Podcast Episode 81 – The New York Times Theater Reporter, Michael Paulson

I’ve been on the receiving end of questions from Michael Paulson, the Broadway “beat” reporter for the New York Times, that I thought it was time that I asked HIM a few questions.

And wouldn’t you know it . . . he agreed!

Michael has a unique perspective on our biz, having just joined the fray a couple of years ago, fresh off quite a different beat.

What was that beat?  You know, something really similar to the theater . . . religion!  (I guess for some it’s like a religion, right?)  Yep, that was his name you heard bandied about in Spotlight for his work covering the abuse scandal in the Boston area archdiocese – which won him a Pulitzer – and inspired this book.

I wanted to hear what someone who just joined our industry at a high level thought of how we were doing, how accepting we were to newcomers, and what it was like to get stories out of our notoriously tight-lipped  industry.

Michael didn’t disappoint, and answered all the above and then some including . . .

  • The differences (and surprising similarities) between covering theater and religion.
  • How the New York Times is competing with Candy Crush . . . and if it’s winning.
  • Is all press really good press?
  • How theater and the newspaper industry are facing similar challenges.
  • His favorite Broadway stories so far . . . and the story he’d like to write about, but hasn’t gotten the scoop . . . yet.

Enjoy some quotes and great sound bytes from a guy whose job is usually to go out and get some.

Click here to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

(In the podcast, I mention a link to Michael’s article on Hamilton which you can read here.  And follow Michael on twitter here.)

Click here to read the transcript.

 

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FUN STUFF:

– WEBINAR ALERT: “How The Heck Do You Get A Broadway Theater Anyway?” Wednesday, 7/20 at 7PM ET. Click here to register.  Or get it for FREE when you join Pro.

– Listen to Podcast Episode 80 with Tony-winning Producers Sue Frost and Randy Adams!  Click here.

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What I talked about at the Ticket Summit.

Many of my producing brethren asked me why I spoke at the Ticket Summit this week, which is a conference of secondary market sellers or brokers.

One even said, “Aren’t they the other side?”

And that response is exactly why I spoke at the Ticket Summit.

There is some Hatfield and McCoy-like bad blood between primary market sellers and secondary market sellers that stretches way back.  Like way back.  Like to the very beginnings of The Broadway League.  In fact, as Charlotte St. Martin reminded us in this blog, one of the original reasons for the formation of the league was . . .

To eliminate theatre ticket speculation and to protect the public from the exorbitant charges made by ticket brokers for desirable locations.

Sounds like something that was written in response to the Hamilton tickets costing $10k, right?

Well, that mission statement was written in 1930!  Almost 100 years ago!  If you read one of my favorite theatre books, The Abominable Showman (The David Merrick biography), you’ll read story after story of Mr. Merrick doing battle with the brokers.

So it’s no wonder that both sides are a little on edge when it comes to their relationship.

But sometimes, I find when people are soooo far apart, they have more in common than they think.

The first thing that Broadway Producers need to understand is that the secondary market isn’t going away.  It’s been around for these 100 years, so rather than get rid of it, perhaps we should talk to the “other side” more about how we can work together at our common goal . . . selling more tickets.

The first thing that Broadway Brokers need to understand is that sly tactics that confuse customers (e.g. buying domain names or sub-domain names of the shows or venues, with the hope of making a “Googler’ think they are buying from the “official source”) may benefit you in the short-term, but it hurts us all in the long-term.  It’s ok to come out from the shadows, and be proud of the service you provide . . . not pretend you’re something you’re not.

The fact is Broadway is NOT a billion dollar a year industry, despite what published reports say.

It’s actually much MORE than that, because all that “vig” or the amount over face-value that people are paying for tickets in the secondary market isn’t counted in the official totals.  Last year, the Broadway League reported a seasonal gross of $1,373,253,275.  That number is at LEAST $1.5 billion when you add in broker “overages” (especially in the season of Hamilton).

The time has come to figure out (and yes that means some regulation) how we can work together to establish guidelines that can help both primary and secondary sellers . . . and more importantly, the ticket buyers, who are the ones who really matter.

And yes, it’s possible.  Other industries are doing it.  In fact, the Yankees just signed an exclusive deal with StubHub.  Click here to read the NY Times article all about it.

