Look at how much ink Broadway Producers and Investors got.

I get my NY Times Sunday Arts and Leisure section delivered to me on Thursday.  Yep, in case you didn’t know, the sections of the Sunday Times that aren’t “headline dependent” are printed well in advance, and as a courtesy provided to those folks out there that fill it with ads, the Times will get it to you earlier.

When I got my copy last week and saw the headline, “I Want To Be A Producer (Me, Too!),” and the accompanying story, I was intrigued.

When I finished the copy of the front page, I flipped to the “continued on” page, and I literally yelped out a “Holy moses!”

The article, about Broadway Investors and how so many have transitioned to above-the-title producers, had another two plus full pages on the inside of the paper.

(The cynical side of me wondered whether the Times gave it that much space to try to encourage more Broadway Investors to become Producers so they’d buy more NY Times ads!)

It’s a fascinating article, centered around last year’s Tony Award winning Cinderella Story, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.  The article reveals that they had trouble raising money as opening night loomed, and the Producers cut some super aggressive deals with investors while the show was in previews to make sure the show got what it needed to open.  And, in one of the best turnarounds I’ve seen in the last couple of decades, it snags the most Tony Nominations of any musical, and then gets the Best Musical trophy on top.  And sales took off.

It’s such a dramatic story that it could be a musical itself.

I know there is a faction of folks within the business that sneer when they hear stories about Producers reducing the “value” of the above-the-title Producer slot . . . and I recently heard a rumor that the Broadway League might be considering a “minimum raise” in order to get a credit on a show (there is already a minimum required in order to get membership into the League.)

And while, sure, if an investor comes to me and says, “I do this for the credit, and on my last show, I got that credit for X,” it makes it harder to stick with the numbers I’ve laid out to receive credit.

But, and this is the rub, every show is different.  And if some shows need to offer more aggressive title deals to make sure the show happens, then who-the-eff cares?

I vary the deals on my own shows all the time.

When I produced Macbeth, I had to raise the money in 6 weeks, and more importantly, we were only doing 6 shows a week for 14 weeks, so the risk was higher.  So I reduced the threshold for the above-the-title slot to only $100,000 as a way to mitigate the risk for Producers/Investors (while we didn’t recoup, which I announced here, we did get to 90%).

On Somewhere in Time and Gettin’ The Band Back Together, the above-the-title slots are a much more customary $500k, but I reduce those amounts depending on when the Producers and Investors get involved (before we announce the theater gets a lower threshold versus those that get involved after we announce the theater).

When products are different, terms, including titles, are different.  And I don’t believe we can “legislate” that with required minimums, just like we can’t legislate other parts of the Producer deals.  What’s the difference between offering a title for a lower than usual amount or offering better financial terms?  Or the number of opening night tickets?   Just because one is visible and one isn’t?

And if more Producers means we get to see more risk on Broadway (this all started with Spring Awakening, and I for one am so glad that show made it to Broadway), then it should be applauded.

We are Producers.  We are business owners.  We are entrepreneurs.  And we should will do whatever it takes to get our show off the ground.

To read the article, click here.


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  • Zach says:

    I thought it was an excellent, “insidery” showbiz article, and I certainly noticed your name dropped in there! Gentleman’s Guide is a fascinating example of an underdog made good. Clearly, it’s a constant hustle to raise the capital needed to mount a major production today, and you’re right, there is a great story to be told about all the wild characters required to finance a show. An article like this makes me respect even more the work that you do to provide entertainment for audiences like me. Even if a show doesn’t make its money back, it still has the opportunity to reach people and say something meaningful, and I believe theater is about much more than money. (Though money is nice too).

  • senorvoce says:

    With all the worry and fuss about billing and credit and the like, it’s clear why a lot of important things get missed. Since it’s all about the egos of the investors, let’s stop pretending that making art is really at the heart of it all, and that’s fine, after all. The unbridled narcissism of the one percenters is fine if it can be funneled into something useful, like putting on Broadway shows.

  • Polo says:

    “The unbridled narcissism of the one percenters is fine if it can be funneled into something useful, like putting on Broadway shows.”

    Excellent comment. The whole Broadway model, I believe, is for the 1%. A new musical has an 80% chance of failure. If it is an ‘original’ musical your chances for failure are about 95%, So the best odds for success are acquiring the rights to a previously known work that audiences already recognize. That’s the current model, IMO. But who can afford to buy the ‘rights’ to these popular movies or books so that they can be musicalized? Only the wealthy, it seems to me. So even for the writers/creators to stand a chance of success they must fork money out to ‘adapt’ something, if they’re lucky. Most creators could likely never afford to acquire the rights to the existing work. It is a game for the 1%.

  • Shauna Hagan says:

    When I saw the article, I thought – Ken is going to love this one!!

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