Gettin’ The Band Back Together Cast Recording Available on iTunes!

Gettin The Band Back Together BroadwayRemember that time I debuted my new musical Gettin’ The Band Back Together at George Street Playhouse this past fall?

Well, a month ago, I got the cast back together and we recorded a cast album!  And now, you can get it on iTunes!  Download it here:  Gettin’ The Band Back Together Cast Album.

So now that the obvious promotional part of this blog is over, let’s get to the more interesting stuff:  why did I spend $40k (yep, that was the price tag) to record an album after the regional theater production . . . when there will certainly be a bigger and better (translation: Broadway) production in the not-so-distant future that will spit out its own cast album?

Yes, I loved the production and the cast and wanted a literal “record” of that production.  But that’s not enough of a reason to spend $40k.

Yes, I needed a demo to give to potential investors in the Broadway production.  But that could have been produced for about $10k.  Or less.

Why would I spend 4x as much?

You all know that I try my damnedest to make sure all of my decisions are based on standard business strategy.  So the answer must mean that I believe I will see 4x more of a return on my investment with my pre-Broadway cast album than had I simply just made a demo, like every other developing musical does.

How do I see that return?

First, we’re going to sell some.  Actually we’re going to sell a lot.  And each one we sell will help write-down the cost.  So, if I sell 30k worth of the album, then I’m at revenue neutral.  Good goal.

Actually, that’d be a great goal.  After iTunes takes their cut, we’d have to move a #$&% load of albums without a #$&% of marketing support to make that 30k number.

Honestly, the chances of us hitting that are slim.

That’s right, I’m admitting that I produced this album knowing that I might not sell enough units to pay for it.

But that’s not the only way to get an ROI.

See, music is what markets musicals (it is the damn root word after all).  And now, I have a way of getting that music into more hands . . . including those people who saw the George Street production . . . and those people out there (like all of you) who are interested in hearing new and developing musicals, especially one that features an incredibly talented Broadway cast like Mitchell Jarvis, Jay Klaitz, Manu Narayan, Adam Monley, Heather Brave, Evan Daves, Michelle Duffy, Ryan Duncan, Alison Fraser, Deidre Goodwin, Christopher Gurr, Garth Kravits, Emily McNamara, Tad Wilson, and Brandon Williams.  I’ll be able to engage our audience before we even announce our Broadway opening date (if this sounds familiar, it’s based on the old Andrew Lloyd Webber concept recording idea).

But I’m not done yet.

Let me ask you this . . . when you go see a musical, and you like it . . . what’s the first thing you do?  You buy the recording.  Right?  (I walked 50 blocks to Tower Records after seeing Falsettos to get the recording.)

Well, one of the great challenges with new musicals is that for the first several weeks of previews, arguably the most important weeks in a musical’s life, that music is usually unavailable. Thousands of people leave that theater, humming tunes . . . that are not available at the merch stand!  They drive home . . . and instead of poppin’ in the cd of the show they just saw, which reminds them to tell their friends about it, which gets those friends to buy tickets . . . they drive home and listen to Miley Cyrus or Englebert Humperdinck or someone.

And we can’t have that.

So we made this album.  And it cost me 4x what a normal demo should.

But my estimates have us earning at least 10-20x that amount back in something that’s more powerful than money . . . marketing.

I hope you’ll get the album.  Because, most importantly, it’s awesome.

Download it here:  Gettin’ The Band Back Together Cast Album.

 

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The mission of music in a musical is . . .

I went to see a show the other night and found myself sitting right next to an old fuddy-duddy (I do realize that by using the term “fuddy-duddy,” I am probably now one myself).  He was buttoned-up and scowling from the moment he walked into the hallowed halls of the theater.

He was absolutely silent during Act I.  He didn’t laugh.  Didn’t slump.  Just kind of stared ahead like he was preparing for a role in the musical version of Awakenings.

And then, during the middle of the first act finale, Mr. Duddy started shifting around in his seat a bit.  At first I thought he was preparing for an early exit to the bathroom and to secure a place in the front of the line for a $9 coke.  But then I realized he wasn’t shifting at all.

He was tapping his foot.

Yep, like Robert De Niro in Awakenings, Mr. Duddy started to wake up slowly.  You see, the music was rockin’ at this point . . . more than it had the entire first act, and the musical was starting to really take off (a little late, of course).  And somehow it had melted Mr. Duddy’s wax figure state, and his foot was moving to the beat.  I stopped watching the show for a moment, as I watched Duddy’s foot move, and then slowly but surely that energy crept up his entire body, practically loosened his tie for him and then . . . well would you look at that . . . a smile.

The music literally got into his body.  It moved him.  And that, my friends, is the mission of music in a musical.

It has to move you.  Obviously it doesn’t have to physically move you all the time . . . but when it gets you tapping your feet, bobbing your head, or moves you to tears, you know that you are literally synced up with what is happening on that stage.

And of course there is a way to emotionally move you as well . . . when the sound of what is being sung has you moving like a tornado, but it’s all happening inside the audience member.  When actually they are moved so much . . . they can’t physically move.  You know what I’m talking about, right?

I read and listen to too many musicals where the music doesn’t move me at all.  It’s just there, trying to tell a story, but falling short because it doesn’t reach out and grab me and pull me in.  And worse than that?  When the music is trying to “teach” . . . or be smart.  The Sondheim Syndrome, I call it.  You can’t be smart.  And you can’t try to teach.  You can just tell your story and move your audience, and if you’re Sondheim, great . . . but I’d rather you just be you.  (Rent is one of the simplest musicals written in the last two decades, and one of the best and most moving.)

