Why James Altucher and Jerry Seinfeld are both wrong about NYC.

If you’ve been watching your social meed-feed, then you know all about the war or words between Comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Investor/Chess Player/Sometimes Comedian, James Altucher.
 
If you don’t, then let me catch you up.
 
In this article, James Altucher, said that “NYC is dead forever.”
 
In this article, Jerry Seinfeld called James a “putz.”
 
Pretty much sums it up.
 
So I’m here to break up the fight and say, “Guys, guys . . . are you high or something?  Cuz you’re both wrong “
 
I’ve followed James Altucher for years. I read his book, attended his events, and even purchased his high-priced investing newsletter for his stock tips (he was a successful Hedge Fund Manager before all this).
 
In fact, I found him so inspiring that I invited him and his kids to the opening of Spring Awakening in 2015. He came, had a blast and told me I had “the funnest job in the world.”
 
So, even though those stock-pickin’ tips I paid for didn’t work out (!), I was a fan.
 
But when I read his vir-article, when he declared NYC a zombie town that would never come back to life, I wanted to punch him in his hairdo.  
The article is classic Altucher. It’s smart.  It has a lot of words.  And it has a hedge-funders-like-logic. It’s like he took a lot of Facebook messages and bandwidth statistics and plugged them into his own personal algorithm and beep-bop-boop . . . out popped a message that said, “Sell NYC. SELL. SELL. SELL.” 
And that’s when James moved to Florida.
Now I love me some data.  But there are times when all these statistics and trends and algorithms are just plain wrong.  (Anyone remember the last presidential election?).
This IS one of those times.  
NYC is experiencing one of the toughest periods in its history, no doubt.  And yes, Times Square reminds me of when I first moved here in 1991.  But back then I never could have imagined that it would be the place it became pre-pandemic, with glitzy retail, Disney in residency, and so many tourists you couldn’t walk down the street.
But that’s what happened.  And it will happen again.
Yes, lots of people are leaving NYC.  Many of them artists, as I wrote about here, who have no choice.  And this forced migration is one of the great tragedies of this pandemic.
But the people that are leaving just to leave, and not because they have to?  The people like James?  They’re doing so out of fear.  And that’s never a good time to sell anything.
In fact, to quote a hero from James’s investing world . . .
“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” – Warren Buffett.

I understand the fear.  Believe me. I’ve had it.  I can’t tell you how many times my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Maybe we should head to the suburbs.  Or another state!”

The facts are,  I could commute from anywhere when Broadway got back up and running.

But that would be me making a quick decision based on a short-ish term problem.  It’d be like a drug.  It would make me feel good in the short term because I was doing something, but long term?

What’s interesting is when people make these decisions, they then have to DEFEND their position to everyone they know.  It’s the psychological principles of “commitment” and “consistency” (beautifully described in this book by Dr. Robert Cialdini.) Once people make a choice, they double down on it, to make themselves feel more secure in their own decision (which is evidence that they weren’t secure about the decision in the first place). 

And, that, my friends, is what we’re seeing in James’ article.
See James moved to Florida.  So of course he is going to claim that NYC is dead.  Because if it wasn’t dead, it would be like he left a dying friend on the battlefield. . . he’d never forgive himself.  (Seinfeld was right when he wrote, “Imagine being in a war with this guy by your side.”)
But I don’t want to be too hard on James.  Because again, I don’t know a NYer who has been stuck in the city since March who hasn’t thought of getting out.  So his feelings are valid.  I forgive him of those.   
 
What I couldn’t forgive James is how his article is the antithesis of the basic tenet of his teaching. And why I became semi-obsessed with him in the first place.
 
I’m talking about his 1% rule.
 
James believes that you can accomplish any goal you want in life by trying to get better at that thing by just 1% a day.
 
Improve a paltry 1%. every day over a year and you will crush your goals.  
And it works.
 
And that’s what is going to happen to NYC.  
It’s not going to get better all at once.  It’s not going to get better by next year.  But over time, watch what it becomes.
 
