What Can Google Tell Us About Interest in Broadway Shows?

Show-Score | By Tom Melcher, Show-Score Founder and CEO | Sep 27, 2016

We love using “Big Data” to make it easier for theater fans to discover shows they’ll love. To that end, we recently took a dive into Google keyword search data, and were surprised by what we learned. 

Here at Show-Score, we’re constantly analyzing the data we collect (we’ve now passed 135,000 member reviews of NYC theater, in our first year) to learn more about the audience. We also look at third-party data for clues about audience interest.

To that end, we recently took a dive into Google keyword search data, and were surprised by what we learned. Here is the monthly search volume within the US for the top 20 Broadway shows, measured in thousands of queries per month:

This data is available when you buy ads on Google — it measures the approximate number of times in a month that consumers search for a certain keyword.  

Several interesting tidbits jumped out, which raise questions about how Broadway shows can best create awareness within the minds of theater audiences:

  • “Hamilton” dominates. It’s not surprising, given all the hype, that “Hamilton” is at the top of the list.  What’s fascinating is that it is more than three times higher than the next highest show.  This is a huge margin, and is yet another fascinating data point about how “Hamilton” has come to dominate the theater landscape within the minds of fans.  That of course raises a great question — how can other shows, and the theater industry in general, best leverage fans’ enthusiasm for this one show into excitement for other shows, and for theater in general?  

  • “Aladdin” has almost twice as much volume as “The Lion King”. We know from our own data that audiences remain very interested in both of these Disney shows, so why is there such a large disparity in their Google search activity? More generally, is there a correlation between Google search volumes and ticket sales?

  • “Dear Evan Hansen” is actually on the list. The show had a great start in DC, and a wonderful run at Second Stage. It’s not starting Broadway previews until mid-November. Yet it’s up there with “The Humans” and “The Lion King”. Kudos to the “Dear Evan Hansen” marketing team, but how are they doing it, and what can everyone else learn from that?

Perhaps most importantly, this exercise again confirmed how little is truly understood about how theater audiences decide what shows to see. Where are they turning for information? What information do they value the most? How does the information they gather translate into a ticket purchase? How often do they actually enjoy what they end up seeing? How does that affect their desire to see more shows?

We love these questions, since they are at the center of what we do at Show-Score every day. If we can make it easier for audiences to discover shows they will love, they will have a better time, and go to the theater more often. They will be better off, as will the entire theater industry. Everyone wins.

If you’re a fellow theater data geek, please drop me an email at tom@show-score.com.  I’d love to connect!