3 Reasons Why Crowdfunding Did NOT Take Off on Broadway

It has been 10 years (!) since I crowdfunded Godspell. It remains one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in this business.
It took two years to put together. It took three law firms. I had to pass a securities exam. Oh, and let me tell you when this SEC slaps your wrist in the midst of your offering, you lose some sleep.
But, like most difficult things, it was also one of the best things I ever did for my business. And my life.
Not only did we fund the production, and help launch the careers of some superstars, but I’m also still friends with many of “People of Godspell”, which is what we called our Producers and Investors (we had over 730 of them!).
We created a family. And it still exists. (That’s pretty common with Godspell, actually, as anyone in it can attest.)
After we successfully crowdfunded the show, using an old regulation called a “Reg A,” Congress passed The Jobs Act . . . which made it MUCH easier for businesses to crowdfund. (Bad timing on my part!)
Everyone predicted an explosion of this type of microfinancing in all industries . . . Broadway and Off-Broadway included.
And it didn’t happen.
I don’t know of ONE Broadway or Off-Broadway production to utilize the new “Regulation CF” since it was passed.
Why?
There are three reasons why.
1. The max money you can raise
Regulation CF was designed for small businesses, so there’s a $5mm cap on how much you can raise. That immediately knocks out 99% of Broadway musicals, leaving only Broadway plays.
Now, ALL Off-Broadway shows are (or should be) well under $5mm. So, this regulation should be in “play” for any commercial producer looking to crowdfund an Off-Broadway show. Still, I don’t know of anyone who has done it. Yet. See below for why.
2. It ain’t cheap to raise small amounts of money.
In our business, there are a limited # of vendors in each area of expertise. There are 3-4 advertising agencies. 2-3 accounting firms. And there are more, but still a limited number of lawyers.
And our lawyers don’t specialize in this . . . which means you’ll need to hire another attorney who does. And that adds to your budget. And smaller businesses don’t want to add to a budget that they were concerned about raising in the first place.
3. You have to work even harder to raise less money.
I remember a consulting session I had once with a writer who launched a Kickstarter campaign. He wondered why he hadn’t raised all this money in the first five days. When I asked him what he had (added) done to promote it, he said, “Nothing. Don’t people just find it in Kickstarter?”
Like anything, just because you build it, doesn’t mean ANYONE will come. You have to spread the word about your offering. And when you’re raising small amounts of money at a time, you have to spread the word every further. We spent a ton of time and money marketing the Godspell offering. That, plus the press we get (that’s where the SEC got saucy), plus my own network, is what led to a successful raise.
Most people don’t want to work that hard. Because it’s true, it IS easier to raise bigger money from fewer people. (That’s why the point of crowdfunding shouldn’t be to raise the money – it should be to raise a marketing army – because all those investors with skin in the game, will shout your show’s name from their e-rooftops!)
(By the way – I gave Kickstarter guys some marketing nuggets and the good news is – he reached his total with three days to spare.)
Wait. Was that three reasons already? But I’m not done. So here’s a BONUS reason why crowdfunding hasn’t taken off on or Off-Broadway.
4. Producers think it makes them look desperate.

This is the one that we need to get over. By not allowing the small investor to participate in the making of theater, we’re ignoring a huge portion of the theatergoing population. Small donors are what got Barack Obama elected. Small investors are what brought down giant hedge funds with the GameStop saga.

And by embracing small investors, whether through crowdfunding or by Producers dividing up $50,000 units into more reasonable numbers, we could launch more new shows, more new voices . . . and market them as well.
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If you’re looking for tips on crowdfunding, check out our 8 Tips for a Kick A$$ Kickstarter here, or get my book on How To Raise Money For The Arts Or For Anything.

April 9, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

From Actors’ Equity releasing new protocols for fully vaccinated productions to the first performance in a Broadway theater since March 2020, here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . . 

 

1 – Broadway Reopened. For 36 Minutes. It’s a Start.

This event showcased the dancer Savion Glover and the actor Nathan Lane, where they performed before a masked audience of 150 scattered across one of the biggest Broadway Theaters, St. James. This event was the first such experiment since the coronavirus pandemic caused to close on March 12, 2020. It’s the first step home — the first of many,” said Jordan Roth. “This is not, ‘Broadway’s back!’ This is ‘Broadway is coming back!’ And we know it can because of this.”