I’ve said this before, but I will say it again . . . It’s called a musical.  It’s not a book-ical or even a lyric-ical.  It’s a MUSIC-al.  And that means that your music just may be the biggest weapon you have to snare that audience and make them fall in love with your story.

But if you’re not moving them . . . they’ll move on to something else.

 

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How a country song reminded me to touch my audience.

First, yes, I’ll admit, the title of this blog sounds a little creepy.

But it’ll make sense.  I hope.

If you love Broadway show tunes, then I bet you have a soft spot in your heart for country music, even if you can’t admit it when you’re singing along at Musical Mondays at Splash.

Country crooners tell great little stories in three-and-a-half-minutes and three-and-a-half choruses.  And aren’t story songs what the best of musical theater writers do?  Someday soon, I do hope we’ll get that country musical that 60% of the population and I have been pinin’ for.

I was listening to a little country on my Sirius over the weekend when the new tune “Fly Over States” came on.  My cruisin’ partner practically jumped out of her seat when she heard Jason Aldean mention her home state of Indiana.  I could see the pride in her eyes and hear it in her “yee-haw!”  Aldean twanged on to mention Kansas, Oklahoma and a whole bunch of those Midwestern plain states that are often forgotten by East and West coasters.  And I’d bet you my Sirius subscription that with each state he mentioned, he sold more singles.

The writers of “Fly Over States” not only knew how to write a catchy tune and cool story about two guys on a flight from NY to LA, but they knew how to personalize it for their audience.  They knew how to create emotional “touch points” for their listeners.  (Starting to feel less creepy now?)

You’ve experienced this, haven’t you?  When a character in a movie is a fan of your favorite baseball team (or any team but the Yankees) . . . or when a politician eats at a restaurant that you’ve been to.  You can relate.  And you feel a sense of pride.

All of this is a great reminder to writers and producers out there that you must strive to create these emotional touch points for your audience throughout your show.

They can be as overt as a localized reference like we use when Altar Boyz or Miss Abigail is licensed around the country (one of Miss A’s biggest laughs in Tampa was when we referenced the local as-advertised-on-tvs-and-billboards law firm of Morgan and Morgan).  Or they can simply be characters that audiences can relate to . . . and that feel things that they might feel.

But as much as we go to the theater to be swept away from our everyday lives, it’s the elements of our everyday lives that can get us more swept up in what’s happening on that stage.

 

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Bringing back the concept of the concept album.

In the 80s, Andrew Lloyd Three Names released a bunch of recordings of his shows, before they were actually completed shows.

Jesus Christ Three Named Show was one of the first . . . but Evita had one, and there was a songs from Starlight Express CD too.

On this side of the record-producing pond, Frank Wildhorn (the would-be ALW of the West) had his hand in the pre-album album with J&H, Civil War (with fancy recording artists, nonetheless), and others.

But other than those, and a few randoms here and there, the concept of the concept album went the way of Annie 2.

Why?

Why would a show on its way to Broadway not take a few bucks from the budget to make a “Songs from . . . ” CD?  The benefits are ginormous:

  • You’d have them to sell on your first preview, instead of having to wait for months to make the OCR.
  • You’d have a first class marketing tool to use on your way to Broadway . . . and let’s face it, nothing sells a musical better than its music . . . to investors, to sponsors, theater owners, etc.
  • You’d start building a fan base, and have people humming songs on the way in, rather than just on the way out.

In the past twenty years, the cost of making albums, and distributing albums has dropped tremendously.  You can even DIY it.  And done cheap enough, almost any CD could certainly find the “long tail” market and recoup some of its costs.

Objections I’ve heard are, “The cast might not be the same as on Broadway,” (who cares) and, “What if we cut a song?” (who cares – listen to ALW’s Evita).  The bottom line is this . . . when an audience member leaves a musical and has a song in their head . . . they’ll do anything to hear it again to satisfy that musical craving.  And when I say anything, I mean anything (you’re reading a blog from a guy who listened to a cassette bootleg of Rent for weeks.)

You can satisfy that need, make some money, and market your show better if you’ve got a CD to sell from the start.  So add the cost to your budget, and get that score out in the world.

Huh.  I think I just convinced myself to do a recording of Somewhere in Time while we’re out here in Portland.

 

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Two surprise closings and what they mean for Broadway.

What are these two closings?

Hint.

They aren’t shows.

News hit the web yesterday that the famed NYC sheet music and showtune retailer, Colony Records, would be closing its doors forever at a soon-to-be-named date.

Colony, which is part of the footprint of The Brill Building (which has more history than Wikipedia) is a cultural landmark in this city.  Sure, their prices were a bit high, which is why so many of its shoppers in recent years turned to eBay and other online retailers.  But still, going to that store with its somewhat cranky yet incredibly knowledgeable staff and buying a song or two (like I did when I was at Tisch), made you feel like part of the scene.

And in other recent news, Colony’s smaller yet still substantial counterpart in the West End, Dress Circle, just shut its doors on August 15th.

What’s happening?

Well, yes, shoppers have gotten savvy, and they know they can get the same product online, and probably cheaper than by buying it at fancy brick-and-mortar store like Colony.

But, we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that was the only reason.

When stores selling Broadway memorabilia can’t sell enough Broadway memorabilia to warrant having a store, it means that Broadway memorabilia ain’t in the same demand as it used to be.

And when people aren’t collecting things associated with a brand, it means the passionate fan base may be dissipating.

Both of these stores advertised our brand.  Millions of people walked by them every year, and thousands went in because they saw something that intrigued them.  The web doesn’t work like that.  You rarely just run into something online without having received direction from somewhere.

So, no, these two closings aren’t shows.

But I’d say they have an even bigger impact.

 

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