So for James Altucher to say that “I give up on NYC” is the opposite of the positivity he preaches that has attracted so many people to his various businesses!
 
So why did he write that article? Is the 1% rule bull-puckey?
 
No, he wrote that article because . . .
 
1.  He needed to defend his move per the “commitment/consistency” principle we discussed above.
2.  He wanted to get press.
James is a genius. And he knows how to get attention.  And he succeeded. Big time.
 
Enter Jerry Seinfeld.
 
Jerry, I’m a massive fan of yours as well. And it wasn’t your TV show that did it. It was the movie Comedian, which showed us all how hard you are willing to work at your craft. The movie is a great reminder that everyone, including Jerry Seinfeld, feels like an imposter every once in a while.  
 
But the follow-up article that James wrote to your article (I told you James knew how to get attention . . . and keep the attention going) was right.  You’re living a very cushy Hamptons life right now.  And it ain’t so cushy here in Times Square, where today I witnessed a drug deal in front of one of our famed Broadway Theaters.
 
If you want NYC back, Jerry, you can’t just act like Peter Pan and believe it will come back. You have to be back. 
We need you here.  We need you walking through Times Square (with a mask!) to give some of the few tourists a reminder that famous people live in our city.  We need you to ride our subway if we expect other people to.  We need you to help us get aid from the federal, state and city governments. The forced migration can be stopped with the right stimulus . . . so stop calling Altucher names and start calling Congress People.  They will answer your calls, not mine.
 
No, James and Jerry, NYC isn’t dead.
 
But it is sick. Very sick. And sure, maybe some might even say it’s dying.
 
But if your best friend in the world was dying, what would you do . . . sit back and watch? Go on vacation? Only green-light treatments that have been done before?  Yell from the top of your lungs and say, “My friend is dying” and then head to a beach?
 
No. You’d rant and rave for help. You’d try every experimental drug and treatment on the market. You’d do ANYTHING you can to keep your friend alive.
 
So if you love this city like I both know you do, give each other an e-kiss and make up.  Because together you two could do more good than any of our politicians ever could.
– – – – –
If you’re interested in more conversations about what the future of the theater is going to look like in our fair and non-dead city, click here.
 
 

I should have known this was coming. Because all the cool kids are doing it.

Want a quick tip on how to tell what’s next in all things online?

Watch what the kids are doing.

Especially when it comes to social media.

Because here’s what happens:

  1. Kids find the latest and greatest social media platform.
  2. After some time, the parents of the kids find the same social media platform.
  3. When the moms and dads join, the kids jump to the next social media platform, like fleas to a new dog.

This process has repeated itself over and over again, since Friendster and MySpace.

Once moms got on MySpace, the kids jumped to Facebook, which was originally built ONLY for kids. Then came Twitter. Then Insta. And now, of course, TikTok.

And lately, the kids have been up to something else which is a precursor of what’s to come to the mainstream audience (and has been accelerated because of the pandemic).

If you watched my livestream with Jordan Fisher, you know what I’m talking about.

In the early part of the video, Jordan schooled me on Twitch – the YouTube-like streaming platform populated mostly by gamers who stream the video games they play (sometimes all day), and kids watch.

But there is something else the kids do.

They pay for the privilege of watching their idols do their stuff.

They subscribe. They give tips. They give gifts.

And the most popular streamers? They make a very good living.  In fact, the top streamer in the world earns an estimated $400k-800k+ . . . PER MONTH. Others earn $100k per month! Yeah, over $1m a year!  From playing video games! (And being unique personalities, of course.)

Ok, ok, those are the top streamers, but even the “average pro” on Twitch earns $5000 per month . . . just by doing what they love to do. (And remember – all that money is coming from subscribers whose average age is 21!)

If you go back and watch Jordan tell me all about this world, you can literally see my eyes widen because, in this one livestream, I saw tomorrow. And it’s because of what the kids are doing today.

The takeaway?

People are willing to pay for streamed content.

And not just filmed productions like Hamilton or my Daddy Long Legs.

