5 Predictions for the Post Coronavirus World . . . and Broadway.

As a few cities around the world start to see some “leveling” of the curve (if not necessarily flattening) and as NYC approaches its apex, it’s time to start looking ahead.

While we are far from out-of-the viral woods yet (and every single effin’ person out there should be so sheltered-in-place, it should feel like you’re starring in your own one-person show), I’m getting a sense of what our world, and of course, our business, might look like in the months, years, and decades to come.

Here are five predictions for our post-Corona world:

1. We will have a Doctor as President.

We’ve had Lawyers and Generals as Presidents already, so it only makes sense that the next profession that will rise to the Commander in Chief role in the next 4-5 election cycles (20 years or so) will be a physician.  We’ve already had one run recently, and expect more to come.

As Fauci and Birx have proven, physicians can lead with more honesty, transparency, and intelligence than many of our typical politicians.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR INDUSTRY:  The reason we’ll want a Doc behind that desk is that we’re all going to want to feel safer and more protected by the folks in charge.  The “Presidents” of our industry (Theater Owners, Artistic Directors, Presenting Houses, Producers) will need to take extra steps to let our audiences know that we have THEIR safety at the top-of-our-minds.  Informing audiences of cleaning policies, signage about washing hands, recommendations to NOT come to the theater if you’re ill (dare I say, a more open exchange policy?), will all be key to getting our audience to show up instead of staying home.

2. Cash is no longer king and isn’t even in the court.

About 3 years ago, I stopped exchanging money when I went to a foreign country.  I just used my credit card and my apps.

One year ago, I stopped carrying cash in this country. There’s no question that paying by cash is way on its way out, but this virus will accelerate that phenomenon.  We bought everything we needed during our sequestered time by credit card online, and many of our necessities came with “contactless” delivery.

Oh, and the other reason cash will slowly disappear is because cash is, well, dirty.  After this is over, will you really want to put your hands on something that 1,000 other people have touched?

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR INDUSTRY:  Our consumers are going to want more ways to purchase their tickets via apps and online.  Box office pickups and hard tickets will decrease even more than they already have.  The ticketing companies who take the lead with mobile purchasing will win the day and the service fees that go along with it.

3. I’d “short” commercial real estate.

There’s nothing like mother nature forcing you to do something to prove that you can do it.  And the “something” in this case is work remotely.  The entire world is working from home right now, and a whole bunch of businesses (maybe even mine?) will come out of this saying, “Wait a minute, we just survived on Zoom . . . and I could save how much money if I didn’t have my office?” The Commercial Real Estate market is going to go through a major disruption as a result of Corona.  The upside?  Less commuting, less pollution, and yes, less chance of another virus spreading as fast as this one.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR INDUSTRY:  We’re not a biz that embraces tech very well, but we took a leap forward these past few weeks.  (Just yesterday I saw some folks figure out how to have a Zoom call who last month were still trying to get their VCRs to stop flashing 12:00 AM!)  While we’ll still be a face-to-face industry (since we require our audiences to be in a room, a lot of our business will still happen in a room), remote working will give those who embrace it an advantage.

4. Like Rock-n-Roll, live streaming is here to stay.

When I livestreamed Daddy Long Legs, I knew it would never replace what we do.  But I also knew it could definitely help market it, and provide other revenue streams for Artists, Producers, Investors, and all sorts of TheaterMakers.When Broadway shut down, I got a least a dozen emails in about an hour with all sorts of livestreamin’ ideas.  Obviously, we executed one of those ideas, and about a hundred other live streamin’ options popped up online right behind it.

And all these incredible initiatives won’t just disappear.  But don’t worry.  It won’t replace the “live” of what we do either.  It will only enhance it.  And this quarantine has given us a very valuable marketing tool that our audience (and our unions) will now truly embrace.

5. Oh, and yes, we are going to come back . . . in a big way.

As usual, some folks have used this crisis to signal the end of theater as we know it.  While I appreciate the “drama” of those statements, those self-proclaimed pundits are just dead wrong.  The theater has been around for thousands of years.  It has survived all sorts of world events, from wars to the invention of the television, and yeah, even epidemics and plagues and more, oh my. We will get through this.  And we will come back, bigger and better than before.  Gathering together for a common purpose . . . to share an experience as a community . . . is a primal human need.  And because we’re going to be so starved for it after our time in this social-distancing-desert we’ve been isolated in, we’re going to want to go to restaurants and bars and you betcha, theaters.  Will it happen overnight?  Probably not.  People have less money right now, and that will affect attendance more than fear of catching the bug.

