre and arts?
The rate of technological innovation within the arts doesn’t necessarily translate into fancy consumer facing products like mobile apps, IoT Devices or Cloud solutions. Interestingly the arts have advanced massively in the way by which people create and distribute content. If you look at Music, Cinema, photography and other fine arts, there are amazing new tools, which massively lower the “barriers to entry” and enable anyone to become great, without having to invest massive amounts of cash. All of these have levelled the playing field.
Theatre due to its nature hasn’t really been digitised. And the way it is being distributed is still mainly, traditionally through the theatre venues, even though know we've seen companies like Digital Theatre which are changing that. The use of technology in Marketing is catching up as well.
Another interesting technology company within the theatre industry is Spektrix, which powers a lot of the box office systems that venues use, providing them with cutting edge technology and tools to better understand their audiences and target them.
While the rate of adoption of such technologies is slower than average in the Theatre industry, I think we are reaching a transitional point where producers and marketers are opening up to the idea. Especially as crowds are getting younger.
Is there anything that members of the Startacus community can help you with?
We are constantly looking for ways to improve our product as well as to get the word out there within the theatre community. If you are a theatre lover or think there are ways that we can work together do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for the chat Michael and best of luck with Stagedoor App.