Why you should read the Broadway Chat Boards.

I like to cruise by the Broadway chat boards every once in awhile.  Why?

First and foremost, the folks that frequent the boards, and the folks that post on the boards are our avids.  They are so filled with passion for Broadway and for the theater in general that when they can’t see a show, they want to talk about shows, and when they can’t find anyone who can talk about them, they search for other folks just like them online.  So it’s important to see what is making these groups happy, and pee-ing them off.  (I’ve even been known to post every once in awhile.)

The second reason I do drive-bys on the boards is because . . . well, back in the day, I was one of those avids.

The year was 1990 (hello!), horse drawn carriages clip-clopped down cobble stone streets, and there wasn’t much of an internet.  My mom wouldn’t buy me CompuServe because she was afraid I was going to turn into Matthew Broderick in my favorite movie of all time, Wargameshack into the government’s computer system and start World War III.  So when I went off to Johns Hopkins University for my freshman year, I spent a lot of time in the computer lab.  Was I writing papers?  Solving calculus problems?  Nope, I was on ol’ fashioned bulletin boards.

Yep, I was one of the early posters in the newsgroup, rec.arts.theatre.musicals.  (I actually met Avenue Q creator Jeff Marx on that board, but that’s another story.)  Gosh, it was fun.  I remember getting in such a flame-fight with an Andrew Lloyd Webber hater over Aspects of Love.  Hehe.

So flash forward almost 25 years later, and the boards are still around.  They just look a little different now, and you don’t need a computer lab or dial-up to access ’em.  But they aren’t even that much more technologically complicated now.  Just take a look at the classic, AllThatChat, for example.

That’s where I was last week, cruisin’ through comments about closing shows and Alan Cumming in Cabaret . . . when I stumbled upon a post from an audience member, explaining why he made a purchase to an up-and-coming show featured in NYMF.  The post was so simple, and so direct, and from an actual ticket buyer, that I had to post it here.

Here’s what it said, verbatim:

I chose to see CLONED!, in spite of the potentially cliche subject, because the songs they posted online were competently written and produced.

I count at least three lessons for all the Producers and Writers out there with “emerging” shows from this 23 word post:

  1. Your show better have a website.  (And even if you have an idea for a show, you better do this one thing first).
  2. You better have songs on that website.  Remember my blog about samplin‘?  Well, it’s hard to do it live, so you at least better have something recorded.
  3. Make sure they are “competently produced.”  No scratch composer demos from your bathroom.  No bad sound board recordings from bad live shows.  It doesn’t take much these days, get a friend who knows Garage Band and do it up right.

Oh, and one other bonus lesson from this simple post . . . listen to what the super fans are saying.  I know it’s hard sometimes, because they can get a little upset, and throw electronic-tomatoes at you every once in awhile.  Just remember it’s from a great place.  They love what we do.  More than I loved Aspects of Love.  Show them the respect they deserve and just listen.

Because it’s amazing what you might learn.

Gotta go.  I think there’s an FBI agent at my door who wants to talk to me about what I did with the WOPR.

 

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Comments
  • senorvoce says:

    The boards are full of TDF, rush, and comps users. A self selected and low revenue audience segment. They review first previews (and dress rehearsals!). They lie, play favorites, unfairly disparage others, and each other. You can’t listen too closely to them, they have their own personal agendas. Amongst all this dreck, you may occasionally find nuggets of thoughtful commentary or insight, but that is much too rare. The muck dominates.

    Other than that, a fine bunch of theater fans.

  • NeoAdamite says:

    Thanks for excepting my comment from All That Chat accurately. Contrary to what some seem to think, there are many high-value regulars on that board, and the moderators keep out the trolls. Even Michael Feingold posts there occasionally. I’m aware there are other forums, but I don’t follow them. Still, if I were a producer I’d make sure I had someone following BroadwayWorld, just in case.

    I try to see everything I can, but I make financial decisions exactly like everyone else. I pay full price in advance when I think something’s going to be a hot ticket (I went for MORMON as soon as it went on sale), otherwise I check BroadwayBox before buying, and if I can’t get a ticket at the right price, I see something else. Isn’t that what everyone does?

    One thing you’ll see is comments from out of town. I realize that the modern feeling is that the Internet has destroyed the safety of out-of-town tryouts, but although bad buzz from out of town may hurt your advance sale, I’ve never seen a case where it made the difference between profit and loss. And positive word from out of town (as is happening right now with Side Show) is priceless.

    People who post on AllThatChat are the people whose friends say to them “What should I see?” (that happened to me last night), or “My friend is coming to town, should I take them to Hedwig or Gentlemen’s Guide?” (that happened last month).

    Lastly, people there comment intelligently on a lot of things producers really do control, such as ad campaigns, pricing structures, and front-of-house experience.

    I’m not a TDF member, I’ve never subscribed to a papering service, I don’t do rush, and that’s probably true for most of the regulars there.

  • senorvoce says:

    In spite of the very few high value contributors to the boards, the anonymity creates a perfect setting for shills and other evil doers.Good “buzz”, when larded with an agenda is as bad as bad word of mouth. If you can’t verify what you are reading, it’s little more than wothless gossip.

    Too many of the conversations deal with TDF seating, lottery details, rush lines, and where can you get standing room that will let you get a seat when the show starts. Cliques and factions flame each other constantly .Insults and slander are bandied about regularly. Moderators are arbitrary and inconsistent.

    The highest achievement attained is when someone can slam some member of some house staff for some perceived slight (anonymously, of course) and rattle someone’s cage. That really makes them feel like they’ve accomplished something.

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