25 Years of Things I’m Thankful for on Broadway this Thanksgiving

I’m coming up on my 25th anniversary of working on Broadway.  Yep, in just a few weeks, I’ll be celebrating the date of “the call” I got from a mentor recommending me for a Production Assistant position for the Broadway run of My Fair Lady.  It was the best Xmas present I’ve ever received.

A lot has changed on Broadway over the past twenty-five years.  And while, yeah, a lot still needs to change (which is one of the reasons I started this blog), I thought I’d take a blog on this gobble-gobble day to remind us all that many things have changed for the better, which means things can and will change even more as we head into the next twenty-five years of all of our careers.

So, here are ten things I’m thankful for on Broadway this ThanKSgiving that weren’t always the case . . .

1. You can pick your seat!

When I first starting buying tickets to Broadways shows, the only thing you could choose was the section you wanted to sit in (orch, mezz, balcony).  Imagine how disappointed 17-year-old me was when I got to City of Angels after it won the Tony and I was much further back than I hoped.  🙁  I swear I didn’t enjoy the show as much because of that.  Now?  We’ve got seat maps, and some ticketing companies offer you “views from your seat” perspective.

2. The TKTS booth was remodeled!

I’m sure it was cutting edge when it opened, but the old TKTS design always looked like dorm furniture to me.  Now, the beautiful design is a tourist destination.  People are drawn to the booth just to sit on the steps (and the more people near our storefronts the better).  And, the renovations went on inside the “trailer” as well . . . you can pay by credit card now!

3. The America Musical has returned!

When I first got here, we were still in the midst of the British invasion.  Now, I loved those poperettas . . . and still do.  But it has been great to see us take back one of the few purely American art forms for ourselves with shows like Rent, Hamilton, Book of Mormon and more.

4. Disney became an audience developer!

Beauty and the Beast on Broadway was an experiment twenty-five years ago.  And, not only did that experiment work and breed many more successful Broadway productions, but Disney created a whole new generation of theatergoers in the process.  The boom we’re having today?  It’s partly because of the seed that The Mouse House planted twenty-five years ago.

5. Crowdfunding is a thing!While The Jobs Act may still not be wildly used for Broadway or Off Broadway shows, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and more have given struggling artists a platform to get their art off the ground.  Because, like it or not, to make stuff, you need money.  Now there’s an easier way to collect it (although you still have to convince people to give it to you!).

6. Cheaper tickets are more accessible!

I know theater tickets are expensive.  But not ALL of them are expensive.  8th row center of Hamilton is expensive.  But most shows have lesser priced options nowadays . . . maybe in the back of the house, or at least through a lottery.  And discounts can be found just a few clicks away instead of having to find a coupon.  Consumers today have more ways to find more economic ways to see theater than we had decades ago.

7. You can find out if your advertising is working!

In the old days, all that we had was “spray and pray” advertising.  Big print ads, big TV buys, etc.  You bought them, crossed your everythings, and hoped to G-D that sales increased.  But you had no real way to know if what you did was actually working.  Now, with digital advertising you can not only target audiences who you KNOW want to see your show, but you can also ignore audiences that you know do NOT want to see your show . . . and you can find out exactly how much each initiative sold!  We’re smarter marketers now than we were then.

8. Unions are more flexible than they were.

Just like it’s easy to say ticket prices are too high, it’s easy to blame the unions for expenses being too high.  But over the past few decades, I’ve found the unions to be understanding of changing technology (reduction of minimums in orchestras at theaters), changing marketing channels (the new media rule), and the challenges of producing on Broadway in the 21st century.  Remember, their job isn’t to make our jobs easier.  Their jobs is to protect their members.  And I’ve found more of an understanding that the success of a Producer means success for everyone in that production than ever before.   (Oh, and it’s not like the success rate has changed in either direction over the past 25 years – it’s still only one of five shows that recoup.)

9. Broadway is an international brand.

There are Broadway shows in every corner of the globe now.  From Australia to across Asia to South Africa to Argentina.  We weren’t anywhere near the global entertainment superpower that we are today way back when.  And the more theater there is in the world, the better our business and art is tomorrow.  We’re like soccer . . . all of a sudden, we’re everywhere and everyone wants to be a part of us.

10. We’re back in the movies and on TV!

Hairspray, Chicago, Rent, Phantom, Evita, are just a few of the films that have been released over the past twenty-five years that not only did well at the Box Office, but also goosed the box offices of the running shows here!  And then came the live telecasts of shows like Sound of Music, Peter Pan, and Grease on major TV networks.  And HBO has taped a few.  And BroadwayHD was born.  Just like Disney created a new audience a couple of decades ago, the telecasts and movies are creating another one right now.

So see?  Things aren’t so bad.  I know it can get frustrating thinking about all the things wrong with Broadway, but a lot of things have gone right and will continue to do so as long as we have passionate people like you who read this blog and go out and help make that change happen.

Oh, and that brings me to  . . .

