SPINOFF ALERT: A New Broadway and Off-Broadway General Management Company

People ask me all the time what I look for when I’m hiring an employee.

That’s a complicated question, especially when you need someone with expert knowledge and specific skill sets, never mind someone who will not only hit goals but crush them . . . and fit in with your company culture.

But the simplest answer is . . . I like to hire people who have the same entrepreneurial spirit that I do and have had since I started a candy selling business in my Dad’s doctor’s office when I was seven years old.  (Yes, that’s right, I sold chocolate bars to heart patients.)

In other words, I like to hire people who want to build stuff.

Including their own businesses.

That’s why my Producers Perspective Pro Community Manager has her own photography business, why my Marketing Director has her own custom coloring book business . . . and why when my Davenport Theatrical General Manager, Ryan Conway . . . who helped me bring Spring Awakening to Broadway in 83 days, who helped me figure out how to live stream Daddy Long Legs, and who came up with a workable budget for Once On This Island with its 20 Actors in a theater with only 700 odd seats . . . came to me and said, “I want to run my own General Management Company and take outside clients,” I said . . . “Absolutely, yes.  How can I help?”

Honestly, it’s hard to let go of something you built.  I founded our Management Company with the same style that I used to Company Manage and General Manage shows, thanks to the mentorship I got from folks like Nina Lannan, Wendy Orshan, Charlotte Wilcox, Frank Scardino, and so many others.  So it means a lot to me.

And it’s hard to think about sharing someone like Ryan (I was an only child, after all).  But frankly, I was so supportive of Ryan heading up this endeavor because . . .

1) He wanted to, and he has been so helpful with the many things (some of them nuts!) I wanted to do.

2) He has been so instrumental in getting my shows off the ground, that I know he can help many others do the same.  And by unleashing his industry knowledge, crackerjack negotiating style, and unflappable positive attitude on shows with other Producers, he can help me with my #5000by2025 mission.

So it is my pleasure to announce that DTE Management has been spun off to create a new Broadway and Off-Broadway General Management Company called Architect Theatrical, run by President Ryan Conway.

And they’re open for business.

I took a chance on Ryan years ago when he walked into my office to interview for the Company Management position on Macbeth.  And that chance has turned into one of the most successful business partnerships and friendships I’ve ever had.

If you have a show you’re looking to get on Broadway, Off-Broadway, on tour, or frankly, you don’t know where it should go yet, I’d give him a chance as well.

Because (like he did with me) I guarantee he’ll help guide you to where you want to go.

You can reach Ryan and the folks at Architect here.

UPDATED: Is THIS a sign of a market correction on Broadway coming?

There have been a lot of closings lately.  Broadway has felt a bit like Barnes & Noble after Amazon took off.

Ok, ok, there are always a lot of closing announcements post-Tonys, but something seems different this year.

And it has me worried.

The signs I’m seeing say that we’ve got a market correction a-comin’ in the next 12-18 months, which could pull our grosses (and attendance) back a bit from the super highs we’ve had.

What has me all a jittery?

Even before the Tonys, three plays announced they’d be bringing down the curtain prematurely:

King Lear
Gary

Hillary and Clinton

Right after The Tonys, another set announced:

The Prom
Be More Chill
King Kong

And then came a couple of surprises:

The Cher Show
Pretty Woman
Frankie and Johnny

Yeah, all those shows.  Enough to make a non-Broadway blogger think something was rotten.

But believe it or not . . . those nine shows are NOT what got me thinking that we’re due for a pullback.

It was three OTHER shows.

You probably can’t name them, but three more shows went gently into that good night recently.

Know which three I’m thinkin’ of?

Go on . . . I’ll wait.

I’ll give you a hint . . . collectively these three shows ran for . . . wait for it . . . 23 years???

And you can’t even get one of ’em, can you?

Ok, ok, no more reality-tv, judge-like-stalling . . . the shows are . . .

Avenue Q
Puffs
Newsical

The reason, of course, you couldn’t name them, is that they were Off-Broadway shows (ok, maybe you got Avenue Q), and Off-Broadway doesn’t get the attention that its big brother Broadway gets.

