What will happen to Broadway when the Millennials take over.

Every day there seems to be another article crackin’ on the work ethic of the pesky whipper-snapper.  They jump from job to job, they check their Facebook more than they check their work email, yet they still ask for a raise what seems like every other day.

But there’s another facet of the pesky whipper-snapper personality that I believe is going to have a big impact on Broadway.

The pesky whipper-snappers grew up in the DIY world.  They make their own films.  They make their own websites.  They make their own search engines, dating apps and music, right out of their dorm rooms.

And when they make great stuff, they can make it big.

They are not used to people telling them, “You can’t do this,” or “Here’s why this won’t work.”  If they think it’s fun/interesting/able to be monetized, they just do it.  And no one gets in their way.

And they can compete with the biggest brands out there.

Except in the theater.

See, Broadway has a limited distribution system.  If you want a Broadway show, there’s only one way to get one – you gotta get one of those Broadway theaters.  That’s right, Broadway has gatekeepers (I often call the theater owners the St. Peters of Broadway).

And pesky whipper-snappers don’t like gatekeepers.

So when they’re told they can’t get a show on Broadway, do you think they’ll just sit and sulk and wait for a turn that may never come?

Oh no.  When the pesky whipper-snappers start writing and starring and producing, if someone tells them they can’t be on Broadway because there ain’t no space?

They’re just going to find their own place.

As long as they get off their Facebook page.


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  • Melba LaRose says:

    Why on earth would they want to be on Broadway? Millennials have grown up with technology, accessing their entertainment through different media. If Broadway doesn’t evolve, it will die out with the generations before them.

    • Erik Petersen says:

      As a Millennial myself who is interested in directing on Broadway someday, don’t worry, there are groups of us out there that will stop at nothing until we make it to that stage.

  • Karmela says:

    “So when they’re told they can’t get a show on Broadway, do you think they’ll just sit and sulk and wait for a turn that may never come?”

    This has already started. My first exposure to Darren Criss was when he starred as Harry Potter in the viral sensation A Very Potter Musical years before he was even on Glee. This is really only the beginning. It’s only a matter of time before writers and directors just indie make their own musical films or record their own live performances.

    I’m a millennial working in the internet tech industry, and while theatre is one of my biggest interests, I agree that it’s not well suited for the way people like to consume entertainment these days. In a perfect world every Broadway production would have a professional recording that could be consumed by the masses. And until that happens, theatre will remain an antiquated, niche art form that will get overtaken by something that tries to break the norm.

  • Margie says:

    Why not cater to the millennials and their apps? When I went to see David Copperfield in Vegas, the first thing he did was have us all send him a text — while he was performing — and he sent something back to each of us before the show was over. Why can’t theatre be interactive so instead of “turn OFF your cellphones,” it becomes “TURN ON your cellphones” — at least for a few minutes). And then they’ll tweet it till Kingdom Come –and let everyone take ONE photo at a certain moment during the performance, and they’ll Instagram it — and you’ll make Broadway Broad-er. In ALL ways.

  • I know exactly what is going to happen. Virtual reality is in beta right now, but it is only a few more years and virtual is going to be widely adopted by the milennials. They will then make their own indie musicals and share them world wide over virtual reality. The experience will be sufficiently close to attending a Broadway show in person, and it will cause a new birth of the form. As they become more sophisticated, you will see audience interaction and improvisation. Musicals will still have set pieces, but the plot will become flexible, the virtual audience members will become far more interactive with the cast and director, and there will be voting on plot points and improvisation of new numbers on the spot, and then refinements and embellishments added by competent musicians world wide – the Broadway musical will become an internet virtual reality “happening” and they won’t give a damn about Broadway theaters…Broadway will die. Virtual reality will replace it, and another thing that will happen is going to be conversions of old musicals into 3D virt’s, as well as bootlegging of the music with syncing actors, along with interaction and improvisation, and it’s eventually going to become tremendously exciting esthetically revolutionary world-wide semi-spontaneous interactive events.

    • Melba LaRose says:

      That’s right asking the lines of my thinking.

    • Ted says:

      I said close to this same thing several years ago on this blog. Only people who go to New York can see a Broadway show (not including touring company) and since most people can’t get to New York they will never see a show. So Broadway must come into people’s homes, no matter where they live. Streaming it or virtual reality with the computer are the future.

  • Melba LaRose says:

    Sorry, right along the lines of my thinking.

  • Laurent says:

    You hit on an interesting point here, Ken; Since the kids won’t take no for an answer, they’ll find a way to get to Broadway. Or redefine it. “If you won’t let us into your 40 theatres, we’ll just take our shows to the Beacon, or MSG, or Bryant or Central Park. Or maybe one of those wonderful old movie houses way uptown or elsewhere. And make them work. Bigger spaces. Bigger audiences. Yes, I think these will be exciting times indeed!

  • Joe Marino says:

    I’ve been reading your blog posts and listening to your podcasts for a little over a month now. One item that keeps coming up is the paucity of legitimate Broadway theaters. You mentioned mega-musicals (such as WICKED or BOOK OF MORMON and PHANTOM) that are settled in for long runs keeping newer shows from breaking onto the scene. If you read today’s article on playbill.com, it mentioned that all Broadway theaters are filled or currently booked for incoming shows. A great problem to have, but a bit sad for new productions waiting in the wings.
    Do you foresee any expansion of the number of legitimate Broadway houses in the near future? Is there any chance that we might get a brand new “Walt Disney” (or other major studio investor) Theater or new construction of another venue? Would any of the current off-Broadway theaters be ripe for conversion to a Broadway venue? Any chance of wresting the Mark Hellinger back into the fold? Does any of this even make financial sense or am I living a pipe dream ( oooh- the first show in the new theater)?

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