BROADWAY’S RECOVERY PART I: What Will It Look Like?

Since the pandemic began, Economists have been obsessing about how quickly the economy is going to bounce back after this sucker is over (or . . . over “enough.”)

Will we have a “V” shaped recovery?  Or a “U” shaped?  Or my favorite . . . a Nike Swoosh shape?

Since the pandemic began, Broadway Producers (including the one composing this hypothesis right now) have been obsessing about how quickly Broadway is going to bounce back.

My prediction . . .

Broadway is going to bounce back . . . and fast.

What’s unique about our industry is that it doesn’t follow any of the typical shapes of recovery because we went from 100 mph to zero in NO seconds flat.  We were grossing $30 million a week on Broadway alone . . . and then we were zero dollars the next week.  We slammed into a COVID-19 wall.

Even restaurants have take-out options.  Bands that can’t give concerts can sell albums.  Broadway shows?  We got nothing.  (Hint for next time – and there will be a next time, as I’ll talk about next week  –  all shows should be captured for potential streaming opportunities.)

So if I had to give our recovery a shape, I guess it would look something like this . . .

(FYI, I spent about an hour trying to figure out what to call that shape.  I tried everything from “Deformed Bucket Recovery” to “The Fishing Hook Recovery” . . . what would you call it?)

You can see that we had that immediate wall-smacking drop off on 3/12 . . . and of course, an immediate and completely 90% vertical BLAST OFF when(ever) our curtains go back up.

Now, the more interesting part . . . what happens AFTER that straight-into-the-sky return.  Well, you’ll see that I’m not predicting we’re going to start grossing $30mm a week like we were when we shut down.  For one, there will probably be fewer shows, which means less of a gross potential, never mind fewer tourists to see those shows.  (PS – That diagram above is definitely NOT to scale)

So we’re going to start off earning less than when we were.

How much less?

That depends on what I call The Three Ts:

  1. Testing
  2. Treatment
  3. TIME (How many weeks/months do we have from knowing when we can come back to the actual day we come back.)

Nevertheless, I do believe we will see a quick upward trajectory after we return.  (The stock market is having that sort of bounce – and believe it or not, we do tend to follow the dow’s chart, as I showed here.)

But my belief in a quick Broadway bounce back is not some hunch.  I have THREE reasons why I think we’re in store for a quick recovery.

What are they?

I’ll tell you tomorrow in PART II!

– – – – –

(Can’t wait to read PART II?  Want it now?  I already wrote it.  Click here to get it to emailed to you NOW.)









Tonight on the Livestream: I’m sitting down with Lynn Ahrens (Lyricist of Once On This Island, Ragtime, Anastasia) at 8pm EDT. You can now watch on my Facebook pageTwitter, Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube channel, or Broadway On Demand.

[Rant Alert] We’d be better off right now if we had only done this.

WARNING:  What follows is somewhat of a rant.

But please know this rant is directed at me too.  For I believe the things that we don’t get in our lives are no one’s fault but our own.  Blame the person in the mirror.  Because that is the only person you can control.

So here’s the thing . . .

Right now there are thousands of Actors, Stagehands, Writers, Designers, and all disciplines of TheaterMakers out of work.  They’ve got no money coming in.  Zero.

And with yesterday’s announcement that Broadway is out for another . . . well . . .  several months at the very least . . . things are going to get tough for a lot of those artists and fast.  My biggest fear is that many will have to give up on their careers in the theater.  It’s already hard enough to get a job . . . but what if there are fewer jobs?

I’ve got the same worry about our TheaterGoers too . . . just in a different way.  As I wrote last week (in what has become one of my most read posts EVER), the theatergoing “habit” for our audience has been broken . . . so we run the risk of our audience retiring as well.

Scary times, right?

But it could have been less scary.

See, the challenge for the economic model on Broadway is that its revenue streams are limited.  We’re all about getting butts in seats and the best price.  And that’s just about it.  And shoot, even when we can get audiences to show up, there are few ancillary forms of revenue (we don’t get any of that bar revenue, or ticketing fees, etc.).

