How to get yourself out there and Promote Urself (even if you don’t want to) and why you must.

If you follow the blog, then you know that last year I set a pretty ambitious of a goal, to help get 5000 shows produced by the year 2025 (#5000By2025).

Things are going along swimmingly with some amazing success stories so far.   But the more Theater Makers I talk to along our journey, the more I realize some of the things holding them back.

And that’s when we kick into high gear to try and come up with a solution to help them break through to the other side.

One trend that I’ve noticed is this fear of promoting oneself or just the lack of knowledge of how to do it.  And who can blame anyone for getting lost in the sea of social media, hashtags, websites, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc., etc . . . and there’s probably a new platform called etc.!

And how the heck do you even find the time to do it all?

But here’s the one thing I know for a fact . . . if you’re not promoting yourself . . . no one will.

And, if you’re not promoting yourself, someone else is certainly promoting themselves, and they will, without a doubt, have an advantage over you in this business.

Period.

How do I know this?

Oh, because I’ve been known to google an actor’s name during an audition to check on the number of social media followers they have (and this is a super common practice in Hollywood).  I’ve come to like the work of a designer through an Instagram account.  YouTube videos from songwriters have gotten me to reach out and find out what show the writers were working on next.

Years ago, before all this stuff existed, everyone was on the same playing field.  Everyone had the same basic marketing tools in their toolbox.  A resume.  A phone.  The mail.  And their work.

Now, that toolbox is ever-expanding, and when you know how to work all those tools, you can get to your goals so much faster.

But you have to do three things . . .

  1.  Acknowledge that marketing is essential.
  2.  Admit what you know and what you don’t.
  3.  Take action today to improve.

Since we’ve got a lot of shows to help get on in the next six years, we decided to put together a conference on exactly this subject.  Introducing PromoteU:  The Marketing and Productivity Conference for Theatre-Makers.

On Friday, May 17th, join me and some superstar speakers including Broadway Star Sierra Boggess, YouTube sensation Tyler Mount, Branding Guru Tony Howell, and more to be announced when we spend a day breaking down how you can get yourself out there, get more gigs, and enjoy it in the process.

We’re going to have sessions all about:

  • Finding Your Brand: Creating Your Branding Toolkit
  • How to Use Social Media to Gain Loyal Fans
  • Creating a Website that Tells (and Sells) Your Story
  • Lightning Round Deep-Dives on Specific Social Media Platforms
  • Productivity and Accountability Tools for Artists
  • And Much More.

And, the conference will also include:

  • Expert Keynotes and Presentations from Marketing, Branding and Creative Experts
  • Valuable Networking Opportunities in Our Private Facebook Group AND at Our 2-Hour Networking Open-Bar Party
  • 3 Months of Follow-Up Accountability Training from Our Team of Experts

You’ll leave armed with a specific plan of attack and all the tools necessary to build your own marketing campaign for whatever kind of Theatre Maker you are . . . Writer, Director, Actor, Producer, and more.

And we’re even adding in three months of accountability check-ins after the conference to make sure you stay productive and focused.

You can learn more about it and register here.  Just do so quickly, as we’re in a theater half the size of our Super Conference, so the seats won’t last.

I hope you’ll come.  Because I know what we’re going to share with you is going to work.  Because marketing always works.

And everything and everyone requires marketing to get ahead in 2019.  And the unfortunate truth is, if you’re not marketing your brand, then you’re not just standing still . . . you’re falling behind.  Sorry to have to say it like that.

But this conference will help.  In fact, here’s a promise for you . . . if you’re not in a better position with your career after the conference and the built-in coaching, just drop me a note, and I’ll refund you the price of your conference ticket.  Simple.

Register here.  And prepare to be a productive promoting machine . . . without even looking like you’re promoting anything.

See you at PromoteU on May 17th!

 

GUEST BLOG: Taking the Risk & Expense Out of Producing off-Broadway by Form Theatricals

Taking the leap from your reading, workshop or Showcase production to the off-Broadway stage can be intimidating. Budgets for small off-Broadway shows can reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars for plays and well into the low millions for musicals, not to mention the challenge of filling a larger house for six to eight performances per week.

Luckily, there’s a smaller step onto the off-Broadway stage that’s more affordable and less risky: the Periodic Performance Agreement. This is a specific type of Equity Contract that allows you to produce your show as an open-ended run for between 1 – 4 performances a week, with limited fixed costs. By its nature, the agreement will limit your budget – you’ll be sharing a venue with another production, so your rent will be about $1,000 per performance. Having to strike your set after each performance will limit your physical production. The total compensation (salary + benefits) is set for each actor at $121 per performance at the minimum. If done right, you can produce an open-ended run of a play for under $50k with a minuscule weekly operating cost. This allows you to experiment with who your production’s customer is, how to reach them and how to convert their interest into sales.