Why are these three shows’ final curtains significant?  Because they’ve been running for years . . . two of them for about a decade!

If a show closes that has ran for that long, and weathered many a storm (literally and figuratively), something has to be different in the market for them to choose to load out now.

And they all announced prior to the Broadway onslaught above, which is what first triggered me to think there may be some trouble in Broadway city.

Think about it this way . . .

If there is a flood, the people who live at the bottom of the hill (the less well “off” – or Off-Broadway, in this case), get wiped out first.  Then slowly but surely the water rises to those who live on top (the rich – or Broadway, in this case).

Those three Off-Broadway stalwarts goin’ down means trouble for anyone trying to launch or run a show now (which is why we’ve seen 9 shows close this summer).

But that’s not all . . .

I wrote a blog about corrections a few years ago and determined that Broadway “dips” occur every 3.67 years.

And those dips are always timed with three things:

  1. A Presidential Election.
  2. The Summer Olympics.
  3. A Leap Year.

(Read the original post about these three events and how they affect Broadway here.)

Guess what we’ve got in the next 12-18 months?

All three.

And guess how long it has been since the last correction?  You guessed it . . . about 4 years.

So buckle up all . . . it could get a little bumpy this Broadway season.

*****UPDATE AS OF 7/18/19

This subject is not something I like to be right about at all.   But since I posted this blog just a bit ago, two more Broadway musicals that have been around for years have announced their closing as well . . . Waitress which will close on January 5, 2020, and one of the most successful bio-musicals, Beautiful, which will shutter in the middle of October.

So yeah, to quote the title of another musical, something’s afoot.

We’re going to have a little vacuum of available theaters right now.  They’ll go fast, of course.  The theater owners won’t have a problem filling ’em, because Producers will by lining up to sign a lease PDQ.  But I hope they don’t go too quickly . . . because shows that rush their marketing just to get a theater first might be rushed out the door as well.  And that would only create a correction cycle that’s not good for anyone.


Curious how a show gets to Broadway, from the origination of the idea all the way to opening night?  Click here to check out my free Road to Broadway webinar.

Today, we pay respects to the man who gave us Tomorrow, Mr. Martin Charnin.

I loved Annie.

Not just the musical.  I’m talking about Annie herself.

Her name was A***** L*******, and she was the star of our local community theater production of the cartoon-turned-musical.  And she was also my first big crush.

Looking back, my elementary schoolboy Annie attraction wasn’t just because the young lady playing her was super talented and adorable.  I now realize I had fallen in love with the character herself.  How can you not go head-over-heels for an orphan who believes her one dream is “maybe far away or maybe real nearby” and is “never fully dressed without a smile”?  If only we all had that kind of optimism.

The spirit of Annie had a lot to do with the genius of Martin Charnin, the man who not only wrote the lyrics, but also directed the original production (and countless thereafter), secured the original rights, put together the rest of the writing team, and just made the whole effin’ thing happen.

We lost Martin over the weekend, and although I only met him a few times, I wanted to pay tribute to a man who gave us one of the biggest musical successes of the 20th century (Annie is right up there with Cats in terms of recognition) and who had the same never-give-up attitude of the orphan he made so famous.

See, as I was reading his obituary on Playbill, I was reminded that Martin’s first writing credit on Broadway was in 1963 for Hot Spot . . . which ran for 43 performances.  Gulp. Then he wrote Zenda . . . which you’ve also never heard of . . . because the Broadway production was canceled when the show was out of town.

Don’t worry, he went on to do a third show . . . Mata Hari . . . which David Merrick also canceled out of town.  Instead of giving up, he and his composer brought the show to Off-Broadway themselves, under a totally different title.

It wasn’t until 1977 that Annie finally arrived on Broadway . . . 14 years after Martin’s first “failure.”

