Who went to see Broadway shows in 2016-17? Demographic study results revealed! (Updated)

A new year and a new study, hot off the presses from the Broadway League of who, exactly, went to see Broadway shows in the last super successful season.

Let’s go straight to the bullet point big picture takeaways . . .

  • The 2016-17 season grossed $1.45 BILLION (with a B) in ticket sales.
  • 13.3 million people put their butts in seats, with a 4% attendance increase per playing week.
  • The New York City audience accounted for 22% of theatergoers, the highest percentage in fifteen years – or 2.85 million admissions; another 18% came from surrounding suburbs.  More New Yorkers attended a Broadway show than any season since 1998–1999.
  • Tourists purchased approximately 61% of all Broadway tickets.
  • Attendance by theatergoers under 18 years old was 1.65 million. The number of theatergoers under 18 years old was the highest since this analysis began.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Remember all those family shows we had last year?  Here they are!)
  • Twenty-five percent of respondents were under 25 years old.
  • Moreover, there were another 1.62 million admissions by theatergoers aged 18–24.
  • Approximately half of respondents said they purchased their tickets online.
    • American theatergoers were more likely than others to use the internet to purchase tickets, whereas those who reside outside of the US were more likely to make the purchase in person.
  • For the past several seasons, approximately two-thirds (66%) of all attendees have been female.
    • Fifty-one percent of female respondents said they made the purchasing decision to see the show, compared to 44% of male respondents.
  • Playgoers tended to be more frequent theatregoers than musical attendees. The play attendee saw nine shows in the past year; the musical attendee, four.
  • Theatregoers reported personal recommendations as the most influential factor when it came to selecting a show to see. (NOTE FROM KEN:  This stat hasn’t changed since the days of Sophocles and Shakespeare.)
    • Other factors included the music, having seen the movie, internet listings and having seen the show before.
    • The most popular sources for theatre information (as reported by theatregoers) other than personal recommendation were TicketMaster.com, Broadway.com, Playbill.com, and the New York Times.
  • The average reported date of ticket purchase for a Broadway show was 42 days before the performance.
  • The average age of the Broadway theatregoer was 41.7 years old.
  • Twenty-three percent of all tickets were purchased by non-Caucasian theatregoers.
  • Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 80% had completed college and 39% had earned a graduate degree.
  • The average annual household income of the Broadway theatregoer was $194,940.
  • The average Broadway theatregoer reported attending 4 shows in the previous 12 months. The group of devoted fans who attended 15 or more performances comprised only 5% of the audience, but accounted for 29% of all tickets (3.9 million admissions).

Why do we care about numbers like these for Broadway, and why should you also care about who is coming to your shows (or your business)?

Two reasons:

  1.  The only way to know if marketing initiatives are working is by analyzing the numbers after the initiatives.  Numbers don’t lie.  You want something to increase?  Try something.  Check the data.  And if it doesn’t come out the way you wanted, don’t make up some excuse as to why it might be “off.”  Just try something else and test it again until you get it right.
  2. Knowing who is coming to Broadway and how/why they’re coming to Broadway, helps make it easier for us to design shows and campaigns for that audience.  Does that mean we only make shows that a female tourist audience will enjoy?  No.  The best theater leads an audience in a new direction (e.g. Hamilton).  But it does tell you that your degree of difficulty for marketing a show about 88-year-old men from Antartica might be a little more challenging.  It doesn’t mean don’t do it, but I’d stoke up on that reserve and that ad budget for sure.

There’s a lot more data in this research report from the League.  If you want the full copy, click here to get one.  It costs a few bucks.

But great research always helps you hone your campaign, which both saves you money and makes you money.

How to spin a story, brought to you by SVU.

I had a staycation over the holidays, which involved some great takeout, some new board games (big fan of this one), and a lot of Law & Order: SVU.

I learned a lot about cops and lawyers and what I would do if I was ever arrested . . . but, I learned a bit about press too.

And I didn’t learn this tidbit from the actual story on the show, but from the way the Network was selling me to watch.

See, the pre-New Year’s Eve marathon I channel surfed onto was pitched as “Commercial Free.”  And it really was!  There were no pee breaks, no pretzel breaks, no breaks of any kind.  Each seven-or-so-minute segment of the show (which always end with these dramatic chords) rolled into the next, which rolled into the next and eventually rolled into the next episode.

And while that type of SVU suspense was a bit overwhelming at times (especially when Andy Karl got shot in a season finale), the idea of no commercials kept the station on all day (including while my wife and I played this other great board game).

So it worked.

And when I finally had to hit pause so I could grab the Chinese food at the door, and give me and my dog a “bio break,” I realized something.