Build-Measure-Learn

You might want to jump into doing four performances per week, but at Form, we advocate that you start with as little as one performance and view each week as a learning opportunity for your marketing campaign. Frequently shows close because their marketing and press was based on assumptions about the audience and their buying patterns that have not been tested or proven. By the time these producers realize their marketing assumptions were wrong, the production has often spent its reserve and has to close. Our alternative methodology is called build-measure-learn and allows for real-time feedback to be incorporated into your marketing campaign in order to segment and target your audience effectively.  You’ve built the minimum viable open-ended production – a show that’s performing once per week – and you’re going to relentlessly measure your sales and the related metrics.

Methods include:

  • Start out with free listings and build your marketing campaign from there.
  • Do experiments with different ads and distribution channels.
  • Interview audience members to discover their journey from hearing about your production all the way through attending.
  • Stand in the lobby before and after the show to hear what the audience is saying.

Relentlessly experiment with new marketing techniques and view yourself as a scientist: you’re evaluating which marketing assumptions work and which don’t. You’re able to do this because the show’s running costs remain so low that you can fail repeatedly until you learn how to successfully sell out the house. When you learn how to sell out one performance per week, add a second and begin your build-measure-learn loop all over again. Rinse and repeat for weekly performances three through eight.

The Periodic Performance agreement provides you with highly affordable running costs which, when married with a build-measure-repeat marketing campaign, gives you the time you need to turn your assumptions into facts, and your little once-a-week performance into off-Broadway’s (or, gasp, Broadway’s) newest long-running hit. The beauty in this method of producing is two-fold. The first is that you’re able to test your assumptions in a low-risk way and really learn how to attract an audience. The second is that the upfront costs are so low that off-Broadway can be opened to productions and voices who can’t raise the funds for mid-six figure productions.

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At Form we’re big proponents of the Periodic Performance agreement and approach all of the productions and theater companies we work with as the start-ups they are. We offer one hour of free consulting services to artists and producers. Email us at af@formtheatricals.com if you want some advice about your project.

GUEST BLOG: Marketing Offline in an Online World by Amanda Bohan

When producing a show, your to-do list can often feel endless. (You’re nodding your head right now, aren’t you?)

You’ve got capital to raise. A production team to assemble. Venue scouting. Casting calls. Script revisions. And the list goes on and on.

And while your to-dos may differ from someone else’s, I can guarantee you one thing:

Marketing is on everyone’s must-do list!

What exactly is marketing?

For the purpose of this blog post, it’s the process of promoting and selling your show!

So basically, it’s one of the most important things that you need if you want to see your show survive. (No pressure, right?)

Are there different types of marketing?

First, there’s the golden child of marketing — online marketing. This is the one that you likely hear the most about, spanning from email to social media, search engine optimization, and more. It’s also probably where a lot of your dollars go — on things like Facebook ads, banners, e-blasts, the list goes on…

Then there’s the offline side of things, surrounding partnerships, promotions, events, and other more “traditional” tactics. I imagine this is the side you hear less about or even the side you pay less attention to. But if that’s the case…you may be missing out!

Here are just some of the ways you can utilize offline marketing methods to promote your show in today’s online-driven world:

  1. Hold an event early on.
    There’s nothing like actually hearing and seeing a show. So a sneak peek event can often be the perfect way to reach potential patrons, and influencers — think hotel concierge, groups sales reps, social influencers — giving them a glimpse of your work.

    If you’re a musical, this might mean performing a number; if you’re a play, this might be a brief reading.

    I’ve witnessed first-hand how well this can work for The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show. Each time the show returns, my team and I will host exclusive events for local “mom influencers” with their kids, decked out with coloring stations, snacks, and a sneak peek of the show. As a result, we see upticks in sales and increase in word-of-mouth both online and off.

    In case you’re concerned about cost, know that events don’t have to be lavish. Often a few cocktails (or juice boxes for the aforementioned example) with a brief presentation is all that’s needed, since most people aren’t going to want to attend a super long event anyways.

    And finding a space for your event might be easier than you’d think! There are lots of local establishments that would jump at the opportunity to partner if someone asked them… so it really just comes down to putting in the time to find a place. Which leads me to the next tip…

  2. Get creative with your outreach.
    There are countless entertainment opportunities for New Yorkers and tourists to take in. So just going after the “theatre-going crowd” won’t cut it. To be successful you’ve got to go beyond your target audience in order to really make a dent in the market.

    Always think about audiences beyond your “lowest-hanging fruit.” They might not be the most likely audience member, but they have some connection to your production’s subject matter.

    For example, on the recent hit play Afterglow, my team and I reached out to nudist groups as a potential angle. And as luck should have it, a local (and quite popular) group expressed interest in an event, which led to a buyout of performance and coverage on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.

