What I learned about Producing from a Food Court.

For anyone that is familiar with my trashy dietary intake, you probably know that I heart me a food court.  And I frequent them often.  In fact, if you’re ever in a mall and can’t find your way to the Orange Julius or the Panda Express, shoot me a text.  Using my powers of ESP (extra sodium perception) I’ll give you Google Maps step-by-step directions in a jif.

And here’s a tip for you that’s almost as valuable as a tip on how to raise money for your show – one of the greatest secrets of Grand Central Station is that it has the best food court in the tri-state.

So whenever I’m on the East side of midtown, I pop down to the “dining concourse” (the fancy name for food court) and get me some Manhattan Chili Company or Thai Toon or fancy Oyster Bar takeout.  (As my fellow wicked awesome Massachusetts friends would say, “Chowdah!”)

Yesterday was one of those days, so I choreographed my meetings so I’d have just enough time to grab a cup of Ginger Chicken Chili and make it back to my office for my 1:00 PM meeting.

I made a beeline for my destination (I’m telling you – a GPS ain’t got nothing on me in a food court) and was just about to place my order when . . .

“Excuse me, Sir, would you like to try a free slice of medium rare steak?”

Ummm, only a Vegan would say no to that, and like Dan Quayle was no Jack Kennedy, I’m no Vegan.

The young lady offering me a juicy, mouth watering bite and a half of steak was from The Tri Tip Grill, right next door to The Manhattan Chili Company.  And once I sunk my teeth into that meat, Chili might as well have been Cabbage in my mind.  I was getting that steak.  I plopped my money down, and ate like the King of the Food Court.

All because I got a sample.

Product sampling has been around since the beginning of products.  You probably see it all the time, from frozen yogurt stores, to mail order pen companies, and every thing in between.  It works.

Which is why we need to do more of it for musicals.

“But Ken, we sample all the time!  We show videos and stream tunes on our website, and even show pictures!”

I got news for us, that ain’t sampling.  That’s promotion.

Sampling is the actual product.  That young lady at Tri Tip didn’t say, “Excuse me, Sir?  Would you like to see a picture of a slice of medium rare steak?”  She offered me the steak, which is what got me away to shun a competitor and put cash in her drawer.

The film industry has it easy – a trailer is a sample.  Because it’s a piece of the actual product.  We’ve got it harder (shocker) because our sample must include live performers, and when you can, costumes and more (it’s why The Tony Awards always can sell tickets to shows – because it’s a fully realized sample, shown to a targeted audience – it’s like giving steak samples to the Steak Lovers of America).

If you know Show Boat, then you know that Cap’n Andy knew the secret of sampling.  “Just a sample,” he says as he gets his Show Boat Show Girls to dance a little bit on the docks to entice the customers to buy tickets.  (Cameron Mackintosh had nothing on Cap’n Andy.)

So get your show out into the world, in its actual real live form.  Perform on talk shows, perform at cabarets and song nights, perform on street corners.

Because if you give them a succulent sample, you’ll be the one eating steak, while your competition is eating crow.


Need more tips on producing your project?  Click here to learn the three fundamentals of producing.


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