What Is The Broadway Musical Recoupment Rate Over The Last 5 Years. Part I.

Since I started working in the business of bway, I keep finding my way back to the same ol’ stat.

1 out of 5 shows recoup their investment (or 20%).

That’s what they told me in 1993.  That’s what I hear they were telling people in 1983.  And that’s what I used as the basis for this book.

But what about TODAY?  Certainly, this percentage has changed over the last few years, especially because of the rise of premium pricing, and the record-breaking box office numbers we’ve been touting with trumpets.

I was curious, so I dug into the data again, and took a look at all of the musicals (we left out the plays this time around) that have opened in the last five years to determine how many have recouped and how many have not.

What did we find?

Drumroll, please . . .

The percentage of Broadway musicals that have recouped in the last half decade is . . . 20.45%.

Remarkable, isn’t it?  The number is the same dang number it has always been.

It’s like Pareto’s Principle . . . just always comes out that way (It may be more closely related to Pareto than we think . . . because it is literally 80/20).

What’s comforting about that consistency is that it’s . . . well . . . consistent.  So as we continue to create economic models for our shows and our business, we pretty much know what we’re working with.  And for those in the Broadway Investing game, who are looking to learn not only how to invest, but how to improve their success rate, they can be confident that they know the odds . . . and can make more intelligent bets (just like the great stock pickers, horse handicappers, and poker players).

What’s not comforting about this consistency (you knew this was coming, didn’t you), is that it has NOT improved over the last decade.  In a period when grosses have increased by 34% (!), profitability has not.

Imagine that for any other industry or business.  If you had a store selling t-shirts, and your sales had that kind of double-digit increase in that limited time, you’d be buying your own private island by now.

But not Broadway.

Why?

Two reasons:

  1. Our costs have increased tremendously over the same period.  As grosses have gone up, so have our expenses.  Advertising, theater rent, technology, more staff, etc,  It all adds up.  It costs more to put on a show than it did a decade ago.  A lot more.
  2. The bulk of that double-digit gross increase is in the big fat blockbusters (The Hamiltons, Lion Kings, etc.).  So those shows may be more profitable, but the shows in the middle of the market, aren’t getting to the black.  And the shows at the low end of the market, are losing more than they used to.

While I’ve always been fighting for ways to increase the number of shows that recoup across our industry, the consistency of this 20% may very well be a law of theatrical nature that we can’t change (and I’ll just have to make sure my own portfolio of shows beat the market – and so far we are doing better than 20%).

Instead of increasing the 20%, we may need to turn our efforts to making sure this 20% doesn’t go the other direction.  See, with booming grosses that grab all the headlines, comes more folks with their hands out.

But as you can see in the recoupment rate of the last ten years, just because we’re making more, doesn’t mean we’re making more.  And we need to make sure everyone, from agents to investors, understand that.

Now . . . what shows are making up that XX% in the last ten years?  Well, that’s where it really gets interesting, and may just help you pick a winner.

But we’ll save that for Part II, next week.

– – – – –

Interested in learning more about recoupment rates and how Broadway Investing works?  Read the only book ever written on the subject.  Check out Broadway Investing 101 here.

 

My Broadway Predictions For 2030.

When thinking ahead to future years, the first thing that most people do is calculate their age.

Come on, you know you do it.   How old will you be in 2030?

I’ll be 57.  My daughter will be 12.  (God help me.)

So . . . how old will Broadway be?

Well, there is a big debate about when Broadway began . . . some say it started when the first theater opened down on Nassau street in 1750 (!).  But since that venue was only 280 seats I’d say that’s when Off Broadway began (Yep, Off Broadway preceded Broadway – if that’s possible give them monikers).  Others say Broadway began when the first 2,000-seat venue was built in 1798.

But I put the birthday at the opening of The Black Crook in 1866 which is considered by most to be the first musical, and the first long-running show (it ran for 474 performances – and it was also five and a half hours long!).

That would make Broadway 154 years old in 2030.  How do you think she’ll hold up at that age?  What will she look like?

Last week, I blogged about my top favorite Broadway stories for 2019, and now I’m going to give you five of my crystal ball-like predictions for what I believe will happen on Broadway by 2030!

