Is now a time to build a NEW Broadway Theater?

Insane, right?

With Broadway shut down and no sure re-opening date in sight, who would invest in a new Broadway theater?  Or Off-Broadway Theater?  Or any theater?

Warren Buffet might.

It was Oracle of Omaha himself who said . . .

“Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful”

And, well, a lot of people are scared $hitless about the future of the theater.

Not me.

And apparently a few others have been thinking about acquiring real estate as well.

In this article in Forbes (written by one of Broadway’s best data crunchers, Marc Hershberg), a bunch of Broadway theaters are listed as potential acquisition targets.

Will some of these theaters change hands?

Maybe.

But what I’m really interested in, will any NEW theaters be built?

But where?  How?  What land would be used?  (These were the questions posed pre-pandemic if anyone ever suggested that a new Broadway theater should be built.)

Enter COVID.

And last week, THIS article, about the closure of a handful of midtown’s biggest hotels, made me think.  Could we make theaters out of ballrooms?  Could some of these big buildings be reconfigured into Marriot Marquis-like venues?

And what about all the empty retail there is going to be on our midtown streets in a year?  Could we see a Chicago storefront theater movement right here in New York City?  I mean, I love me a 24-hour Krispy Kreme, but what if there was a 24-Hour Shakespeare Shack?

Never mind the office space that could be turned into black boxes?

There could be a lot of opportunities to put down theatrical roots in the city in the next 12-24 months.

Nah, seems, crazy, right?  No way.  Who would do such a thing?

Someone with resources.  Someone with passion for the theater.

And someone who understands that the theater has survived for thousands of years, who knows that there will be a day when we’re even bigger than we were before.

Someone like . . .

Excuse me, I’m going to go stalk Warren Buffet now.

Want to hear more about what Broadway could look like when it returns from the smartest and most creative minds in the biz? Click here.

 

Need something done? Hire one of these TheaterMakers.

TheaterMakers wear lots of hats.

Unfortunately, our favorite hat has to stay hung up in the closet right now, until this Covid nonsense is under control.

So for many, that means a pivot to one of their other chapeaux.  (Even we’re pivoting to producing online events as I mentioned here and here.)

Whenever we’ve needed an extra set of hands over the past few months, we’ve turned to TheaterMakers with a side hustle.

Because we want them working.   Because we need to make sure their side hustle doesn’t become their primary hustle.  Because we want them . . . no . . . we need them to make theater when this is over.

And because I have the best, most entrepreneurial and generous readers on the blog-osphere, we thought you might want to hire them too, if you found yourself needing an extra set of hands.

That’s why I put together this TheaterMaker Side Hustle directory.  In it you’ll find Actors, Writers, Investors, etc. who all want to keep working in and supporting the theater . . . and who will be more inclined to do so if they can keep on keeping on during this pandemic.

They are real estate agents, Etsy crafters, coaches, marketers, composers, video editors, tarot card readers, and just about everything you could need.

And they are terrific (we’ve hired several already).

Click here if you need someone or just want to browse.  And if you ever need anyone for anything . . . or know someone who does, tell them to hire a TheaterMaker.

Check out the TheaterMaker Side Hustle Directory here.

 

Have the rights to something right now (including subsidiary)? You MUST read this.

There’s a lot going on right now.
 
These days, most TheaterMakers I talk to, from Producers to Writers to Theater Companies, are scrambling like a quarterback with a 350-pound linebacker in their face. We’re all trying to figure out how to get to next week, never mind next year.
 
And because we’re busier than ever (anyone else feel like they are on a stationary bike pedaling like crazy but still stuck in the same spot), there’s something I fear is getting lost in the COVID-19 shuffle. (Please, for the love of Pete – no one create a TikTok dance called The COVID-19 Shuffle.)
 
What are TheaterMakers not thinking about?
 
Everyone’s rights . . . to everything.
 
See, the theater has shut down. There’s nothing we can do about it. But if you are a Producer, or Writer or Theater Company or any kind of TheaterMaker and you have the rights to something? That rights clock is still ticking. Tick, tock, tick, tock. (That was a clock reference, not another Chinese-run-social-media-company reference.)
 
Need some examples?
 
Subsidiary Rights
 
Producers, you spent a lot of time and money producing a show on Broadway or Off Broadway. That show closed. There’s a 80% chance you did NOT make your investors’ money back. You hope to scrape something back for those investors over the number of years they earn a percentage of the author’s income from stock and amateur productions, high school productions, etc.
 
The problem?
 
For 12-24 months of that time, there may be NO theater produced.
 
You lost 12-18 months of income (as of now). And there’s an 80% chance that income is reducing a loss, not making anyone profit. And you lost it through no fault of your own.
 
(This example also applies to Theater Companies out there who have commissioned a piece and earned a share of subsidiary rights for a certain number of years.)
 
Options
 
To the Producers, Writers, Actors, etc, who have optioned a piece of intellectual property to adapt it into a play or musical. You have a limited period of time to reach certain benchmarks, including production per your agreement.
 
But you can’t get a production. You can’t even get in a room for a workshop or a reading.
 
You’ve lost 12-18 months of development. Through no fault of your own.
 
And in the Option case, that 12-18 months (as of now!) could be your entire option period! So at the end of this dark period on Broadway (and beyond), you could lose your rights and your investment to date.
 
 
And there are more. If you have the rights to anything, you are losing value with each passing day.
 
What do you do?
 
It’s simple. Contact the reps for the rights holder or the rights holder themselves. Explain the situation (which should take about 30 seconds before they cut you off and say, “I get it.”). Issue an amendment to your contract. (I suggest suspending and extending the contract for the period of time from the day Broadway shut down to the day the first show goes back.) And rest easier knowing that you will pick it back up, where you left off, not 12-18 months behind.
 
If, for some bizarre reason, the rights holder or representative doesn’t “get it” and puts up a fight? Well, that’s not someone I’d want to work with again. Ever. And I’d probably drop the project and let them seek other opportunities right now (“Good luck!”).
 
Because this is a “duh” deal. And right now, we all need to work together to make common-sense arrangements for these uncommon times.
– – – – –
If you want more tips like this on making theater in the new world from people much smarter than me, you must attend this.
 

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.

 

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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