When YouTube turns on you . . .

YouTube is possibly the best and the worst inventions for marketing professional theatre. But what happens when it turns against you . . . well sometimes it can actually be a good thing!

65th Annual Tony Awards - Show

YouTube is a great tool because it allows us to do several very powerful things:

  • It can spread word about a new show by uploading and sharing videos
  • It can decrease the risk someone feels about buying an expensive ticket because they have enjoyed snippets from the show
  • It can share videos of Broadway shows with people in Madagascar (if they can get a good internet signal!)
  • It can allow producers to get a feeling for how a musical will perform in different markets
  • It can encourage consumers in different markets (such as Australia) to push for a new musical to open
  • It can share audience reactions, fan videos and vox pops to encourage people to research or buy tickets to a show
  • And it can do about 1000 other things . . .

But then there is the negative side . . .

  • Users can now upload videos that last for several hours which means that illegally recorded shows can be uploaded and this could ultimately discourage people from paying large sums of money to see the show live
  • Consumers can find all the promotional performances and piece together most of the musical from the comfort of their computer
  • Cast Recordings get uploaded which means a decrease in sales at the theatre

And now, YouTube has introduced ‘Automatic Captions’.

My first thought was: ‘Great, it opens the market up to people who wouldn’t usually be able to hear the videos’. It is a growing area in the theatre at the moment with an increasing number of shows accommodating hearing impairments by running dialogue along the bottom of the stage so everyone can enjoy the show.

But then I watched a video with ‘Automatic Captions’ . . . . And they weren’t even close!

I don’t know if the music is throwing the translating system off or if YouTube just doesn’t like Andrew Rannells, but once the actors start singing all hell breaks loose in the captions pane.

Now, this isn’t great for encouraging inclusivity, especially if people with a hearing impairment can’t see the discrepancies. Then they definitely won’t be buying tickets. And don’t get me started on the possibility of rather MA15+ words that could accidentally be placed into children’s shows.

But it does work for certain musicals. Such as The Book of Mormon. Now, this musical is already meant to be absolutely hilarious and these automatic captions only get me closer to falling off my chair as I ‘read’ their Tony Awards performance!

Check it out here and let me know what you think in the comments below.

P.S. My favourite bit is at 2:26 when Andrew Rannells sings

Time to show the world what Elder Price is about
And share the power inside of me
I Believe, that God has a plan for all of us
I Believe, that plan involves me getting my own planet

And YouTube believes that what Andrew Rannells actually sang for those 20 seconds was:

Good work, YouTube!