But just close your eyes for a second and imagine . . . imagine what that first night back in a Broadway theater is going to be like.  Just imagine that ovation when the overture starts or the curtain rises.  Imagine the energy.

It makes me want to buy a ticket right now.  And it’ll make other people want to too.

 

How do you think the world is gonna change?  How do you think the business is going to change?  Let me know in the comments below!

——-

Are you watching our livestream? Tonight, Director/Actor Lonny Price will be LIVE with me on The Producer’s Perspective LIVE! Tune in. Tonight at 8pm EDT.

You can also go back and watch all 15 other episodes including Jeanine Tesori, Kevin McCollum, Sergio Trujillo, and more!

 

Why Politicians Need A Marketing Lesson To Get People To Stay Inside.

In his daily midday address the other day, the butt-kickin’ Governor of NY, Andrew Cuomo, once again tried to emphasize how important it was that everyone stayed the @#$% inside during this crisis.

“I’ve tried to say this so many different ways,” he said, obviously frustrated that he was still not getting his message through to all the right people.

And he’s not the only one.

“Staying inside saves lives,” all the Politicians and Docs have said over the past few weeks.  “Because sure, sure, 80% of the folks who get it will recover, but you could pass it on to someone that is one of the unlucky folks who don’t.  So stay inside to help others.”

Makes sense.  A very compelling argument, right?

Of course.  But unfortunately, it’s just not enough for a heck of a lot of people.

What all the folks behind those podiums are forgetting is that they are selling something.  It’s just not a product that comes in an Amazon box.  It’s a message.  And that message could be more valuable than Jeff Bezos’s entire net worth.

And to get people to “buy” it, they need to go back to marketing basics.

When designing a marketing campaign of any kind, you must remember The Non-Golden Rule . . . people do things for what’s in it for them.  As ugly as it is to admit . . . self-interest is the public’s primary motivating factor.

Gross but true.

So telling people how staying inside will help other people may not be the most effective way to get these folks to actually do it.

It should be part of the argument, for sure.  But in my opinion, the Politicians and Doctors are missing out on a very important part of the message. . .

And the lead that they’ve buried is this . . . even though 80% of the people who get this thing may not have to go to the hospital, they could be dreadfully and disgustingly ill.

I was reminded of this myself when I read Drew Gasparini’s Instagram Story the other day.  If you don’t know him, Drew is a composer-who-will-be-reckoned-with (he’s the guy behind the upcoming Karate Kid score and he was featured on my Podcast recently as #SongWriterOfTheWeek) who also just battled COVID-19 and is now, thankfully, on the other side.

But before he broke the virus’s back, this is what he went through:

It is not hyperbolic when I say this is easily the sickest I’ve ever felt to the point that my own mind was questioning whether or not I was going to be able to wake up the next day.

There was nothing to prepare me for how god awful it is.  I am on day 10, and I am very very slowly turning the corner but my experience was so bad that I am still very much just a shell of myself.  I have never in my life felt as sick or scared that my body couldn’t handle something in my entire life. Ever. Not even close.

Here’s what my week felt like:

  • Constant fever between 100-103 (treated every 4-6 hours with Tylenol)
  • Chills and aches. Sometimes it got so bad that I would shiver when I left bed to the point that I would fall to my knees and have a hard time getting back up.
  • No taste or smell (this is common with this virus)
  • The fatigue was (still is) so bad I could barely lift my head or open my eyes. The most I traveled was from my bed to the couch and I really weighed out the bathroom trips.
  • Perpetual nausea. It was constant, and painful as I tried to force nutrients into my body…
  • Anytime I did eat it would be immediate (overshare) diarrhea.
  • A cough, that once it started it would become a long coughing fit

– Drew

So tell me, readers.  Even if you knew you’d recover . . . do you want to deal with any of that, never mind all of that?