Read more: nytimes.com

 

2 – Wear a Mask, Avoid Intermission: Lessons from the Covid Think Tank Town Hall 

The rapid rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine has increased new and improved ideas and optimism about indoor theater swiftly reopening in the U.S. In addition to the vaccine, testing, enhanced theater ventilation, and continued mask-wearing is also the key to gradually restarting the industry. Their plan for reopening? “Plan now,” Dr. Smith said. “Even if you don’t have a go-live date…There are so many layers. There’s a lot to think about and to talk about.”

Read More: broadwayjournal.com

 

3 – COVID Passports: Entertainment venues air concerns over plans

The government has said Covid-status certificates could be used at theatres, nightclubs, and festivals starting in June. They could be used to prove vaccination or testing. They will be trialing this at events at venues in Liverpool, as well as sporting events. 

Read more: bbc.com 

 

4 – Actors’ Equity releases new safety protocols for vaccinated productions

The new guidelines come after the backlash from the community about previous protocols. Absent from these protocols are the requirements of private transportation to and from theaters, as well as the need for Plexiglas and 12 feet of distance on stage. Those regulations are still included in documents for indoor theater productions without a fully vaccinated workforce.

Read More: broadwaynews.com

 

5 – Neil Diamond Bio-Musical Sets Sights on Broadway

A Beautiful Noise is set to run for four weeks at the Emerson Colonial Theater Boston in 2022, the show’s producers, Ken Davenport and Bob Gaudio announced on Tuesday. They plan to bring the production to Broadway following that run.

Read more: nytimes.com

 

FUN ON A FRIDAY! Josh Groban’s New Song

Bush’s Beans and Josh Groban teamed up to give the bean the ballad it deserves.

 

 

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The World Premiere of The Neil Diamond Musical will be . . .

It was almost a year ago to the day.
We were about to announce that our Neil Diamond Musical that has been in development for a few years, would have its world premiere in Boston in 2020.

And then, it became clear to us, and to the rest of the world, that this pandemic wasn’t going to cooperate with anyone’s plans.

So we’ve been waiting.  And waiting.  And . . .

Now . . . finally . . . I’m thrilled to announce that the show with a book by four-time Academy Award nominee Anthony McCarten will have its world premiere in Boston at the Colonial Emerson Theater (where I grew up going to shows), in July of 2022.

Oh.   And the title!  Well, it’s called . . . A Beautiful Noise.

You can see the exact dates and sign up to get exclusive access to tickets here.  (And in the spirit of the season, look around and see if you can find a little Easter Egg hidden on the site, just for you.)

You’ll hear a lot more from me about the show in the coming months.  We’ve all been so starved for theater, I plan on sharing a lot.  🙂  So follow me here to see photos and videos along the way.

But right now, all that we wanted to do was put our Sweet Caroline of a flag in the Beantown ground and say. . . we’re coming . . . we’re coming to America Boston!  And THEN America!

See more here.

The new reality TV show about producing . . . that I’m producing!

That’s it.  I’ve had enough of people telling me I should . . .

1 – Produce television

2 – Produce a reality television show about producing a Broadway show.

So, during the pandemic, I started pitching TV networks like crazy.  And wouldn’t you know it, Netflix bought it!

The show follows the days and nights and late nights of three Broadway Producers (yes, I’m one of them) starting as we get Broadway up and running again.  Think a live version of William Goldman’s The Season . . . but about the most important season EVER – the first season back for Broadway after the pandemic!

They won’t let me say any more than this right now but stay tuned, because I’ll spill more soon.  (I’m just glad that today, I can finally leak this!)

If you want to read the official announcement from Netflix, including WHO THE OTHER TWO PRODUCERS ARE, click here.  (Guess first!)

OH, and we still don’t have a title, so if you want to suggest one, click here.

 

Podcast Episode #225: What do the recent Actors Equity Protocols mean for Broadway Producers like me?

ESTIMATED LISTENING TIME OF THIS PODCAST EPISODE:  12 MINUTES

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DESCRIPTION

A lot has happened since I posted this blog about my perspective on the recently announced Actors Equity protocols.

I expected a lot of responses.

What I did not expect was some of the biggest actors in our biz to post a petition asking for an open dialogue with their union about why those protocols appeared so strict.  (See here for more on that).

If you want to hear my perspective on how those protocols will affect Broadway Producers like me and the return of the theater, click here.

And then, tune in to my clubhouse event with Tim Hughes (who started this petition) as well as Sammi Cannold and more!  We’ll be talking all about the return, what’s taking so long, and taking your questions and comments as well.

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