Let me just say a few chants, sprinkle some sage around my computer, and channel my inner psychic-friends-network.

Here we go, in no particular fortune-tellin’ order:

  1.  Hard Tickets will be extinct.
    Honestly, these will probably be gone well before 2030, but by the end of the decade you definitely won’t ever need a print out of a ticket . . . or, well, anything, for that matter.  In other industries, fingerprints and facial recognition will probably get you access to whatever it is you paid for.  We’ll still be lagging behind (like we always do), but we definitely won’t have those little slips of cardstock anymore.  Sorry, scalpers.
  2. 90% of shows will be recorded and streamed.
    In 2030, we’ll finally figure out the economic model that allows for shows to be distributed via video, providing another revenue stream for the Authors, Actors, Investors, etc.  Now, exactly hen Producers allow the streaming to happen (during the run or only after?) will still be debated.  But we’ll crack the code . . . partly because we’ll have to.  Because if the cost of producing (and you don’t need to be a bloggin’ fortune teller to predict that), we’ll need the additional income to keep our recoupment.  (The missing 10% by the way is for the stars and artists who just never want what they’ve done on video, for whatever reason.)
  3. A woman will be running a theater chain.
    This is not only a prediction, this is a call to action.
  4. Chat boards will cease to exist.
    Gossip won’t, so all those folks who love theater so much they want to talk about it all day, when they probably should be working (or making theater themselves), will have to find a new place to chat.  And they will, because nothing stops passionate people who want to talk Broadway. I know, I was a rec.arts.theater.newsgroup guy back in 1991.   (Remind me to tell you how I met Jeff Marx, the lyricist of Avenue Q online back then.)
  5. Our recoupment rate will stay the same.You’re going to see some data on this in next week’s blog, but Broadway has been recouping 20% of its shows for a long time (despite the fact that our grosses have increased substantially).  As much as I’d like to say we’re going to find a path to more prolific profitability over the next ten years, I doubt it.  We’re a risky industry.  Less risky that most industries in our category, actually, as I talk about here.  Our job may actually be to prevent it from our recoupment rate going the other direction (something else I’m going to talk about next week).Oh, and a bonus prediction . . .
  6. Hamilton will still be running.

So, what do you think of ’em?  Agree?  Disagree?  Got your own predictions?  Mention them in the comments below.

And if you are interested in some other predictions I’ve made in the past, check out my TedXBroadway talk here, which I did in 2012, and predicted 20 years ahead.  Some of the stuff has already come true.

 

 

Podcast Episode 205: Our Season Finale Mashup! In case you missed . . .

And in the blink of a podcast, our fall season has vanished like the leaves on the trees.

It’s been an exciting few months of podcastin’ for us and when I thought about how best to wrap up this season, I thought . . . what would Happy Days do?

Some of my favorite episodes of my favorite childhood sitcoms like Happy Days and Different Strokes and Silver Spoons (I so wanted to be Ricky Schroeder) were the compilation episodes that tied together the best scenes from the best episodes of the series.

So that’s what we did for you!

For this season finale, we mashed-up clips from all of our guests throughout the season!  Listened to them already?  Be reminded of some of the truth bombs and greatest lessons.  Missed an episode? This is a chance for you to get the cliff notes!

You’ll get some of the top takeaways, stories, and maybe even me beatboxing.

Listen in and hear: 

  • Anthony Veneziale’s key to success when starting out 
  • Ali Stroker’s “ninja patience” and how she gets through any challenge that comes her way
  • How building a career outside of Broadway helped Mara Isaacs to see Broadway differently and why she wants to maintain her “outsider status” for as long as she can
  • Why Alan Cumming feels it’s so important to not try to pretend to be perfect all of the time
  • And much, much more!

Enjoy . . . and if you like this mashup idea, let me know and we’ll do it again!

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

Thank you to Julie Halston, Mark Sendroff, Stephanie Lee, Susan Blackwell, Adam Gwon, Anthony Veneziale, Ali Stroker, Mara Isaacs, Charlotte Wilcox, Ken Cerniglia, Glen Kelly, and Alan Cumming for joining me on the podcast this season!  

