Bay Area Improviser Survey Results: Technology and Marketing, and Last Words

This is the final part of the survey blog series. These results are associated with the statistics shared in part one. It is important to remind you that this survey was answered by people in the SF Bay Area improv community (performers, teachers, producers, and students alike) and as such opinions here may vary greatly from the general public who may be interested in watching an improv show purely as an audience member.

Part Two: Attitudes towards watching and performing improv
Part Three: Performance venue, frequency, and nights
Part Four: Cost of Shows
Part Six: Experience with Theatres and Festivals

Which social media sites do you use?

This was a multiple choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below will be listed by popularity rather than the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 100

Facebook: 98 (98%)
Instagram: 69 (69%)
Twitter: 54 (54%)
Tumblr: 10 (10%)

Write-in responses:

  • Snapchat
  • Twitter but barely
  • MeWe, LinkedIn, NextDoor
  • Reddit
  • Reddit
  • LinkedIn

How do you find out about improv shows to watch?

This was a multiple choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below will be listed by popularity rather than the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 102

Facebook events/pages/groups: 97 (95.1%)
Friend recommendation: 89 (87.3%)
Promotion portion of a class/workshop/jam: 43 (42.2%)
Eventbrite: 23 (22.5%)
Online event listing: 17 (16.7%)
Goldstar: 12 (11.8%)
Google search: 9 (8.8%)
Newspaper: 4 (3.9%)

Write-in responses:

  • Posters at venues
  • Direct emails from community groups I am part of that may have one-off improv shows
  • website of Endgames or PianoFight
  • I get involved in community events and promotions

How do you promote improv shows that you are in?

This was a multiple choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below will be listed by popularity rather than the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 97

Promote event in Facebook groups: 79 (81.4%)
Promote event on personal Facebook/social media: 78 (80.4%)
Tell specific friends who I think are available/interested: 72 (74.2%)
Other people’s word of mouth: 35 (36.1%)
Attend other shows and/or classes and tell people there: 27 (27.8%)
Eventbrite: 24 (24.7%)
Flyers: 21 (21.6%)
Online event listing: 16 (16.5%)
Paid advertising: 15 (15.5%)
Posters in venue/local businesses: 11 (11.3%)
I don’t – I just expect other people to do it/the audience to just show up: 11 (11.3%)
I don’t – I don’t care if I perform to a small audience: 11 (11.3%)
Goldstar: 7 (7.2%)
Newspaper listing: 7 (7.2%)

Write-in responses:

  • The theater advertises for us
  • Some of the places I play have advertising in place
  • Email friends

Do you ever watch videos online of improv shows that you can’t see live? (Whether they are Bay Area groups or from elsewhere)

This was a single choice question. The choices below are listed by the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 100

Yes: 33 (33%)
No: 24 (24%)
Rarely: 43 (43%)

If you answered “Yes” to the above question, what makes you do that?

This was a multiple choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below will be listed by popularity rather than the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 47

Was recommended to watch a particular group by a friend/teacher/director: 29 (61.7%)
They’re groups I’m already familiar with/like: 28 (59.6%)
Wanted to learn a particular technique/skill by watching it: 23 (48.9%)
Wasn’t able to attend the show live but wanted to: 12 (25.5%)
Haven’t heard of them before and wanted to see what they’re like: 11 (23.4%)
I produce improv shows/help produce a festival: 10 (21.3%)

Write-in responses:

  • Is featured on The Improv Network page
  • Curiosity
  • Videos are already part of a site I am visiting for a different reason, specifically The Improv Network.
  • Heard of them and wanted to see them

Some things to think about (before we read last words)

Regarding marketing, the limitations of this survey are such that these answers reflect how best to tell improvisers about improv shows, rather than the general public. The question about how we market doesn’t ask about how successful those methods necessarily are. It just gives us an idea what the popular methods are.

I asked about watching videos of improv shows because I often felt like people might see videos of improv shows as only being useful if you’re submitting to festivals, and probably being a festival producer was the most likely reason an improviser would watch a video. These results surprised me, in that it seems like a higher number of people watch them than I expected (even if only rarely), and being a festival producer was the least likely reason of the options I provided for someone to actually watch an improv show online.

If you’re looking at these results and thinking, “Gee, maybe I should get my shows recorded and online more,” then please consider booking me to do that! I recently purchased a great camera to record improv shows, which uses a mic that picks up the audio spectacularly. I adjust the exposure in the camera so you can actually clearly see everyone’s faces without them turning into ghosts. I don’t have a consistent performance schedule, so that gives me more flexibility to be available to offer this service to other improvisers, for a fee. Click over to my services page for sample video and pricing. Having video of this quality will make it easier for both festival producers and regular people to sit through watching it online. I can also edit promo videos, if that’s something people are looking for. You can check out the video I did for my show, So You Want a Job, performing at SFIF this year if you want an example.

Last Words

And the final question of the SF Bay Area Improviser Survey is…

Any additional thoughts about what impacts your decision to WATCH an improv show that may not have been covered previously, or that you would like to elaborate on?

These answers can cover the entire survey from beginning to end, and comments come from 20 different people who filled out the survey.

