This could end the Secondary Market as we know it.

If there were a Perishable Inventory Consortium of all the industries that deal with expiring inventory (shows, restaurants, hotels, etc.), then the Airline Industry would be its leader (and there should be a conference for all these industries, by the way, sharing best practices between each other).

Why do I nominate the Airline Industry as the King of Perishable Inventory?

Because over the past several decades, it has led the way with its initiatives to sell more tickets and offer move value to its customers.  And, like us, the airlines have been up against the ropes many times (a lot of their business depends on non-required spending (i.e. vacations)) yet they’ve roared back, partly because of how good they are at coming up with new ways to maximize their profits before their planes take off.

The airlines were the first to offer last minute discounts in email blasts (anyone remember Smarter Living?).

They were the first to offer “premium seats” (first class, premium economy, etc.).

They were the first to offer variable pricing, with prices flexing depending on time of year (have you booked your Christmas travel yet?).

They were the first (and this is my favorite) to offer scarcity with their tickets (“Only 4 tickets left at this price”).

And so on.

And there’s something in their process that could end the secondary market on Broadway . . . and in sports, concerts, or any form of live entertainment.

Not that I think we should end the secondary market, mind you.  I actually believe having a secondary market is a healthy thing for most industries, including ours (they can buy a lot of tickets to shows early on).  So I shine a spotlight on this one “thing” today not to say that we should do it, but to say that it could happen (whether we like it or not) and both us, and the secondary sellers, should be ready to adapt if it does.

See, there is no secondary market with the airlines, now is there?  At Christmas time, if you don’t have a ticket to Hamilton and all the shows are sold out (which they are), but you really, really want one, you can buy one off someone who has one.  But, if you don’t have a ticket home to Albuquerque, and all the flights are sold out, you can’t buy one from someone else.

Why?

Simple.  You need a photo ID to check in.

With that very simple safeguard (for security reasons of course), no one can sell what they bought to someone else, for more money or for less.

Hotels are the same way.  They weren’t always.  20 years ago, as long as you had a credit card, they were happy to hand over the keys to the room.  Now?  “Photo ID, please,” is what I hear every time I check in.  And if you don’t have one, consider yourself on the street.

Imagine if Broadway shows required a photo ID?

Bam.  The Secondary Market goes poof.  Only people that buy the tickets could use the tickets.

Now, there are a billion downsides to this . . . you couldn’t buy tickets as a gift (although gift cards are the work around there), what about groups (although groups have to fly too and they figure it out), there’d be longer lines to get into the theater (we don’t want to require people to show up 1.5 hours before curtain), and again, secondary market sellers are big time buyers.  I think we should work together rather than drive each other apart.

So I don’t think we’ll see this happen any time soon.  That is, unless the next Hamilton (which looks to be Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) takes an aggressive stance on secondary sellers.  Or unless, and I hate to even say this, but unless “something” happens (and I think you know what I mean) that requires much tighter security in Times Square and at the theaters.  Then, whether we like it or not, we’ll be checking a lot more than bags when people enter our theaters.

 

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Jimmy.

I spent about fifteen minutes trying to come up with the right title for this blog.

But how could I sum up what James M. Nederlander meant to this industry and to the people in it in a quippy 150 character blog title?

There aren’t 15,000 characters that can sum up Jimmy Sr., the patriarch of the Nederlander family, who passed away on Monday evening, at the somehow-it-seems-too-young age of 94.

The man built the Broadway that we know today.

He’s one of the last of a generation who was instrumental in drawing up the blueprints of modern Broadway.  And without him, well, there’d probably be a bunch more office buildings and condos in Times Square, instead of his beautiful theaters.

Known for no-nonsense quips of his own about how to make it in this business (one of my favorites is . . . “They shouldn’t landmark the buildings, they should landmark the Producers.”), Jimmy Sr. was like The Godfather of the industry.  Wherever he went, there was a line out the door of people waiting to pay their respects, ask for a favor, or just shake the hand of the man who had the foresight, the business acumen, and, more importantly, the passion for this crazy business to build it into what it is today.

I had the pleasure of being on that line on several occasions, including most recently to thank him for giving me the keys to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for my production of Spring Awakening last fall.

And before I could even finish expressing my gratitude, he said, “No, no, no.  Thank you.”

It doesn’t seem like much, but in a day when getting a Broadway theater is like winning the lottery . . . on your birthday . . . he didn’t need to be grateful.  But he was.

And that kind of gratitude, despite his ginormous success, is a lesson that I will never forget, and I hope to share with the next generation someday myself.

To say he’ll be missed is like saying the sky is blue.  It’s just too obvious.

One of our founding fathers is gone.  The only solace I can take is that I just know that high above us, he’s negotiating to build a few more theaters.

Farewell, Jimmy.  And even though you didn’t want to hear it . . . thank you.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Nederlander family . . . because while even though he was a titan of our industry, more importantly he was a husband, father and a grandfather.

To learn more about Mr. Nederlander’s life and history, click here.

 

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How Come The Stigma of Self Producing doesn’t apply to these people.

I had a consult a few weeks ago with an emerging playwright who was struggling to find someone to put her first play on the boards.

When I suggested that the someone she was looking for might be the same someone who helps her put on her shoes and socks in the morning, she looked at me as if I suggested she perform dental surgery on herself.

“I can’t do that,” she said.  Now, I knew very well she could do that.  She had the ability.  She had the resources.  And I wasn’t talking about her putting the show up at the Palace, but finding a way to get her play up at the showcase, festival or even mini Off Broadway level?  Oh sure, she could do that.  I’ve seen hundreds of people do it before.   She could definitely do that.

But she didn’t want to do that.