    Not saying you need to do a naked night to get attention… but this goes to show you there are always angles to pursue! And emailing someone to gauge their interest in your show won’t even cost you anything upfront.

  3. Money isn’t the only currency in marketing.
    If there’s one line-item in the budget that always seems to be short, it’s marketing. There could always be more marketing money. That’s just the fact of the matter.

    When you want to stretch your dollars or just save some money, try trading tickets for what you want and you may be surprised by the results! Hit the right person up at the right time and you could score anything from a billboard to a radio spot to online banners, even free food for your cast. (Trust me, they’ll love that!)

    At its core, theatre has the ability to connect to someone’s emotions. For example, you might be offering tickets to an outlet in exchange for ads and that ad rep may just love the topic of your show or might personally want to see it, making them more likely to want to accept your trade offer, regardless of the exact value. Or, they may just want the tickets as perks for their clients or employees. (This actually happens quite often.)

  4. And last, but certainly not least…
    for those productions that are lucky enough to have longer runs, always remember to embrace your super fans!

    These people were there first and will likely be around last, so take care of them.

    Beyond social media banter, consider randomly sending your biggest fans signed playbills or posters, or special merchandise items. On School of Rock it’s not uncommon for my team to send out signed Playbills to superfans who deserve a little something more.

    Or if you want to get even fancier, leave something special at the box office if you know a past patron is returning. This could be as simple as a drink ticket or invite to stay after for a post-show meet & greet, which would no doubt lead to them telling their friends in person, as well as posting on social media.

In the end, it all connects. And your offline efforts will directly impact what happens online, creating a continuous cycle. So be sure to embrace all sides of marketing!

Now what are you waiting for? Go sell your show!

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Amanda Bohan is the founder & president of ABM, a full-service advertising & marketing firm specializing in theatre, arts & culture, and live events. Their services include marketing & promotions, traditional & online advertising, social media, and creative services.

More at ABMagency.com. Or drop Amanda a note directly, amanda@abmagency.com

How Airlines Sell More First Class Seats and What That Means for Broadway.

If you’ve flown first class or business class, I’d bet you the price of your own airplane that you want to fly it again.

Not only is it a more comfortable flying experience, but there’s this whole status thing that comes along with it.

And the airlines love it when you (or more likely the company you work for) shells out buckets of cash for your lay-flat bed or in-flight hot fudge sundae.

But let’s face it.  How many people are willing to pay 10x or more the cost of an economy ticket for those few hours in the air?

That price resistance is a huge obstacle that the airlines have to overcome.

How do they get you to do it?

They give it away.

One of the primary benefits of frequent flyer programs is the chance that you’ll get upgraded when you fly with one airline a ton. I’m sure you’ve all seen that “upgrade list” on a monitor as you’ve prepared to board your flight. Those are all folks who paid economy but are praying for a bump to the better class of service.

Why do the airlines offer this opp?

Yes, it’s a big perk to get you to fly one airline more than another (those who fly more, get a better chance at their name being called).

But the airlines also know that the first sentence of this blog is so true, they’re willing to give it up for free because they know the chance of you paying a premium price later goes way up.

Because once you go first, it’s hard to go to the back.

The airlines know you’ll fly with them more to get more mileage to use for upgrades. You’ll beg your boss for biz class to be included in your contract. You’ll get the airline credit card just to get even more mileage.

It all adds up.

They give away the premium experience to gain your premium dollars in the future.

How does the this translate to what we do?

Well, it is a fact that . . .

The profitability of Broadway shows depends on the full price buyer. Discounts can keep shows going so that you can get to the full price seasons (Xmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s), but for a show to be “wicked” profitable, you want full price.

Therefore . . .

To achieve greater profitability we need more full-price buyers.

To use the airline model, if we found a way to give away our “first class” seats (first ten rows, aisle seats, etc.) to people who haven’t experienced being ten feet away from Bryan Cranston or being so close they can hear Jesse Mueller’s voice come from her mouth instead of through a speaker, I’d bet they’d never want to sit in our cheap seats again.

Could we do this through our loyalty programs? Is this an industry-wide initiative or something single shows could do?

What about random “surprise and delight” upgrades where you just walk someone from the balcony down to some unsold premium seats (I’ve done this at a few of my shows).

Show people what they are missing, and they’ll never want to miss out on that experience again.

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Want to read more marketing tips like this one? We’ve got webinars and exclusive articles all right here that are guaranteed to get you more butts in seats for more bucks.

GUEST BLOG: How to & Why You Should Embrace Social Media by Ryan Ratelle

Reality Check:

Despite being bullied at school, 12-year-old Thai drag sensation Nes (@nes_tyyy) displays incredible confidence for all the world to see on Instagram. The digital child star has been so successful, that he was able to build a new home for his family.