And yes, if kids are doing it, then it’s going to tip into a massive new market for all sorts of artists and content creators.  (I’m already hearing some amazing success stories of musicians and TheaterMakers experimenting with paid streams – and having surprising success.)

And while yes, to make a lot of money artists are going to need to have a following. But Chris Anderson’s Long Tail theory will apply . . . meaning that any artist of any kind WILL be able to find an audience . . . the size of that audience will just vary.

Once again, the kids are showing us the way. And it’s coming at the perfect time, because our TheaterMakers need another way to earn a living until the live stage comes roaring back.

This transition from the free to paid model is not going to happen overnight, but the quicker we start introducing paid streaming opportunities, the quicker we train our audiences that art online (even if that’s a unique personality playing a video game) ain’t free.

Don’t believe me that we can make the transition?

Remember when people only listened to music for free from Napster and Limewire?  And then came iTunes?  And you think Spotify, Pandora or AmazonMusic exist because of the free versions? People pay for it.  Who probably thought they would never pay for music . . . ever.

So yes, paid streaming of all different shapes and sizes is coming.

And if you’re a TheaterMaker you’re at a very unique time in history . . . because there’s an opportunity to be seized.  Like being offered to buy stock in Amazon in 1998. (I was – I passed – never a-effin’-gain.)

So what can you do to get in on this?

Well first, if you’re a TheaterGoer and you see a TheaterMaker doing something with a price tag attached (and it’ll be much less than a live ticket – because they have to be), considering paying.  You’ll be helping a TheaterMaker.  And TheaterMakers?  Help your peers.  Attend their shows.  Support and you’ll be supported.

But if you want more specifics, then here are my three giant takeaways for TheaterMakers that you MUST do to get on the ground floor of the paid streaming revolution that is coming.

  1.  Build a following. You need your own tribe, your own fans, your own community to have a successful career in streaming your art. (That tribe can be any size, but you need to know where they are and be able to communicate with them daily – and yes, social media is great, but nothing beats email.
  2. Stream something. Anything. Start experimenting. Plays. Concerts. One person shows. Try to make it a unique experience for the streaming market so it feels created for it.
  3. Repeat.  Keep doing different things until you find what works for YOU. And after a while you will find something that supports your live stage work. Wouldn’t that be nice?

As you can tell, I’m bullish about this. And you’re going to see me experimenting with a lot of different streaming stuff over the next six months. Some will work. Much of it won’t. But I will learn. Because I need to. We all do.

And if you want to learn more about how to stream successfully, whether that’s a Zoom reading, a filmed production or more, check out this resource we pulled together.  It’ll answer all your questions and get you started fast.

Click here.

UPDATED 9/10/20 @ 6:52 PM!

Breaking news . . . the Pulitzer Prize committee just announced that virtual shows will be eligible for the Pulitzer!!!  I mean, I told you I was on to something.  🙂  Yet  another reason to learn how to stream your show.  It has arrived.

Click here to learn how to stream your show now.

 

[WINNERS!] And the Dr. Kenny Scholarship Fund Recipients Are…

Because of the pandemic, I haven’t had the chance to give my dad a proper farewell.  There was no funeral, no memorial, and no celebration of his life.

Someday in 2021, God willing, I will honor his wishes and travel to his home country of India and scatter his ashes in the Ganges River. (My prayers are with our relatives in Mumbai as their battle with the virus rages on.)

Until then, I’ve got the next best thing to a celebration of his life . . . because nothing, absolutely nothing, made my dad happier than encouraging young people.

That’s why I started the “Dr. Kenny Encouragement Fund” and the “Dr. Kenny Scholarship”. I wanted my Dad’s spirit to continue to be able to say “GO FOR IT” to young people pursuing a career in the arts . . . especially when it’s more difficult than ever to get out of the gate.

I was overwhelmed by the number of high-quality applicants for our first year of this gift and boy oh boy, picking FINALISTS was harder than producing a Broadway show, never mind picking two winners!

But I did. And I am pleased to introduce them to you below.