If there’s anyone you want to hear from next season, let me know. I want to bring in who the listeners want to hear. Message me your requests on Instagram and I’ll do my best to get them on the podcast next season! And while you wait for us to come back (mark your calendars!) on February 24th, catch up on the rest of the 200+ episodes here!

Thanks, Terry Knickerbocker, for supporting this episode. Terry Knickerbocker Studio offers a two-year acting conservatory, workshops, studio rentals, one-on-one coaching, beginner acting classes, and the best actor training in New York. For more information, visit terryknickerbockerstudio.com

The final #SongWriterOfTheWeek for the 2019 season is . . . Kerrigan-Lowdermilk! And my good friend and Godspell company member, Lindsay Mendez is singing their song called Hand in Hand from their immersive house party musical THE BAD YEARS. If you like what you hear and want to learn more, check out www.kerrigan-lowdermilk.com or @kerrigan_lowdermilk on Instagram.   

Happy holidays and “see” you back on the podcast for the spring season in February!

Podcast Episode 204: Tony Award Winning Actor and Artrepreneur, Alan Cumming

Soap.

That’s how this episode kicks off . . . with a conversation about soap.

Not just any soap, mind you.  Alan Cumming’s soap.  Like not his bar of Ivory . . . like his actual branded and sold on shelves, soap.

So you see, Alan Cumming truly has done everything.

And what’s amazing is, as you’ll hear in one of my favorite podcasts of my 200+ episodes, he’s only just getting started.

I knew when I saw him in Cabaret back in 1998 that I was watching something . . . well . . . beyond.  Then I had the pleasure of producing his one-man Macbeth on Broadway and realized that Alan was not just an actor . . . he was a Super Hero of an Artist.  

We talked about Cabaret, Macbeth, and a whole host of things on this podcast about acting, art, getting recognized in public, success, failure, running nightclubs, and yes even those bars of soap (and how you can get them), as well as:

  • How he still gets nervous and how he deals with those nerves.
  • Why he is working on a solo dance piece . . . when he is NOT a trained dancer.
  • How being vulnerable is what gives him confidence.
  • The importance of actors being able to “turn it on.”
  • Why artists feel the need to leave on the edge of fear (and why he wants to do a documentary about it).

This episode is a must for all TheaterMakers out there, because Alan is one of the most successful makers of art . . . his own way . . . that is.

Here’s how to listen!

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

This week’s #SongWriterOfTheWeek is Joey Contreras! Check out his song “Joyride” from his latest EP, “Joyride.” It’s available on iTunes/Spotify/Apple Music. If you like what you hear and want to learn more, check out www.joeycontreras.com or @joeycontreras on Instagram.

This episode is brought to you by Sunlight Studios. With 8 bright and spacious studios for rent, you can rehearse your next Broadway hit knowing you’re in good hands. To book a studio today, please visit www.sunlightstudios.com. Use Code DAVENPORT to receive a 5% discount on bookings until January 2, 2020.

And when you’re done listening to the podcast, go listen to Alan’s cabaret song and story show, Legal Immigrant on Audible!

Our Official 2019 Broadway Holiday Gift Guide

I know what you’re thinking . . . “Wasn’t it just Labor Day?”

The answer?  Yes.  Yes it was.

As if Harry Potter cast a monthus-disappearus spell, here we are on the eve of Black Friday, ready for another mad dash to the end of the year.

Thanksgiving is late this year, which means less time to do your holiday shopping.  That’s why we’ve put together this list of the Top 10 Broadway GIfts to help you as you shop for the Broadway theater lover in your life (or in case you are just looking to put something for yourself in your stocking).   And this year, we’ve made sure we’ve added a bunch under $20.

And now, the overture is over . . . let’s raise the curtain on my 2019 Broadway Holiday Gift Guide:

1. Be A Broadway Star Board Game

Be a Broadway Star was a “shower idea.”  It literally came to me in the shower back in 2011.  And when I dreamed it up and wrote the name on the steam of my shower door, I never imagined it would turn into one of the hottest selling Broadway gifts on the market.  What has been fun to see is people of all ages playing the game, from college kids, to little ones, to senior theater goers!  And even Ben Platt!  (Click here and scroll down to see the photo)

It’s a no-brainer gift for any theater lover in your life, and super fun to play.

