What people do is the best clue for a new business.

A great lesson in business comes to us today from a new company called Pogoseat, who has developed some brand new software that could have a serious application in the theater.

Remember that blog I wrote back in 2009 about seat upgrades?

Well, Pogoseat did something we all should do.

They watched what the pack was doing, and then monetized it.

We’ve all seen it.  You go to a sporting event (Pogo’s area of expertise) or a show (our area) and see more expensive seats wide open just a few rows ahead.  And then you, and probably several others around you, steal your way down to a better view.  Who wouldn’t?

And that’s where Pogo saw an opp.  Check out their site, that seeks to offer fans a way to upgrade, and teams a way to increase their revenue.

It’s one of those products that will undoubtedly be a win win.

And yes, as I wrote way back yonder, we should have a similar system, especially since you can’t see how bad some of those balcony seats are at some of our, ahem, historical theaters.  There’s no doubt that a whole bunch of buyers would throw another $20 at moving on up to a front mezz or an orchestra seat once they got in the building.  And that could seriously impact our bottom line.

But that wasn’t the intention of this blog.

I chose to write about Pogoseat because of how simple their business idea was.  No matter what they think, this wasn’t an original idea.  It was the consumer’s idea.  Pogo was just smart enough to watch what the pack was doing.  And when people are doing something on their own, especially when they are “breaking the rules,” there’s a way to make money.

People sharing music online?  Give ’em an online platform to buy it like iTunes.

People drinking in their seats even when they’re not supposed to?  Give ’em a sippy cup.

You get the idea.

All great ideas.  That all came from consumers.

Watch your pack.  See what they want so much that they’re doing it on their own.

And then give it to ’em.

 

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The Broadway League Conference Day 3: You can’t build anything without a plan.

There were no panels today.  No keynotes.  And no lectures.

Why not?  Because it was time for all of us to take what we learned over the past few days and figure out what we wanted to focus on in the future.  It was time to help come up with a plan – a plan to make Broadway an even better place than it already is – for all of us and for all of you.

I’m not going to go into the details of what was discussed (although I think a few of my League member peers were afraid I would, as they watched me type-type-typing away at my seat – I was taking notes, guys!).  Not that there was anything that couldn’t be discussed here.  Still, sometimes people and companies and organizations need their privacy too.  They need to know they are in a safe and comfortable place.  Because that’s when they relax.  And that’s when people do their best work.  Don’t you?

But I will say that what I was reminded of today was how important it was for every show, every company, every family even, to have a plan on where they want to be in the next 1, 2, 5, or 10 years.  It’s essential that the people that make up that show, company, and family know what the leadership wants, what the members want, and that everyone comes to some consensus on where the finish line is.  Then it’s easy to come up with specific ways to get there.

For example . . . your family decides to go to Disney on vacation.

Now, you can discuss whether you plane, train or automobile your way to the Magic Kingdom.  But without agreeing on where you’re headed, everyone will scatter . . . or worse . . . not go anywhere.

I’m on a plane right now, heading to Orlando coincidentally, where my company is having its retreat over the next three days.  And thanks to Day 3 of this year’s Broadway League conference, you can bet your bippy that we’ll be talking about our plan.  Oh, and we’ll also be going to the Magic Kingdom and getting Mickey ears with our names on them.  (Stay tuned to Facebook for the photos.)

If you really want to know what was discussed at the conference, I suggest you join the League.  There are all sorts of membership levels available, and in addition to being a part of THE National Trade Org for the Broadway industry, there are tremendous networking and educational opportunities.  If you learned a few things on this blog these past few days, imagine what you’d learn at the actual event.  So join, and maybe I’ll see you at the Spring Road Conference.

I’ll be the one typing on my computer.

 

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The Broadway League Conference Day 1: Gilty as charged.

The Planning Committee of this year’s conference made a fantastic choice of starting off the week with speakers from outside our industry in order to inspire us with cutting-edge-commerce thoughts, that we could then try to find ways to work into what we do (not always easy, but a fun challenge for sure.)