My favorite part of the article is that the opening line reads, “After years of feuding . . . ”

Sound familiar?

 

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What Pokémon GO has to do with the future of the theater.

Are you playing it?

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

One day after its release, the “augmented reality” app-based game was installed on more Android phones than Tinder.  That’s right, believe it or not, the only thing better than hooking up or finding a life partner . . . is “scoring” points collecting little electronic bugs.

And now there are more Pokémon users than there are Twitter users in the US.

So what in the name of Pikachu is going on?  And what does catching Meowths have to do with theater?

Well, I got news for you, playahs . . . it is theater.

I first wrote about video games and what I believe would be its influence on what we do back in 2011 (and I’m now developing this concept into a keynote that I’m delivering at an educational theater conference this fall).

The quick recap is this . . . see, I was a part of the first generation to grow up on video games.  I was an early adopter of the home gaming system (because I was a semi-geek) and got my first Atari at age 11.  But the generation after me?  Well, they’ve had video games their entire life. They’ve grown up with a joystick in their hands.  And, of course, one of those games that babysat them was Pokémon.

That means that my generation, and more importantly the one after me, has had a totally unique and different form of entertainment than our parents and our grandparents.  And in this form of entertainment, the user controls the destiny of the hero.  You pick your Pokémon character (you even get to dress him, name him . . . or he can even be a her), and you try to capture the princess, save the world . . . or accomplish whatever your objective (or “want” to use an acting term) may be.

My theory has always been that as this generation matures to the age of the traditional theatergoer (in their 40s . . . which is where I am, and the early adopters of Pokémon are a mere 10-20 years away)  . . . and more importantly, as they become the theater creators, they’re going to demand and create entertainment that has a similar component . . . where they somehow control the destiny of the hero.  Because that’s what they’ve grown up doing . . . unlike any generation before them.

While there will always be room for the classics, do you really think an audience 20-30 years from now is going to want to sit down in a theater, behind some imaginary fourth wall, and watch Willy Loman decide if he wants to live or die?  By then they’ll have seen 10 Broadway revivals anyway (especially if we keep bringing these classics back with a new star as often as we are).

Maybe they will.  From time to time.  But that’s not going to the bulk of what they want to experience.

They’re going to want to get into their entertainment.  They’re going to want to hold the controller of their story.  They’re going to want it to be all around them.  (And don’t even get me started on what the generation after them, who will grow up on things like Oculus, will want from their theater.)  We’re already seeing this in fits and starts.  In just a couple of weeks, I’m going to see a show at The, super hip, House Theatre of Chicago called The Last Defender which is billed as “A Live Action Game That Makes You The Hero.”  And this is just the beginning.

What does this have to do with Pokémon?

For the first time in a major way . . . the video game is more than just a user and a console.  Now, the user has to get out.  The world is the stage.  And there are other audience members around you . . . sometimes playing with you.  It’s a live theatrical experience that just happens to have a technical component.

And you know what’s the most interesting part?  The Producers of this show aren’t paying any theater rent.

Pokémon isn’t what the theater will be in 20 years.  But it’s a sign that something new is coming.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, my Pokémon name is BwayMon.

 

(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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– Need help getting your show off the ground?  Sign up for my seminar this Saturday in Los Angeles!  Just ONE spot left!  Click here.

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The secrets behind getting a Broadway Theater.

If I was writing this blog twenty years ago, it would be shorter than the run of Moose Murders.

Because back then, here’s how you got a Broadway theater . . .

You asked for one.

And if I was writing it thirty years ago?  Well, shoot, you’d ask for one, and the theater owners would try to give you two!

A lot has changed since the last “dark ages” on Broadway, when theaters sat idle for months and months, waiting for the next Broadway Producer to take his or her shot.

Now, you can ask until you’re blue in the face and arms, and that may not make a bit of difference because now there’s a long list of Producers and shows looking for their chance on the Great White Way.

So what changed?  Why is it so different than it was?  And if it’s so tough, how do you position your show to get one of the only 40 (41 in 2017) theaters that are available?  Oh, and just who are the theater owners we’re talking about?

I can’t get to all of that stuff in one blog post, which is why this is the subject of my next webinar.

Next Wednesday, July 20th at 7 PM, I’ll be teaching a webinar entitled, well, “How The Heck Do You Get A Broadway Theater Anyway?”