11. You.

I didn’t know all of you twenty-five years ago (some of you might not have been born).  But I’m so thankful that I’ve come to connect with so many of you online and offline.  Thanks for reading.

And a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

 

How Amazon could muscle into the Broadway space.

This isn’t an exaggeration.

Amazon is taking over the world (wide web).

As of earlier this year, sales on Amazon.com accounted for 43% of  ALL online retail sales in the US.

You read that right!  Over 4 out of every 10 online retail transactions in the U.S. happen on Amazon!  4 out of 10!!!

One of the many keys to Amazon’s surreal success is that they have catered to both sides of the sales equation.  From the beginning, they rewarded anyone who sent traffic to Amazon with a couple of pennies worth of commission.  AND, more importantly, they expanded their marketplace to allow anyone to sell their products on Amazon.

I personally know several people who have made millions of dollars selling stuff on Amazon.

(In fact, we’ve got a few things . . .  my book, my Broadway board game (which we sell exclusively through Amazon) and this hot little product that we released for the holidays, and is flying off the e-shelves.)

Amazon is crushing it because buyers are happy and sellers are happy.

Win, win, and Amazon’s stock price explodes (I was offered a chance to buy into it in 1998.  My broker told me it was too expensive at $47.  It’s now at $1,127).

And because they’ve got that cash, they continue to expand.  And every industry they’ve gone after, they’ve disrupted.

It’s no secret that they are sniffing around, and waiting to make their move into live entertainment (specifically ticketing – since the secondary market has exploded).

And yeah, they’ll be after Broadway, for sure (another example of the Hamilton effect – big corporations are seeing there is big money here on Broadway and they want a piece). They’ve already been playing in the London market, and with their immense database of customers and more importantly, their buying habits, they could move a lot of tickets, and fast.

It’s going to be harder for them to break into the Broadway scene.  We’ve got our gatekeepers . . . and, honestly, those gates are up for good reason.  We’ve got to protect what we have before we let in a lion like Amazon.

But I started to wonder what would happen if we didn’t let them in.

Then I realized what a company like Amazon would do . . . they’d just make a musical.

When they wanted to get into the TV market and couldn’t find an easy path?  They created a production studio.  Through content, they found an in.

And what’s $20mm to a company like that?  I’ll tell you what it is. . . it’s what they profit in THREE DAYS.

Don’t be surprised if Amazon or any big corp that wants a flag planted in any area of the Broadway business, from ticketing to lighting to program printing, pushed their way in by creating a show and bringing the other stuff along for the ride.

How to market your show by marketing who is in it.

People love people.

You might think you “love” a certain musical, or play, or even a specific brand of coffee.

But if you had to choose between a brand and a living, breathing, human being, you’d choose the person over the thing every single time.

That’s why one of the simplest and most effective ways to market your show is to market the people in it or the people behind it.

Because when people love other people, they want to support that person, and whatever it is they are doing . . . including, yes, by buying tickets to their show.

Big Studio Hollywood is built off this entire principle.  They often don’t give a two-shingles about the quality of a script . . . just about who is in it.

We obviously care about both.

And since we don’t have Ben Affleck style stars in our shows, we need to do everything within our marketing powers to help turn our actors into stars.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to promote all of your actors’, writers’, etc. Twitter/Instagram handles everywhere you can (website, Front of House, etc) . . . with their permission, of course.

Or have them write a blog about their experience in the show . . . or have them write a blog about ANYTHING.

Or just get them as much press as you can in whatever publications you can.

By helping build a following for them, you’re helping to build a following for your show.

Because people are what put other people on the path to purchase.

(Have you meet these wonderful people, by the by?)

Why I put Gettin’ The Band Back Together on sale TODAY and for only $50.

Tickets for new Broadway musicals usually go on sale to the public around 6 months before the first preview.

Gettin’ the Band Back Together starts performances on Broadway in about 9 months, on July 19, 2018.

Despite the fact that you could make a baby between now and when our curtain goes up, I put single tickets on sale today.

That’s right, you can get tickets to Gettin’ the Band Back Together right now.

Oh, and for the next seven days only, all tickets for all preview performances (including the best seats in the house) aren’t premium priced at $199, or even full priced at $159.

Yep, prime orch seats for previews (while they last) are only $50.  (If you don’t want to read the rest of the post and just want to grab your tickets now, I’ll understand.  You can get the tix here. I’ll wait.)

Are you back?  Did you get ’em?  Good.

Now, why am I putting my tickets on sale so far in advance?

Well, first, let’s talk about why I would NOT put tickets on sale so far in advance.

First, it costs money.  Yep, the longer a show goes on sale with single tickets, the more it costs.  There are fees to the ticketing company, for starters.  And, what many don’t know is that there is also a union rule that ties the number of weeks you’re on sale to when your box office opens.  The further in advance you go on sale, the sooner you have to put your box office on payroll.

Second, most shows wait to go on sale until they have advertising and media to support it since it costs the show money to sell those tickets.

