What this Tracy Chapman song has to do with your show.

I wrote a letter to singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman in the mid-90s.  It was on early in my career and I was looking for popular artists who might have an idea for a musical.  And her 1988 hit, “Fast Car”, told me two things . . .

1 – She had a gift for melody.

2 – She wrote story songs.

Broadway wasn’t cool then, so my inquiry hit a wall (also known as a manager who couldn’t see that one day Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Sara Bareilles, Sting, and more would have shows on Broadway).

Tracy had another hit song, that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, as I’m crotch deep in the development of six new musicals.  The song?  “Talkin’ About A Revolution.”

Why?

The biggest hit that Broadway has ever seen and may ever see is about a revolution:  The American Revolution (If you don’t know the show I’m talking about, then you should get out more . . . or just read this blog more.)

One of the other biggest hits that Broadway and the world has ever seen is also about a revolution:  The French Revolution.

And there’s another musical that’s coming back to Broadway in 2021 (in a very buzzy all-female version directed by Diane Paulus) that’s also set in Revolutionary times.

What makes revolutions such good settings for shows?

Revolutions are started by groups of the super passionate people who are willing to put their lives on the line (literally) to achieve their goal of rewriting history.

Can the stakes be any higher?

Like medical dramas or legal eagle shows on TV, revolutions just make a writer’s job a little easier, since the setting already has the baked-in requirements of a successful musical (passionate heroes and high stakes).

Am I suggesting you find an actual revolution to write about or produce?

No.  (Although it wouldn’t hurt – I still think there’s a good Civil War story to be told on a stage.)

What I am suggesting is that you find the revolution IN your story.

Doesn’t Billy Elliot start a revolution inside his household and in his town when he wants to dance?

Belle’s relationship with the Beast has the townspeople picking up arms against her new furry friend.

West Side Story, The Lion King, Little Shop of Horrors, Beautiful, etc, etc. all have revolutionary characteristics if you look closely enough.

And the shows that I’m working on . . . Joy (a single mom who starts a revolution when she fights to get herself on QVC to sell her own invention, after it failed with someone else, and changes the face of retail for herself and for women worldwide), Harry Belafonte (a singer who used his popularity to work with MLK, JFK, RFK, Eleanor Roosevelt, Malcolm X, Mandela, and more and fight for equality in this country and the world), Ma Vie En Rose (an 8-year-old child born a boy, who is a girl, and fights against his family and community who deny who he really is), and Harmony (about a singing group fighting starting a revolution against a revolution), etc.

When you are looking for shows to adapt for the stage, find a revolution, and your job will be that much easier.

Oh, and Tracy, if you’re reading this, the offer still stands.  You’ve got a musical in you.  I know it.

– – – – –

If you want to hear what several Tony Award-winning writers look for when they adapt stories for the stage, click here.

 

How a TV Ad Got Me to Buy This, but I Still Won’t Buy TV Ads

I bought a car last week.

(Makes no sense having a car in the city, I know, I know, but you have a kid and a dream about driving her to a water park and see how quickly you’re visiting TrueCar.com.)

And with a car comes . . . insurance.

Ahhh, insurance, an industry that spends more on advertising than most.

So this is the story of how advertising got me to buy a specific brand of car insurance.  (Side note:  One of the best ways I learn how to be a better marketer is to take a moment before I make a purchase and ask myself, “How did marketing get me to the cash register?”)

When I knew I was getting a car, I set out to get three insurance quotes to compare.  Now, guess which insurance companies I choose for those quotes?

Go on, guess.  Seriously.

Would you be surprised to hear that I got quotes from:

  1. Geico
  2. Progressive
  3. Allstate

You got at least two out of three, didn’t you? And probably the top two.

Why?

Because Geico and Progressive not only advertise all the time on Television, but they also have the most unique ads in the insurance space.  (Flo, the Progressive lady, and in Geico’s case, just plain lunacy.)

So bam . . . for a guy who doesn’t watch that much TV, I narrowed my choice down to the two companies that advertised the most and in the most clever way.  (Allstate is right up there as well – and I had used them in a previous life.)

What does this say about marketing?

TV advertising DOES still work.  Commercials seep into your brain over time, and when you’re ready to make a purchase, that product can be top of mind . . . whether you realize it or not.

So you’d think this Jekyll & Hyde-like self-experiment would have me buying TV ads for my Broadway shows, right?

Wrong.

Actually, the opposite.

After several years of buying TV ads for my shows, I can tell you right here and now, I won’t do it . . . ever again.

Why not?  Especially when it worked on me for car insurance?

That’s the point.

Geico has been making me laugh for years.  And so has Progressive Flo (Side note: Comedy converts).

Key word?  Years.