Both of these Art-treprenurs will receive:

What they’ve agreed to do:

  • Ask questions along the way so we can help.
  • Keep us updated along their journey to success.
  • Honor my Dad’s name.
  • And kick some theatrical butt.

Please meet the inaugural recipients of the first annual Dr. Kenny Encouragement Fund Scholarship! Congrats both!  And know my dad is smiling HUGE today!

– – – – –

Marelisse Navarro-Sanabria
Student of the Arts

School: Cornish College of the Arts
Major: Theater with a Concentration in Acting
Year: Freshman

What makes her special as a theatermaker: Her teachers describe her as an energetic and enthusiastic leader who is a positive influence on those around her.

What are your long-term career goals/aspirations?:

“Only by telling our story do people see the real us. I have always considered acting to be storytelling and as an actor I recognize that I do serve as one of many bridges between the Hispanic community and American media. My goal as an actress is to accurately depict and share these stories in the best way I can. And to do that I must continue to strengthen and improve my acting skills. Education is fundamental.”

Quote:

“The entertainment industry is constantly evolving to portray all walks of life. As a woman of color this award aids in getting my story told and I’m more than thankful. This has been a difficult time for everyone but, there are two constants in life that calm me. One, time will carry on. Two, art will always persevere. Art illuminates the hope in times of pain and struggling. Art shows us we’re not alone. Art is humanity. So to every artist, keep persevering and don’t let anything stop your story from being told.”

 

Germono Toussaint
Composer, Playwright and Producer

Recent works include:
Surviving Together (short musical, 2019)
• Created with Music Theater Factory (MTF) and performed at MTF’s High Five Celebration
Sonny’s Song (full-length two-act play, 2018)
• Read as part of the National Black Theater’s Keep Soul Alive reading series
• Developed at the Sheen Center as part of an artist residency
• Developed with Rhymes Over Beats as part of an artist residency
Divine Retribution (short play, 2017)
• Performed as part of the NY Madness play festival

What makes him special as a theatermaker: Despite facing setbacks related to the effects of the pandemic, he is currently developing three complex and deeply personal new works rooted in his African American culture and heritage.

What are your long-term career goals/aspirations?:

“My long-term goal is to make a living doing what fulfills me creatively and to put all of my energy into what I was put on this earth to do. It is my hope that what fulfills me creatively will also educate, uplift, challenge, transform, and possibly even heal others. I want to make a living by creating plays, musicals, movies, and music. I also make a great effort to remain a person of character, live an authentic life, and to seek truth in all that I do.”

Quote:

“Three things I have learned as an independent artist in NYC:
1. Your gifts, your struggles, and your purpose, are all divinely connected.
2. What is for you, is for you.
3. You are here for a reason. The world needs what you have to give.”

– – – – – –

If you’d like to help with my Dad’s mission and support emerging artists and art-treprenuers, please click here, or email me.  The Fund’s 501c3 status is in process.

 

What I keep saying to myself to help get through this.

It’s been over 5 months now since Broadway shut down and we got locked down.
 
And it hasn’t been easy.
 
In fact, a recent CDC survey indicated 41% of us are struggling with a mental health issue as a result of the pandemic.
 
That’s a lot.
 
And I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that I’ve experienced more anxiety in the last 5 months than I have in my entire life.
 
I also know that what I’ve dealt with over the past five months ain’t nothing compared to what others faced . . . or are facing.
 
And we’re not through it yet.
 
We will be, of course. We will get through it. We will have a vaccine and Broadway and theater will be back up and running again. Audiences will return. Jobs will return. Joy will return.
 
But when?
 
That’s the tough part. Because when you are in a dark place for five plus months, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the you-know-what.
 
And yet, we still have to work. We still have to figure out how to stay healthy. And in some ways get healthy. We still have to figure out how to survive.
 
I’m not the only one who has said, “Why does it feel like I’m busier than ever before?”
 
You feel that too, right?
 
I’ve described it as feeling like you’re on a stationary bike . . . pedaling like crazy . . . and of course, going nowhere.
 