Lastly, unless they have something to talk about, most shows just don’t believe they’ll sell any tickets since conventional wisdom says people don’t buy as far out in advance anymore.

Obviously, I believe it’s worth the money and time to start now.  And since Gettin’ The Band Back Together is that rare and endangered thing . . . a totally new musical not based on any movie, book or nuthin’, these decisions are big ones.

Here are three reasons why I’m going on sale so early:

1. It makes it real.

The moment someone can buy tickets to an event, the more real it is for that consumer.  It feels more definite.  More secure.  And they’ll be more comfortable buying a ticket.  We’re starting this “comforting” process early, with the hopes that by the time we do start paid media on the show, they’ll already feel this show is “real” and therefore speed up conversions.

2. Ticket buyers talk.

Word of mouth starts when someone makes a purchase. Customers talk about what they buy. They’re proud of it (especially when there’s a deal), and want to share it with friends.  By going on sale further out, we’ll start some discussion much earlier.  And again, while many of those people may not buy now, it’ll hopefully speed up conversions later.

3. Some people DO buy in advance.

It’s easy to generalize and say people don’t buy tickets in advance anymore.  And while there is some truth to it, there are still a whole bunch of people who DO buy in advance, especially when they have a reason to (see $50 offer described above!).  So why not make sure you’re available to those folks now?  This is even more true for a show like Gettin’ The Band, which starts performances in the summer, a time when people are on vacation, and therefore DO make those plans so far out.  If we’re not on sale early enough, we’ll never be an option.

Now, since it is challenging to get people to click “Buy Now” further out, and since I don’t have any casting or other fun things to announce (soon!), I have to do something special if I want to stir some actual sales now.  Sure, we did the show before, got some great reviews, and have a great team attached, but that’s not enough to really encourage people to ACT NOW.

Hence the offer for $50 tickets for the best seats in the house, at a time when I know people are more agitated than ever about the increasing cost of great seats to Broadway shows.  (And by the way, the “best seats” part is important . . . in every focus group I’ve done, I often find that seat location is just as important if not MORE important than price!).

Now, what makes that $50 price more compelling is that it’s technically “illegal.”  Ok, it doesn’t break any actual laws to offer such a steep price cut, but it breaks a few Broadway laws.  See, there are rules set by the theater owners that govern pricing.  They have to approve what you’re charging for full price, premium price, and they typically won’t allow discounts more than 40% off the full price.

We had to get a special dispensation to give you a price this low.  And thankfully for all of us, they agreed!  The caveat?  We can only offer this “unauthorized” offer for 7 days.  So, if you were ever thinking of coming to Gettin’ The Band, and wanted a great seat, this is your only chance to get a ticket for this more than 40% off rate. (If you didn’t get your tickets earlier, you can go get ’em now.  I’m patient.  I’ll wait.)

The takeaway for you?

The longer you have to sell your product, the more of your product you’ll sell, no matter what that product is.  So get your stuff on sale as soon as possible and give your consumers a compelling reason to act now . . . and they will.

Oh, and yeah, get your $50 orchestra seats to see Gettin’ The Band Back Together now.  Because you’ve only got 7 days (until 11:59PM on November 8th!) before prices go up.

 

The only upside to today’s Super Premium Broadway ticket prices.

Warning:  If you hate how much Broadway tickets cost, you are going to hate this post.

In fact, I kind of hate it myself.

See, it all started with Hamilton.

Because of the spectacular demand for tickets, prices skyrocketed on the secondary market.  And, in a duel with the brokers that A. Ham himself would have been proud of, the Producers of Hamilton raised their prices, in an effort to let the money that the public was willing to spend, go to the artists and investors in the show itself.

And the $500 ticket was born.

Then comes Dear Evan Hansen, another big hit in a small theater, which was also able to raise their premium prices up to $499.

And just a couple of weeks ago, the NY Times broke a story about Hello, Dolly! charging $998 per ticket for front row seats.

Whew.  Pretty insane, right?

Well, there is an upside to all this . . . ready for it?

The $150, full price ticket, now looks cheap.

It used to be that a $150 ticket looked super expensive, and we discounted the eff out of it.  Now?  Well, maybe, just maybe, a consumer who has paid $500 to see some of the other big hits, and has done so without blinking an eye, won’t balk at paying “regular full price” for a show that hasn’t yet hit mega-hit status.

It’s simple contrast pricing . . . whenever anything is presented to a consumer at a super high price, whatever price comes next looks like a bargain, even if it’s still a high price . . . just as long as it’s less than the first price!

For example:

A Mercedes costs $50k.

Now consider it this way:

A Ferrari costs $100k.  A Mercedes costs $50k.

All of a sudden, that Mercedes doesn’t look so expensive!

This unintentional phenomenon might just be what the shows in the middle of the market need to increase their chances at recoupment.

Because now, hate it or not, $150 looks like a deal-and-a-half.

 

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