Years are what big awareness campaigns like TV advertising need to make the number of impressions a company needs to make a sale.  The consumer has to see that soft-sell ad so many times for a product of top of mind.  And because the profit margins of insurance companies (and other big brands) are higher than ours, and because their products can be purchased and used anywhere, as opposed to Broadway, which is consumed in one place, these companies can afford to keep advertising and just wait, wait, wait, until you need them.

In my case, it took years.

But they got me in the end.  And now, I’ll be a customer for years.  Not just for one night out.

New Broadway shows aren’t insurance companies.  They are startups.  They are brand new to the market.  They don’t have years to wait for a consumer to need them.  And, no one ever needs a show like they need insurance, food, etc.  We’re optional.

Awareness bombs like TV are wasted on new products of any kind, but especially niche ones like Broadway shows.  What we need is a targeted approach to getting the right people to see a show and fast.

Now look, I love the medium of telling your story through video to capture a sale . . . but traditional TV advertising is way too expensive to justify for 90% of Broadway shows.

So I’m done.

If it were cheaper?  Sure.  If it were more targeted (hello, Programmatic TV buying through the Hulus of the world), sure, sure.

But as an awareness builder?

We don’t have time or money for those kinds of campaigns.

For a new show, you’re much better off putting that money into something more trackable and sales-focused (on Once On This Island we skipped traditional TV in the lead up to the first performance and opened with the same advance that we expected to have with TV).

Huh.

I just realized something.

I wrote a similar blog about print advertising a few years back.

It looks like TV is the next traditional form of media to fall.


Want to hear other Broadway A-list experts chime in on this and more marketing matters?  Click here.

A List I Dreamed About Being On, but Never Thought It Would Happen

One of my missions as a Broadway producer is to make the world understand that Broadway is a business like any other.  It’s not a hobby.  It’s not a game.  It’s not some crazy place where wealthy people throw their money around just to attend an opening night party at Sardi’s.

Sure, parties and perks are great, but Broadway is a business like any other.  Our product just happens to be one of the greatest art forms around . . . the theater.

On the flip side, I’ve tried to introduce tried-and-true business practices into all of my shows because I believe all products are the same, no matter the industry.  And they all respond to the same marketing techniques, sales processes, etc.

That’s why I go to general marketing conferences, attend entrepreneurial masterminds, and . . . read Inc. magazine.

I’ve gotten tons of tips from Inc. mag over the years, from tools on project management to inspiration from the interviews with CEOs.

And every year when they published their “5,000 Fastest Growing Companies in America,” which previously featured companies like Microsoft, Zappos, and GoPro, I imagined, “How cool would it be if a Theater Company was on this list amongst all these tech and retail companies?  And how cool would it be if MY company was that company???”

Well . . . it happened.

I’m so honored to report that Davenport Theatrical Enterprises was just named to this year’s Inc. 5000!  And I’m so proud to represent our industry by being the first Broadway Producer ever on the list!!!


Woo-freakin’-hoo!

Of course, I couldn’t have grown even a smidgen without the help of my incredible staff, as well as all of the artists and audience members all over the world who have been a part of my shows.  Backstage, onstage, or in those seats.

And a special thanks to Inc. for helping me achieve my dream of putting Broadway right up there with “real” businesses.  It’s huge for me.

See, I’ve always believed the more theater there is in the world, the better off the world is.  All I’ve tried to do over the last 15 years as a Broadway Producer and Theater Maker is put more theater out there, whether through my own shows or by helping other Theater Makers with their shows.  And I’m thrilled that we’ve grown the way we have because that means the theater has grown along with us.

And now I’m thrice as committed to growing even more over the next 15 years.

Thank you, everyone!


Interested in learning more about the business of Broadway and getting some of the tips and tools I’ve taken from the traditional business world for your show?  Click here.

The Economic Impact of Touring Broadway 2016-17

“Broadway is the longest street in America.”

If you’ve never heard that quote before, attributed to our living legend Paul Libin, who recently retired as an EVP and resident “guru” at Jujamcyn Theaters (and who also runs Circle in the Square), you’re about to see why he uttered it in the first place.

Simply put . . . it’s because Broadway brings a lot of bucks to the entire nation.

Like, billions.

The Broadway League just released its annual economic impact report for touring Broadway, and the results are staggering.  And this is for the 2016-17 season, just as Hamilton was starting to pump up subscriptions at every theater in the land.

As you’ll see, Producers spend a lot of dollars launching these moving (literally and figuratively) musicals and plays . . . and audiences spend a lot of money on them and around them as well (from dinner to parking to hotels, oh my!).

That means . . . jobs.  Lots and lots of jobs.

And that means: take heed local and federal governments.  This is an industry that deserves support and respect.  Because a dent in it would mean a dent in economies all over this long, long street.  (Translation: more tax incentives, please, especially for our steadfast Broadway investors who make all this possible.)

Take a look at this “Executive Summary” of the report below . . . and if you want to get the complete report, as well as the others that the League produces, you can get them here.

Touring Broadway Contributes $3.8 Billion Across the U.S.

