Broadway is only as good as the people in it.

When I was a kid I collected baseball cards of my favorite players.

When I was a kid I had posters of my favorite movie stars on my walls.

When I was a kid . . . I didn’t know one Broadway star from another.

One of the greatest marketing tools that other industries have made much better use of is the people that make up those industries.  And it’s time we catch up.

We need to do a better job as an industry of promoting the people that do what we do.  And I’m not just talking about the Patti Lupones and the Nathan Lanes of our world . . . I’m talking about everyone on or off a chorus line who performs eight times a week.

We’ve concentrated so hard on marketing theater as a genre, or our shows, as a brand, we might want to flip our strategy a bit and try marketing the people that appear in those brands.  The hope being, of course, that an audience will fall in love with people, and support whatever show they are appearing in (like an athlete that goes from team to team, or an actor that appears in movie after movie).

Wouldn’t Broadway trading cards be cool?  Why not posters of your favorite stars at merch stands or in stores?  A quick search of “Broadway Calendar” on Amazon yielded this result . . . a calendar of Playbill covers, and none of the images are of the people whose names are in those Playbills.

There are some union rules to navigate and press subtleties to work out, but we need to take the hint from our sister industries . . .  pushing people can yield much greater results than pushing a product.

 

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF

– 29 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– The next Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar is on 9/17.  Only 1 spot left.  Register today!

 

 

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Comments
  • David C Neal says:

    A great thought, and I agree wholeheartedly….with the caveat that “we” do it by exclusively focusing on those who ‘major’ in theater. Harder and harder to do, I know. But staying away from those who are most well known for other media would accentuate the uniqueness of the Stage.
    I could be convinced to include those with roots in the theater, who are now undoubtedly known better for TV and movie roles (Chenoweth, DHPierce, etc., but only reluctantly.
    My wife and I are currently absolutely in love with Reed Birney’s work. He would be our poster boy…er, man…for sure!

  • This is an awesome idea. I’d love to see it instituted in theater concessions, adding even more value to snacks purchased before shows and increasing the desire to buy more at intermission. A truly concerted effort across all Broadway houses would be difficult, but good ideas always are. It brings a level of nostalgia that theater doesn’t have and raises awareness for those behind the shows. (Playbills are great, but it doesn’t allow for enough space to truly highlight achievements.)
    So all of that is great, but on top of it, it helps give Broadway as a whole a stronger brand. While shows are many, and constantly fluctuating, the community remains strong, constant and thriving.
    In a world of Pottermore.com, where thousands (soon to be millions) are scrambling to grab up chocolate frog wizarding cards, this is relevant, especially with Harry Potter himself on Broadway. You increase demand for the stars, and then increase awareness for those who are unknown.
    I can see the cards now, and would love to have one in hand. The design of this project would be thrilling. I’d devour production like this!

  • Margie Goldsmith says:

    LOVE your idea. You have GREAT ideas, always. And speaking of cast — Maybe once the cast moves out of the rehearsal hall into the theatre to rehearse, you could get them to come to the stairs on 46th St. one afternoon (when TKX is open so there are plenty of Bway lovers around), and just let them belt out one of the songs — of course, let the press know about it beforehand so it would make the 6pm news — the angle? Just the Godspell cast taking a break and having some fun — creating a little pre-buzz.
    Is that Larry Byrd? Was he your favorite?

  • Lauren Kinney says:

    Funny you mention this considering you just cast Telly Leung in Godspell. I literally cheered when I saw him on Glee last year. Why? Because I had seen him in RENT nearly a dozen times and he played “Squeegee Man/Others”. But I remembered him all the same and recognized him immediately. I am overjoyed that he’s in Godspell and I cross my fingers that this is going to be his “break-out” roll for the rest of the public.

  • Marina says:

    Another innovative great idea Ken – the unsung heros of B’way – and who wouldn’t want to have an opportunity to get to know them? Can’t do a show without the chorus be it musical or not – can’t all be a star turn all the time, right?
    Super idea!

  • Tyler Bennett says:

    Take a look at two sports models: the NBA and the NHL. The NBA builds players as the main draw such as Kobe and The Lakers meet LeBron and the Heat where as the NHL uses the color of the sweater to influence fans: Sharks Vs Islanders.
    It’s no secret that the NHL is under constant financial pressure because of the lack of the “casual fan”. This is an area where the NBA has truly dominated. This just proves your theory that we as Americans connect much more to people than organizations.

  • Douglas Hicton says:

    Well, the calendars are a good idea. You could probably do a nice 2012 one with the Godspell cast, if you intend your run to continue into 2012. Jesus could be Mr December. Value could be added by spreading little Godspell factoids throughout on appropriate dates, about the original and other productions, about the creators of the show.
    Another good idea for a calendar would be one where each date would list the plays and/or musicals that opened on Broadway on those days. Perhaps the pictures could be of famous Broadway set designs, or notable costumes — you know, something really attractive and eye-catching, and which people wouldn’t mind hanging on their walls. And if anyone can make this happen, you can. Let’s brainstorm some ideas.
    Trading cards for shows, though? Meh. The idea brought to mind an episode of The Odd Couple series in which Felix got work at a bubblegum company, and the cards he designed were scenes from famous operas, including one of Madame Butterfly committing suicide. And the gum was broccoli-flavoured. Oscar wasn’t pleased with that, and neither was Felix’s boss.

  • Hey Ken~
    This is one of the most potentially potent ideas to expand the public mindset of Broadway–Theatre!–artists I’ve come across. I have a great “portrait” framed of Bessie McCoy, from a 1908 cover of “The Theatre” magazine hanging on my wall–the first thing you see when the front door is opened. Theatre artists “in action,” on tee-shirts, hats, posters, etc. Yes. Theatre goers and others should have the opportunity to see his/her theatrical champion repeatedly, privately, personally. Yes.

  • Gary says:

    A calendar was done for the last Cabaret revival- chorus only- Kit Kat Girls and Kit Kat Boys. Great, but didn’t have the marketing needed to really get it out there beyond the theater merch counter. Would be wonderful to really promote the chorus of all shows!

  • Freya says:

    I couldn’t agree more Ken, I absolutely believe that people become invested in interests (whether it be sports, entertainment, hobbies, causes) because of people. Whether its their passion for a particular person’s work/career or a friend/influencer opening their eyes to something, we invest our energy and time because of the personal connection we make.
    As someone who works in sponsorship/fundraising, we see this repeatedly – money is handed over (small or large amounts) when there is a personal ask or personal pull made. People will invest repeatedly if they continue to be engaged when the experience is personalized through things such as excellent customer service.

  • Mark Graham says:

    Great idea for Broadway Cares…print limited edition numbered cards with photos of the stars of major musicals…fans and broadwayites would collect/hoard them. New cards are produced as cast changes…mini bios etc. on back… Special cards can be produced from great performers of the past…The Broadway Cares Card…which can be traded/sold etc on the Broadway Cares site with commission going to the charity.

  • Kenneth says:

    Thanks for finally writing about >Broadway is only as good as the people in it.

    – The Producer’s Perspective <Liked it!

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