I turned 14 years old. TODAY.

 

14 years ago, I sat in my much smaller office and said, “I’m going to start a blog.”

So I did.  

And oh, what a ride this blog has been.

It’s where I announced the crowdfunding of Godspell.  It’s where I announced the livestreaming of Daddy Long Legs. It’s where I announced my iPhone commercial.

In those 14 years, it has been mentioned in the NY Times and Vanity Fair.  And it has been flamed on chat boards. 

In other words, this blog is everything and more than I ever could have imagined.

I tried to quit it a couple of times.  And, I keep comin’ back to it.  Because I believe conversations about the theater are what keep the theater kickin’. 

So I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for reading.  And . . . because I’m a data guy – I also wanted to show you something which I found fascinating.

Of the thousands of blogs I’ve written . . . literally thousands, which ones do you think are the most popular?

I’ll tell you.  

Here are the Top 10 blogs over this blog’s 14 years of existence.  (And it’s no coincidence that 3 of them were written in 2020).  Enjoy ‘em!

 

  1. 3 Reasons Why Social Distancing Won’t Work For The Theater (June 18, 2020)
  2. 10 Audition Tips for Actors (December 10, 2008)
  3. 100 Quotes Every Theater Producer, Playwright, Director, Actor, etc Must Read (April 26, 2019)
  4. Top 100 Theater Books Every TheaterMaker Should Read. (January 24, 2019)
  5. 5 Tips to Getting a Job on Broadway (January 7, 2013)
  6. The Three Types of Broadway Producers: Lead Producer, Co-Producer and Executive Producer EXPLAINED (March 28, 2019)
  7. How to write a One-Person Show in 30 days. (August 5, 2016)
  8. “How Do I Get The Stage Rights To A Book/Movie/Play, etc.?” (January 29, 2008)
  9. Why Broadway May Have An Advantage Before It Opens Back Up (April 28, 2020)
  10. Broadway’s return isn’t about marketing. It’s about habit-ing. (May 7, 2020)

 

Oh, if you want to read that first EVER blog?  It’s here. (If a Producer talks out loud in his office and no one is there to hear it. . )

I’m going to keep bloggin’.  Because I’ve been doing it for almost 1/4 of my life now!  

But we are going to do a bit of a refresh and add some new and exciting features.  You’ll see next week, when we start our 15th year off on a new foot!

And if you’re not a subscriber, click here and sign up to make sure you see the new look of the blog.

Thanks again and I look forward to the next 14!

Duh. Of course The Tony Awards ratings were down!

Instead of predicting who was going to win The Tony Awards on Sunday, I should have predicted the adjectives editors were going to use to describe the low ratings the show was destined to receive.  

“Plummeted!”

“Crash!” 

And my favorite . . . 

“All time low!”

Uhhh, remember that time for a year and a half when theater was at an ALL TIME LOW?!?!  

The articles aren’t wrong, of course. The ratings weren’t good. Down 51% in fact. But if you were expecting something better, then you’re wearing a helluva of a pair of Mama Rose-colored glasses.

Of course the ratings were down . . . and here are five reasons why:

  1. All Awards Shows Are Down.

Awards shows have been on a decline for years.  Check out this analysis I did in 2019 of Tony viewership compared to The Oscars and Grammys over the years. 

In 2020, The Emmys hit an all time low as well . . . and unlike the theater, you could still see TV in 2020!

(The Emmys bounced back to a healthy number this year, just like we will, when we’ve got new shows to tout.)

  1. Guess Who Really Advertises The Tonys?

If we ever needed proof about who markets The Tony Awards, this was it.  

See, in a “normal” year, all of the Broadway shows spend a gazillion dollars in awards marketing . . . trumpeting their nominations, trying to convince voters, etc.  And it’s a big public drum beat leading up to the ceremony.

This year? None of it. I’d estimate that $20mm WASN’T spent on media talking about The Tony Awards. 

And that’s got an impact.  

  1. It wasn’t JUST Football, but also Football.

We’re usually up against an NBA game. This year, we faced Football. And I know, you’re thinking that our audience isn’t Football’s audience. There’s more of a crossover than you think . . . and Football can be a full day activity in front of a screen for a family. Even if they all aren’t watching, the chances of that screen staying on into the night, drop.  