  • In the 2016-2017 season, 41 Touring Broadway shows traveled to 191 cities across the country.
  • Producers and presenters spent $1 billion to launch and run these programs.
  • Of this amount, $728.8 million was spent in the theatres’ communities and $279.8 million in the New York City area. The remaining $29.6 million was spent in other areas (i.e. vendors who were situated elsewhere or foreign royalty holders) that is beyond the scope of the impact analysis.
  • Moreover, theatregoers who came to an area specifically to attend shows spent another $746.1 million on ancillary activities such as dining and transportation.
  • Thus the total direct spending due to Touring Broadway amounted to $1.78 billion.
  • This money then generated another $2.0 billion in secondary rounds of spending, so that the full economic contribution of Touring Broadway totaled $3.8 billion to these 191 cities.
  • Eighty-three percent of this money ($3.2 billion) supported the communities that presented Broadway tours. Another $610.2 million impacted the New York City area.
  • On average, Broadway tours contributed an economic impact of 3.28 times the gross ticket sales to the economy of the metropolitan areas in which they played.

Want to hear more about the business of Broadway and how it’s changing under our feet?  Come hear Broadway A-listers chat about the state of Broadway and how you can make it to a stage yourself.  Click here.

Forget 15 Minutes a Day to Flatter Abs. Use Those 15 Minutes to Do THIS Instead.

A long time ago, in a galaxy very close to Times Square . . . I was in deep you-know-what.

See, I had made a bad business assumption.

Actually, that’s redundant. Any assumption is a bad one.  Because when you assume, you make an a$$ out of yourself . . . and only yourself!  And now what the @#$% are you going to do?

So, I had made this business assumption. And I found myself in a very, very deep hole.  With very limited time to get out of it.

Now look, I had been in holes before.  Life, and even more so the pursuit of success in the arts, is like a street in New York City.  It’s filled with potholes, and you’re going to hit one every once in a while.

But this time?  I hit a doozy.  I was in deep.  Deeper than the one I had been in years before that had me in tears on my therapist’s couch, wondering how I was going to get out of it.

So yeah, things were bad.

And I needed a plan.  Because there was no choice.  I had to dig myself out.  No matter what.

There were no tears this time.  I woke up at 4:45 AM (partly on purpose and partly because I couldn’t sleep) and went straight to my office to begin putting a process in place to get me over, under, or straight damn through the obstacle I was facing.

That morning, I Googled everything I could about getting back on track.  I learned about eating better and morning routines and meditation and positive thinking and . . . journaling.

I had always laughed at journaling before.  “Isn’t it like keeping a diary?”  “Why reflect or describe what’s happening when I can just do something with that time instead!”

But since so many successful people I looked up to swore by this 15-minute a day exercise and since I was so @#$%ed I was ready to try anything to get myself in the right mindset . . . I bought one.  (Actually, I bought three – but more on that later.)

And the next day, I took that journal, which I had one-day shipped from Amazon Prime, and held it.  And instantly I felt like I had control over what was going to happen next in my life, instead of “the hole” taking control of me.

Day after day, I started going through the exercises in that journal, from goal-setting, to mind-setting, to gratitude-feeling, and so on.

Two weeks later, my problem was gone . . . four weeks earlier than the deadline.

Boom.

And journaling has been a part of my life every single day since.  And without a doubt, it has helped me focus, take action, stay calm (when I’ve faced more potholes), and achieve the ambitious goals that I had set for myself.

It’s one of the simplest secrets to success I’ve ever seen.  Which is why I think you should start one today.

You can use anything to journal.  A blank composition book.  A blog.  A word doc.

Or one of the many journals available on the market.

And as of today, you can also get one specifically for Artists, Art-trepreneurs, and other people like you.  Check them out here.

See, in order to make my journaling more efficient, I tried over seventeen (!) different types from seventeen different companies.  And while all of them had elements I liked (special shout-out to Michael Hyatt, SaltWrap, Rachel Hollis, and all the others who helped inspire me with their versions), none of them had the perfect combination of what I believe true Art-repreneurs need.

So we made our own!  🙂  Click here to see ’em.

The journal consists of a daily checklist of the things I believe every person should start their day with in order to get the most out of the next 24 hours and to get closer to their goals.

We have three versions, with three unique covers, inspired by some of our favorite motivational lyrics.  🙂  I think you’ll like ’em.  Click here to see if you can guess which lyrics we chose!

With the cost of publishing these hardcovers, never mind what Jeff Bezos takes on Amazon, these are really a wash for us.  But we made them because we believe it can help you get your shows, your projects, your anything off the ground, which as you know, is part of our #5000By2025 mission.

So grab one and give it a shot.

Because I think you’ll find those 15 minutes a day much more fun and MUCH more rewarding than a bunch of crunches.


Get our Action Journal for Artists here.

It will work.

Happy journaling!

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