This year we have a new, limited-edition Holiday Expansion pack! Download the full 31-page expansion pack for FREE here!

Get the game here now.  It sells out every season, so don’t wait.

2. My Broadway Binder!

We made these as a gift for our Broadway Investors.  And we got such great feedback on them, we wondered if other folks might want to buy them.  

The answer?  Yes.  Yes they would.

So we modified ’em, included some sheet protectors and even came up with a unique design for our binder that prevents the Playbills from falling out.

It’s a must for all Broadway fans which makes it a terrific holiday gift. 

Get the Broadway Playbill binder here.

3. A Broadway Puzzle featuring 20 of your favorite Broadway stars!

Want a great group activity at your holiday gathering?  Or looking for a solo activity?  Make the most of a rainy or snowy day this holiday season and piece together this Broadway-themed jigsaw puzzle featuring 20 of Broadway’s biggest stars!

Get it here.

4. Broadway Coloring Book

Coloring books are in. 

And in this great Broadway gift for under $10, you can color all of your favorite show tunes in this Broadway Lyric Coloring Book! The book features 24 pages of mandala designs and lyrics from popular shows. 

You can bet your bottom dollar this is in my daughter’s stocking this year.  Gotta get her started right!

Get the coloring book here.

5. Musical Theatre themed colored pencils

When I was a kid if you wanted to color, you had one choice . . . crayons.  Now there are . . . wait for it . . . musical-theatre themed colored pencils!  Another great gift for under $20 which makes it an ideal Secret Santa gift!

Get the musical theater pencils here.

6. Books, books, and more books!

I could have a whole Broadway Holiday Gift Guide just for Broadway books! But here are a few of my top picks this season.

The Secret Life of the American Musical by Jack Viertel

Written by a true master of the American theater, this book is rich with information and stories to delight any theater fan (or theater maker). 

Broadway Trivia

Test your knowledge of the Great White Way with this 9-chapter Broadway Trivia Book! 

Broadway Trivia includes 9 chapters with easy, medium and hard trivia for Broadway fans of all ages! Test your knowledge about Broadway theaters, history of the great white way, show tunes and more!

Broadway Investing 101

Everything you need to know about how to get started in investing in Broadway Shows.

How To Raise Money For The Arts . . . Or For Anything!

Does the mere thought of asking people for money make you nervous? I sat down and wrote a 100+ page comprehensive how-to guide on the subject of raising money for the theater – the only one of its kind!

Action Journals

Created specifically with artists in mind, these action journals are a 90-day template for success. It helps you stay on track and reflect along the way. (Be sure to share your thoughts using #ActionJournalForArtists. I’d love to hear what you think!)

7. Playbill Frame

When a Broadway binder isn’t enough for your Broadway fan, or Broadway star-to-be, get ’em this Playbill frame to show off that their most prized Broadway possession.  Great for those of you who have seen Hamilton . . . just to rub it in your friends’ faces when they come over.  Get it here.

8. Broadway Momento Box 

And if the frame isn’t good enough . . . well, there’s almost another step up!  Use this shadow box as a unique way to show off your favorite Broadway memories!  If they had this when I was 16, I would have owned 160.  Get the momento box here.

9. The TheaterMakers Studio Membership

TheaterMakers belong together.  That’s why we created a brand-new, state-of-the-art, industry-leading membership community and certification training experience for theater-makers! If you want to create theater – or know someone who does – The TheaterMakers Studio is the best resource for you.

As a member, you’ll have access to our certification courses, monthly group coaching calls with my team of experts, access to our Private Facebook Community, a literal treasure trove of resources, checklists, execution plans, and a ton more!  Check it out here and get it for the writer, actor, director, producer in your life.

10. The Broadway Pop Chart of Costumes

Someone actually gifted this to me last year . . . and in a perfect example of word of mouth at work . . . I’m now recommending it to you.  Check out this unique poster art here.

 

 

And of course, theater tickets, Broadway t-shirts and the latest cast recordings are always great gifts for Broadway lovers.  But whatever you get for your Broadway or Theater Fan, get them something theater related.  It all helps support the art and business we all love!

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