Art by Data Design or as I call it, “Test Tube Shows.”

test-tubes-broadwayHere’s a blog (and a concept) that the purists out there are gonna throw some serious hate on.

First, a question . . . have you seen House of Cards?  If so, do you like it?

Odds are if you’ve seen it, you like it.  In addition to the show being successful with audiences, it has also been a hit with critics (check out their 81% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and it made it to the big leagues when it grabbed a bunch of Emmy noms and some statues to boot.

A success, wouldn’t you say?

Of course it is.  It was designed that way.

Netflix didn’t make House of Cards because a lighting bolt hit ’em.  It wasn’t divine show-spiration.

It was data.

Check out this fascinating NY Times Article about how Netflix dug through the viewing history of its members and noticed that there was a solid base of David Fincher fans who intersected with Kevin Spacey fans who intersected with fans of the original British series.  And all of a sudden, risk was mitigated, and the bet seemed more like a sure thing.

All because they had tons and tons of data.

They used data of “what the people want” to help design new art.  (Now do you get the test tube metaphor?)

And bingo, bongo . . . it worked.

Think we could do this for Broadway?  Is there a way to examine the viewing habits of the last 10 years to decide who/what/when people went to see and what they want to see?  Could we develop shows based on this info that had a better shot at succeeding?  (Read this terrific piece from HowlRound about this very idea.)

The answer is yes.  Yes we could.  Like House of Cards we could create shows that would have a better shot at succeeding.

But it doesn’t guarantee success.

Data didn’t make HOC a hit.  The execution by the incredible artists made it a hit.  Was the data an insurance policy?  Did it give the show a head start?

Absolutely.  And as Producers, anything you can do to mitigate risk for your investors is a good great thing.  So invest in data . . . get as much as you can and analyze it within an inch of its life . . . but invest even more in the artists themselves.  That’s the only way to guarantee success.

 

(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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Comments
  • George says:

    As ALWAYS I just LOVE the brainstorming that goes on with this Blog… always keeps us thinking outta-the-box.

    My first thought was a bit (Big) “apples” vs California “organges” – more to the point – coming up with the right mix of ingredients for a “hit” – television – show draws on an infinitely diverse audience that consists of just about every “Boob” who has a tube…

    Hence, data mining that population with tools that already exist and funded by – well – what we see every five minutes… is completely different from “Broadway” which is – gathered ne massse – a fairly limited crowd that LOVES Live Theatre… I think the collapse of “Smash” and ??? (the other one) demonstarted that the people who LOVE LIVE Theatre esp musicals is a very very small % of people who watch television… and – even the availablity of a quality show – did not bump that Nielson meter… thank GAWD they all come to the Big Apple… else the potential audience would be to spread out to capitalize on (as is the case with the REST of Live Theatre in the country)

    But there IS something to be said about listening to the audience… no one was dying to see “Big Fish” does as a musical (w/o any MUSIC of note) and “Matilda” is just plain creepy. Making a musical about “Fosse” makes about as much sense as making an operetta about “Paganinni” – oh, wait, Leher tried that and it BOMBED, along with his attempt at setting Goethe’s life to music.

    Like it or not (and I sure don’t) but people DO like musicals based on “movies” – at least for profitable runs – and no one seems to be bothered if one cheats a stages a musical where people wander INTO the theatre humming the tunes (couldn’t drag me into “Mama Mia”)

    I think it is a healthy REALITY check to see what sells on Broadway and what does NOT – and realize that “we” theatre people tend to fall in love with things that – even our Broadway Audiences – wouldn’t by a half price ticket for at the Red Booth… unless they really couldn’t find anything better!

    g

  • Long before cell phones, social networking, and data there was Gilroy’s THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES. Ticket sales were in the toilet, and talk of shutting it down was in the air. His friends, actors couldn’t see that happening. They bought roses and decorated tables of nearby area restaurants. It took home the Tony Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Ken, you may wish to add “. . . invest in friends.”

  • Janis says:

    Seems to me that no matter how much research you do, investing in any form of entertainment is a game of chance. You choose your game and make your bet then play the cards you are dealt. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and it’s all a matter of luck.
    In entertainment, if you lose, it’s only money. And win or lose, the memories are for life.

  • Janis says:

    Seems to me that no matter how much research you do, investing in any form of entertainment is a game of chance. You choose your game and make your bet then play the cards you are dealt. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and it’s all a matter of luck.
    In entertainment, if you lose, it’s only money. And win or lose, the memories are for life.

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