Are we producing more new musicals each decade or less?

I’m on a statistics kick lately.  Don’t know why.  It’s like that time I ate sushi every day for lunch for a week.  It just satisfied a craving.


And right now all that I can crave is numbers.  Raw numbers.  Mmm, mmm good.  So expect a few number-soaked posts in the coming week or so.


And here’s the first one:


We got into a fight debate in my office after hours last week about the quantity and quality of new musicals over the last several decades.  So we went to the books to see exactly how many NEW musicals were produced season over season, and if we could spot a trend.


Unfortunately, we did.
  • In the 1940s, the average number of new musicals produced each season was 14.9.
  • In the 1950s, it was 11.6.
  • In the 1960s, it was 14.6
  • In the 1970s, it was 13.6
  • In the 1980s, it was 10.1
  • In the 1990s, it was 7.5
Yikes, right?  For the past five decades, the new musical average has been dropping like a stone in a bowl of miso soup.


Well, wouldn’t you know it, check this out.
  • In the 2000s, the average number of new musicals was 9.3.
A bit of a bounce this last decade.


Will it continue?  Let’s hope so, because dropping lower than the paltry 7.5 of the ’90s will make Broadway look more and more like a museum; a place for tourists to visit like The Met.


We need to figure out a way to get back into the teens by coming up with ways to encourage Producers to take the risks associated with these big budget shows because frankly, that’s one of the big reasons tourists come to New York in the first place.


Tomorrow, we look at the average number of new plays per decade.
Can you guess what kind of trend we’re going to see?


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  • What’s interesting is that no matter how many musicals get produced in a year, there always seems to be only one that shines through. Even during the Golden Age, in most seasons, there was one show of the GUYS AND DOLLS or IN THE HEIGHTS ilk.

  • Tim Heitman says:

    “We need to figure out a way to get back into the teens…”
    Another way to approach this is to lower the bar for entry, make the risk much lower. I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more places for new musicals to be submitted for staged readings or for small cheap productions. There are precious few ways for musical theatre artists to work on their craft. It would take very little money to sponsor a program like this at small non profits across the country, a little more effort to evaluate the product — sure you’d have to see a lot of junk before you’d find something worthy of further development, but it seems a small amount of dough in R&D would pay off big if a hit or two were to come out of the process.

  • Very interesting. Thanks for putting this together! I’m dying to see the numbers for plays tomorrow (I write plays, not musicals).
    Any idea why there was such a big dip in the 50s?

  • Ken King says:

    Given the hours when your e-letters are often written, pleased to see that you actually have hours so you can write about “after hours”. Always assumed at least your staff must have a bit of a life outside of the office.

  • Suzana Ilievska says:

    Hmm…this one goes to myself:Do not compare!!!!{1-2 musicals per year…in a whole}…ok…now i can go on…what i am very interested in …are the numbers as well…:)..for how long…you keep the productions on..and how many performances…the productions have exceeded …{i wont compare i promise…hardly waiting to see plays results..:)}

  • Mary Gannon says:

    I wish there were more shows. If you have more varied shows then you could get a more diverse audience. I think it’s hard for book writers and the music people to hook up and try things out. (you hosted an event for that to happen-good going). But whereas you have regional theaters that put together a group for something like August Ossage County, not so much of that regional development for musicals.
    Newer projects need more venues. Interesting numbers though, looking forward to the play ones.

  • And what about measuring the vast increase in (smaller) musicals being produced off- and off-off-Broadway?

  • Clare says:

    Broadway producers have to figure out a way to make going to the theater more interactive for teens. As a teenager who grew up in Kansas in the 90s, I got my exposure to Broadway through friends, the Tony Awards, and touring shows (so it was a very delayed education). Today with almost every teenager and young adult having a smartphone in hand, news travels much faster. Broadway producers need to tap into that, and dive into other parts of the country to get more patrons.
    The thing that sucks teens and young adults into a product is their interaction with things, and their ability to make a difference/choose/vote… etc… for example the voting population for many talent competitions like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, The Sing Off, and The Voice are teens and young adults. This proves two points–1) if you interact with teens/young adults and make a competition, they will come and 2)teenagers/young adults LIKE culture!!! It is too bad that You’re The One That I Want didn’t take off… it seems like there are enough dreaming teens and young adults out there that would power a competition or something they believed in… (I mean, over 1000 people auditioning for Godspell?!?! AND a good chunk were people who aren’t up every day at auditions… I didn’t recognize many from my daily treks to the studios!)

  • janis says:

    Of the new shows produced then and now, I wonder how many of the old shows relied on a known title (a hit movie, etc.) a known star, or some other marketing cop out.
    The stats on the average age of audiences past and present would also be interesting. I bet there’s not much difference in the average age of an audience then and now. Maybe musicals are just not a teen thing. Maybe they are for an adult audience. So? Is that a bad thing? After all, teens become adults sooner or later and their tastes will change.
    If Broadway wants to avoid museum status, producers might consider getting away from the idea that bigger and more expensive is better. It’s not! Creative is better–No, creative is best. And nothing inspires creativity like being low on cash. Money just polishes up the show and sometimes the shine conceals the essence of something great.
    West, north and south of Broadway original new musicals are produced with a few dollars and a lot of creative sense. And the shows are darned good too. I know cause some of them are mine.
    If Broadway wants to avoid museum status, it must squeeze the cash, return to creativity, forget the marketing gimmicks, and let the creativity of the show sell itself.

  • Hillary says:

    Do these stats include concept musicals? I’m so sick and tired of shows being built around music that already exists. It results in very limited and contrived plots and music that we already listen to (or wore out and never want to hear again!) But it seems as if producers are only willing to take a risk on shows whose music has already succeeded on the billboard charts. We’re seeing theatrical rock concerts instead of musical theatre. Thank goodness for those unique and rare all original shows that push through and remind us what we are still capable of creating, producing and sharing with the world like Memphis and Book of Mormon. And thank you to those willing to produce it!!!

    My script is HOLIDAY IN HEAVEN, a romantic fantasy with
    a twist and a mission.
    comments from the last reading I had:
    “Outstanding music”
    “I enjoyed the songs, they were very Broadway”
    PS. I watched “Cover Girl” with Rita Hayworth on
    Turner Classics. where would we be without that
    station for Hollywood musicals?
    Demetria Daniels

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