Unless you’re a bazillionaire, you are all probably wondering just how in the hoo-ha you’re going to find investors for your shows.
I’m going up to Columbia Univ. today to speak to a producing class on this same subject and, well, I can’t tell them before I tell you . . . so here are a few of my strategies on getting people to show you the moola.
Strategy 1: Field of Dreams
Call me a can of Easy-Cheese if you want, but that creepy voice in the corn field was right: "If you build it, they will come."
Spend your time worrying about your product, not about how you’re going to pay for it. There are plenty of people in the world that enjoy investing in shows (even in bad ones). Think like a high-tech company (another high-risk business). Put your time and whatever money you do have in R&D.
If you create something remarkable and Purple-Cow like, you’ll find people throwing money at you. At the same time you’ll be more passionate about your product, which makes it that much easier to sell to investors. Passion is contagious.
When I was a kid, I sold chocolate bars to raise money for my cub scout troupe. I also sold Cutco, stationery products, and I even set up a candy shop at my father’s office after he taught me the wonders of wholesale (I called it Kenneth’s Kandy Shop. I thought the "K" for Candy was the Koolest.).
No matter what I was selling, I always started the same way . . . with my family. Then my friends, my neighbors, my father’s secretary, etc.
Getting investors is no different than hawking scissors that cut a penny in half. Start with the people you know. And then, ask them if they know people who would be interested in your product.
The people that are closest to you are going to be most inclined to give you money, because they are going to invest in YOU, regardless of what you’re selling. Do you think my Mom really needed the scissors that cut a penny in half?
When I was pitching a show (hard) to my very first and biggest investor he cut me off and said, "Ken, I’m giving you the money, but not because I believe the show is going to make a fortune or even return its investment. I don’t invest in projects. I invest in people."
There is a big difference between bazillionaires and people with disposable income. There are more people with disposable income out there than you think. Lots of folks do well enough to spend money on nice vacations, a second home, a nice car, and even theater tickets! GASP!
Your job? Find them. Go to charity benefits. Go to Wall Street bars. Go to art openings. As my dad tells me all the time, "You have to show face." You’ll find people will be interested in what you are doing. And getting a few thousand out of these folks is not as hard as you think. Most people in the middle class to upper middle class have some extra investment money that they’d rather not invest in a boring blue-chip. I often tell these people that investing in the entertainment industry is just an extension of the diversification of their portfolio.
These are my three principle strategies of raising money, but there are thousands more. Just like anything else, you have to find out what works for you.
However you get them, this next part is crucial . . .
Take care of them. I’m not saying you have to produce record breaking hit after recording breaking hit (although that helps). You do have to communicate with them. Send them t-shirts., introduce them to the actors, send them something unique at Christmas (but, please, anything but a card), etc. Why? Because people, like cigarettes, travel in packs. People that invest in the theater, know people that invest in the theatre, who know people that will invest in whatever you are doing.
One of my biggest investors was introduced to me by one of my smallest investors two years after we met. How did I meet him? He walked up to me at one of my shows and said, "This is cool. How can I get involved?"
The lesson? Produce stuff that people think is cool, and then . . . well, you remember how I said your first investors will most likely be your family? Your last investors have to be treated like family, so they’ll stay with you . . . through thick and thin.
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