This week's guest applies AI innovation to an industry where you usually wouldn't think it can be possible. Micah Hollingworth, the CEO & Co-founder of Broadw.ai, joins us for a discussion. On the show, we will discuss AI in the theater industry and what Micah and Broadw.ai are doing to change the game.
Micah grew up in rural Massachusetts and had a passion for theater at a young age. He ended up attending UMass Amherst, which was the total opposite experience of his rural upbringing. His time at UMass Amherst set him up on a path to entrepreneurship and technology. The program wasn't focused on performance but took a more generalist approach, which was similar to starting a startup.
From an initial idea, raising capital, and then working to find the audience. Working together as a team is very important because even if one show isn't successful, there is no knowing if the next one will be as well. Everyone always thinks there is a secret formula to success, but in reality, there isn't. One can never know what the audience will think about a product until it is put out there. Look at the famous show Hamilton for example. If someone pitched it to investors in an elevator, they would probably have no interest in it. That's just how the industry works. Being comfortable in uncertainty is key.
AI in the Theater Industry
Differentiating the experience is key to drawing in crowds. When the theater industry looks to innovate, they are often stuck with a lot of constraints. They have limited space and often have old, worn-down buildings. They focus on creating a special experience that is deep and powerful so that the fan is willing to accept things like waiting in lines to get tickets. There is a lot of competition for live events. People only have so many hours in the day and a limited attention span. You have to be where your fans are. It's not as simple as just putting up a website.
Shows are typically not selling their shows directly. They often rent a property, like a stadium, and use a ticketing system that they don't have full control over. Broadw.ai helps partners find what they are looking for in tickets and at a specific price-point in a personalized way. In most cases, the partner is the event producer of a show. They aren't a ticket reseller or broker. They are just facilitating the sale and generating data for the event producer to see what most people are looking for.
Micah never thought he would end up in the tech field, given his background. His last employment opportunity was with Jujamcyn Theaters as the VP of Company Operations. During this time, he met a company called Satisfi Labs that pitched them an idea for an AI product in large arenas. This product would use location services to help people find things near them or ask questions if needed. They didn't have much of a use of this product, as Broadway theaters are generally tiny. His current partner, Jon Scott, asked what would happen if they used this approach for selling tickets. Micah jumped on the idea and got to work. He brought it up to the owner and was encouraged to take steps to do it. Micah and his team branched off and raised funds to launch their own company and invested some of the funds into Satisfi and their partnership.
Advice for the Listeners
Micah says that any good idea will take time. One needs to be patient. In the tech world, processes are rarely complete. It would help if you had a long-term focus to get to where you want to be. As innovators, we can often see the result. However, the path to get there is never straight. It would be best if you worked with people that are smarter than you and often challenge you to keep up.
About our Guest: Micah Hollingworth
As CEO and Co-Founder of Broadw.ai and two decades of experience in creating, operating, and marketing live events, Micah is an innovator in the entertainment space. With Broadw.ai, Micah has recreated the audience experience, moving the customer conversation to the web from the box office window.
To know more about the applicable use of AI in the theater industry, listen to this week's show: AI Opens on Broadway.