Shaiman smashes Smash: A love story.

Here are my Top 2 reasons why I love Marc Shaiman:

  1. He’s ferociously talented.
  2. He’s ferocious about speaking his mind.

Maestro Marc has been involved with a few online public debates over the years  . . . I’ve agreed with him on some . . . and not on others . . . but one thing is for sure, I’ve learned so much from every single one.

And his latest is no exception.

His “What Went Wrong with Smash” essay (which you can read here) is a masterclass in songwriting.  It talks about the inspiration and impetus for so many of the songs that appeared in the show, as well as how the songs were modified along the way thanks to the collaborative process . . . sometimes for better, and sometimes for, well, the opposite of better.

Marc is a smart dude, and he starts his post with the acknowledgement that Smash didn’t work.  And then he digs in to try and understand why.

That kind of acknowledgement and analysis is how we, as artists and producers, learn, so that the next time we do something, we have a better shot at success.

Read his article here.


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It’s a Christmas miracle! An Off-Broadway show recouped.

Sound the bells.  Light the lights.  An Off-Broadway show is in the black!

Last week, Tribes, the Off-Broadway show by Nina Raine which has been running for only nine months at The Barrow Street Theatre downtown, announced that it recouped its entire capitalization.

And they said it couldn’t be done.

Normally this kind of news is something I would just tweet, but an Off-Broadway show recouping is as rare as a Broadway play without Hollywood stars, so I had to give it the full post attention it deserves.

How rare is this kind of announcement?

Well, by my rough count, there have only been 6-7 Off-Broadway shows that have recouped their investment in the last . . . oh . . . 15 years!  (I’m proud to say that three of those suckers are mine – but even those were several years ago now – Altar Boyz opened in 2005 – and it’s much, much harder now than it was then!).

Three cheers for the super smart Producers at the helm of this terrific drama . . . Scott Morfee, Jean Doumanian and Tom Wirtshafter.  Congrats, guys, on a job amazingly done.  And of course, congrats to Ms. Raine and Director David Cromer and the cast.  For without the artists creating something that audiences want to see, there’s nothing to recoup in the first place.

We should all spend some time studying this show to see what it takes to recoup a show Off-Broadway in the 2010s.  Because it ain’t easy.  Let’s hope Tribes has broken the streak and that there are many more to follow.

Because Off-Broadway is too important of a training ground for actors, directors and yes, Producers, for it to not have a chance at financial success.



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5 Tips to Marketing your Show To the Party Market

Yesterday, I chatted about the next current generation of Broadway group audiences, aka The Party Market.

Today I’m going to give you five tips about those party people that will hopefully get them celebrating at your show soon.

Ready to paaaaaaarty?  Here goes:

1.  The Planner is not a Pro.

In the Traditional Group Sales Market, the person placing the order is most likely a professional (A Tour Operator, etc.) or at least someone that has ordered group tickets before.  In the Party Market, they may be planning a group experience for the very first time (Maid of Honor, Spouse planning a 40th Birthday, etc.).  And remember, they’ve been charged with making sure this event goes very, very smoothly and is a day/night to remember . . . so they are under some serious pressure.  It’s your job to walk them through the process remembering that they are a newbie.  For shows/theaters with expected high demand for parties and special events I suggest a special toll-free number (They are a lot cheaper than you think), and a specific person on the other end of the line that handles all of these events (in a perfect world, the person placing the order can also be at the event, so what I call the “customer service circle” is completed).  You want the Planner to think, “If I have a problem, I just call Sally at 1-800-xxx-xxxx, and she’ll handle everything.”  Other things you can provide to make the Planner’s life easier are invitations, save-the-dates, day of checklists, and more.

2.  The Planner might not know everyone in the party.

Party planners are in charge of the guest list, and making sure everyone on that guest list has a ticket to the event.  The problem is, the Planner may not know half the people that the guest of honor wants invited.  And in a typical scenario, the Planner would be responsible for fronting the cash for the tickets for a whole bunch of people that they don’t know/trust.  “What if they don’t come?  How do I collect for the ticket?  I can’t afford to put all these tickets on my credit card!?”  These are the #1 concerns that I hear from Party Planners all the time.  One of the most successful programs we established on The Awesome 80s Prom was setting up a system that allowed the Planner to reserve the party and hold the seats, without charging them . . . and then giving each person in the party a way to order tickets individually as a part of the group.  Reservations skyrocketed after we introduced this system, as it made each individual responsible for purchasing their ticket, rather than putting the planner on the hook for the whole shebang.  Parties need flexibility.

3.  It’s more about when than about how much.

Parties happen because something else is happening (Birthday, Bar Mitzvah, Divorce (!)).  Because they are tied to a specific event, usually parties want to go to a show when they want to go to a show, and there’s not much you can do to move them around.  Weekends (and Saturdays, specifically) are usually their first only choice of when to celebrate.  Don’t waste a lot of time trying to convince/force your parties to attend when you want them to attend. I’ve seen some folks drop their price significantly to try and get a party to happen at a Tuesday night performance.  What happens?  The show looks desperate, and the party still happens on a Saturday.

