Dramatic changes in technology present not-for-profit performing arts organizations with both opportunities and challenges for engaging and attracting audiences. With its emphasis on deep engagement with a select group of users, the Internet “long tail” presents a natural application for this sector; however, performing arts groups must grapple with developing the most optimal web-based content for their particular organizational needs. This paper analyzes the use of web-based video offerings used currently by professional symphony orchestras in the United States and Canada. One third of observed websites included video of some kind (including a wide-array of content), while roughly half of that number focused on promoting concerts scheduled for the future. An even smaller number have embraced the practice of presenting performing arts previews (after the longstanding tradition within the film industry) as a purposeful kind of paratext, including representational elements of the work, the performers, and the overall concert context. A conceptual frame of video types is presented and discussed, with particular attention to the preview format. The research on film previews as an analogous vehicle is evaluated including the tradition of telling the incomplete story, while also promoting the movie. The research on paratexts in relation to books, theatre programs, and film trailers is reviewed and the case is made for web-based performing arts previews as an emergent genre within the paratext conceptual frame. Specific video examples currently in use illustrate theory and concepts presented in the paper.
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.