Hit the street to find out how to sell.

Guess what is happening in the photo to the right.

Give up?  I’ll tell you.

That’s Janine and her daughter Ellen.  They’re from Ohio and they came in to New York last weekend.  They’re staying at the Milford Plaza and plan on seeing a musical and going to The Empire State Building.

That’s Duane in the red sweatshirt.  He’s from the Bronx.  He’s an underground rapper who records his own music and then sells it on the street in midtown.

And that’s Ellen, digging into her purse to buy this unknown artist’s CD for $10, even though she’s never heard of him before, and even though she “doesn’t really like rap.”

So what happened here?  How the heck did Duane get a tourist to fork over cash in the middle of midtown, and how did he penetrate an alternative demographic?

There is nothing more powerful than the live pitch. It’s why telemarketing, Tupperware parties and door-to-door sales still work.  It’s not as fast as the internet, but if you’ve got an unknown product and are trying to break through to a resistant demo, do you really think a banner ad is going to do it?

Duane believes in his product.  And Janine and Ellen could feel that.  And they aren’t just buying a CD.  They are buying Duane.  Great sales people know how to make themselves a part of their product.  That’s not only how to convert one sale, but it’s how to get a customer for life.

This is why who works at your box office and who is answering your phone line is so important.  This is also why Broadway is at a significant disadvantage in its current model.

Box office ticket sellers are hired by the theater.  Not by the Producer.

Imagine if you were the owner of a GAP. You rent a storefront on 5th avenue.  You stock it with your product, you advertise, etc.  And then your landlord sends in your sales team.  Huh?

You don’t get to screen them.  You don’t get to train them.  They don’t have to wear your product.  You can’t fire them.  You don’t even sign their checks, yet you have to reimburse the landlord for every penny of their salary and benefits.

You wouldn’t stand for that, right?  You’d find another storefront.

That’s the way it works on Broadway.  And because of the limited availability of “storefronts”, we take it.

Same thing for the phones.  As a producer, you have no control over Ticketmaster or Telecharge.  And, as a producer, you also have no choice but to use them.  They come packaged with your theater agreement.  And yes, the theater owners get a kickback from the ticketing companies, and the Producer gets no financial benefit.  In fact, Telecharge is owned by the Shubert Organization.

With the amount of money producers are risking on shows, we deserve to be able to choose the best sales team for us.  Maybe we’d use Telecharge and maybe we’d hire a lot of the great Local 751 members out there.  But we deserve that choice.  Having a choice means competition.  And competition is what makes businesses and industries stronger.

If I were choosing my sales team today, the first person I’d interview would be Duane.

  • Davenport Dsiciple says:

    You couldn’t be more correct on this subject.(As well as others.) The fact that when you ‘rent’ a theater you have no control over who sells your tickets, that you don’t know who those people who buy the tickets are (since telecharge and ticketmaster keep the lists and charge you to use them for email blasts), AND you can’t train the ushers(have them say “welcome to the show Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) who greet your guests at every performance, puts producers at a distinct disadvantage. It pains me to think about it. Your words are spoken at many a producer meeting on Broadway, but no one goes public with the issues. Thank you for getting the public discussion going.

  • Cindy says:

    I live in London where shock of shocks most box office people WANT to sell you a ticket and more shockingly, they want to give you the best possible seat. The total inverse of a Broadway box office. When was the last time you went to the window of Broadway theatre and they didn’t offer 17th row on the side? In London by and large they point to the chart at the window ( and not on the other side of the lobby as in New York) and ask: where would you like to sit? And then they try and find it for you. Being British they tend to be neutral about the show you’re buying for but unlike New York they do make you believe that they want you to have a good time.

  • Nate says:

    So very true. I only hire people on my staffs and shows if they are passionate about the show to which they’re hired for. And it works every time.

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