Podcast Episode 72 – The Papa of Playbill, Philip S. Birsh

Things that go together:  Peanut Butter & Jelly.  Sonny & Cher.  Hamilton & Tony Nominations.

But one partnership that may top them all is Broadway & Playbill.

It’s gotta be one of the longest and most successful partnerships between two separate entities in the entire world.

What would Broadway shows be like without that familiar “fits in a suit pocket or a pocketbook” mini-magazine with the cover as yellow as corn?

I talked about that with the President of Playbill himself, Mr. Philip S. Birsh.  In addition to the magazine, and the umpteen other theatrical ventures under the Playbill banners, we also chatted about . . .

  • Why he left a career on Wall Street to run Playbill (and what he learned from that world that he applied to ours).
  • How Playbill and the theater community worked together during the AIDS crisis.
  • They’ve got Design Your Own Playbills, Playbill Cruises . . . what’s next for the company and the fans???
  • Why Playbill doesn’t post reviews or have message boards.
  • Why producing is like horse racing.

Playbill, thanks to Mr. Birsh’s leadership, has always been a step ahead (they were the first to go online way back in the 90s).  Listen in to get a peek into the mind of the guy that just may know where we’re headed next, and how he keeps one of the oldest brands in the business feeling like one of the newest.

Enjoy the podcast!

Click here to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript!


(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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  • Frank says:

    “What would Broadway shows be like without that familiar “fits in a suit pocket or a pocketbook” mini-magazine with the cover as yellow as corn?”

    It would be the West End.

  • Cliff Thompson says:

    I appreciate Mr. Birsh’s willingness to discuss his brand. Playbill online is a site I share with all my students. Many of them learn about Broadway first on playbill.com. The magazine, however, isn’t as useful.

    The West End isn’t the only other model for printed programs. The Stratford and Shaw festivals create beautiful and INFORMATIVE programs free of charge. Playbills generic print piece gets old really fast.

    Even Lincoln Center produces a beatiful supplement for each of their shows. I’m happy to donate a dollar for the LC magazine, even if it doesn’t fit in the pocket.

    I get it. These are all non-profit organizations. Does that explain why the quality of the printed piece distributed for free is better? A for-profit company cannot make a quality product, in terms of article quality and layout?

    I appreciate Playbill, but I wish the company would focus on improving the printed product, and not on branding another Times Square hotel.

  • Joe says:

    I would stay at a Playbill hotel.
    I have all of my playbills from the shows I’ve seen including several different copies of shows I’ve seen numerous times.
    Before I heard Mr. Birsh mention it, I was smiling thinking of how much fun it is to walk down 7th ave. after a show and to try and get a glimpse of other playbills in passerby’s hands.

    I implore all producers and theater owners the world over to never ever go to a digital Playbill.

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