Last week, I wrote about the record-breaking reported Broadway gross of $1.7b (and why I believed it was more like $2b).
And this week, I want to talk about why we’re smashing records like a 1950s preacher who thinks rock-n-roll is the devil.
Broadway has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last few years and, while there are a number of reasons we are where we are, here are my top five.
1. It’s a Family Thing
There are more family musicals on Broadway now than there were decades ago. This past season we had all the Disneys (including the new Frozen) as well as Anastasia, School of Rock, Charlie, and more. And when you’ve got a family musical, the average customer’s order is more than 2 tickets. More tickets = more bodies = more bucks. And despite the increased number of shows that favor the family, we haven’t seemed to reach an oversaturation point.
2. There is no Top Price anymore
A little over 10 years ago, we introduced the “Premium Ticket,” which was a higher priced ticket for the better seats in the house. In the past few years, the price of tickets has become fluid, rising (and falling) due to demand, just like an airline ticket.
And one trend that I’ve noticed lately is that most shows aren’t just relying on their General Managers to handle the complex process of analyzing and tweaking prices daily. Producers are now hiring analysts either inside their ad agencies or independent experts to handle this for them. Why? It’s easy to justify the extra expense with the amount of money that could be made with even the slightest tweak up on ticket prices or the slightest tweak down on ticket prices (that moves more volume).
3. He’s The Boss . . . and Events
Certainly one of the biggest gross bumpers in the last season was the surprise long runner, Bruce Springsteen. While everyone expected him to gross in the millions. . . no one expected him to stay this long!
While some have grumbled that he’s occupying a prime theater when a new musical or a new play could be in his spot, you won’t hear me complaining. A short-term loss of a theater for the long-term effects of getting new audiences and frankly, just being able to say, “Broadway is so cool, Bruce Springsteen played here,” is worth it.
But The Boss isn’t the only one who has helped spike our numbers over the last few years. We’ve had a lot of short-term fillers that have popped into theaters in-between bookings and added to our bottom line. I’m talking shows like The Illusionists and Rocktopia. Ok, ok, so those shows may not be what we want the world to think of when they think Broadway, but if a theater is dark, something is better than nothing. (A dark theater is one of the most depressing things there is.)
4. The Hamilton Effect
Hamilton got a @#$% ton of press. And still does! A reporter at a local news org told me that her editors instructed her to write about Hamilton every chance she got because the views on each article were off the charts
Hamilton was a lightning rod to our industry. People were talking about it all over the world. And when shows hit juggernaut status and are featured on The Grammys and on the cover of Rolling Stone, etc., that doesn’t just sell more tickets to Hamilton… it sells more tickets to Broadway. It’s the trickle-down effect, and all of us are benefiting.
So if you see Lin-Manuel, say thanks.
5. We’re creating great content
The most important reason we’re killing it these days is the most simple and also the best way to build any business . . . we’re creating great product. Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away . . . we haven’t put this many big-grossers on our boards since 1957-58, when West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and Music Man were all on the boards, or since Les Mis and Phantom opened a year apart.
Don’t let any fast-talking marketing guru sell you on billboards, direct mail, or remarketing as the secret to selling tickets. It is much simpler. The best marketing in the world is creating a great product.
Yes, we’ve gotten a lot of attention over the past few years thanks to Hamilton, The Obamas attending Broadway shows, Glee, Smash, Live Telecasts, and more . . . but that attention wouldn’t convert to sales unless we were creating shows that people wanted to see.We’re rising to the challenge, and that’s something we should be proud of.
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