Dreaming About The Future Of Streaming (thanks to Hamilton).

Oh, if all of my shows could be like Hamilton.

Sure, sure, I’d like the Pulitzer and the Tonys and the billion bucks.

But what I’m talking about now is the giant treasure they had tucked in a vault . . . that they pulled out in the midst of this pandemic.

Yep, I’m talking about the movie they released on Disney+ last week that increased downloads of the D+ app by 74%!

And what I’m dreaming about and proposing for Broadway’s future is that every single play and musical on Broadway films performances of their original cast in the week after opening (just like we record a cast album at about the same time).

And we tuck that sucker away in a vault.

Sounds easy, and I bet you’re nodding your head right now in agreement.

But it’s not that easy.

It’s expensive.

See, Hamilton could afford it. Not only did they have cash to burn, but they also knew there would be a market for their product in the future. (Little did they know what role the movie would play in keeping their brand and Broadway’s brand alive.)

Most plays and musicals do NOT have cash to burn when they open. In fact, most new shows are losing money when they open and therefore can’t afford to invest in a risky insurance policy like spending millions on a shoot.

Never mind that the shoot would have had to be planned months before. (We could try to build this cost into the capitalization, but that might increase the budget by 10-20%, and it’s not like raising previous budgets were a piece of cake.)

So what to do?

In order to capture all of the new shows for posterity and for future revenue opportunities for everyone, including the actors, musicians, and stagehands, we must lower the costs of the capture themselves.

I mean, I’m kicking myself for not having ALL of my shows in a vault right now. I could roll them out and everyone involved would get a check.

But it was too pricey to record Spring Awakening, Once on This Island, Gettin’ the Band Back Together, etc. (And I know that for a fact because I budgeted them all.)

We must reinvent this model in how the labor is paid for video capture (especially since a capture doesn’t require any additional work on behalf of the labor) and then give the labor MORE if/when the capture is distributed.

Think about it this way . . .

It costs a few hundred thousand dollars to record a cast album. And the cast/musicians have to spend a day in a studio, on their day off, recording it. It’s a lot of work. (And most cast albums aren’t making any money, btw).

It can cost 10x as much to capture a show on video. And the labor is paid more than they get for a cast album. . . even though no additional work is required.  For video shoots, the show could be recorded during a regularly scheduled performance (or several).  (If any additional work was required for the shoot – additional rehearsals, etc, then the labor should be paid).

If we lower the cost of capture (please note that I’m saying lower, not eliminate), then every show could put their product in a vault. And then, if the show is a hit and Disney+ or Netflix comes around, then EVERYONE gets paid.

Or give the Producer the option . . . pay the Hamilton model, or pay the bonus-back-end model.

We’re going to need a lot of new models post-pandemic. This is one that could provide an all-important revenue stream for everyone in the future.

Call it COVID-insurance.

And I just kicked myself again for not having it.

– – – –

Want to hear more about streaming from people who know more about it than me?  Sign up now for our 3 part video series about the 3 subjects most on your mind, including streaming . . . featuring the heads of BroadwayWorld and BroadayOnDemand.  See here.

[Announcement] The Dr. Kenny Encouragement Fund Scholarship For TheaterMakers

On March 22nd of this year, just a few months after moving into the city to be closer to me and his granddaughter, my Dad, Dr. Kenny Hasija, had a stroke. And as the sun was coming up on Easter morning, he passed.

It has been an interesting time to deal with this loss to say the least, because my Dad was my coach, my cheerleader, my chief strategist, and my friend. Because boy oh boy, could I have used his caring counsel over the past few months.

And as the corona-crisis continues, I am going to miss having him around over the next several months to do what he did so well, and encourage me to keep on keepin’ on.

My dad has been encouraging me since my earliest memory of him. He urged me to learn more, to try more, to speak up more, to fail more, to fight more, to love more . . . and he sacrificed more than he ever let on to make sure I could take every opportunity I had.

Put it this way . . . how many immigrant Indian Doctors do you know who would say, “Go for it,” when their son said he wanted to give up on law school and pursue a life in the theater???

(He didn’t even blink, by the way.)

His encouragement kept me going then . . . and as I vowed to him in his final few days, I will always keep going.

I also vowed to do everything I could to pass on that spirit of encouragement to my daughter, and to anyone else I met who had a passion for the theater.

So, I started a simple scholarship in his name . . . called The “Dr. Kenny” (as he liked to be called) Encouragement Fund.

I was planning on issuing just one $1,000 gift to someone attending school in the fall and pursuing a career in the theater industry. But after I wrote my blog on Wednesday about the number of artists who may already be out of school but struggling to stay in the city to pursue their dreams, I decided to offer two:

  1.  $1,000 to someone enrolled in or going to post-secondary school.
  2.  $1,000 to any TheaterMaker out there pursuing a career in the business.

