How to make money on YouTube . . . with Broadway?

An interesting article appeared in the technology section of The Times this week about YouTube, and how Google expects their 1.65 billion dollar baby to be profitable this year.

How?

Well, they made friends with the enemy.

The TV and film industries have been fighting with YouTube since the site came out.  As fast as videos of copyrighted material could go up, another lawsuit would be filed.  Google claimed innocence (!), but eventually agreed to police their backyard as much as possible.

Well, those bitter enemy industries are now the closest of friends.

Why?

Like just about everything else, it’s all about money.

The TV and movie producers realized that trying to stop the uploading of their content to a site like YouTube was pointless.  It was gonna keep happening anyway, so why pay those lawyers to keep fighting it.  They also realized that a lot of those clips were doing a lot more good than harm, by providing free media to promote their products.

And most importantly, Google started running ads on their copyrighted videos, and sharing the proceeds.

Suddenly, the lawsuits stopped.

Funny, how a little cash calms the nerves.

So, let’s recap:

Fans put up copyrighted videos.  They get pulled down.  Google pays owners of material, and all is ok.

Huh.  The first two-thirds of that three sentence story sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Think YouTube would ever pay off the owners of the material of Broadway shows by sharing in ad revenue that appears on each clip?

And would that make it ok?

Unlike film or TV, we’ve got quality issues to deal with.  A performance of Mad Men is always the same, no matter how many times it is played.  A performance of Patti Lupone doing Gypsy . . . well, one performance might be HUGELY different from the next.

I don’t expect YouTube to open its purse to Broadway any time soon, but it would be nice, wouldn’t it?  Because as our costs escalate, it is becoming more and more essential that Broadway shows find ancillary forms of revenue to defray those rising expenses.

Read the article here.

Comments
  • It’s definitely an intriguing idea, but, you’re right. The first problem would be trying to identify clips. It couldn’t be done electronically. So, it would mean mechanically searching the site every day. Plus, Equity don’t allow any taping without pre-payment, so the unions would have to work out a deal, etc.
    But, how nice if we could see great theater online, while our faves are getting a nice cut.

  • Just want all Ken’s readers to know: when we finish “After The Hat” (working title) as a staged musical television special, we WILL be posting most of the major scenes on YouTube. We are paying SAG wages, shooting in Texas and will be trying to get as many warm bodies to their TV’s as possible.
    Wouldn’t this model work for Broadway?

  • SusanMKim says:

    Steve– you say the first problem would be identifying clips. Would it? According to the NYT article, thanks to You Tube’s Content ID (for registered content partners) that wouldn’t be a problem.

  • SusanMKim says:

    Ken-
    I loved this idea about using YouTube to make money for broadway. I think one thing you left out is just exposing good theater to more people would get them more interested to come out and see the real thing (or– eventually pay for it online).
    Here would be my suggestions:
    1. Get producers like yourself (or just you) to become an official content provider for YouTube (they need quality, original content, not 14 year old boys burping).
    2. Create a Broadway channel on YouTube
    3. Professionally film 3-5 min. clips from shows (I know– Equity problems– but assuming they see the light). At the beginning and ending of each clip put a URL on where/how to buy tickets for that show. Until you get the rights to that, have clips of the actors talking about their characters and upload that on the page.
    4. Work out a revenue split.
    5. Once you get more a critical mass and process is in place—film the whole show and have downloads like movies. Payment works out similarly.
    I think just being able to get the best of clips/teasers out there would be great because it would expose so many more people exposed to theater– and the ideal ads to run on those would be for tickets to the show and Bus/Train/Airline tickets to NYC.

  • Of course there are already commercials that act in a similarly effective way (at least for musicals) to give audiences a taste of the music/choreography/costumes. I still think, however, that it would behoove us to figure out a similar program to NTLive at London’s National Theatre (http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/ntlive) so that those who miss productions/are unable to travel to see them are able to catch great performances/shows even if they’re in, say, Albuquerque. Again, it’s basically an Equity issue, and if anyone’s interested, I speak more about it here: http://iblogbroadway.com/?p=469
    But, yes, wouldn’t it be great if we could youtube clips that weren’t illegally (and shakily) shot from the back of the balcony…and how wonderful would that also be for the classroom? For students to be able to see Broadway and its greats in action with just a click of a mouse..
    -Timothy Childs
    http://iblogbroadway.com/

  • Travis Bryant says:

    I was having a similar discussion just this weekend. I produce and direct a lot on the local and community level. Trying to fight the people who want to video record a production is VERY difficult. Those videos almost always wind up on YouTube. I don’t understand why the publishing houses don’t just charge a recording fee when they assign the rights and let it go. That way they’d be making money on something that is going to happen anyway, and I don’t have to be the “video police” at every performance.
    On the professional side, the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts live performances of their shows into movie houses across the country via Fandango and Cine Arts, why don’t Broadway producers do the same, especially with star driven straight shows that will never tour anyway. I’d love to see Denzel Washington in Fences- but couldn’t make to NYC for the run.

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