The older sister of adorable 2-year-old twins Mila and Emma Stauffer (@kcstauffer) taped an everyday conversation between the twosome and posted it to Instagram. 4.4M views later, the tots have struck lucrative advertising deals with Amazon, Dollar Rental Car, Nest, Walmart, and Macy’s to name a few.

Katie Ryan (@katieryan430) began sharing videos of her daughter Ava – famous for the ever-disgruntled “Bossy Boss Lady” and “hot mess” Charlene characters – to help cheer up her grieving family after her sister passed away at the age of 23. With the ad revenue from YouTube alone, Katie is now able to be a stay-at-home mother.

Like it or not, the advent of smartphones coupled with the unstoppable rise of social media has literally put the power of the people into the palm of our hands. This new form of media has given birth to billions of new user-created television networks, editorials, and music labels – all accessible (and scrollable) in tiny hand-held devices. Every minute of the day, people play multiple roles as creators, critics, commentators, gurus, and advocates. It’s a game-changing force that has radically altered the way we receive and share information, advertise, and interact.

According to a recent study 92% of consumers “trust an influencer more than an advertisement” and 60% of consumers “make purchases in stores based on a social media post.” This is the exact data that led my partners, Sam Ratelle (my RRR Creative co-founder) and Frank Spadafora (D’Marie Group), and I to create The Cast Agency, the first dedicated digital agency representing Broadway stars. The Cast brokers partnerships between top brands and Broadway’s biggest influencers for sponsored social campaigns, online advertising, and digital content creation.

On Broadway, skillfully executed social campaigns have helped secure hit status for new musicals, extended the life of others, and in the case of the highly anticipated Be More Chill, responsible for making a Broadway run happen at all. In this new age of celebrity obsession, social media is also becoming a serious conversation in the casting room. At RRR Creative (Triple R) and The Cast, most of our clients have recounted stories of when their social following has come up in conversation with agents, casting directors, and even producers. In some cases, it has even won or lost them the job. While we firmly believe that talent should always be the biggest determining factor in casting, social media definitely has influence. It just makes sense that a producer, who needs to fill 1,500+ seats nightly to keep a show afloat, would offer a role to the performer who has more buzz and a bigger following.

Social Media isn’t going anywhere, so embrace it and use it to your advantage. Here are a few tips we offer to our clients:

Reframe the Way You Think About Social Media

So many of our clients come to us loathing social media and looking at it as a “necessary evil.” We all know the pitfalls of social and we’ve all seen the YouTube videos of people walking into things because they failed to look up (I totally took 15 minutes out of writing this blog to revisit my favorite YouTube vids of this very phenomenon – genius), but let’s focus on the positives:

  1. It can be a great networking tool, so link in already!
  2. It’s free publicity that you can control.
  3. It can help you fundraise for that web series or album you’ve always wanted to produce.
  4. Instagram is fun, people! It’s your own personal magazine.
  5. If you build a significant following, you can get free stuff and eventually cash!
  6. It’s one of the fastest and most effective ways to mobilize people to your 54 Below show or to help you WIN BACK THE HOUSE (Go Blue!).

Be Social on Social Media

It’s become so routine to mindlessly scroll through content. If you want to grow an engaged audience, you have to engage with them. Like! Comment! Share!

Be Authentic

We can smell bologna from a mile away. If it doesn’t feel right, we will sense that and then you’ve lost us. People want to get to know the real “off-stage” you.

Understand Your Analytics

Just like Mr. Rogers said, know your audience because it is unlike anyone else’s. Look at what content they are engaging with, when they are engaging with it, and what else they generally like and don’t like about your account (I know…take a breath), and then use that information as a guide moving forward.

Consistency is Key

Most people post sporadically. If you are not consistently posting content your audience can’t invest in you in the same way. Make it easy on yourself and spend an hour or two once a week with your calendar and plan your posts for the upcoming week or month based on what you have going on already.

Pay Attention to Aesthetics

Try not to focus solely on the individual photographs but rather how each image will look as a part of the overall grid. All of your images should relate to each other in some way. Consider a color scheme or color palette to ensure that the grid looks cohesive and curated.

Edit Your Images

Never post an image or video that isn’t of the highest quality and resolution. While iPhones take really great photos, every image can benefit from some editing, even if it’s just adjusting the light. On the flip side, be careful not to go too far with editing those selfies!

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Ryan is a publicist, producer and the Co-Founder of RRR Creative and The Cast Agency. He spent the past thirteen years as a theatrical publicist, most recently at DKC/O&M. During this time, he helmed award-winning campaigns for Broadway productions including Patti LuPone’s Gypsy, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark, Clybourne Park, After Midnight, School of Rock, CATS, Sunset Boulevard starring Glen Close and Michael Moore: The Terms of My Surrender. He also served as the U.S. press representative for legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

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