My best advice for people who want to start producing.

I was recently asked to provide a quote for a new book about people interested in pursuing a career in the arts, and specifically producing.  The author wanted a pearl for wannabe producers on how to get started in this biz, where $10mm is now a small Broadway musical, and so many shows seem to be about which Hollywood stars you know and can get to hang out with you for 14 weeks.

I typed out a quick quote, and then realized that I’ve never addressed it on my blog, so I wanted to share it with you as well, since I know so many of you are upcoming and/or currently producing at all sorts of levels around the world.

So here’s my attempt at a nugget:

My advice for people just starting out is to . . . start.  Producing sounds like a big, fat, scary word.  But producing really just means getting a group of people together and getting a show on.  Maybe that’s Broadway, maybe that’s Off-Broadway, or maybe that’s in your living room.  It doesn’t take millions of dollars to produce something.  Produce whatever you can produce.  But produce it today.

So now that I’ve given you my talking point of the day, take a moment, all you Producers-to-be, decide what it is you want to start producing today, and comment about it below.  Putting it down publicly, and on this blog, will help you commit to getting it done.

And before you can even help it, you’ll be a Producer.


Need more tips on producing your project?  Click here to learn the three fundamentals of producing.


(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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Favorite Quotes Vol. XXX: How risk in real estate is related to us.

I was chatting with a very unqiuely intelligent two graduate-degreed guy today.  The degrees?  An MBA and an MD.  Yep, a Doctor who could tell you how to live an extra ten years, and then tell you how much those ten years will cost you.

He told me a story about his first class in Biz School, which focused on investing in real estate, whether that meant your own home, or something you were looking to flip.  He said one of the very first things the Prof. said was . . .

If you’re not sweating just a little bit each month to make your mortgage payment, you didn’t risk enough when you made your purchase.

This quote hit ‘home’ for me, because when I bought my apartment 15 years ago, I could have had a much bigger place for just a bit more.  I could have made it work, but it would have been a little tougher to make the payments, and I didn’t want to risk it.  Well, 15 years later, that other apartment increased in value a lot more than my current apartment.  But I wanted to play it safe, and live comfortably, rather than challenge myself just a bit.

And I lost out because of it.

It’s a great real estate lesson . . . but isn’t this quote also true about in everything in life?

If you want to do big things, whether that’s write a musical, produce a play, make money in the stock market, or heck, even have a wonderful marriage and family  . . . do you think you’re going to get it without a little bit of sweat on your brow every once in a while?  You think you can achieve your dream without that little nauseous knot in your stomach every so often  . . . you know, the one that scares the crap out of you . . .  but also makes you work a little harder to make sure you do get what you want?

Everyone gets scared.  And everyone sweats.

What that Biz Professor was saying, and what I am repeating, is that if you’re not sweating, that’s when you should really be scared.

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Advice from an Expert: Vol. XVII. My Mother The Theatergoer.

There’s always a lot of talk about the Tonys in the weeks that follow the big show.  What numbers were successful?  Could we give the plays more attention and still hold the audience’s attention?  And who fit Katie Holmes into her dress?

But the most important question for the Producers out there is . . . after watching the Tonys, what shows does the public want to see?

All of us in the industry debate this question like crazy.  But what do we know?  Most of us don’t have a clue what it’s like to be a family of four from the suburbs interested in seeing a show on their next long weekend.  In fact, I would wager that the people making the product in our industry and the people seeing the product are more different than in most industries out there.

But that doesn’t stop us from guessing.

I was in the middle of a heated discussion about my own guesses on what the public wanted to see last week, when I realized it was time to go to the source.  I decided to go to what most advertising agencies would describe as the model of a “traditional” theatergoer:  a suburban female in her 50s-60s who sees 3-5 shows per year, mostly musicals, and pays full price.

And that theatergoer is my momma.  And she’s literally been in my backyard this whole time!

I called Mom, who, of course, had tuned in to the Tonys, and asked her if she would write a mini-blog for me about her perspective on this year’s show.  Most specifically, I asked . . . “Mom, after watching the Tonys, what shows do you want to see the next time you are in town?”

Here’s what Mom had to say . . . [my comments are in brackets] “I watched the Tony Awards a few nights ago.  I love the excitement, costumes, music – even the speeches.  I often get ideas about what I’d like to see on our next NYC trip.  Before I tell you what shows captured my attention from the way they were presented at The Tonys, I thought you might find it interesting to get a few additional details about my perspective (and some of these Kenneth doesn’t even know).  [Yes, she, and about three other people on the planet, call me Kenneth.]

  • My first theater experience was 50 years ago when I saw Annie Get Your Gun.  When the stage curtain opened, revealing a real live horse . . . I was hooked!  [When people see things on stage that they don’t expect to see: kids, animals, helicopters, it elevates the experience.]
  • As a teenager, I was addicted to buying show albums, and also listening to show songs popularized by famous artists.  I loved those album covers and the summaries of the shows on the back (King and I, Mame, etc.)  [Oh, if only popular artists were covering our tunes today.]
  • I was a teen in the ’60s, which put me in the proper emotional state to grasp the power of music.  It brought people together, challenged their thinking and even caused them to take action (Hair, West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar).  