The network spun a negative story into a positive one.

The marathon I was watching started midday, during a holiday period when I’d bet most people were NOT watching TV.  And it started in the afternoon.

In other words, I bet the advertising time was a difficult sell.

So they didn’t sell it.

A business’s first instinct when facing a “down time,” is usually to get desperate and slash prices, offer deals and beg for any business any way you can get it (this is especially true in perishable inventory industries like media, restaurants and the theater).

But instead of getting desperate, and selling the time for pennies on the dollar, this network spun the story around.  And, in a brilliant example of how to control a story, they went public with the opposite tale .  . . that they were not even offering the advertising time for sale!

It was the perfect spin.

The next time you’re faced with a challenge on your show or your business and are going to take a hit no matter what, see if you can turn the story around and get a win out of it in your customer’s eyes.  (e.g. Can’t sell seats on Super Bowl Sunday?  Offer tickets to a charity.)

Because sometimes the best commercial for what you’re selling is no commercial at all.


3 Keys To Setting New Year’s Resolutions . . . that you will KEEP.

Happy New Year, readers!

This is normally the day when I’d post a podcast, but in light of the holiday, I thought I’d give the microphone a little vacation and talk about New Year’s, one of my favorite days of the year.

Because this is the day when it all starts over.  And no matter whether you had a great year, or a @#$%, this is the day when we set out to make things better than they were.

A clean slate.  A blank canvas.  A bare stage.

So much potential.

And it’s up to us to realize it.

Today is of course the day when millions upon billions of people set New Year’s Resolutions.

And a month from now is when millions upon billions of people will break those Resolutions.

I’m a super resolution maker (are you surprised?), and I spent many years breaking ’em, forgettin’ ’em, and saying, “What the @#$% was I thinking” about ’em.

But about a decade ago, I started using the Three Keys below to help set my resolutions, and, dangit, I started keeping ’em.  And more importantly, they started working!

So, as we ALL start off this year, and since we all want it to be the best year yet, I thought I’d share these keys of mine with you to help you with your resolutions, whether they are theatrically-related or not.

Here’s how I set my resolutions:

1. Make them “The Two As.”

All of your resolutions should be follow the rules of the Two As. They should be “Ambitious but Achievable.” Stretch yourself, but make sure your goal is something you can accomplish.

I once set a resolution for myself to start and produce a workshop, write a screenplay and start a new website in 90 days . . . while working two jobs that took up about 60 hours a week.

Guess what? I failed. And felt pretty bad about it.

Set a resolution that will challenge you but that isn’t impossible. If you just finished a play, don’t set a resolution to “Get it to Broadway.” Maybe set one to have a reading or a showcase production in the next 12 months.

If you just graduated from college and got your first job, don’t say, “I will make a million dollars this year.” Push yourself, yes, but make it something that is possible.

Because falling short of a goal or breaking a resolution can actually cause you to regress on your journey towards success.

2. Make them specific.

Your resolutions should be as specific as possible. The more concrete and clear they are, the easier they are to follow. Resolutions are like directions. If someone says, “To get to my house, just go that way . . . for like, oh, I don’t know, a while, and then turn . . . and after then you’ll sort of end up there.” You’ll never get to where you want to go or you will spend hours on a trip that should have taken minutes.

But if someone says, “Drive three miles, take a left for 2 miles. Turn left at the stop sign then your first right and I’m the red house on the left with the balloons out front,” you’ll get there. Efficiently.

So don’t set a resolution to “write more,” or “go to the gym more often.” Set a resolution that says, “I will write three hours a week,” or better, “thirty minutes every day,” or “I will go to the gym twice a week.”

Specificity leads to success.

3. Make yourself Accountable.

Find someone and SHARE your resolutions with that person. Make him/her your Resolution Buddy!  For some reason people often keep their resolutions private . . . but the best way to make sure you stick with them is to make them PUBLIC.  Put ’em on Facebook, Twitter, your refrigerator. Or in our PRO Facebook group!!!

And have periodic check-ins with your buddy. Or get yourself a trainer, coach, Mastermind, teacher . . . someone to make sure you do your homework. It works! I’ve had an Accountability Buddy for about 20 years. And have been a member of Masterminds for over a decade.

These Three Keys have worked for me, and I hope they’ll work for you.  And don’t hesitate to tweak to make them your own.  Everyone’s journey is different.  But if you start with these three steps as a foundation when you set your 2018 Resolutions, I’d bet that you’ll have your best 2018 yet.
(This post was this week’s “Tip of the Week” email that I send to my ProducersPerspectivePRO members every Monday (they said it was ok to share it with you).  Want more like it delivered to your inbox every week?  Click here to find out how.)

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.