If you would like to apply for these scholarships or know someone who would, please click here or share this blog.

Because as I’ve learned from being on the juries for other scholarships, it’s actually hard to get the word out to the folks who could use these funds the most. So please, share this sucker around so we can help encourage folks to keep making theater.

Because we’re going to need TheaterMakers more than ever when this is all over.

I’m hoping to continue this scholarship every year, and I’m hoping that it grows, and that my father’s encouragement to me from above can help me add some zeroes to these amounts.  (If you want to help and join some of my family and my father’s friends who are committed to encouraging others, and learn a bit more about my dad, click here.)

To be honest, I even thought about waiting to start this scholarship until I got that big fat hit I will have someday and I could give more.

But then, on Father’s Day this year, I remembered some of the encouraging advice that my Dad gave me years ago.

“Just start, Kenneth. Begin. A seed can’t grow until it is planted.”

I hope that my Dad’s advice and this gift can help encourage some of you.

To apply, click here.

 

One of the (many) things that worry me most about the Broadway shutdown.

I’ve gotta add one more to the list.

Yesterday, we revealed the top 3 things that are keeping TheaterMakers up at night. And I wasn’t shocked to see that your top 3 were the exact same as my top 3. (See those three things and how we’re going to start talking about how to address them here.)

But there’s something else that has me concerned that I have to add to the ever-growing pile of anxiety-producing issues we’re facing during the Broadway shutdown.

What’s going to happen to our workforce?

I’ll tell you what could happen. We could lose the very bright and creative personnel who we’re counting on to take Broadway to new heights.

The NY Times shared some of my nerve-iness in this article, where the writer talked about how so many NYC residents, especially the younger folks, fled NYC at the beginning the pandemic. And a huge subset of that group was from our very own arts and entertainment industry, since we laid off 78% of our workforce. 

And that doesn’t even count those who consider themselves part of our industry . . . actors, directors, writers, etc. . . who didn’t have a job at that time to be laid off from. (Even super successful artists aren’t employed from time to time, not to mention those waiting for their big breaks.)

So my concern is . . . not will these folks want to return, but will they be able to return?

With it becoming painfully clear that Broadway won’t be back until some time in (crossing fingers) early 2021, and development (readings, workshops, etc.) still in limbo, so many of our theatrical workforce could be out of work for up to a year.

And, as we get closer to the end of the unemployment stimulus package that put an extra $600 in so many people’s paychecks (it ends in July), the ability for these folks to make ends meet is going to be seriously challenged.

Oh, and it’s important to note that when I say workforce, I don’t only mean the Actors, Directors, Stagehands, Musicians, and more who make their living when the spotlights are on.

But what about those people who work in the offices who help keep those lights on?

For example, I was on a Zoom call last week with a bunch of marketing folks, many of whom were millennials.  These are the very groups that I’d usually predict would be the future of advertising and marketing on Broadway.

Now, I’m just praying that we can keep them around.

These doing-it-for-the-passion-not-the-pension peeps, along with the others who manage our shows, book our shows, agent our artists, etc. are not only going to need to find another way to make-a-living, but they are going to be offered other opportunities from industries that are able to get back to full speed, while we sit in neutral.

We have smart, bright, multi-talented people on and off the stage, and they’re going to be tempted to go.

We are going to lose some, no doubt. In fact, we already have. I’ve heard many a story about actors asking to be released from contracts at shows that were coming back. And some admin folks taking this opportunity to go work in the family business, etc.

And @#$% me . . . but I’ve had to lay off people at my own company, which is like sticking needles under your fingernails to an entrepreneur.

Ironically, now is the time when we need these folks the most. And I have even more concerns for the people of color in our industry. Now is the time when we must find MORE opportunities for them . . . at a time industry is constricting.

So what can we do in the short term to make sure our industry doesn’t lose the very people we need to build the new Broadway?

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Call your congresspeople and tell them to support the theater industry in any and all stimulus packages.
  • Donate to the Actors Fund which helps anyone in the theater industry weather difficult times.
  • Donate to the Dramatists Guild Foundation which helps writers specifically.
  • We must figure out how to safely get readings going again. Not immediately, of course, but if NYC can enter Stage III, there has to be a way to make socially distanced development work.
  • If you’ve got any reason to hire anyone here in the NYC area (or even for an online opportunity). . . hire a theater person.  (Oh, and have you seen all the theater people on Cameo?  This is a GREAT way to support them and super fun.)

