What can Broadway learn from the NBA lockout?

If you’re a basketball fan, you’ve been foaming at the mouth and ornery to everyone you know for the past couple o’ months, as you’ve suffered through B-Ball withdrawal thanks to the lockout.

Fear not, however, slam dunks and double-dribbles will return on Christmas day as a present to you all, now that a new 10 year agreement has been reached.

First class labor disputes in sports always catch my eye, because of the major similarity between the two sides of their negotiating table and the two sides of Broadway’s table:

  • Most of the owners of professional sports teams made money in other industries before getting involved with athletics.  (Sound like a lot of Producers you know?)
  • The players are the best in the world at what they do and can’t be replaced by others without weakening the product (Sound like a lot of actors/designers/directors/technicians you know?)

The specific causes of this year’s lock out stems from the claim of the owners that they were losing $300 million a year.  What’s interesting to me is that if you dig deeper and you find out that those losses come from 22 out of the 30 teams.  In other words, 74% of the teams were losing money, while 26% were making money.

Hmmmm . . . It is estimated that 20-30% of Broadway shows make money, and 70-80% lose money.

Coincidence?  Pareto’s Principle?

The owners sought to reduce salaries and salary caps, and after a ton of back and forth and the loss off two months of games, hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars, a settlement was reached . . . but not until the players dissolved their own union so they could be rep’d by individual lawyers and sue the League for an “illegal boycott.”

What a mess.

And that’s where I hope the similarities between our industries end.  Because no matter who won this dispute or any dispute . . . I can guarantee you who lost . . . The Fans.  And sure, the rabid mouth-foamers aren’t going to switch from B-Ball to baseball because a couple of months go by before they get to watch a game.  But those aren’t the fans I’d be worried about.  It’s the casual fan that they could lose.

And it’s the casual fan we could lose if we ever find ourselves in a situation like the above.

And that’s why all sides of our industry need to remember that there are no sides when it comes to our industry’s survival.


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  • Amyleigh1982 says:

    Reminds me of when the large chain supermarkets went on strike a few years back, propelling places like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and other smaller chains into superstardom. And many shoppers never went back to the larger stores. A gamble gets played the longer a strike wears on and you can only hope that the people will be waiting with open arms at the end.

  • Randy says:

    As long as both sides remain professional about their disagreements and don’t resort to embarrassing, petty rhetoric, a somewhat tense stand-off can be weathered without either side being villified. It’s a tempting route to take since each side surely believes it is the other party that is being unreasonable, but making a real effort to see things from the other side’s perspective is essential to finding the compromises all can live with. No one should walk away from a negotiation feeling they got everything they wanted and gave up nothing.
    And, though not everyone can be mentioned in every example, I would like to throw in Broadway musicians as more professionals who are the best in the world at what they do.

  • donlaureljordan@aol.com says:

    If we can all remember that we are in the theater together that will be a big step forward. I must also add that producer’s must challenge themselves to be more open, honest and candid in showing the books…you can’t make claims if you are not willing to open the books and let them be examined…and the actors/designers and technicians must remember how fragile the economy is and have a realisitci view of what they are asking for. For example, with the constant rising price of health care and produer’s obligations there, it is not always ferasible to think you can have a raise—your raise is going into the the helath care plan, etc.
    But let us all agree to work together to keep ou patrons happy and keep the theaters open!

  • Gannon Power says:

    Gannon Power

    Appreciate you sharing, great article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.

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