10 Takeaways from our Promote U Conference.

Last Friday, close to 100 Theater-Makers gathered in a sky-lit conference room to talk about the #1 thing that all business owners must master in 2019 . . . marketing.  (And yes, if you’re a Writer, Director, Actor, Producer, Designer, Usher, whatever . . . you are your own business owner.)

25 years ago, there were only a few ways to market yourself . . . letters, phone calls and ol’ school schmoozing.

Now?  Well, shoot, there are umpteen ways to promote yourself or your show . . . and when done well, you can get yourself a gig, an agent, investors, theaters, licensing deals, or whatever the heck you want.

Because good marketing is simple science.  Apply enough force to an object and the object will move.  Put marketing energy behind your “product” and you will see results.

And here’s the thing . . . if you’re not promoting yourself or your show, I can promise you there are a zillion other people out there promoting theirs.

Guess who will get ahead first?

I know, I know, you don’t like the thought of putting yourself out there.  news flash – most people don’t.

But the smart ones realize they have to.  News flash:  If you won’t promote yourself or your show . . . no one will.

So while it’s ok to sit back and hope that someone sweeps you off your feet to a land of big royalty checks and great reviews, I can promise you the chance of that happening is like the chance of there being a special bonus episode of Game of Thrones that the fans actually enjoy.

This was the overall message of my fantastic speakers at our first Promote U Conference (and yes, we are planning another next year), and I gotta say . . . I learned a ton myself (especially with my LinkedIn page.)

Since I know many of you couldn’t make it, I thought I’d blog you ten quick one-liner themes from our star speakers . . . and at the bottom of this blog, you’ll see a way to get the entire takeaway-laden tips.

Enjoy these 10 Takeaways from our first ever Promote U (and make sure you click on the links of each speaker to learn more about what they do and how they can help you).

Photo by Daniel Rader

Karen Tiber Leland (Growing Your Fan Base on Facebook): “Creating consistent on-brand content that contributes knowledge, as opposed to promoting it, will win in the long haul.”

Rodrick Covington (The Pillars of Productivity): “When you are clear about your identity, you become limitless.”

Ryan Scott Oliver (Getting Discovered on Youtube): “Don’t worry about going viral, just create quality content.”

Sierra Boggess (How To Be Your Authentic Self On Social): “You are enough, you are so enough, it’s unbelievable how enough you are!”  Get Sierra’s Light Lessons here.

Thomas Heath (How To Build Your Network on LinkedIn): “Claim your personal brand and make authentic connections.”

Tony Howell (Creating a Website That Tells And Sells Your Story): “Connect. Collect. Convert.”

Tyler Mount (How To Build Your Brand & Building Raving Fans on Instagram): “Authenticity and consistency are key.”

And one from me . . .

Ken Davenport (How I Generated Millions of Dollars in Free Advertising Without Spending a Dime): ”If you build it, they will come’ is bull@#S%!”

Photo by Daniel Rader

The irony is . . .  I used to think “building it” was enough.  And frankly?  25 years ago?  It probably was.  But not anymore.

If you build it, and no one sees it, you wasted your time.  Theatre is meant to be seen.  Not read.  Not sit on a shelf.  It NEEDS an audience.  You need an audience.

Master marketing . . . or heck, just get even a little bit better at it . . . and you’ll find one.

Enjoy these takeaways?  Want to see the complete talks from all the speakers above, including one from me where I reveal some of my secrets from my most successful marketing initiatives?  Click here.

This is hard to say in this business. But here goes.

Broadway is a challenging place to work.

It has archaic rules and Washington DC-like politics.

It’s hard to get a show on the boards, and then when you do, it’s even harder to get it to run, never mind recoup.

And then, since all shows close, you gotta do it all over again.

But you know what?

There is nothing I’d rather do. And nowhere I’d rather be. (And the truth is, if it wasn’t so challenging, I probably wouldn’t want to do it.)

So as hard as it is to say in this business, and as hard as it may be to work in this business, I’m so unbelievably thankful that I get to do it every day.

I’m thankful for the artists that have worked with me. I’m thankful for the investors who have supported my productions. I’m thankful to the audiences who show up at the theaters. I’m thankful for my staff, my interns, and hey, I’m even thankful for the agents. 😉 And lastly, this blog just quietly celebrated its 10th anniversary. Yep, 10 years of my theatrical musings.

When I started it, I never imagined I’d still be writing it 10 years later or that it would have so many readers or that it would inspire a podcast or introduce me to so many new friends. It has blown away my expectations.

So lastly, on this day of Thanksgiving, I’m so thankful for you for reading, telling me when you agree with me, and even more thankful when you tell me you don’t.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Amazon is now a pain reliever. A lesson for Broadway and all businesses.