The Morning Keynote Speaker was Susan Lyne, Chairman of Gilt Group, the company behind the online shopping super site, Gilt.com (which happens to feature a Broadway offer or two every so often – if it’s the right one – you’ll see what I mean below).  What’s unique about Susan, and why she makes such an interesting speaker at an entertainment conference is that she was previously the President of Entertainment at ABC and oversaw the development of shows such as Desperate Housewives and Lost (!).

Susan had a bunch of super-succinct nugget-like takeaways in her presentation that I thought could be beneficial to all of you:

  • The rate of change is accelerating.
  • Every industry is being re-imagined.
  • Probably by someone in a garage with a computer.
  • Women drive the internet.  They are not only the big purchasers, but they are the primary users of Facebook, Pinterest and even Zynga Games (!).
  • Consumers don’t just use technology.  They shape it.
  • 90% of the people that work at Gilt could be my children.  Hire people in the digital age to get your company/industry to the digital age.

Pretty good sound bytes, don’t you think?

The above would have made the keynote worth it on its own, but it was the last bit of Susan’s speech that had almost everyone in the room nodding their head in agreement, and scratching out notes on the free promotional notepads in front of us.  And this topic wasn’t anything we didn’t know.  It was just a reminder that we’re not doing enough, and need a kick in the a$$ (dollar signs intended) to get started now.

Susan spoke about mobile.  (Mobile is defined as phone/smartphone/tablet, btw.)

Did you know . . .

  • . . . Mobile internet traffic has grown from 1% of all internet traffic to 13% of all internet traffic . . . in just three years?
  • . . . 24% of all online shopping this holiday season was on mobile?
  • . . . The mobile installed based (number of units) will exceed the PC installed base . . . before the summer of this year?

The mobile generation (and those millennials who are growing up with phones as their third arm) is coming.

And it’s not why you think.  Phones aren’t getting smarter.  Computers are getting smaller.

We’re walking around with something in our pocket which gives us access to everything . . . reviews, offers, the competition, etc.  And that makes tomorrow’s consumer even more powerful than they are today.

Susan left us with this very specific action item that I think is imperative for all of us in the theater industry, and every industry at that.

Reorder your priorities and make mobile first.  The one thing we can absolutely count on is in the eventual ubiquity and use of the mobile device for everything we do.

I know this is probably a little scary to think about.  You’re probably thinking, “I just figured out email marketing, and was sort of getting the hand of social media, and now this?”  You’re not alone.  I think a lot of people at the League conference were thinking the same thing.

The most important thing we can do with a common sense revelation like this is not pull a Homer Simpson and hide under a pile of coats, hoping it will all go away.  Because it won’t.

And with all the other entertainment options out there, from TV to Video Games, available for use on mobile devices, it’s essential that all of us in the theater start figuring out how we not only keep up with mobile technology . . . but we get ahead.

 

(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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Takeaways from yesterday’s TEDxBroadway.

Usually, I write my blogs the day before they are published.  But, because my mind was exploding with energy and ideas from yesterday’s TEDxBroadway, I couldn’t quiet myself down enough to put it into a comprehensible format. You know that feeling?  In fact, if I had written this blog last night, it would have looked something like this.

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BROADWAYSFUTUREISBRIGHTasldkwoilkjkjwerkjslINSPIREDANDGRATEFULl

Now that it’s the next day, I’m still a bit a-tingle with excitement over the possibilities for our industry.  And on behalf of my co-organizers, Jim McCarthy and Damian Bazadona, we want to thank those incredible speakers and that SOLD OUT (!) crowd for sharing their time and their passions with us.  Oh, and I have to also thank all those that were e-listening to the talks in the twitterverse, as well as the people pushing out those tweets from the conference.  Because of you, TEDxBroadway was a trending topic (!) on twitter.  That’s right, you helped get the Broadway conversation out of over a 10 block radius and into the mass public ecosystem.  Awesome.

I know everyone couldn’t get there, so like last year, I thought I’d post a takeaway or two that I grabbed from each speaker’s talk.

Here we go:

DARYL ROTH:  Would there be a Will and Grace without Torch Song Trilogy?  A Glee without Rent?  Theater allows us to hold a mirror up to society and to use the reflection to improve society.

TERRY TEACHOUT:  Everyone on Broadway is a gambler.  So there’s only one reason to produce on Broadway.  To have fun.  Best way to have fun?  Do something good.  Really good.  Roll your dice on excellence.