I’ll talk you through all of the answers to the above, as well as a whole bunch more including:

  • The History of the “Five Families” of Broadway Theater Owners.
  • How do you decide what theater you want?
  • The rituals of asking for a Broadway Theater (it’s more involved than you think).
  • Strategies and Suggestions for increasing your odds of getting a theater.
  • Will we see another “dark ages” again anytime soon?
  • And more.

Of course, I’ll end the webinar with a Q&A about getting a theater, and anything else that’s on your mind (Except Pokémon GO.  I’m not talking about that crazy thing!).

It used to be that a Broadway Producer’s #1 concern was raising money.  Believe it or not, that just ain’t the case no more.  Now, the #1 issue facing all of us out there is can we, will we get a theater . . . and when?

Learning how to navigate this maze and the history of it is more important than it has ever been before if you’re interested in getting a show on the boards someday.  That’s why this is one of the most important webinars I’ve taught to date, and I hope you join.

To register for this webinar, click here.  It’s $149 to take it when you get it on your own.

But, it’s free for my ProducersPerspectivePRO members.  Seriously.  Sign up for PRO here to get the webinar for free.

And if the webinar wasn’t enough of a reason to join PRO now, here are a few more:

Many of you said you wanted to try out Pro but the 7-day trial wasn’t long enough (you’re all so busy!).  So, this month only, instead of giving you a 7-day trial when you sign up now, I’m giving you a 30-day trial. You get a whole month to kick the e-tires, listen to the 30+ hours of other webinars, download the mailing labels for Producers, General Managers, Booking Agents, Publishing Houses (perfect for anyone doing a festival show that needs to invite folks), and more.

AND, this is the month we’re holding our first ProducersPerspectivePRO in-person networking event.  So all PRO members, including those on their free trial, get a chance to mingle with other PROS and some special guests, share a drink (on me), a business card, and your ideas on the theater.  I expect we’re going to make some great connections that night.  It’s gonna be fun.

So, you can get the webinar here for $149.

Or, you can join PRO for 30 days for free by clicking here, and get the webinar, the social, and everything else on PRO for free.  And if you don’t want to stick it out with PRO after the 30 days?  Cancel.  No hard feelings.  (I don’t even know who cancels!)

Up to you.  But this is one that you don’t want to miss.

See you on the webinar!

Click here to get it for $149.

Click here to join PRO for free.

 

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

– – – – –

FUN STUFF:

– Need help getting your show off the ground?  Sign up for my seminar on 7/16 in Los Angeles!  Click here.

– Win 2 tickets to see A Chorus Line with the LA Philharmonic!  Click here.

– Get everything you need to help get your show off the ground when you join TheProducersPerspectivePro for free.  Join the club today.

A Musical By Any Other Name is . . .

A script came into our e-submission pile the other day that got my attention.  Unfortunately, not in the “OMG – I gotta read this one right now” way.

The title page was perfectly formatted.  That wasn’t it.  But there was a little extra something on it . . . like a double garnish on a dinner plate.

Underneath the title and the author’s name, it said . . .

“A dark dramedy with music.”

Excuse me for a moment, but WTF is that?

It’s unique . . . for sure . . . and I know, I know, I preach that the key to success with your project is making it unique in some shape or form.

But let the work speak for itself. Don’t feel that you have to come up with a moniker that actually just confuses anyone picking it up . . . and more importantly, makes the reader think, “This writer actually doesn’t know what their piece is.”

Want to label your show before you submit?  Here’s what I suggest you choose from:

– Play
– Musical

And scene.

Ok, if you feel your targeted reader is only looking for a specific style of show, you could say:

– Comedy
– Drama

But that’s it.

And what about if your Play has some music in it?  I still think it’s a Play.  I don’t think people jump to read “plays with music” more than plays, so I’d go with Play or Musical.

Keep it simple.  Otherwise you may just confuse your reader . . . or worse, make the reader think you’re confused.

 

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

– – – – –

FUN STUFF:

– Need help getting your show off the ground?  Sign up for my seminar on 7/16 in Los Angeles!  Click here.

– Win a NYMF Premium Pass, worth $559!  Click here.

– Get everything you need to help get your show off the ground when you join TheProducersPerspectivePro for free.  Join the club today.

 

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