“When I say Broadway, you say . . .” Survey Results revealed.

My staffers and I got into a discussion last week about what the word ‘Broadway’ meant to our ticket buyers.  What sort of images did it conjure?  What did they associate with it?  In other words . . . what did the brand of Broadway actually mean?

We decided to find out.

I sent a couple of my loyal staff members (and the ones with the warmest coats) to the TKTS booth to ask 100 female theatergoers the following question (we asked only females because they drive the majority of the ticket purchases):

“What is the first word that comes to your mind when I say the word . . . Broadway?”

Below is a list of the responses (only responses given by more than one person are listed):

Shows 15%
Plays 9%
Musicals 8%
New York 8%
Music 6%
Dancing 5%
Wicked 5%
Fun 4%
Singing 4%
Lights 3%
Theater 3%
Chicago 2%
Crowds 2%
Fabulous 2%
Lion King 2%

Pretty interesting, huh?

Kudos to the three shows that got on this list.  When your show equals Broadway, you’re doing pretty well.  The other good news is what was NOT on this list: expensive, uncomfortable seats, etc.  Actually, only one person out of the hundred associated the word Broadway with “expensive,” and that one comment was the only negative word associated with Broadway in the survey.

Since we found this information to be so valuable, and since my staffers’ coats were really warm, we decided to ask another question in the same style, to the same people.  Ready?  Here goes:

“What is the first word that comes to your mind when I say the word . . . Off-Broadway?”

Below is a list of their responses:

Plays 12%
Don’t Know 9%
Cheap 6%
Not as fun 6%
Theater 4%
Altar Boyz 3%
Fun 3%
New York 3%
Shows 3%
Small 3%
Avenue Q 2%
Comedy 2%
Dancing 2%
More shows 2%
Shoes 2%

Pretty scary, huh?

9% of the individuals surveyed couldn’t even come up with a word to describe Off-Broadway!  And not only were there negative associations in this top group, as opposed to Broadway’s survey which had only positive, but these negatives continued on with the rest of the sample.  Words like “sad” and “meh” and “wannabes” were amongst the single responses we recorded.  In total, over 30% of the people surveyed had a negative first thought about Off-Broadway.  (For those of you who think we misspelled “shows” and put “shoes” instead, unfortunately, you’re wrong. Google Off-Broadway.  The second search result is the reason why 2% of our survey said shoes.)

The takeaway from this survey is pretty obvious: Broadway’s brand is healthy and positive, while Off-Broadway’s image is damaged . . . kind of like Martha Stewart when she went away to prison.

But Martha came back . . . and so can Off-Broadway.  It’s just not going to happen on its own.

A model for the rebranding of Off-Broadway tomorrow . . .

What is the first word YOU think of when you hear Broadway?  Off-Broadway?  Comment below.

(Special thanks to Lindsey and Ashley for braving the elements for this sake of this study.

  • Jennica Lundin says:


  • Off-Broadway:

  • Chuck says:

    Can you get your 10 questions for a Bway pro from someone who does research on shows? Fascinating stuff!

  • Ken, you are always doing such wonderful things.
    I’m reaching out to my Twitter followers and Facebook fans to get some data from the musical theater lovers in our midst. Will report back shortly.
    My personal take –
    Broadway: Commercially viable entertainment
    Off-Broadway: Experimental excitement
    And I am thrilled we have both.

  • Robyn L says:

    Off Broadway..somewhere between artistic and intimate..

  • If you want to be incredibly reductive and generalized …
    Broadway: commercial
    Off-Broadway: experimental

  • Catherine says:

    Broadway: Magic
    Off-Broadway: ingenuity

  • Kevin M. Keating says:

    Fun survey, Ken, but it’s got to be taken with a healthy dose of salt for one huge reason other than the relatively small sample size: location.
    Asking women standing outside the TKTS booth what they think about Broadway is like asking old white men on Wall Street what they think about the stock market. That is, it’ll give you a good idea how a self-selecting group feels about the very thing for which they’ve self-selected, and not much insight into what the world at large thinks or how it behaves.
    Point being, it’s a good exercise for seeing how our current audiences feel (and it appears to be good! The guys on Wall Street, I’m not so sure about), but we’re in the business of moving out of that inner circle, so it’d perhaps be more instructive to broaden the field of inquiry.
    Nice stuff, overall, though, Ken. I quite enjoy your posts with a numbers bent.

  • Werner says:

    Maybe we should look at the word “Off”. When we hear the word “off”, it sounds almost negative.
    Here are a few examples:
    off-day (a day when things go poorly)
    off-center (not centered; diverging from the exact center)
    off-brand (not having a recognized or popular brand or name)
    off-hand (without preparation)
    off-guard (unprepared)
    Look at the success of branding like the “Fringe” Festival;
    What if there was something called “Off-Fringe”?
    How would you react?
    I think they should change the name from Off-Broadway to something like…….(Good Question)
    Now Off-Off-Broadway is a different story.

  • B Teasley says:

    What would happen if you called your show a “Broadway” show, even if it was “off-Broadway”?
    I just did a trademark search, and nobody in the theater business owns the term “Broadway”.
    Off to me means 2nd best. Or 2nd rate, not broadway. When my milk smells bad, it is “off”.
    Now, I *know* there is great stuff off Broadway, but that’s my reaction to the term. Yes, a new term is needed (maybe). Maybe Broadwaylita. (jk)

  • Broadway: Big (and glitzy?)
    Off Broadway: Original
    I LOVE the idea of rebranding the notion of Off Broadway. Can’t wait till Off Off B’way gets it’s chance for a make-over!
    Maybe we have Broadway and Intimate Broadway, or People’s Theater. Na, too sexual and too socialist. Although sex and nasty politics make for good ticket sales, I was once advised.

  • Got some great replies to the question on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/broadwaymusical

  • Marshall says:

    Broadway: Unions
    Off B’way: affordable

  • Tony L says:

    I’m always surpised by the number of people I encounter who believe that there is some sort of Broadway governing group that decides which shows will be on or off Broadway based on how “good” they are. They all thought Avenue Q moved to New World Stages because the people who “run” Broadway came to the conclusion that the quality of the show had somehow diminshed and it just wasn’t good enough for Broadway anymore.

  • Only words with a good meaning come up with the name of “Broadway”..THAT`S scaring..

  • Michael says:

    Seems you sparked something here, Ken. I agree with our stats person above and would love to see this informal survey given to people not standing in line at the TKTS booth. I think you are on to something.
    But for me:
    Broadway: How did some of these people get their Equity cards?
    Off-Broadway: WHY arent some of these people on Broadway?
    Additionally, I am loving the new model of keeping theatre alive by bringing smaller shows (or downsizing them) from Broadway to Off-Broadway (e.g. “Avenue Q” and the upcoming “39 Steps”). If this really takes off, will there be created a shift in perceptions of what is and is not Broadway? mmmmmmmmm

  • Virginia says:

    What is the first word I think of when I hear…
    — Fluffy musicals
    — Risk taking

  • Maura says:

    Love the idea of rebranding Off-Broadway, although a caution: It will take a decade or more for any new name to become widely accepted and used. I think everyone who knows what Off-Broadway means realizes there is no negative connotation to “off” in this usage. I’d argue that it would just take a smarter and more coordinated marketing/public education campaign to spread the news of the many good aspects of Off-Broadway.
    Should it be agreed to come up with a new name, I find few things that trip lightly off the tongue. My best nominations:
    Near Broadway
    New York theater (theatre)

  • sebastian byrd says:

    good reward on shoes.and special offers

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