The most successful businesses have multiple streams of income . . . not only does this generate higher profits when things are good, but when there is a crisis, you’re not solely reliant on one source of revenue.

Like we are now.

Ok, here comes the rant part.

One of the biggest, ‘virtually’ untapped resource for an additional revenue stream for Actors, Designers, Investors, Stagehands, and everyone who works on a show . . . is, well, a literal revenue stream.

Streaming.

This is a big “duh,” now . . . since there are bazillion Broadway streaming events going on every single night during the crisis.  We’ve got livestreams like mine, virtual Mother’s Day concerts, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows, and so many more a whole website was created to curate them!

But no one is paying their rent or their groceries because of ’em.

When Broadway was shut down I got about 147 emails from folks saying, “Ken!  What can we do to stream Broadway shows?!?!?”

That’s when I knew we @#$%ed up.  And big time.

This is when I really point this rant at myself.  Because I should have known that streaming wasn’t only important to our industry, but that one day it would become necessary.

See, I livestreamed Daddy Long Legs, back in 2015 and got over 150k people from 135 countries to tune in . . . with zero marketing . . . and NOT during a pandemic.  (You can see it now, here, by the way.)

But streaming that show was expensive and contractually cumbersome.  And every time I investigated doing the same things on other shows . . . especially big Broadway shows . . . the numbers just didn’t add up.  Producers were forced to spend way too much money upfront to have a realistic shot at recouping that cash.

And it’s hard for a show that’s struggling to build a NY audience to invest additional money in something that could be years away.  (It’s easy for Hamilton to do . . . . which obviously paid off.)

So I stopped pushing a new video-capture model for running shows.  And other folks in the biz stopped pushing it as well.  There were a few shows that popped up on a screen here or there, and there is, of course, BroadwayHD.  (But if you’ll notice – the majority of their titles are NOT Broadway titles – but London titles – where the rules and economics make more sense, or Off-Broadway, non-profits, or “others.”)

And the fact is . . . if I had pushed harder for a new model . . . had we all pushed harder . . . there could be dollars being earned by EVERYONE involved with Broadway shows over the past decade RIGHT NOW.

Shame on us.

See, you can’t wait for a crisis to come to have an epiphany.  You don’t start eating better when you have a heart attack.  You do it years before.

Instead, we just never thought we’d need this content.

So we didn’t do anything serious about it.

Bad on us.

Maybe we can now.

And it’s easy.

See, the problem with the model right now is that we pay an extraordinary amount of money to capture a production on video. . . even though filming that production may not require any additional work from everyone involved (they just do their usual show), and even though that content may never be monetized.  We’re paying a ton of money for an option to monetize it . . . and that monetization model is also extraordinarily high risk.

Why not allow all shows to be shot, and archived, for a minimum amount of money (if any), and then have the payments made if/when the shows are released.

Imagine what we could be giving to our TheaterGoers and our Artists right now.  (Hamilton is about to keep their buzz going big time when they release their movie on Disney+ in July.)

I call this the “Save The Stream For A Rainy Day” concept.

If the capture is used, the Producer pays.  If not, the Producer doesn’t.

And then . . . to fix the monetization of the content model, why not cut all the artists involved in a much bigger portion of profits rather than getting a flat payment, which would allow the unions and Authors to get “Bonanza Insurance” in case something really blows up online.  (Or give the Producer a choice – pay a high upfront fee on release or a bigger royalty cut.)

There is a way to figure it out and provide for another revenue stream that everyone in our industry desperately needed before all this happened.

And now?  Scheez.  I’m literally kicking myself.  K-I-C-K-I-N-G M-Y-S-E-L-F!

Ok, rant over . . . no more talking about what happened.

Now we just need to make something new happen.

– – – – –

You can see Daddy Long Legs for free here now, AND get this . . . I’m reuniting that cast on my livestream at 8 PM on May 21st!  Click here for more.