And I’ve heard even worse from others.  One friend and industry professional I know had to take pain-killers because his body aches were so bad.

Another threw up blood.  Another had blood coming out the other end.

I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to make me stay inside and bodywash with sanitizer.

And that message could affect the behavior of others in the way the politicians, doctors, and everyone wants and needs.

Hearing what the virus has the potential to do to YOU not only gets at the self-interest in all of us, but it also invokes one of the other primary marketing axioms . . . The Pain-Pleasure Principle.

People will always run to pleasure.  And run from pain.

The current marketing of this “stay inside” message hasn’t showcased enough personal pain to get some of the population to trade in the pleasure of going to spring break, gathering at friend’s apartments, etc.

In fact, the “marketing” has done the opposite.  The current message, and I’m quoting a website here, is “Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.”

While that may be true, and while it does prevent panic, from a marketing perspective, it doesn’t help keep people locked down.  If we want people to listen, we need to tell them, “You can get this.  And yes, you’ll most likely recover.  But in the process, it could hurt.  A lot.  So prevent yourself from the chance of (INSERT DISGUSTING SYMPTOMS HERE) and stay inside.  Doing so will keep you feeling great, and could also save the lives of your friends, family and fellow New Yorkers.”

(This theory is the same that was used in those very successful anti-smoking ads that show people speaking with no larynx, etc.)

I’m sure most of the people who read this blog are the part of the population who are staying inside.  But if you know people who aren’t, and you really want to get them to stay inside, use the above message on them, will ya?

And special thanks to Drew for his honesty.

– – – – –

Last night on our live stream we featured Actor, Producer, Artrepreneuer ALAN CUMMING!  Click here to watch the replay and hear him talk about . . .

  • How he’s utilizing this time of forced isolation to write his next book. . . and bake homemade crackers!
  • His number one tip to negotiating (you may be surprised by his response . . .)
  • What he’s learned from doing his podcast, Homosapiens.

And tonight at 8 PM EDT, we have stage director Leigh Silverman joining us!  Click here to get a reminder to tune in!

[VIDEO]: 2019 Super Conference – “Budgeting for Every Stage of Development” with Adam Hess, Brian Moreland, Margaret Skoglund, and Charlotte Wilcox

Budgets are the foundation of every business, especially Broadway.  Our economics are so fragile that if you eff up your budget, your show could close faster than it should, no matter how good it is.

That’s why we produced a panel on “Budgeting Best Practices” our SuperConference with a powerhouse group of Broadway General Managers who discussed . . .

  • The difference between a Capitalization budget and an Operating budget
  • What the biggest “line items” on a Broadway budget are and how to keep them in line.
  • Why the typical recoupment time is for a Broadway show in modern times (and what you should shoot for)
  • The process for how profit and royalties are calculated and distributed.
  • And more. 

Watching this video will save your show money.  Period.

Enjoy!

(And stay tuned for a new video every single day, right here in this space.  Tomorrow, my official welcome presentation to the Super Conference 2019 which includes my analysis of the trends of the types of shows that Broadway wants right now.  Click here to get these daily videos emailed to you.)

Don’t forget to tune in our new Facebook LIVE series, The Producer’s Perspective LIVE!, every night at 8pm EDT.  Tonight’s guest is Broadway Star Alex Brightman!  Click here for the full schedule and to tune in!

Putting The Fund in Funding on Broadway

I never believed in them.  For Broadway anyway.

Sure, investment funds were fine when you were buying a basket of boring stocks to prepare for your retirement, but for Broadway?  For any kind of art where so much emotion is involved?  One of the key criteria I recommend in this book before anyone invests in a Broadway show is to make sure you love the show.  I never thought investors would take to getting in a bunch of shows at once, especially if that fund was blind.

In fact, after I crowdfunded Godspell, a whole bunch of my micro-investors (customers, in this case) suggested that I start a fund.  “Nah,” I said.  “People want to know what posters they are going to hang on their wall.  They won’t want to do this.”

Idiot me was telling my own investor/customers what they would do and wouldn’t do.  (That’s like Ben & Jerry’s saying, “No, you won’t like that flavor,” after some of their most passionate cone buyers tell them they would.)

