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Marketing for plays and musicals probably hasn't been this tough since the Great Depression—even on Broadway. Producers can largely thank the Internet and smartphones for that tough reality, though. Getting people off their digital screens and into real-life spaces has vexed events organizers everywhere. But the source of their agony—as is sometimes the case in theatrical storytelling—can also represent the seeds of their salvation.
Tom Gabbard, president of Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte, N.C., said he's one of a growing number of nonprofit entertainment marketers who recently have started mining digital data to better target potential customers.