As Broadway musicals embrace contemporary popular music styles, orchestrators must incorporate the digital technologies necessary for producing convincing simulations of genres like hip hop and electronic music. At the same time, as production values soar, producers work to minimize their budgets, often putting downward pressure on the size of the orchestra. Although digital and electronic music technologies can expand the sonic register of the Broadway orchestra, they can also replace traditional acoustic instruments and save money. The Broadway musicians’ union, Local 802, has regularly sought to control the use of digital technologies and ensure that live musicians produce as much music as possible. Thus, Local 802's advocacy for the employment of their members can limit the sounds heard on Broadway.
The following narrative considers three digital technologies—synthesizers, virtual orchestras, and Ableton Live—and examines case studies and controversies surrounding their use in Broadway orchestras and implications for liveness in performance. Informed by interviews with industry professionals, author observation of pit orchestras in rehearsal and performance, archival research, popular and industry media, and previous scholarship, I argue that the union's entrenched interests and antiquated regulations can stifle musical innovation on Broadway by resisting the use of digital music technologies.