When you open a show on Broadway, a pre-existing brand is important and essential.
Because when faced with a high-priced decision in a competitive market, a consumer will always, ALWAYS choose what they are more familiar with.
End of play.
(BIG DISCLAIMER: a brand helps you build an advance, and gives you a head start against your competition, but it doesn’t guarantee success. If your show doesn’t generate enough word of mouth to sell enough tickets to meet your weekly expenses, no brand, no matter how big, will survive.)
So, to mitigate your risk, you should either choose projects that have a pre-existing brand or, and here’s the much more CREATIVE APPROACH, develop that brand for your project before you open.
There are many ways to do this.
The easiest, of course, is to adapt something with a powerhouse brand that exists already. (Think Harry Potter, Mean Girls, my own Neil Diamond musical, etc.)
But don’t think that’s the only way to get your show to Broadway or build an advance.
The brand could be in your creative team. (Think Kinky Boots with Cindy Lauper or Last Ship with Sting – a perfect example of a show that built a huge advance but wasn’t something the public was interested in after the advance played off and Sting left.)
The brand could be a social media army that you build (Think Be More Chill . . . or even Ratatouille.)
The brand could be the reviews and buzz from your one, two, or three out-of-town tryouts (Think Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away, etc.)
The brand could be the star or stars. (Think Bette Midler in I’ll Eat You Last.)
The brand could be The Producer (Think Oprah Winfrey with The Color Purple – and notice how they stacked Oprah’s brand on top of the brand of the pre-existing material – a powerhouse parlay strategy!).
The brand can be anything you want it to be.
But there must be something?
The most important weeks of a Broadway shows lifecycle are the first few . . . both creatively and financially. Most new shows lose money. The key is to minimize those losses.
A brand of any kind can do that. How much depends on how big the brand is.
So ask yourself today . . . what does my show have that can attract an audience apart from the show itself?
If you can’t answer that . . . start building its brand today. Because it’s never too early. And there will definitely be “a too late.”
And if you need help identifying what yours should be . . . shoot me an email . . . I can point you in the right direction.