And don’t forget about baseball. And the last few days of warm weather. And, and, and . . .

  1. Who were we rooting for again?

Imagine watching the Bachelor or Survivor or Ru Paul’s Drag Race . . .and taking an 18-month break before you found out who won. Would you even remember who was still in the game?  

Competitions are about building up some drama (pun intended), and this year, that was impossible to do. Sure, our avid fans were invested . . . which is why the ratings didn’t drop even MORE. The Casual fans, casually watched something else.  Probably SVU.

  1. Two Networks is Like Two Acts.

Years ago, there was a certain show that was having trouble in previews. No one liked it.

When I asked someone close to the show how it was going, they said, “They just cut the intermission . . . less opportunity for people to leave.”

While I understand why it was done, having the show split in two and on two different networks (Paramount+ and then CBS) adds a complication to the process that gave people an opportunity to leave.  

Then add in the cost for Paramount+, its lack of availability for Canadian audiences, etc, and you have a recipe for low ratings.

So yeah, it was low. 

But get this . . . next year’s Tony Awards, which is NOT too far away, by the way, will be bigger.

I have TWO big thoughts about next year’s awards. I’ll share those next week.

Sign up here to make sure you don’t miss that entry.

Why We Keep Watching SVU (And What We Can Learn From It)

If you’re like me, then you have access to over 1,000 channels of television, streaming and more.

And yet, somehow, you always wind up back on Law & Order: SVU  (Insert “dum, dum” sound effect here).

Why is that?  What does Benson (and sometimes Stabler) have that keeps us coming back?  

Here are three reasons why SVU has had a spell on us for over 22 (!) years and how you can apply their tricks to your shows:

  1. The stakes can’t get any higher.

For a drama to be successful, it needs to be, well, dramatic.  That means the stakes need to be high for the hero.  

Well, Law & Order, like all police dramas, is life or death.  Literally.  (So are medical dramas – which is why they also make popular TV shows.)  The highest of high stakes is in the DNA of every single episode.  You know you’re signing up for a heart-rate-racing story when you turn on the channel.

Your show may not be a police drama . . . but whatever the conflict is, it needs to FEEL like life or death for your protagonist, even when it’s not.

  1. The objective is clear.  And the outcome clearer.

“What does your hero want,” is a common note I’ve given to others AND to myself when reviewing scripts.  Well, in SVU, there’s a crime at the top of every episode.  So what does our hero(s) want?  To catch the criminal.  That’s it.  You know what the want is before the show even starts!  

And if that wasn’t enough, at the end of the show, a judge declares the criminal guilty or innocent.  End of story and end of episode.  The audience has the cathartic resolution that it craves in all dramas in one those words or the other.

It’s the clearest arc there is.  There’s no question if the hero got what they wanted.  Or not.  And that clarity satisfies the audience in a way that many shows don’t.

In your plays and musicals, make sure your resolution is as clear as a judge’s verdict.  Your ending doesn’t have to be a happy one, but it has to be clear.

  1. Each episode exists on its own. 

SVU is episodic.  There’s a new plot every week.  It’s like, well, a new play, every single week.  Sure, same main characters.  Same want.  Same resolution.  

But new story.  

It’s both familiar, but brand new.  Every time you tune in.  You don’t need to have watched for 22 years to enjoy the next episode.

Does that mean your play or musical needs to have 22 previous versions to work?  No, of course not.  But the takeaway here is if you do NOT have 22 years of history, then you need to make sure your story hooks your audience deep and FAST.  Otherwise, they’ll wriggle off the hook.  

And if all that wasn’t enough . . .

Here’s a FOURTH reason why SVU captures our attention like Benson captures criminials.

  1. Ripped from the you-know-where.

SVU has a “true crime” feel by using real life stories as its source material.  That’s right, just like so many Broadway shows, SVU is an adaptation.  And not only does SVU benefit from having a factual story as a foundation to build open, the “real life” spookiness of the plot, makes an audience lean in just a little closer and say, “This actually happened!”

When creating plays or musicals, look to see what YOU can adapt – whether’s that’s a movie or newspaper article . . . or even an event from your own life.

