The three rules of doing research.

I’ve always been a big believer in focus groups and research.  We’re one of the few industries that spends millions of dollars developing a product, but won’t spend a few thousand testing that product, or even determining how challenging it may be to sell that product.

That’s why I always put my shows through quantitative and qualitative testing at some point in their life cycle.

I recently did some testing on Once on this Island and was reminded of the three rules of doing research by my expert analyst, who made me sign off on them before he signed up to test my show.

  1. Never do research unless you’re prepared to do something with the results (or never ask a question you don’t want an answer to). Research is a waste of time unless you’re ready to listen and act upon those responses. I plan my research to coincide with a pivot point, either before a new ad campaign, or a new creative developmental period, so I have the resources ($ or time) to put behind the answers I get in order to achieve the maximum results.
  2. The answers are as important as the people giving them. When acting upon said research, it’s essential your answers are coming from the right audience.  This is why major changes to your campaign or your show should be based on research results from the precise audience you’re trying to target.  Ask the wrong audience and they’ll send you down the wrong rabbit hole.  This is why research can be expensive, and why one of the most important questions you should ask when hiring a research company is, “Where do you get the people taking the surveys?”
  3. Let the research guide your gut, but don’t let it be your gut. As much of a fan of research I am, and while I do believe it can give you a competitive advantage in our very risky industry, I never take action based on its results that I don’t believe in.  Theatre is an art.  And Producers and Writers are entrepreneurs.  The most successful entrepreneurs in any industry create products that the audience doesn’t know they need yet or buy products that surprise and delight them in their marketing.  So use research to help you focus and become more efficient in your strategies, but don’t let it rule them.  Data is a tool.  It’s not the craftsman.

For sample surveys we use on our shows that you can use on yours (including readings and more) check out TheProducersPerspectivePRO today.

 

Broadway Grosses w/e 8/12/2018: Let’s Hear It For The Boys

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending August 12, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

The ONE Thing We Can All Do To Develop Future Audiences.

Building the audience of the future is not only a passion of mine, it’s a necessity.

I plan on producing shows for the rest of my days (and somehow I’m going to figure out a way that my daughter has to at least dabble in daddy’s biz after I’ve gone off to The Great White Way in the Sky).  And without an audience . . . without customers . . . there’s no way this business that I love so much (and also depend on) survives.

But we don’t want it to just survive for the next 1,000 years, we want it to thrive.  Right?

So, we gotta think long term.

Recently I was asked a super specific question by a reporter that never got into print . . .  partly because I blabbed on way too long about it – but hey, that’s why I have a blog, right – so I can blog-blab as many characters as I want!

The question was . . . “If there was one thing, only one thing, that you could do to help develop the future audience, what would it be?”

Before I answer . . . take a moment and you think about your answer to the same question.

What would you do?

TV ads like this one?  Put a megawatt star in a Broadway show?  Beg Lin Manuel Miranda to write Hamilton II (I know, I know, he died at the end, but if anyone could figure out how to make it work, it would be Lin).

All of these are good marketing initiatives, but if we’re looking to develop the next generation of audiences and beyond, what I would do is plant a little bit of a longer-gestating seed.

If I could only do one thing, I would do this . . .

Encourage participation in the theater.

I’d focus on getting more kids to perform in their school plays . . . elementary kids, middle schools, and of course, more high school musicals.

I’d work with community theaters to expand their outreach and involve more citizens from their cities and towns.

I’d develop plans with regional theaters to include children’s theater companies that use local actors.

And I’d build a better bridge between Broadway and every single theater around the world.

Because we depend on them more than we know.

Think about it . . . where did you discover your love of the theater?

My guess is it’s one of two ways . . . your parents brought you to see a show when you were a kid . . . or more likely, somewhere you participated in the theater somehow.

When people participate in any activity, they become more passionate about it, especially something with as much community as the theater.

And when you get that kind of positive hands-on engagement at an early age, the participators will be 100x more likely to attend/support/invest in the theater at a later age.

You know what industry does this well?  My only other non-familial passion . . . the golf industry.  Watch the golf channel sometime.  Half of the ads are about how to improve your own golf game.  Or to try and get you out to play.