Every great company has a “thing” that puts them on the map or pushes them to a new height. Think the iPhone or The Sopranos or The Frappucino.

For Amazon.com it was free and fast shipping.

Jeff Bezos recognized that what consumers wanted was to get what they paid for fast . . . and free. He knew his competitors were just a short drive away from most of his customers, so he had to compete.

That’s why he introduced Amazon Prime, which now has 100 million members, makes Amazon a ton of $$$ and attracts and keeps customers.

And like a fancy new Apple product or a new drink from Starbucks, it took the company to another height when it was introduced years ago.

Amazon got beaten up this on the stock market this past week, on fears of a slower than usual holiday season (there are similar fears on Broadway, by the way).

So what did Bezos do?

He announced free shipping on all holiday orders. For everyone.


Now that’s a promotion.

Not just because it’s so “out of the box,” but because it’s so simple. The formula for a fantastic Bezos-like promotion goes something like this:

  1. Ask your customer what their “pain point” is.
  2. Relieve that pain.
  3. Get customer’s business and get them to like you in the process.

I can’t help but think about our customers’ pain points. And the one I hear the most often?

Ticket service fees.

I blogged about a Prime-like idea to get rid of service fees once before, but Bezos inspired me to talk about it again . . . but this time in a more in a focused way.

What if we waived service fees during our dark times of September or February?

What if a show offered no service fees as a one-off promotion?

What if you got free service fees if you ordered more than 4 tickets?

I don’t know.

But I do know that service fees are a pain point . . . and we could sell more tickets and gain more customer loyalty if we could do away with them every so often.

Maybe it could be our industry’s Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Do you have an idea on how to heal a pain point in our biz? Tell me in the comments below.

How my very first negotiation went wrong.

I was very excited when I started my very first big-time negotiation.  It was over twenty years ago now, and looking back, it wasn’t even that big of an issue.  Just a small contract with a vendor that my boss had tasked me with.  “Get a great deal,” he said.  He gave me a budget.  I wanted to come way under.

But this was my very first negotiation, so I treated it like I was arguing a case in front of the Supreme Court . . . with cameras watching.

And I thought I was ready.  I mean, I had watched enough LA Law as a kid (in fact, I wanted to be a lawyer at one point . . . so that’s all it takes to be a good negotiator, right?).


And at some point in the negotiation, it started to go a little sideways.  I thought I was being treated “unfairly” . . . so I did what I thought I was supposed to do.  I blew up.  And I said some things that I thought would make the vendor give in.

You know what happened?  Instead of giving in, they dug their heels in . . . and while I did come in a sliver under budget, I know I could have done much better with a different approach.  And instead, I walked away with an ok deal and a vendor who didn’t like me oh so much.

Is the takeaway of this blog not to blow up during negotiations?  Actually no.  (There is a time and place for the right amount of steam-blowing depending on the issues and parties involved.)

The biggest lesson that I learned from my very first negotiation happened after the negotiation was completed.

The very next day, my boss called me into his office and said, “We’re doing a reading of a new show.  There’s no budget.  We need a favor from VENDOR.  Call them and see if they’ll help us out on this one for next-to-nothing.”


Here’s the thing about this industry.  It’s about the size of a pin head on a pin head.  That means you have to be very careful with how you treat people during your negotiations, because odds are, you’re going to be in another negotiation with the same parties very soon (the very next day in my case!).  And one bad negotiation with another party, can lead to a lifetime of them.

I ate major crow that day with the vendor and managed to salvage the relationship (took me about three lunches, a Yankees game and a popcorn tin at Christmas to do it), and it’s a good thing I did, because I’m still negotiating with them TODAY.

Negotiating is one of the most important skills an individual can possess.  Everything in our business (and in our lives) is a negotiation.  Whether that’s a theater deal, a deal with a writer/actor or designer, or whether that’s negotiating with an employee to make sure they finish a project by a deadline, or negotiating with a spouse on where to go on vacation, or who should walk the dog at night.

Without a doubt, a skillful negotiator can achieve success in their chosen area much faster than someone who just watched a lot of LA Law.

That’s why after my first botched negotiation, I studied the art of deal making like I was preparing for a Supreme Court case.  I read books, took seminars, engaged in live-negotiation exercises and more.  And, I’ve spent the last twenty years, honing those skills in all sorts of negotiations with agents, unions, theater owners and more, all while learning the very unique nuances of negotiating in the arts (which is different than any other industry).

Since negotiating is such an important part of what we all do, I’ve decided to make it the subject of my next webinar, The Art of Negotiating . . . in the Arts  . . . which will take place next Wednesday, January 11th at 7 PM.