 

I Discovered The Secret of Happiness. It’s a Virtual Reunion of Daddy Long Legs!

In 2015, we streamed Daddy Long Legs LIVE to the world, and it became the very first Broadway or Off-Broadway show to take our performance virtual.

We were seen by over 150k people in 135 countries around the world.  And when all the press articles started appearing on our efforts, and when our box office went up, and when our two stars started getting recognized on the street, we knew we were on to something with this streaming thing.

And now, 5 years later, streamin’ is the only thing we have.

Since my out-of-the-box-thinking and super courageous artists on Daddy Long Legs were so instrumental in ushering in the idea of theater-to-stream, I couldn’t think of a better group to reunite online during these cray-cray times.

So, on Thursday, May 21st, I’m hosting a Daddy Long Legs Reunion on my daily livestream series, The Producer’s Perspective LIVE!, to raise money and awareness for The Actors Fund.

And look who’s gonna be there!

Megan McGinnis (Jerusha Abbott), Adam Halpin (Jervis Pendleton), John Caird (Book & Director), Paul Gordon (Music & Lyrics), and Michael Jackowitz (Producer).

Tune in to my Facebook page on Thursday, May 21st at 8pm EDT / 7pm CDT / 6pm MDT / 5pm PDT.

And if you’re like me and are now feeling super nostalgic for Daddy Long Legs, or you haven’t seen it yet (gasp), you can see it FREE on BroadwayHD. They’re running a free trial to all of you who want to see in before the reunion.  (My advice . . . watch it RIGHT before!)  Daddy has become one of the most popular titles on BroadwayHD, and when you watch it, you’ll see why.

To replay Daddy Long Legs: click here and use this code: DLLBHD

To listen to the tear-jerkin’ recording, click here to get it on Spotify, here on Amazon, or here on Apple Music.

I look forward to seeing you on the livestream on May 21st at 8pm EDT!

 

 

P.S. Don’t have Facebook? No problem. We’re also streaming to Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube Channel.

P.P.S. Tune in tonight at 8pm EDT. I’ll be sitting down with Ashley Park to talk about Mean Girls, KPOP, Sunday In The Park…, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and more! Join the conversation here.

Broadway’s return isn’t about marketing. It’s about habit-ing.

While we don’t exactly know when we’ll be able to ‘light the lights’ on Broadway just yet . . . there’s already been a lot of discussion about how to get our audiences’ butts back in our non-socially-distanced seats.

“What do we say to our audiences?”  “When and where do we say it?”  “What incentive or offer do we need to provide?”

These are all classic marketing questions whenever you bring a product to market . . . but no one on Broadway could ever have imagined we’d have to ask them to figure out how we bring our product back to market.

All of these questions need answers, and I have it on very good authority (cuz I’ve seen the plans myself) that some of the brightest advertising and marketing minds on Broadway EVER are working on this challenge just as hard as the scientists all over the world are working on a vaccine.

And they’re going to crack it.  And I’m sure we’ll see a fantastic return to Broadway campaign . . . as soon as we know when Broadway is going to return.

That said, to return to the record breakin’ levels Broadway was pre-Covid, and to grow beyond them, we’re going to be required to be more than marketers . . . we’re going to need to be habit-makers.

Stick with me here . . .

If you’ve ever tried to make a change in your life . . . exercise more, eat healthily, stop smoking, etc., then you know, that kind of change is haaaaard.

That’s because what you’re doing is trying to create a brand new habit in your life.

And that’s like trying to turn the Titanic.

You’re set in your ways.  You are “at rest.”  And just like Newton taught us, “an object at rest tends to stay at rest.”

Of course, it’s not impossible.  You can get to the gym, change your diet, drop your golf handicap, whatever you want . . . it just takes a lot of effort . . . and time.

How much time?

Well, there are all sorts of theories on how long it takes to create a habit. Some say 21 days.  Some say 30 days.  Some say months . . .

One of the best books I’ve read that had a huge habit-making impact on my personal and professional life is Atomic Habits by James Clear.  In it, James suggests it takes about two months to create an automatic habit (like getting up early, writing every day, etc.).