4.  It’s a special event.  So make it so.

When you have a birthday at a restaurant, they’ll bring you a piece of cake, sing you Happy Birthday, and maybe even do a little dance.  Or when you’re at a Red Sox game, they’ll flash your name up on that jumbotron.  You can’t do either of these at a show, duh, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the celebrant feel special some other way.  Free t-shirt?  Back stage tour?  Shout out during curtain call?  A card from the star?  Let the Planner know how you’re going to make this a night that the Birthday Boy/Bachelorette/Etc. will never forget.  Oh, and a little tip, when you come up with the right birthday gag, you can even charge for it.

5.  The party ain’t over just because the show is over.

This is my favorite thing to do when we book a party.  And it’s simple, and rooted in good ol’ fashioned manners.  When you book the tickets for the party, make sure you find out exactly when that birthday is, or when the wedding is, or when the whatever is . . . and send the person celebrating a card.  Yep, send ’em a Happy Birthday Hallmark or a Congratulations on your Baby Boy or New Boat or whatever (and preferably signed by hand by the person who planned the party).  When that card arrives, they’ll relive their great experience all over again, put the card somewhere where other people can see it, and think that you care (because you do).  Remembering someone on their special day is a way to get them to remember you when it’s their turn to plan a party for someone else.


The party market is enormous, and it’s not that challenging for shows to break into, because folks are always looking for new ways to celebrate.  How do you start designing your unique experience?  Just think about it this way . . . what event in your life do you remember?  And what made it special?  And how can you incorporate that feeling into a package for your guests?

Those questions, were not rhetorical, by the way.  Comment below on what made your previous parties successful, and let’s learn from it.


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Party on, Wayne. Party on, Broadway.

Traditional Group Sales for Broadway Shows accounts for about 9% of all Broadway sales, from what my statistical spies tell me.  And when I say “Traditional Group Sales,” I mean high school trips, organized bus tours, etc. who place their orders through traditional group sales agents, like this one.

We do a decent job of marketing to this 9%, thanks to those group sales agents, who develop their list of clients and act as a middle man for the high school teachers and tour operators who bring those gaggles of folks to the Great White Way.

What we don’t do a decent job of is marketing to the Non-Traditional Group Sales market.

What is the Non-Traditional Group Sales Market?

Anyone who has a birthday.  Or anyone who has a wedding.  A bar mitzvah.  An anniversary.  A class reunion.  A family reunion.

Basically, anyone and everyone, at least once a year.  And several times in their lifetime.

Another name for the NTGSM?

It’s the Party Market.  (Put your hands up, y’all!  Partaaaaay!)

The Party Market, thanks to our friends at Google, has stumbled upon us in recent years thanks to search.  But it’s time Broadway and Off-Broadway start to actively market to this demo, customizing the experience to what they want and need . . . and leaving the stumbling to after the party’s over.  🙂

I’d argue that the Traditional Group Sales Market may be close hitting a ceiling (in this country anyway).  But the Party Market isn’t even at eye level.

We’ve got a ways to grow.

But the PM isn’t like a Traditional Group.  And they’re not like a family of four either.  They require a different type of hand holding than a typical buyer.  And surprise, surprise, it’s harder (which is probably why Broadway has stayed away).

What do they want?

Well, one of the reasons that The Awesome 80s Prom is in its 9th year of partying like it’s 1989, is that we spend a lot of time catering to this market.  So, in tomorrow’s blog, I’ll give you some tips on how you can sell your show to the party people out there.

Because if you do it and do it well, you’ll be the one throwing the party.


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Poor Rebecca. What happened to that girl?

Rebecca has been on quite a ride for the past few years.  She kind of reminds me of Whitney Kropp.  She’s the girl who gets told she’s going to the big dance . . . and gets all dolled up . . . and her fancy schmancy date never shows.

And then someone does it to her again.  And again.

Rebecca‘s London production was canceled.  And then her Broadway production was canceled.

And then, the rescheduled Broadway Production was delayed.

And now, as first reported by Michael Riedel yesterday, it was canceled again.

The poor girl.  If I had an extra 4.5 million lying around.  She’d have it.

But ok, let’s face it. You can’t feel bad for a musical.  She’s a thing.  But you can feel bad for the countless numbers of actors, musicians, designers, stagehands, merch sellers, marketing directors, investors, and more that won’t have a gig because Rebecca is all dressed up with no place to go.

And that’s what this blog is about.

It’s easy to feel a little schadenfreude about a show like this.  A lot of folks I know were placing bets on it “not” coming in a year ago – and sure, even I was tempted to throw some money into that pool.  In fact, someone in my office suggested we start an @IAmPaulAbrams twitter account last week so we could hear from the mysterious man from beyond the grave.

Funny.  But wrong.


Shows not happening hurt a lot of people where it counts – in their wallets, yes, but also in their dreams (I’d bet the money in that pool that a lot of tears were shed yesterday).  And sure, other folks with musicals on the boards this year will have one less show to worry about competing with for audiences and awards.  So I can understand why some may be pleased with this outcome from a business perspective.

Still . . . today, as the Rebecca jokes start shooting around Shubert Alley, let’s try to remember that a lot of folks, including the Producers, are heartbroken today.  And I bet you ten times the money in that pool that every single one of us will be in their heartbroken shoes at one point in our career or another, if not many times.  Maybe not for the same reasons, but we’ll have our share of disappointments, and we won’t want people whispering about us either.

And hey. You never know.   Whitney Kropp had the last laugh . . . maybe Rebecca will too.  Remember, there’s always another dance next year.

For the sake of everyone involved, I hope to see her there.


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