GEORGE TAKEI:  Broadway must start to use technology to boldly go where no one has gone before.

CHRISTINE JONES:  Make every seat in every theater a great seat to allow for the intimate exchange of ideas between each artist and each audience member.

THOMAS SCHUMACHER:  I have friends that believe the sippy cup is the end of days. Our pretentiousness regarding audiences that are seeing shows for the first time (tourists, etc.) simply stands in the way of growing and sharing our business.  Populism has its own manifest destiny and we need to embrace it.  Embrace the sippy cup.

SUSAN SALGADO:  Superior products aren’t enough to make it in today’s market.  Customers want an all encompassing experience.

ZACHARY SCHMAHL:  Why photocopy something that someone has already been perfected?  Be original.

VINCENT GASSETTO:  School + Broadway = Infinite Possibilities.  (This is a repeat from last year, but man oh man is it powerful.)

KRISTOFFER DIAZ:  Things need to be funnier in general.  We live in a post Book of Mormon society.  Oh, and I wish Rebecca Naomi Jones had more to do on Smash.

ERIN HOOVER:  Broadway needs to take the storytelling aspect of what we what do onstage and take it to the lobby. Even the bathrooms.  Start the experience of your show at the front door.

SETH PINSKY:  Economic and cultural development are not exclusive.  They go hand in hand, even in times of an economic downturn.

ELLEN ISAACS:  Observe your audience in the experience instead of asking them questions about the experience.  This is the best way to discover the “hidden obvious.”

ADAM THURMAN:  Marketing is the gift-giving business.  We’re giving the gift of Broadway.  And we should impact those who never come to Broadway as much as those who can.

DAVID SABEL:  The tendency in the world and in our industry is to separate the right and left brains. In order to succeed, you need to use both.

RANDI ZUCKERBERG:  Art and technology are two sides of the same coin.  A world without art is not a world worth connecting.

JOSH HARRIS:  The world isn’t just a stage.  It’s a sound stage.

As you can see, it was a pretty awesome day.  But my favorite part was as I was walking out of New World Stages when a 20 year old college student from NYU came up to me and said they loved the event and they couldn’t wait to start working in the Broadway world because she had so many ideas on how to make it even better place for her generation.  “Will there be a TEDxBroadway next year,” the student hopefully said,

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(If you want to hear more of what these super speakers said, read this terrific follow up article in the LA Times written by Howard Sherman that appeared online just moments ago , or click here and here to read the Twitter convos (we had two hashtags).  And in a month or so, we’ll post the complete talks online for your viewing pleasure.  So stay tuned to the blog for that announcement.)

 

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Looking for an idea? Look, look, look to your childhood.

While the making of a musical from an idea is a tricky, tricky thing,  I often find that most unsuccessful musicals go wrong much earlier than the actual execution.  It’s the idea that often wasn’t meant to be musicalized.

I’m sure you can name a dozen or so titles that you knew weren’t going to work the moment you heard what they were about or what they were based on, right?

Why sure, every story can be made into a musical.

But not every story can be made into a successful musical.

Most producers I know are constantly looking for ideas for new musicals . . . They scour movie listings, Barnes & Noble bookstores (if there are any left), in between their seat cushions . . . hoping to find something that can make the leap onto the musical stage.

So if you’re looking for a new idea, here’s a trick that I’ve used a few times, and that I know others have as well.  Think back to when you were growing up.  What books, movies, musical artists, poems, fairy tales, limericks, etc. did you enjoy . . . that you still think about today?  What stories stuck with you?  What music stuck with you?  What captured your imagination then, that still captures your imagination now?

Anything that can have an affect on you over several years, at different levels of maturity, is probably a super strong concept that affected others as well.  And if it captured the imagination of a young person, it probably has just that right amount of fantasy or “special something” that is required for a successful musical.

Don’t buy this concept?  Just look at the passionate responses to the Sunday Giveaway we did a few weeks ago about stories we ran into as kids, that we’d love to see done as shows today.

Craig Carnelia wrote a song called “The Kid Inside” Is There Life After High School.  The musical didn’t work, unfortunately, but the song was dead on.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF:

– Win Two Tickets to The Mystery of Edwin Drood on Broadway!  Click here.

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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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