During this one hour session (including a Q&A), you’ll learn:

  • The most important part of any negotiation.
  • How do deal with . . . ahem . . . “difficult”  negotiators (and we’ve got a lot of them in this biz).
  • When to walk away . . . no matter how hard that may be (this is so hard in the arts since we’re so emotionally attached to our projects).
  • The one thing you can do to get an advantage in every single negotiation you have.
  • The tricks skillful negotiators will use on you and how to avoid them.

The webinar is $149.  Click here to register now.

Or you can save over $50 and get it for free when you join TheProducersPerspectivePRO for only $97.

And when you join pro, you get full access to PRO including all the other webinars from this past year, contacts lists, my monthly newsletter, networking events (including one on the 21st) and more.  Click here to learn more about PRO (including video testimonials from members).

The average person will enter into thousands of negotiations every single year . . . from in-depth business negotiations (including for your own salary) to negotiating with an airline to get reimbursement when they lose your bag (I just negotiated a free ticket from a major airline when they lost my bag yesterday).

I guarantee you’ll end up getting more out of your negotiations this year when you take this webinar.

See you next Wed.

Sign up for The Art of Negotiating . . . in the Arts for $149.

Join PRO and get the webinar for $97.



My Theater Management Rule of Three.

As a Producer, General Manager, Company Manager . . . or Manager of Anything (including a family, by the way). . . keeping your company/actors/employees/KIDS happy and productive is an integral part of being an effective leader.

You’ve heard the expression, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Well, I always say, “Happy staff, happy accountants when they look at your P/L statement for the year.”

(Ok, that didn’t really have the right ring to it, but you get the idea.)

It was on my first tour as a Company Manager (the National Tour of Jekyll & Hyde in 1999-2000) when I came up with one of my principle rules of Theater Management, which I call the Theater Management Rule of Three.

It was a great check for me to make sure I was doing my job.

It went like this:

If ever I got the same question from three different people, I knew that I wasn’t delivering information that my company needed in an appropriate time frame.

Let me explain . . .

I remember the day I came up with this policy specifically and it had to do with one of the biggest concerns for Actors on the road.

An ensemble member came into my office one day and said,”Ken, when is the Boston housing selections coming out?”

I was a rookie manager back then, so I semi-blew him off saying to myself, “These guys know that I always deliver the housing options eight weeks before the date.”

And then another person asked.

And then another.

Finally, a bit annoyed, I shot back to the third Asker, “What’s the deal?  Why are you guys asking about Boston so soon?”

This chorus girl smartly shot back even faster, “We know Boston is going to be more expensive, and we want more time to think about other alternatives.”


I worked like a mad dog for the rest of that day getting the info I needed and put out the housing choices the next day.  And then I apologized to everyone and told them I’d work hard to have my finger on the pulse on their needs better in the future.

And that’s why if someone asks me a question, it’s one thing, but if I get two asks, then I’m getting to tardy territory, and three . . . well, I’ve effed up.

Because, if three people have the same question, in whatever group of people you’re managing, then that means there are probably a heck of a lot more peeps with the same question . . . and you have a responsibility to get them some information and fast.

Don’t?  Well, those questions fester . . . and then, they end up coming up with answers themselves, which are never good.

Now look, sometimes you don’t have the information . . . and that’s ok . . . but that doesn’t mean you hide under a pile of coats until you do have the info.  No. That’s when you say, “Hey everybody, I’m sure you’re concerned about Boston housing. We’re working on it now and I will have it for you on XXX date.”

End of questions.

Companies want to know they are taken care of, which means answering questions before they even have them.

(BTW, the inspiration for this blog came from the fact that I just broke my own rule very recently.  In the last week, I got about TWENTY (That’s over 6x my rule of three) emails from people asking me about my annual holiday Producer’s Perspective Social.  Where would it be?  When would it be?  Would I be wearing my Santa hat again?

The fact is, we are having a social.  But over the past few years, the social has exploded.  And so many people who really would have loved to be there, couldn’t get it because the event “sold out” too soon.  And then some folks didn’t show, which made me feel bad for the people who we had to say no to.  And getting a proper venue has been super challenging.  It was starting to get a little messy.

I didn’t want to do away with it entirely, especially because I just love meeting people who feel the same way about the theater that I do.  So we decided to do a smaller one this year for just my ProducersPerspectivePRO members, my coaching clients, our theater and GM clients, some investors, etc. etc.  I invited them privately and wasn’t even going to talk about it on the blog, but then I got those questions and realized I broke my own rule. So, mea culpa.  And if you did want to come, there is still a bit of room. Just get a free trial to PRO and you’ll get an invite.)


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here  then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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