  • Let’s have coffee and talk. 🙂
  • Not sure how to address this but there seems to be a lot of good improv shows, and bad improv shows, but not a lot of exceptional improv shows. When I have asked folks what do I need to see in the area, I get “I don’t know or maybe this” but there doesn’t seem to be any “wow these three of four shows everyone agrees are great”. In Chicago or NYC when I asked that same quearion to 5 random improvisors from different theaters I generally get the same 3 or 4 shows as an answer.
  • I can’t go to very late shows, and I would be stoked to attend all-ages shows in the afternoon or early evening.
  • Just to specify on timing, if i think a show will run later than BART, I won’t go.
  • It’s interesting. I’d like to chat with other folks who are improv heavy about how many shows they watch that aren’t their own (whether they’re performing/producing/coaching performing team). My guess is they don’t go to a lot of shows either. Because of time constraints and also needing a break during the week for non improv stuff/self care.
    I wonder how this impacts growth.
    For example, I don’t know any of the new teams at Endgames. And it’d be fun to see them, what are the “new generation” doing?
    I’m still curious to see a lot of shows ([ ], Drunk Theater, Real Honeys of SF, Missed Connections, etc) that I simply haven’t had energy to see because I’ve already spent my improv allowance performing and practicing. Or because I’m performing at the same time as their show.
  • I love some of the specific shows at Un-Scripted (e.g., Fear, Shakespeare the Lost Folios, Secret Identities) and try to see them whenever they’re offered. Having performed in an independent troupe for five years, I also tend to support truly independent troupes without regular connections to a particular theater whenever they get a chance to perform. I try to make as many premiere performances for groups as possible because I know how hard it can be to perform something for the first time (same goes for class performances). One off performances where it is unlikely for the people to get back together are also very appealing.
  • Part of my education/growth as an improvisor is to see shows. Also, I have a responsibility as a member of the community to see shows. I approach choosing shows from those angles, rather than by whether I think I’ll be entertained per se
  • Do we have a show (not a troupe) that consecutively brings in audiences that are not students and is not BATS? I feel the greatest weakness in the region is there is now major SHOW that people talk about, a must see event, beyond the festivals. BATS is its own island, and targets large crowds and audience oriented improv. I’ve been told Endgames approaches some shows like this as well. But who is doing the must-see show in SF? The one whose rep carries into the cultural marketplace beyond the converted? I really want to know.
  • I would say that cost is a huge one for me. Some shows are just too expensive. It’s challenging to pay more than $10 knowing that none of the performers see any of that money, and sometimes the quality of the shows isn’t really worth the price.

    I do also wish we’d experiment with shows a bit more. Most of the theatres perform the same basic longforms with little variance. I think I don’t go to see as many shows because a lot tend to be variants on the Armando or interview based shows. Sometimes you get a narrative or genre-prov, but by and large there’s not much exciting or interesting happening. Improv is about taking risks and failing beautifully. I think this ties into cost of admission. For the more expensive shows it’s easier to put forth a safe product because if no one comes…but more inexpensive shows that teams and theatres feel more comfortable taking risks and feeling out a form, would be interesting to see.

  • Seeing a new experimental group, supporting a friend, seeing a favorite improvisor paired with someone new or in a new show
  • My significant other is not an improviser and not a fan of many styles of improv, so watching improv often cuts into our already limited (due to work and other projects) time together.
  • As mentioned in one of my comments, if a group is primarily racially/ethnically centric, I am likely to watch. Also – if the improv show is part of a larger variety show, that has been of interest. It’s nice to see a variety of performance styles, e.g., stand-up, singing, etc. That kind of open mic format is fun.)
  • I tend to go to bed by 11pm on weeknights, so shows that start later than 8 on a weeknight I probably won’t go to.
  • I leave with a positive feeling about myself and/or people.
  • Professionalism
  • Whether I’m free that night
  • Positive word of mouth is crucial.
  • I have gone to shows/formats I’m not into, however, have met or been exposed to the players if the players are generous, kind, supportive and thoughtful people. Some of the competition and smack talking about groups is so hurtful to our community. The more improv there is the more improv there is. I want us to celebrate each other, even if we don’t always like the style of a group.
  • This form was way too long. It can be shortened by half and still cover the same material.
  • Unique format/theme

Final words from the survey administrator

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed their comments and answers to this survey! I hope you found the results as enlightening and eye-opening as I did. Some of them certainly changed some assumptions I’d held about the community and it was really heart-warming to see how many improvisers are interested in the whole improv community in the Bay Area, rather than sticking to isolated segments of it. I also particularly enjoyed seeing the comments from people who want to see more variety of improv styles and formats, because that’s just the kind of thing I’m looking at both producing and bringing in to our community from out of town with Improvative Productions. And since I started working on both So You Want a Job and the non-verbal [ ] show, I feel like I’ve seen more improvisers start experimenting with their own new formats. I don’t know if they’ve necessarily been inspired by those shows, but I do think that the more we see different styles, the easier it is for other people to consider coming up with new shows themselves.

On a related note, I think it’s worth more people thinking about how generating that unique content can help build audience through word of mouth. [ ] is a good example of that. At the point that this survey was open for, [ ] had only had 3 shows, all in 2017. We hadn’t performed at all this year before the survey closed, and yet, we got a mention as someone’s “favorite group,” and word of mouth had reached to the extent that we even got a mention in someone’s last words above as a show they hadn’t seen but wanted to. There is a vast hole here where people are really looking for improv shows that makes them see improv in a different way. Diana Brown and I are getting the same kind of feedback for our new show The Secret Lives of Villains, too.

I am interested in developing other innovative and different improv shows, so if you’re someone who is interested in being part of something like that, please feel free to reach out and let me know! You can use my contact page here, or hit me up on Facebook. (I’m currently in the midst of developing a new comic book format, unlike any of the other comic book/superhero shows I’ve already seen, so let me know if that’s your kind of thing, too, as I haven’t started casting yet). Or if you’ve developed a unique show of your own, please let me know! I’m always interested in making an effort to see other improvisers developing their own unique content, and it’ll help me find the right groups I want to add to line ups when I start producing events myself, rather than performing in my shows at other people’s events.

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