Theater things that don’t make sense: Vol. 10: GMs shouldn’t have to sell.

The theater is a bootstrappy business.  Someone has a barn, so you put on a show.  You grab costumes from a closet, and props from a living room and up the show goes to hopeful success.

Expansion and the fleshing out of the actual roles and positions that are necessary to optimize the show (and the industry) for the best onstage and offstage performances therefore comes slowly.

And there’s an example of that slow adoption still happening in the business today, and it doesn’t make much sense to me.

General Managers of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows have, in the past, been in charge of distributing sales information to the Group Sales Agents all over town.  It started as the dissemination of prices and locations and protocols, etc.  Sounds like a very managerial task to do, right?

It was.

But, what was really happening . . . or what should be happening . . . is very traditional B2B (Biz to Biz) marketing.  Selling the show to salespeople, so they’ll in turn sell it to their clients (Tour Operators, Group Leaders, etc.) who then, in turn, may have to sell it to their clients (the people attending the shows).

And frankly that’s not what General Managers should be doing, for 3 reasons:

  1. They’ve got plenty of other things to focus on.
  2. Sales is not their area of expertise.
  3. See Reason #1.

Now, I love my GMs, and many are great salespeople and marketers (Renaissance men and women doesn’t even begin to define them – they’re probably better Producers than all of us).  The point I’m trying to make is that Group Sales marketing is an important enough component of marketing a Broadway show that it deserves salespeople doing the selling.  Group Sales biz represents close to 10% of all Broadway sales.  And that’s an average.  If you’ve got a heavy Group Show, that number can easily double.

So you need to ask yourself . . .

Who do you want doing your B2B selling?  A seller or a manager?

There is evidence of a transition starting to take place. I know of a few marketing agencies who have folded Group Sales Strategy and Communications into what they do.  So we’re headed in the right direction.  Just took us some time to get there . . . and everyone isn’t there yet.

On your show, or in any business, it’s not a question of if other staff members can do the same job . . . it’s a question of who can do it the best.

And sellers selling?  That makes a heck of a lot more sense to me.


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