And here’s the problem that is related to theatergoing . . . the moment you skip a workout, binge on some Oreos instead of almonds, etc., the harder it is to get back on track.  Especially if that habit is expensive and time-consuming.  You’ve probably experienced this yourself, right?

Now, what does this have to do with the price of a Broadway ticket in a pandemic?

For the core Broadway theatergoer . . . going to Broadway is a habit.   Some have a once once a month habit.   Others 4x a year.  But however often they go . . . it’s a habit.

And that habit was just broken.  Big time.

To put it in terms we can all understand . . . We’re not just skipping going to the gym.  The gym was shut down entirely.

Pretty easy to just sit on your couch and not sweat, am I right?

And, when this sort of thing happens, it’s not only that old habits are broken.  It’s that new ones are created.  And those new habits are usually whatever is readily available and easy (enter the couch and the Oreos).  And right now, that might be, oh, I don’t know, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime . . . YouTube!  (Don’t get me started on why theater and Broadway isn’t more available on streaming platforms . . . actually DO get me started! I’ll just save it for a blog next week.)

If all this wasn’t enough, the longer that time goes by before we try to restore a broken habit, the harder it is to get it back again.

An object at rest tends to stay at rest.

So, to sum up . . .

For the average theatergoer, the habit of going to the theater is broken.  And new habits are taking its place.  And these new habits grow stronger every day, as the old habit of going to the theater grow weaker.

We’re not the only industry that this is happening to, of course.  People are creating new habits of cooking, and breaking habits of going out (this survey says half of the people who are cooking more will continue that habit.)  People can’t go to the gym, so they’re exercising at home, or not.

And these new habits will affect the rebound of the restaurant industry and the gym.

In any business, making your product a habit with the most amount of people possible is what makes your product a smash hit.  Checking your Facebook page, your morning Starbucks, Googling something every time you need an answer . . . habits are why these companies are billion-dollar empires.

Our job now is not just to market Broadway, but we must come up with ways to restore the theatergoing habit to the people who have lost it.

How do we do it?  Good question.

Good news/bad news?  We probably have a bit of time to figure it out.

So tell me, how would you put the habit of going to the theater back into the lifestyle of our audience?

Throw some ideas in the comments below and I’ll do a follow-up blog with some ideas in the next few weeks.

(Oh, and I meant it about that streaming blog . . . expect a rant coming soon to this space.)

 

———————–
P.S. Join me and my guest tonight as we go LIVE on my Facebook page. I’m thrilled to be sitting down with Julie Halston (Tootsie, On The Town, Hairspray) at 8pm EDT here.

 

Cuomo had a big marketing problem. Guess who he asked for help?

The Governor of NY wants his citizens to wear masks.

And he ran out of ways to get people to do it.

That, my friends, is a marketing problem.  He’s trying to sell something.  And not enough people are buying.

So, he hired a big fancy ad agency to come up with a TV ad to get people to wear masks, right?

Wrong!

He didn’t hire anybody.  Instead, to solve one of the most important marketing dilemmas of all time, he asked his daughter for help.

And she came up with the idea for a “Make Your Own Mask Commercial” contest.

Here’s how it works:

You make a video telling NYers why they should wear a mask.   You upload it to a website.  They pick five finalists.  NYers vote for their favorites.  The top vote-getter has their video turned into a PSA commercial that runs on the air.  (And probably launches the career of a filmmaker.)

(You can learn more about the contest, including how to submit, here.)

Amazing, right?  Sounds like our Social Distancing Festival.

What I love about this idea is that it didn’t come from the Communications Director for the State of NY.  No.  When faced with a crisis, on pandemic proportions or even if you’re just producing a play, you don’t just ask the experts . . . you ask everyone!

The best ideas win, and just like in this case, the winners often come from the “audience” themselves, not just from people paid to think like an audience.

 

Oh, and also . . . please wear a mask.

And then submit a video about it!

 

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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