Because “play”-ing makes you more passionate.

If I had a general Broadway ad budget, I’d place PSAs not about buying Broadway tickets (because there are millions and millions of theater fans who aren’t near Broadway right now) but encouraging them to get out and join their local community theater . . . to take an acting class at a community college . . . to take their kid to a dance class.

The future development of the Broadway audience, as well as artists and investors, is in the encouragement of kids and people of all ages to participate in the theater however they can.

I know I can’t wait to walk my little girl on a stage for the first time.

 

 

GUEST BLOG: Three Tips to Improve Your Music Notation by Peter Flom

In creating music notation for the stage, our goal is to empower successful performances. Sometimes our unintentional bad habits throw up barriers to this success. Today we’ll identify some of these habits as well as quick ways to correct them.

 

Beaming, Rests and the Invisible Barline

Beaming and rest choices are often ignored by the lazy copyist, but a little extra effort here will lead to better performances.

The meter of a measure must always inform the notation. Every time signature implies a grouping of beats, which determine beaming and rest choices. Take the following excerpt as an example. Which is clearer?

Most working musicians could play the first example correctly after some practice time, but ideally we’d like these charts to be sight-read, as is typical on the gig. By contrast, the second example clearly defines the halfway point in the measure, which is a great aid to readers. This is a concept known as the “Invisible Barline,” and is vital to writing in an even meter.

Additionally, notice how the beaming has been changed to outline each beat in the measure. This practice makes it easier to subdivide rhythms while reading the piece. Proper beaming technique is especially important in complex meters:

The engraver’s rests must also support the performer by outlining the meter. I find each of the following measures to be very difficult to read: Here is the same example with appropriate rests and beaming:

Note that each syncopation is split into multiple rests. Again, this helps the performer subdivide rhythms more easily. When mixed rests are needed, always choose rests which outline the beat appropriately.

 

Writing Chords

Another challenge for many writers is using chord notation. While this is a large topic, here are some basic guidelines to remember when building parts for the rhythm section.

First and foremost, develop a system that works for your performers. If your musicians prefer to see a ø7 chord suffix instead of min7 b5, then you need to swallow your pride and write the chord they want – even if you believe it’s wrong. Never sacrifice a good performance in the name of being “right.”

Just make sure to stay consistent – don’t write “C-7” in one measure, “Cm7” in the next and “Cmin7” later.

 

Comping Notation

Suffixes aren’t the only important part of writing chords; you must also pay attention to notation in the staff. While the lazy copyist may not see the value in writing notation during a comping part, the performers often need it badly, and each member of the rhythm section expects different conventions.

When in doubt, keep the notation simple. Here are some of my rules of thumb for writing rhythm section parts.

  • If you know exactly what notes you want them to play: write the notes in the staff. (This should be rare.)

  • If you only have a few specific notes: write the rhythms in the staff and only the specific notes you want. (This is common for guitar players, who often remember voicings based on the top note of the chord.)

  • If you don’t care what voicing they use but you have a specific rhythm: write rhythmic slash notation. (Common in a score with ‘hits’ that the band plays together.)

  • If you want them to improvise a comping part: Use slash notation. (This is the most common and easiest way to notate chords, but your performer may not know exactly what to play.)

Being a guitarist, I wrote all of these examples for a guitar part. However, the same rules apply to other instruments. Typically, the bass part is written with a sample bassline and chord symbols – that way, the bass player has an idea of what groove to play, but they can freely ad lib fills when appropriate.

You can find part two of this post – where we look at placing notation on the page – as well as my other tips to improve music notation, on the Finale blog.
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Peter Flom is the production manager in the repertoire development department at MakeMusic. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Peter has previously worked at KMA Studios in New York City, and in MakeMusic’s Customer Success department. He now spends most of his days developing new content for Finale and SmartMusic, and has worked with many publishers along the way. He also is a freelance arranger and engraver, and plays a mean guitar when no one’s watching.

Broadway Grosses w/e 8/05/2018: Rain or Shine

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending August 5, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

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