And I’m sure he’d tell you today that he never would have written “Tomorrow” without all those shows you’ve never heard of that came beforehand . . . and that the only way he wrote it was really, truly believing that the sun WOULD come out tomorrow for Annie . . . and for himself.

The sun has just set on his incredible life and career, although thankfully, his words will echo throughout the halls of theaters for a long time to come.

Martin, I want to say thank you for inspiring me yesterday and continuing to inspire me today . . . as I look to my own tomorrow.


Curious how a show like Annie gets to Broadway, from the origination of the idea all the way to opening night?  Click here to check out my free Road to Broadway webinar.

Theaters Aren’t The Only Place To Do Theatre Anymore

My first experience with “site-specific” theatre was in 1995 with a little musical called J.P. Morgan Saves The Nation, written by a then-unknown composer/lyricist named Jonathan Larson (the NY Times called his score “peppy”).  It took place on the steps of Federal Hall downtown.

But this blog isn’t about site-specific theatre.

While I do think we’re on the verge of seeing plays and musicals pop up in office buildings, bars, shopping malls, and everyplace else in the next few years (thanks to the high cost of actual theaters, not to mention the lack of availability), site-specific theatre is so 1995.

In the past week, a few blips have appeared on my trend-spotting sonar that make me think we’re on the verge of another kind of revolution.  And this one, surprise surprise, has all to do with technology.

First, I can’t help but notice that Netflix has taken a more aggressive approach to capturing theatrical content as of late and not just the big branded Springsteen-like shows.  They shot a movie version of American Son.  They announced a movie version of that Cinderella story of a musical, The Prom.  And now, the Off-Broadway one-woman show, Douglas, will be the latest addition to their growing theatrical portfolio.

Second, (spoiler alert!) but I spend a lot of time on my upcoming podcast with Tony Nominated art-trepreneur Paul Gordon (airs this coming Monday) talking about his StreamingMusicals platform, which is off to a strong start (and got him a licensing deal for a new musical that has never played NYC).  I expect the next generation of theatre-makers is going to see this approach as a way to get their shows into the world at a fraction of the cost that typically comes with putting up an actual production.  (And speaking of streaming, we just got a report on my own production of Daddy Long Legs from my friends at  BroadwayHD, and it’s exceeding expectations in the number of views.  Check it out here.)

Third, I caught a glimpse of an ad on a subway platform the other day for a new digital platform called STAGE, which states, “From classic performances to edgy icons and undiscovered gems, musical theatre and performance is the cornerstone of STAGE.”  What’s interesting about this isn’t the network itself, but the ad . . . which ain’t cheap.  That says to me that STAGE ain’t effin’ around.  They see a big future in the platform and are betting on it.

And fourth (because you know, everything comes in threes, so when there are four things, you definitely have a fourk-ing trend), and perhaps most interesting of all . . . a new podcast musical was released this week, called Next Thing You Know by Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, starring Patti Murin, Colin Hanlon, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Lauren Blackman.  This on the heels of the high profile John Cameron Mitchell podcast musical “Anthem: Homunculus,” starring Patti Lupone to name a few (because she counts as a few).  Instead of readings and workshops, these creators have turned to tech to get attention for their new works.  (I wonder if critics will start reviewing them?)

All of this makes me think . . . are streaming and podcast recordings the new “concept recording,” made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber with Jesus Christ Superstar? We all know how that worked out.  Answer?  Yes, yes they are.

And all of this points to one thing:  an uprising is underfoot.

The modern-day creators, who are part of the DIY generation, who grew up able to create and distribute their films and music without gatekeepers, are now finding ways to distribute theatre in the same way.

And we’re just at the beginning of it.

If you’re a theatre-maker, you should start to imagine other ways to get your shows the attention they deserve.

Because over the next ten years, the traditional walls of Broadway and Off-Broadway are going to come crumbling down as the next generation of creators continue to think outside of the . . . box theater.

– – – – –

Do check out Daddy Long Legs on BroadwayHD, and then guess how much it cost me to shoot something that high of a quality.  And then imagine how you can do it for your show . . .