Flash forward five years later, and one of my most trusted mentors/Broadway investors suggested it again, AND said she’d start it off with a check.

This time, I listened.

I called the same terrific lawyer who helped me through Godspell, and I popped open a trial “starter” fund to give it a whirl.  (Sometimes you may have to beat me over the head with an idea to get it to take root, but, once it does, I get that seed to sprout pretty damn fast.)

In this case, the fund was for “Front Money” only – the earliest investment dollars a Broadway Producer needs, which historically has been the hardest money to raise on Broadway.

And, yet, this Front Money Fund was the easiest money I had ever raised.  And it’s also the reason I have four new musicals debuting in the next 18 months (more about that later).  Because when you give an Artrepreneur capital, they’ll make stuff with it!

When I asked why they liked the fund concept, my investors, of course, talked about the diversification.  If 1 out of 5 shows was the average rate of recoupment on Broadway then this was an easier way to play the numbers and reduce the risk.  They also talked about some of the other perks, like watching the shows develop and having additional rights to invest.  But, they also said it just made it easy to get involved with many shows at once, since they would have probably invested in them at some point anyway (these were my most trusted and loyal folks, after all, who always get first access to my stuff.)

At the same time I had my success, I noticed, other funds of all kinds starting to pop up on the market from blind funds, to rolling funds and, even, a fund just for projects led by women.

As Broadway has gotten hotter, and more and more people look to get involved, I’m predicting more and more funds will pop up.  And why not?  After all, they should mitigate risk AND make things easier.  (Most of the funds that have popped up are too early in their life cycle to have heard any real results – so I’ll have to update this blog in a few years.)

While I do believe “blind funds” will always have a greater challenge in raising monies than those funds where you know the shows you are investing in (most traditional mutual funds aren’t blind, after all), the truth is the success of any fund will depend on the same thing that those traditional funds depend on . . . who is running it.

What do you think about Broadway Investment funds?  Fad or a fantastic alternative?

– – – – –

Looking to learn more about Broadway Investing, including how funds work, and whether they’re for you?  Click here to register for my only Broadway Investing Seminar, coming up on March 10th and April 6th!

Can’t make those dates and still want to learn more . . . maybe because you’re looking to invest in your first Broadway show, or maybe because you want to learn the investing process because you need to raise money for your show?  Read Broadway Investing 101, the best seller now available on Amazon.com!

 

Episode 206 – The President of Disney Theatrical Group, Thomas Schumacher

Did you miss me?

Ok, maybe not.

But did you miss my guests???

That’s what I thought!

Well, the wait is over.  Welcome back to the brand new season of The Producer’s Perspective Podcast!

(Insert confetti cannons here)

Believe it or you-know-what, over the break, we celebrated five years of podcasting. Five freakin’ years. When I first started out, with my portable microphone and no idea of what I was doing, I never imagined we’d have over 200 episodes and that so many of our industry’s leaders would be so willing to sit and share their wisdom.  The generosity of theater folks is beyond.

And a perfect example of one of those folks is today’s guest . . .  Mr. Thomas Schumacher, the President and Producer of Disney Theatrical Productions, who oversees the development, creation, and execution of Disney’s legitimate stage entertainment worldwide.  Yeah, we’re talking the guy responsible for getting The Lion King to Broadway, not to mention Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Frozen and everything else under the Disney brand.

Tom and I sat down to talk about the role Disney has played in the building of the modern Broadway as well as . . .

  • How the film version of The Little Mermaid gave musicals back their voice
  • How theatre and Disney become part of your family heritage
  • What Broadway definitely needs to learn about diversity from Disney’s Mulan.
  • How Disney’s purchase of the New Amsterdam Theater helped revitalize Times Square.
  • A hint of what might be next for Disney on Broadway.

A lot of folks think that Disney is a big corporation.  Well, in this podcast, you’ll hear why its success is because it’s not run like a big corporation.  It’s run by one of the best independent producers in the business, who just happens to be backed by one heck of a big investor.

 

  • Click here to listen on our site!
  • Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)
  • Download it here.

And this week’s #SongwriterOfTheWeek is Grace McLean! If you enjoyed the outro song in this episode, go on over to www.gracemclean.com or check her out on Instagram & Twitter @thatgracemclean.

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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