The (shockingly) worst thing you can hear about your show.

“Ken, guess what,” a client excitedly said before he could even get out a “hello” at the start of our last consult session.

“What’s up?”

“I just got my audience survey results back from the production of my show.  And it’s great news.”

“Do tell,” I said . . . and now I was getting excited because audience feedback gets me all tingly inside.

“Well, for over 95% of the audience, the production exceeded their expectations!  Isn’t that great?”

And that’s when my heart sunk.

Because exceeding an audience’s expectations ain’t such a great thing.

“What do you mean, Ken?  Doesn’t it mean they enjoyed the show?”

Yeah.  It does, I explained.  And that’s the good news.  But it also means that before they step into the theater, they have no clue what they’re about to see . . . and they aren’t expecting it to be anything to write home to Mama about.

Exceeding an audience’s expectations isn’t a creative problem.  It’s a marketing problem.  It means that however you are promoting your show, from the title to the blurb to the website, it’s not generating enough excitement with your potential buyer.  And, unfortunately, when audience’s expectations are low, that means that most of them won’t make a purchase.  People buy tickets to things that they expect to be good great.  They are buying entertainment, remember?  They want to be entertained.  And in 2016, with the cost of tickets as high as they are . . . entertaining an audience isn’t enough.  They want to be wowed.

How do I know this?  Because it happened to me on my very first show, Altar Boyz.  The good news was that we, like my client, discovered our “audience expectation” problem early enough to do a marketing reboot and get their excitement up for the performance, and then slightly exceed even that.

So do your research.  And find out not only what your audience thinks of the show itself.  But find out what they think of it before they even step into the theater.  That could tell you more about your potential than anything else.


(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:

    Most Broadway marketing lately leaves me less than enthused about the show. It all comes off as smoke and mirrors. Most of it gives you nothing. The idea that a nibble will draw excitement appears to have gone the way of the dodo. Most of the time it is impossible to have any sense about a show from the current marketing getting throw out around us.

  • Janis says:

    When the value of art is measured only in dollars, it deteriorates to mere entertainment.
    In grief for the loss of its dream, art begins to self immolate. By throwing itself on the fires of profits fueled by pumping spectacle and hype onto the embers of marketing, it dies in the ashes of profitability.

    • Joe says:

      While I agree with you from an artistic standpoint, please remember you are on a producer’s blog and that job is to make money from art. There is nothing wrong with trying to maximize your potential and your profit.

  • Matthew says:

    I think this is exactly why the spring awakening revival didn’t sell so hot for most of its run. The marketing gave you no reason to go, especially if you saw the original. Didn’t represent the production even a little. Who approved that mess? All that generic pink…

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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