GUEST BLOG: To Stream or Not to Stream (or When to Stream) by Van Dean

The question of if and when to stream is something we strategize for each and every release. It’s certainly not an exact science, and reasonable people in our business disagree on this important decision.  The issue at hand is that the average Broadway cast album costs between $300,000 and $500,000 to produce.  Spotify pays between $0.001 and $0.007 per stream.  So an average Broadway cast album receiving average revenue from Spotify would have to receive 100 million streams to cover its production costs.  That doesn’t including paying for distribution, the songwriters royalties, the show royalties or anything beyond just the creation of the album.  Given that there are approximately 320 million people in the United States, your cast album has to be extremely popular to recoup it’s production costs from streaming alone.  Of course, repeated listens and international fans help rack up the streaming numbers. The Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen‘s of the world can do it, but not many others.

This is why when using the current music business models, CD and digital download sales are still so important for cast recordings.  Luckily, they still represent the lion’s share of our sales.  Broadway is a unique niche within the music business in that a Broadway cast recording is still considered an important collectible or keepsake of the musical experience.  We always make sure that our cast recording packages are chock full of photos, lyrics, essays and more to help enhance the fan experience. For those fortunate enough to see their favorite Broadway or Off-Broadway musical, the cast album is a cherished remembrance.  For those who live further from New York City, the cast recording is their way of discovering all of the amazing shows that are difficult for them to see in person. At any one time, there are around two dozen musicals running on Broadway.  Of course, there are thousands of musicals in the theatrical canon that can also be discovered and embraced through their cast recording, as well as through Off-Broadway, regional and licensed productions.

Whenever we work with a Broadway show, an Off-Broadway show, or a solo artist, we have the streaming conversation.  Most often, with Broadway shows, we wait a minimum of 6 months to a year (and sometimes longer) to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, etc.  This is to allow the recording time to reach its audience amongst CD and digital download buyers. The aforementioned high expense of Broadway cast recordings frequently necessitates this approach.  However, if the marketing and wide exposure of the show’s score are deemed more valuable for a particular production than the financial considerations, then early streaming may make more sense. Part of this decision depends on who financed the recording.  If the show financed the album via its marketing budget, it is much easier to justify prioritizing the marketing needs of the show.  If the album was financed by direct investors expecting to make their money back, then the financial considerations must be given more weight.  Without investors supporting the cast recordings, these important preservations of a show’s score and performances will become less and less common.

Off-Broadway recordings and solo artist recordings are far less expensive, so the pressure on streaming to deliver financially is less.  Streaming is excellent for getting more ears on an artists’ work, so early streaming is very attractive if the artists’ primary goal is wide exposure.  However, since many solo artists finance their own albums, we have this streaming conversation with each of them so that they can make the decision regarding the balance between exposure and financial return.

The next phase in cast albums will require innovative use of social media and streaming, collaboration with the unions to make the finances more efficient, and collaboration with creators and show producers to evolve with the changes in the industry and technology. Continued love and attention to quality and detail will be essential in the preservation of the art form that we have made our life’s passion.  The ability for future generations of theater lovers to discover new musicals, as well as rediscover the classics, depends on our industry’s ability to keep the cast album business strong for the foreseeable future.


Van Dean is President and Co-Founder of Broadway Records. He is also a Tony Award-winning Broadway Producer of 12 musicals and plays and is a Grammy Award-winning producer of The Color Purple (New Broadway Cast Recording).  Broadway Records has released 150+ albums including the Grammy-nominated Matilda, Once On This IslandMy Fair Lady and Fiddler on the Roof as well as AnastasiaGroundhog DayBandstand and also created the popular “Live at Feinstein’s/54 Below” album series and the Tony Award Season series. Van’s philanthropic work includes being a producer of “Broadway For Orlando: What The World Needs Now is Love”, “Broadway Kids Against Bullying: I Have a Voice”, “From Broadway With Love” benefit concerts for Sandy Hook, Orlando (Emmy Award winner for sound design) and Parkland and his work with NewArts in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT. www.BroadwayRecords.com

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