“Why?” I asked.

“How would it look?” she countered.

It’s funny, nope, it’s sad that there’s such a stigma attached to self-producing, and taking that first step to attracting others to your work.

Because for some reason, this stigma only applies to the arts.

You’ve heard me call Steve Jobs a producer before.  But when you think about it, wasn’t he a self-producer?

He had an idea.  He figured out a way to execute that idea.  He even had to raise some money, come up with early marketing plans, and do just about everything else that a Producer has to do.  But, he was also the artist that came up with the product (which in my client’s case was a play).

What about the guys that came up with Google in their dorm room?

Or a chef that opens his own restaurant?

Any entrepreneur who starts their own business is no different than any self-producing artist.  In business, we praise these guys for their ability to find an idea, develop it into a product and then bring it to market.

Yet in the arts, that’s somehow taboo.

Well, not anymore. It’s time to inoculate us all from the idea that self-producing is an act of desperation or vanity (as I wrote about in one of my very first blogs here).

“How would it look?” I responded to my client.

I guess it would look like you’re taking charge of your own destiny and not waiting around for someone to give you permission to get your stuff out into the world.

I guess it would look like you were just like Steve Jobs.

 

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How Hollywood deals with different types of Producers.

If you follow me on the ol’ Twitter, then you know I’m on the Left Coast.  And whenever I’m here, I’ve always got my ear to the drought-dried ground, listening for any scuttlebutt about new TV/film business practices that might be headed our way.

And, well, something popped up that I had to get your opinion on.

During the recording of my podcast with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (which is amazing by the way – so make sure you’ve subscribed to the podcast so you can be the first to hear it when it’s released), we got to talking about Lead Producers and Co-Producers and the differences between how Broadway and Hollywood treat these two types of Producers.

I told them I had heard rumors of all sorts of things coming down the pike on Broadway because there were a few powerful Producers out there who wanted more of a separation between what they did and what bundlers or large investors did.  There have been rumblings of separate Tony “medallions” for Co-Producers instead of the actual awards, different credits, no credits, etc.

That’s when Craig and Neil said, “Well, you know what Hollywood does, don’t you?”

And I didn’t.

But I do now.

So get this.  In tinsel-town, there’s this association called the Producers Guild of America.  And its primary job is to determine a Producer’s eligibility for awards.  So, if your name is on a movie, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re eligible for an Academy Award.  Oh no.  You have to submit to be eligible with the PGA.  And get this . . . they vet you!  They look at your application . . . which asks you what you did on the movie, how you were involved, who you worked with, etc., etc.  And then they check up on you to make sure you’re not making it up!

If they give you a thumbs up, then, and only then, are you eligible for an Oscar.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a quote from the Oscars Rules & Regs:

To qualify as a producer nominee for a nominated picture, the producer must have been determined eligible for a PGA award for the picture, or have appealed the PGA’s refusal of such eligibility.

And this isn’t just for the Oscars, by the way. This is for all the biggies, including the Emmys.

Can you imagine if this was done for Broadway?  Could it be?  Should it be?  What do you think?

Me, well, I’m not so sure.  I’ve been very vocal about my gratitude to the many people who have taken extraordinary risks on my shows and other shows that just wouldn’t have happened without them. So, in that case, what’s a little title between risk-taking-friends?  And if we instituted something like the PGA vetting process, would they take their money elsewhere if they didn’t pass, or if there wasn’t a guarantee when they committed their money in the first place?

At the same time, are all Producers the same?  Do we need different titles to make that distinction with the public?  Is the public confused?  Do they care?  Are all the names above the title actually devaluing the position of the Producer?

You tell me.  Because I’m not sure just yet.

That said, although I doubt that we’ll ever have PGA-like regulated titles, I do expect we’ll be doing something different in the coming years to draw the distinction between Lead Producers and Co-Producers.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t drive anyone away to . . . well . . . Hollywood.

 

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Should there be an Independent Broadway Producer’s League?

These guys got me thinking.

In their podcast, they talk about how the Independent Broadway Producer is becoming a bit of an endangered species.  With the influx of corporations and movie studios and even celebrity Producers, and with fewer theaters to go around, the Independents face greater challenges.

And that reminded me of what happened in the touring market years ago.  As this guy talks about in his podcast, several years ago a group of Independent Touring Presenters (the people who bring National Tours of Broadway shows to a theater near you) saw a shift in their business, as a large corporate player started eating up a majority of the playing weeks on the road.  They found it harder to get product, and therefore harder to survive.  So to protect their interests, they banded together to form the Independent Presenter’s Network, a group now forty members/markets strong.  They didn’t “Brexit” their larger trade organization (which happens to be the Broadway League), they just formed their own subset of like-minded folks, to lobby for their concerns and interests with one voice, and make sure they didn’t disappear off the (road) map.

Since Broadway is going through something similar (although maybe even more severe), might it be time for something like this here too?  And since, as I talked about in this blog, the negotiating interests of a big corporation could be totally different than the negotiating interests of an Independent Producer (not to mention how much money each has to play with), the Independents could use some “strength in numbers” strategy to make sure their voice is heard . . . and more importantly . . . heeded.  An Independent Producers group could form marketing alliances, help produce each other’s shows, lobby for theaters for each other, and remind the entire industry that money doesn’t guarantee great art.

The Independent Producer does have great challenges in the years ahead, as Broadway continues to boom, and more and more powerful players get in our game.  We’re a competitive lot, often crossing our fingers that a fellow Producer’s show will fail just so the theater will become available for one of ours.  It might be time to put down those swords of ill-will and join forces to find a way to not only survive Broadway in the 21st century . . . but to thrive on Broadway in the 21st century.

 

(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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