How many Tony Voters does it take to pick a winner?
Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right?
Well, it’s not. Tony winners are a serious matter because of the impact they can have on people’s lives, economic and otherwise. A Tony winner can provide jobs for hundreds. A Tony winner could get an actor or director a shot at film. And so on. It’s a big deal.
All of this was going through my mind today as I filled out my Tony ballot (see it here).
I made the mistake of doing some quick calculations in my head, and made a realization . . . this big deal is decided by a relatively small number of people.
Let me do some back-of-a-blog math for you.
According to the Tony Awards website, there are 868 voters.
Now, while Broadway shows invite all 868 of those voters, we never, ever get every one to come. In fact, the most I’ve seen is 65%, which means 564 voters.
Let me repeat . . . that is the max I’ve seen. For some shows, it’s probably much lower. And we also know that there’s a good deal of Tony Voter fraud out there and that the people that see the shows on Tony Voter tickets aren’t actually the voters themselves.
But let’s keep working with the max of 564.
Do all of those people that come actually submit their ballots? Probably not. There has got to be some attrition. Ballots get lost. They don’t arrive on time. People forget. Whatever.
I’d take off another 10%, or 56 voters to get down to 508.
508 voters decide major prizes, and, well, actually define theatrical history (Tony Award winning plays are done more often than non-Tony Award winning plays).
But wait, let’s keep going.
Let’s take a race for, oh, I don’t know, Best Musical . . . and say it’s a tight race between two major contenders. Well, look, just because it’s a tight race between two, doesn’t mean that the other two aren’t going to get ANY votes, right? There are “friends of the court” on all shows, and those votes count. I’d guesstimate that at least 50 votes each go to the other nominees . . . leaving only 408 votes remaining between the two top shots. 408.
Split that evenly and you’ve got 204 each. So if it was super close, it could be 220 to 188.
Starting to see the picture I’m drawing here?
The actual margins that decide the winners of these big, fat, history defining awards can be super small. 10, 20 . . . even less!
Is the process broken? No, that’s not what I’m trying to say (although I do think there should be more Tony Voter policing going on).
What I’m trying to say is that if you’re a Producer of a show that is in the hunt for a Tony, then you have to realize that the race is a lot closer than you think. Just a handful of voters could determine whether or not you walk home empty handed on Tony night.
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