Why Rock & Roll on Broadway is here to stay.

Rock musicals ain’t no new thing.

They came onto the scene in the late ’60s with Hair and then came into their own with Superstar and more in the ’70s.

They didn’t dominate our industry, by any means.

But they’re about it.

Here’s why rock/pop musicals will be the most popular form of music on Broadway from this day on.

It’s all about math.

(My wife just stopped reading when she got to the M word, by the way.)

Rock and Roll was born in the late 1940s but didn’t achieve mainstream success until the early 1950s.  For the sake of this blog, let’s call the birth of Rock and Roll 1954, the year that Bill Haley and the Comets recorded “Rock Around The Clock” and a young Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right.”

Now, in the 1990s, when I was working on my first Broadway gig as a Production Assistant, rock musicals still had a “not for everyone” label.

Why?

Let’s do the math . . . of the age of our audience.

In 1994 (the year I graduated from college), people who were born in 1954 (and therefore were raised on rock and roll as a dominating music genre) were only 40 years old.  They were not yet the average age of the traditional theatergoer (which is approx 44 years old).

And since so many of our theatergoers are older than 40, born before the birth of Rock and Roll and raised on a much different style of music, you can see why pop/rock musicals didn’t appeal to everyone.  It’s why shows like Will Rogers FolliesCity of AngelsPassion, and Titanic were Tony winners and box office winners to boot.

Flash forward.

It’s now 2019.  Those who were born in 1954 are now 65 years old.  For the first time, the majority of our theatergoing audience was raised on Rock and Roll.

This is why shows like HamiltonDear Evan HansenHadestownand of course, the jukebox musicals, all of which have been based on music from the ’50s and beyond, are starting to dominate the market.

There will always be room for outliers, but our audience has aged into Rock and Roll and popular music being (is becoming) the norm on Broadway.

So if you’re writing more traditional stuff, you may have a harder time getting an audience to pay attention.

Because over the next ten years, it’s only going to get rockier and hip-hoppier on Broadway.

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Need some tips on how to put more butts in seats, or how to use social media to sell your show or yourself?  Click here.

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Comments
  • loreen says:

    Ken,

    I think what you wrote makes alot of sense but i would hate to think that Broadway or Off Broadway would be limited to only that kind of music. I think it depends on the subject of the musical and hope that the music would have variety enough and that the audience would be open to all kinds of music as well as traditional. But even traditional had changed as well. It would be great to come out of the theater and hum a song whether it’s rock or not.Variety is the slice of life.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    Oh boy.,I’m writing two of them!

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

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