And now, here are the shows that I wanted to see and the ones that didn’t interest me (there were many other shows that I had no opinion on – I’d have to learn more before putting them in the “to see” or “don’t see” category).  It’s important to remember that this is based solely on what I saw on the Tonys.  I might not see any of these shows, or I might see them all.  A lot of things may change my mind before I get to New York next, including what Kenneth thinks I might like to see or not.  [Good ol’ fashioned Word of Mouth trumps all, and I can’t believe she called me Kenneth twice in this blog.]


Memphis:  The music and the dancing were so exciting, this is at the top of my list.  (I have to admit that ‘Listen to the Beat’ sounded like Hairspray‘s ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat.’ but I loved the music and the dancing in that show, too!)  [Music, dancing . . . the keys to an audience-pleaser of a musical.]

Fela!:  I love the costumes, the music and the dancing.  The story (about using music to communicate) also seemed very interesting to me.  [See her comment about growing up in the ’60s.  What our audience lived through helped make them who they are today and influences what they want to see.]

Million Dollar Quartet:  Loved the music and the story idea and Levi Kreis’s performance.

Red:  I really liked the premise about the importance of art and what I saw of both Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne.  [Mom was disappointed to hear she wouldn’t get a chance to see this show because of its limited run.  I told her if she was disappointed, imagine how the Producers must feel.]


American Idiot:  To me, it seemed like a concert, and not a show.  I’ve heard about Green Day because my other son is in the music business, but I’ve never listened to any of their music before.  The music was interesting to me, but I’m not going to play it in my car anytime soon.

A Little Night Music:  I don’t know this show very well, so I can only base my thoughts on what I saw, but I wasn’t inspired.  I love ‘Send In The Clowns,’ but I didn’t learn anything else about the show through the performance.”
So there are Mom’s Tony Award Takeaways.

Now please remember, this is only one Mom’s opinion. And the opinions expressed here by my Mom are solely my Mom’s and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Moms everywhere or even me.

But she’s a Mom with a Mastercard, and she uses it to buy tickets.  So maybe we should listen to all of the Moms out there more than we listen to those of us on the inside of the business.

So . . . what did your Mom think?

[Update:  My mom came into the city this weekend unexpectedly.  Although she wanted to see Memphis, she ended up getting Chicago tickets instead (and special thanks to Michael at the Ambassador BO for helping her out).  Why?  “I thought your step-father would enjoy it more.”]

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XVI. My Mom.

I spoke to a recent college grad the other day who was debating the question that we’re all faced with as we start our professional lives:  “What do I want to do with my life?”

I remember asking myself the same question when I was a few years out of school, because I was bouncing around from job to job and just didn’t feel like I found my niche.  I acted, I stage managed, I worked for an agent . . . nothing seemed to fit.

So, I did what recent college grads do.  I called Mommy.

I told Momma Davenport that I was thinking of quitting my job because it didn’t feel right.  Then I started feeling guilty for having tried so many things, and asked her when she thought I’d figure out what I wanted to do?

Mom said, “Hey, think of it this way.  With every job you have, you may not be figuring out what you want to do, but at least you’re figuring out what you don’t want to do.”

She was right.  And to use an analogy that my instructor for my Princeton Review SAT course would be proud of . . .

Life is like the SATs.  If you don’t the answer right away, eliminate the wrong ones, and the choice will be easier.


The 2nd Annual Producers Perspective Social is TONIGHT, and it’s SOLD OUT!

Free drink!  Door prizes include show tickets, merch, a 6-month subscription to PerformerTrack Webware, and a Kindle!

Click here for details.(please note, due to overwhelming demand the Social will now at be Hurley’s Saloon)

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XV. The BROTHER of the original Producer of Finian’s Rainbow chimes in.

On Monday, I posted an article written by Lee Sabinson back in the 50s.  My press agent remembered that Lee’s brother, Harvey, was just a tad bit involved in the commercial theater as well.  Yep, Harvey Sabinson worked at The League for twenty years, including a stint as its Executive Director, and worked on Broadway for over fifty!  (Just look at those credits!)

A press agent by trade, Mr. Sabinson’s most famous client was . . . Mr. David Merrick.

That means that Mr. Sabinson worked on the Subways are for Sleeping ad campaign, which has been much-ballyhooed on this blog  (you may remember that we had some feedback on the blog from another of the creators of that campaign).

Well, my press agent sent Mr. Sabinson my blog, and like any great former flack, he responded right away (if only all of our current press agents would respond so quickly).

His response was so fitting, that I thought I’d post it here.  So, here’s another expert, giving it to us straight.

Thanks so much for sending me the souvenir book piece written by my brother almost sixty-three years. I remember it well. I was an ATPAM apprentice to Samuel J. Friedman on the original production. Last week, while in New York, I was Jack Viertel’s guest at a performance of the show, which evoked a lot of memories.

But what amazed me was a list of about twenty producers presenting a revival of a show that only two guys did so long ago (and one of them was only an investor). I also bought two tickets for one of my sons for a total of $244. The original orchestra top was $6.90 of which 90 cents was tax.

You’re not the only one who thinks that both of those things are “amazing,” Mr. Sabinson.


The 2nd Annual Producers Perspective Social is tomorrow, and it’s SOLD OUT!

Free drink!  Door prizes include tickets, merch, and a Kindle!

Click here for details.(please note, due to overwhelming demand the Social will now at be Hurley’s Saloon)