An industry is only as strong as the people in it. And there is no doubt we’re going to have some attrition during this upcoming year. But we must do everything we can to limit our losses. We’ve got an opportunity to build a new Broadway. We just need the artistic and administrative minds to do it.

Are you a TheaterMaker (Artist or Admin) who has decided or is thinking about leaving the business because of shutdown?  Email me at ken@theproducersperspective.com. I want to hear your story . . . and I have a feeling others do too.

 

 

 

 

In Tech (and in Life), Time is like Toothpaste.

I’m in a hotel room as I type this.  And I just finished a sweet caesar salad with chicken that left me fully satiated . . . and with some breath that could kill a whole bouquet of roses.

So I went to brushy-brushy-brushy (as Elmo sings to my daughter every night), grabbed my toothpaste, and noticed that I was just about down to the end of the tube.  I crinkled the tube some more, pressed out the corners and squeeeeeeeeezed with all my might to get a few more drops onto my brush.  “Come on,” I urged the tube, “I gotta kill this Caesar!”

I eventually got a little dollop to pop out but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have a little anchovy aftertaste right now.

You’ve been there before, right?  With toothpaste, or hand soap (ever put more water in the bottle to extend its life?), etc.

Now flash back to when you opened that tube of toothpaste . . . or that bottle of soap . . . you didn’t think even think about it coming to an end, now did you?  You probably over-pasted, or let some spill, and didn’t give two dollops.

But eventually, your tube did run out.  It always does.  And then you found yourself with less than what you needed to do the job right.

The same is true with time.

And I find my “toothpaste theory” is never more evident than in tech.

Tech is the most expensive and arguably most important time in a show’s run-up to a Broadway opening.  It’s where all the elements come together.  It’s when there are more people getting paid than ever before.

And you only have a fixed period of time before the tech ends, and the performances must begin.

And at the beginning of tech, everyone spends a little more time on things than they should. And then, as the first preview gets closer . . . and you start to approach the end of the “toothpaste tube of time,” things get more tense, as you’re trying to squeeze every last second of time out of your tech rehearsals to give that first audience the best show possible.  “If only we had another day,” is probably the most commonly heard expression in tech.  Well, second most common to, “Oh @#$%!”

So . . . it’s important to go into tech remembering that the toothpaste at the beginning of the tube is just as valuable at the end. Do that and you’ll find yourself with a better show for that first audience, which will result in better word of mouth, and so on, and so on.

Oh, and, by the way, this toothpaste theory works for life too.  No matter what age we are, we all think there is plenty of time to do all the things we dream about doing, from writing a play to having kids to taking that vacation to that one place we’re dying to see.

But, the fact is, life is short.  And you don’t want to find yourself at the end of your own toothpaste tube trying to squeeze a few more years out.  Because you can’t.

So go out there and do something you want to do today.

– – – – –

Want to start working on that script of yours that is in your head but not yet on a page?  Take our free 30 Day Script Challenge . . . and get it on paper in 30 days, guaranteed.

Want a job in the theater? Join our TheaterMakers Studio Production Team Database!

The theater is a collaborative art form.  Even one-person shows can’t be done on their own.  (At the very least, you need at least one person in your audience!)

The cool thing about meeting the right collaborator is that your energy to make something happen doubles, triples, and increases exponentially with each person you add.  And then one day, you’ll find yourself sitting in a Broadway theater teching your show, looking around at the hundred people working on it with you. . . and remembering when it was just you, in your room, with an idea (yes, I’ve had this moment several times).

This is why we encourage TheaterMakers to meet other TheaterMakers and get them signed up on their show, or simply just meet for coffee and brainstorm!

And, believe it or not, one of the most common questions I get asked is . . . “Ken, where can I find a Director/Designer/Composer/Orchestrator/Actor, etc.”  Shocking, right?  Because we all know how many people are desperately looking to work as a Director/Designer/Composer/Orchestrator/Actor, etc.

That’s why we’ve started a TheaterMaker Production Team Database . . . so when you need someone for your show . . . or if you’re a TheaterMaker looking for a job on a show . . . you know where to look.

Post your profile if you’re a Director of plays or a Choreographer of musicals.  Or a Writer, Investor, Designer or whatever.

Search through the profiles if you’re looking for any of the above, or are just looking to meet someone who shares the same passion of making shows as you do, and see what you can cook up together.

Whatever you’re looking for, it’s in our brand new, free TheaterMaker Database. And it’s now open for your submission and browsing pleasure!

Click here to check it out and create your free profile now.

And do it now.

Ask yourself.  What do you have to lose by signing up?  And putting yourself out there?

Only a possible collaboration that could take you exactly where you want to go.

It takes 30 seconds.  Sign up and start working (with someone else) today.

Sign up for the TheaterMaker Production Database here.

 

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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