Should there be an Independent Broadway Producer’s League?

These guys got me thinking.

In their podcast, they talk about how the Independent Broadway Producer is becoming a bit of an endangered species.  With the influx of corporations and movie studios and even celebrity Producers, and with fewer theaters to go around, the Independents face greater challenges.

And that reminded me of what happened in the touring market years ago.  As this guy talks about in his podcast, several years ago a group of Independent Touring Presenters (the people who bring National Tours of Broadway shows to a theater near you) saw a shift in their business, as a large corporate player started eating up a majority of the playing weeks on the road.  They found it harder to get product, and therefore harder to survive.  So to protect their interests, they banded together to form the Independent Presenter’s Network, a group now forty members/markets strong.  They didn’t “Brexit” their larger trade organization (which happens to be the Broadway League), they just formed their own subset of like-minded folks, to lobby for their concerns and interests with one voice, and make sure they didn’t disappear off the (road) map.

Since Broadway is going through something similar (although maybe even more severe), might it be time for something like this here too?  And since, as I talked about in this blog, the negotiating interests of a big corporation could be totally different than the negotiating interests of an Independent Producer (not to mention how much money each has to play with), the Independents could use some “strength in numbers” strategy to make sure their voice is heard . . . and more importantly . . . heeded.  An Independent Producers group could form marketing alliances, help produce each other’s shows, lobby for theaters for each other, and remind the entire industry that money doesn’t guarantee great art.

The Independent Producer does have great challenges in the years ahead, as Broadway continues to boom, and more and more powerful players get in our game.  We’re a competitive lot, often crossing our fingers that a fellow Producer’s show will fail just so the theater will become available for one of ours.  It might be time to put down those swords of ill-will and join forces to find a way to not only survive Broadway in the 21st century . . . but to thrive on Broadway in the 21st century.


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  • Frank says:

    I’d argue that the idea of an “independent producer” has not truly existed on Broadway in nearly 30 years. This business is wholly reliant on the partnership of many people to realize the vision of a single show. There are no Cameron Macintosh types out there who are able to call all the shots for a production anymore. Even Cameron now must yield to the multi-producer/corporate model of show production.

    A league of producers wouldn’t help anyone. What you need is a league of theater owners who take an active part in promoting, producing, and even selling Broadway. Seeing that the entity as a whole grows. Much like a sports league of owners who are invested in the success of the whole organization, not just themselves. They understand that as everyone grows in popularity then they all get richer. Work together to solve issues in the theater rather than sitting idly by watching as show after show struggles to even open, much less to succeed.

    • Rich Mc says:

      While I partially agree with you ( i.e.,that more than ever partnerships are needed to realize a single show) I’m unconvinced that major Corporations’ increasing dominance is good for B-Way. Rule of thumb: competition among relative equals is good for the consumer AND the Industry, i.e. the ultimate determiner of whether the industry grows, or collapses under its own weight. And I disagree, most theater owners will inevitably go for the (highest) quick buck, and will gladly let long-term industry considerations be dammed. Short -term thinking has long been the operative mode of the Western business world.

  • Frank says:

    Side note: As soon as a league is formed then you are no longer independent.

    Ironic, no?

  • Carvanpool says:

    You mean a “union” of like individuals to represent the interests of the group, as a whole?

    If this weren’t NYC, you’d be risking having your legs broken for talk like that. Or, suffer from government interference with you plans to “unionize”.

    So, in your own economic interest, you’d like to “unionize”.

    Order up! One serving of hypocrisy with a slathering of irony!!! Just like mom used to make! Yum!

  • Sue says:

    Sign me up!
    True, money does not guarantee great art. Money also does not guarantee ticket sales.

  • Ken Wydro says:

    Not sure what BOOM you are talking about. Many shows this and last season were total BUSTS. great losses for investors. ALLEGIANCE, BRIGHT STAR, AMAZING GRACE, TUCK EVERLASTING FINDING NEVERLAND, GIN GAME, BLACKBIRD, HUGHIE, SIDE SHOW, ACT OF GOD this summer, HAND TO GOD, DR. ZHIVAGO, GIGI, SHOULDA BEEN YOU, HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, THE VISIT, SPRING A WAKENING, ON THE TOWN, ROCKY, BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, LAST SHIP, WOLF HALL, BONNIE AND CLYDE, most straight plays with limited runs lost huge amounts of money. PARIS, ROTTEN, ON YOUR FEET are doing only so-so business this summer. Except for HAMILTON, and the decades long mega-hits, there is not really a BOOOM on Broadway. Even if you can get a theater owner to take you, the chances of recouping and going into profit are slim, at best. MOTOWN did not recoup until its final week on/Broadway, and the return is not gangbusters so far either. The rare birds like CURIOUS, BEAUTIFUL, GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE are few and far between.

  • Elisa Clayton says:

    I believe it’s worth trying for three main reasons:

    1. As you pointed out it’s worked for independent touring producers

    2. As “Rich Dad Poor Dad” author Robert Kiyosaki said, “Business is a team sport”

    3. And the universal law of attraction affirms that you attract more opportunity to yourself when you cheer and root for those who succeed in doing what you desire to do (meaning that independent producers united and rooting for each other rather than against each other is a powerful alliance).

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