So, if you want to create a SVU like “show” just following these simple steps:

  • Make it life or death, even if it’s not life or death.
  • Make the hero’s want clear and whether they get they want or not even clearer.
  • Hook your audience in the first few pages, and don’t let go.
  • Find something to adapt . . . and the more real you can make it feel (even if it’s not real at all), the better.

What are your reasons for watching SVU?  Or your favorite TV show?  Talk about it now in our Facebook group for TheaterMakers.

Podcast Episode #243: “As Seen On TV” Commercials

ESTIMATED LISTENING TIME OF THIS EPISODE:  5 Minutes

LISTEN WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO PODCASTS:

 

ABOUT THIS EPISODE:

Remember infomercials? Late night shopping, ‘as seen on TV’ commercials? I discovered what worked with those commercials and how the most successful plays/musicals used a very similar technique.

AFTER YOU LISTEN:

  • FOLLOW The Producer’s Perspective on Apple Podcast (it’s FREE!)
  • REVIEW the Podcast on Apple Podcast (it’s the biggest compliment you can give)
  • SHARE this episode with your friends!
  • JOIN the TheaterMakers Facebook Group

My mission is to get more people talking about the theater.  The more people talking about it, the more people who want to make it, perform it, support it, etc.  And that’s how theater not only survives, but thrives.

The biggest compliment you can give me is by sharing this podcast.

I thank you and the theater thanks you!

RECENT EPISODES:

Your last chance to do this, TheaterMakers.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I called everyone I knew for advice. I’m talking big time theater people, as well as big time business people.

“What should I do?”

I got amazing advice. And it reminded me how important it was to ask for advice from others who are at places in their lives where you want to be. (And not just from a business “producer’s perspective” . . . but from a family perspective, a health perspective, a spiritual perspective, and more.)

One of the best pieces of advice I got was . . . “Ken, the people and companies who are going to come out of this ahead are the ones who are going to make use of this time.”

“But how,” I wondered. “Give me something practical I can do while I can’t do theater? I need a to-do list!”

“First, realize you’re not the only one whose business is shut down,” she said.

“Right,” I thought.

“Second, now is a great time for businesses to look at the plumbing of their business.”

I must have looked as confused as my 3-year-old when I asked her if she wanted to watch golf instead of Frozen.

“I don’t have plumb -,” I started to say.

“I’m not talking about literal plumbing. I’m talking about the stuff that makes your business operate. Open up the walls. Clean out the metaphorical closets. Fix the things that you never have a chance to fix when you are working as fast as I know everyone in the theater works when you’re blasting towards an opening night.”

So that’s what we did. A few examples of how we looked at our “plumbing” over the last 15 months?

Redesigned my company and this blog site from top to bottom. (They re-launch in September – watch for the announcement)

Established “flexible hours” and “flexible vacation” work schedule for all my employees.

Took over the bookkeeping of my office myself to understand how we could make it more efficient. (Cutting costs was pretty important through the last year.)

Had the entire office take unconscious bias training. 

Established partnerships with charity.

Established a new plan for social media.

Read at least 30 books on business and wellness.

Hired a business coach to help us figure out how to work on the plumbing of my business.

Closed three businesses that were taking up my time and not aligned with my goals.

And more.

I don’t tell you all this to say . . . “Look what we did.”

I tell you all these to give you ideas on what you can do . . . before the theater roars back at breakneck speed.

Because this pandemic is ending. And it will end. Despite this annoying last ditch attempt by the Delta variant. And despite the annoying individuals who are promoting anti-vaccination misinformation.  

Already there is a frantic pace amongst the Broadway TheaterMakers I talk to daily.

So if you want to look at the plumbing of your business . . . and you should . . . time is running out. 

Oh, and if you’re a one-person band, artrepreneur, TheaterMaker . . . and don’t think you’re a business . . . the first thing you should do . . . is realize you are one.  🙂

Opening up the walls and addressing what keeps you running isn’t the fun part of what we do.  There is no standing ovation for a clean Quickbooks account.  

But it’s one of the many things that will make the next year your best yet.

– – – – –

If you need some referrals for “plumbers” or people who can take your theatermaking business to the next level, from websites, to logo designers to bookkeepers, email me. We love connecting theatermakers with people who can help them clean up and step up their game.

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