I’ve also described it as the feeling I had when I was 16 and swimming in the ocean. I was ten feet from shore and got caught in a rip tide. I kicked and paddled. But I went nowhere. So I kicked and paddled harder. I was still ten feet from shore. No matter how hard I swam, I stayed put.
 
It wasn’t until I stopped working so hard that the tide pushed me to shore.
 
We’re in that tide now. And if we acknowledge it, stop fighting it, and let it take us to safety, it will.
 
And here’s what else I keep telling myself and all my friends and family who have admitted to feeling like I have. And since you are all my friends and family as well, I thought I’d share the same thing with you . . .
 
But you’ll have to bear another story . . .
 
When my daughter was six months old, like most babies she didn’t sleep through the night. Boy oh boy did that suck.
And one night, during a 3 AM crying fit, my wife and I looked at each other with that look that only new parents can have. You know what I’m talking about, right?  That exhausted, “How are we ever gonna get through this” face.
 
That’s when it dawned on me . . .
 
First, there were other people with screaming babies who wouldn’t sleep at that very moment, all over the world. We were not alone.
 
Second, and this is the big one . . . I realized that this phase wouldn’t last forever.  One day it would all be over and she’d sleep like a baby, and we’d even forget this moment at 3 AM. 
But when?
 
Well, I looked at my beautiful wife and said, “Sweetheart, every day we are one step closer to getting through this.”
 
And that’s true for this challenging time in world history and our lives as well.
 
With every day that passes, we are one day closer to this being over.
 
I’ll say that again for you . . . and for me.
 
Every day that passes, we are one day closer to this being over.
 
I hope that helps. And if it doesn’t, and you’re feeling moments of anxiety or depression of any kind, remember, there are lots of other people experiencing the same thing too. So reach out to a friend, a family member, or even us. We’ll do what we can, or point you in the right direction of people who can help.
 
But we will get through it.
 
And every day that passes, we are one day closer to this being over.
 
Every day that passes, we are one day closer to this being over.
 
Every day that . . .
 
– – – – –
The mental health issues that TheaterMakers experience during “normal” times are severe.  That’s why I put together a panel at our upcoming TheaterMakerSummit on how TheaterMakers can deal with the psychological challenges of our business . . . especially now.  Because if your mind isn’t right, even if you achieve success, it won’t feel like you’ve achieved anything.  Click here for more info on the summit. 
 

Are you a TheaterMaker with a Side Hustle? Let us help your hustle.

Since the Theater biz is so up and down, most TheaterMakers do something on the side to make some bucks.

Some sell real estate. Some coach budding performers. Some make websites. And so on.

Nowadays, since the Theater biz is so down and DOWN, those side hustles, day jobs, survival gigs are more important than ever. Especially since the $600 supplement got lost somewhere in Washington, DC. (As I wrote about here, we could be facing an artistic-exodus if TheaterMakers can’t pay their bills.)

Since Congress hasn’t come up with a way to stimulate the TheaterMaker economy, we’re forced with only one solution.

That solution is always the best one, however.

We’re going to have to solve this ourselves.

How?

We hire each other.

See, while my business has taken a big ol’ hit (like everyone else in the theater space), we still have little jobs we need done here and there. And we’ve made a commitment to hire out-of-work TheaterMakers to do them.

But more importantly, I also know a lot of other people who hire people. And I thought I could tell them all about you.

But I need to know more about you TheaterMakers with side hustles.

So if you’re a web designer, Photoshop expert, real estate broker, tarot card reader, Etsy store seller or whatever, let me know. We may hire you ourselves, but we’ll definitely recommend you to others

And if any of you are looking to hire folks, let me know, as I’m going to have quite the list.

And hiring a TheaterMaker is one of the best ways to support the arts . . . because your money goes straight to the artist.

And it may help them continue to do what they love to do . . . entertain you.

If you want some more business for whatever your side hustle is, click here.

 

(KNOW A THEATERMAKER WITH A SIDE HUSTLE?  FORWARD THIS TO THEM SO WE CAN SEND THEM CLIENTS!  Or share on your social: wp.me/pbmGzd-gmh)

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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