Our audience isn’t the only thing on Broadway that is getting older.

The “graying” of audiences has been of concern to arts producers of all kinds for years.  The big question has been. . . what happens when that audience disappears?  And will there be another to replace it?

Today’s kids are growing up with many more entertainment options, and they are participating in the arts less and less, which might mean smaller audiences in our future.

But that’s not what this blog is about.

I was at an opening night recently and I scanned the room and looked at all the producers, investors, angels, backers, or whatever you want to call them.

And I realized very quickly that they were graying too.

Makes sense, right?  Those that back Broadway musicals are usually just passionate theatergoers with even more disposable income than the average ticket buyer, and with more of a tolerance for risk with their investments.

But if they are graying too . . . what happens when these investors disappear?  Will their children carry on the tradition?  Are we doing enough to cultivate a new generation of Broadway backers?

Non-profits do this better than the commercial theater, with programs specifically designed to get the younger patron on the backing bandwagon, so they will support the company for years.

The commercial theater needs to catch up and create ways to inspire a new generation of investors.

How?

I’ve got an idea.  Make it less of a long shot to make some money and prove to them it’s possible with statistics, and they’ll come running and funding . . . no matter what color hair they have.

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Comments
  • Seancercone says:

    Good idea Ken, but where are the statistics that indicate the driving factors for audience consumption? What are the key indicators that you look to as a producer that indicate a profitable investment?
    As your previous blog says – It’s challenging to get people to work together, let alone share empirical data that could allow everyone in the entire industry to make more informed decision and mitigating financial risk for our investors. How does our industry compare to other entertainment industries or even manufacturing?
    I agree that an increase in global market share of our industry will trickle down to increase top line revenue for all producers (commercial and NFP.) Who do you believe is best poised to be the arbiter of such a process? The wing? The NEA? The League?

  • Cedric Yau says:

    Ken-Took a quick gander at the Index blogpost. One question that comes up is how accessible investments are in shows like Phantom. Would Mackintosh + Webber circa 1985 have been accessible to a select few or to a broad array of investors?

  • O_Erin says:

    How do we cultivate a new generation of Broadway backers? Let them invest a smaller amount of money. Ken, I’m sure that your investors for Godspell (like me) are younger than the average Broadway investor. If more producers would lower the minimum investment they would get younger investors, many of whom will stick around and invest more in future shows.

  • Russell says:

    Now this is a sweeping generalization, but there’s a lot of truth in it: all across America the leadership of organizations is aging…and not leaving their jobs and giving opportunities to those younger than them. This is for a variety of factors (including a poor economy), but there are consequences.
    Among them are a SEVERE lack of innovation in the products being made (Apple understands: have old AND young staffers). But I don’t mind. It’s made the rise of young theater creators like me harder and therefore our stuff will be better than it could ever been if the road was easier so that when we finally do emerge, we’ll wipe out the large swath of garbage on Broadway. It’s just a shame older producers (like Spiderman peeps) can’t get their heads out of their own asses and realize that if you’re creating a new generation of theater you should include THE NEW GENERATION as well as the old when you make it!
    If the computer generation is given chances to make theater there would not be a growing divide between what’s on Broadway and how most people in this country entertain themselves. Ah well. I look forward to making them look like greedy fools who don’t have their heart in theater.

  • Russell says:

    and I definitely do understand the bulk of this is geared towards investors that are aging. Well here: don’t make theater that sucks ass and appeals to only to people on respirators with type 2 diabetes and you’ll get young investors. I live in the west village and am SURROUNDED by FILTHY rich people in their 20’s…if not younger!

  • john@lightsupcuesound.com says:

    Dear Mr. Producer!
    I have read your blog and many articles expressing fears about the future of the American Theatre. I’ve heard concerns about building future audiences. In my thirty years as a Theatre Arts and English teacher, I took thousands of students to the Broadway and Off Broadway theatre via the free or discounted tickets producers offered my students. They had wonderful, enriching experiences. Do I think these trips were helpful in building the theatre going habit in my students – perhaps, on a limited basis? Today, the students from my English classes, who are now adults, might see a play or musical once or twice a year. Are they an audience the theatre needs? Yes. Are they the audience producers are seeking to sustain the American theatre? I don’t think so.
    The people you need, Mr. Producer, are the theatre lovers. Those people were the students in my theatre classes and after school play productions. They are passionate about going to the theatre because they have experienced it from the inside out. They have become not only the audience members, who attend the theatre many times a year, but also, more importantly, they are the cheerleaders and spokespeople for the American theatre. They talk to colleagues at work, email friends, write Facebook reviews on their walls, blog and tweet about shows they see and love. They are the local theatre authorities for their relatives, friends and neighbors who will attend productions based on the recommendations they give.
    Now, here is the bad news, Mr. Producer, the money to pay instructors to teach theatre classes, as well as produce and direct the after school productions, is drying up in schools all over the country. Funding for the arts is an easy target for groups trying to cut school tax rates. As school budgets have tightened over the last few years, many excellent school programs have lost their theatre teachers and classes, as well as the money to pay stipends for teachers who direct the after school productions. Many schools, which still have programs, no longer receive any financial support from their districts and must fund their entire productions from ticket sales, program ads and food concussions.
    Last week, I received an email from a gifted theatre teacher, Lisa, telling me that her one theatre arts class, which she had fought very hard to create ten years ago, was being eliminated. Lisa would be given another English class to teach. She sounded very discouraged. Another friend, David, told me that they had cut his stipend for directing the school play. “Just do the musical.” They told him. So what happens to the students who love acting and can’t sing well enough to be in the musical? Game over. How many future theatre lovers have been lost?
    It is time, Mr. Producer, to look at what you really need to do to help build future audiences. Just putting students into theatre seats will not build the American theatre audience of the future. Contact the New York Theatre State Education Association and brainstorm ways to rescue these school programs. Only theatre educators and theatre education programs in schools will do that. Please help! The time is now!
    John Shorter
    Theatre Arts Educator, Retired
    Past President, New York State Theatre Education Association
    Adjunct Professor, Theatre Arts Department, Five Town College

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