They locked my phone up. Twice! And I loved it.

If you follow me on Facebook, then you know last week I was a lucky attendee at the musical improv Freestyle Love Supremethe brainchild of upcoming Podcast guest, Anthony “Two-Touch” Veneziale, and his cohorts, including a real underachiever named Lin-Manuel Miranda.

As I posted, the show is one of the most uniquely authentic and exciting evenings I’ve had in a Broadway house in a long while.  Sure, it was like watching the Olympics of rap.  And sure it was funny because good improv always is.  But I never expected it to be so moving.

But this ain’t about the show.

This is about what the show forced me and the 900 other people that night to do before the show.

They made us shut off our phones and drop it in a little yellow pouch, provided by a company called Yondr, which was then locked down better than the cell phone transcripts between the US and Ukraine (heyo!).

So for the next 90 minutes.  I was phoneless.

Now, I’m not a during-a-show texter-or-checker anyway, but boy oh boy was this an odd feeling.

And once I got over the anxiety and uncomfortable feeling (partly because of the size of that pouch sticking out of my pocket) . . . I loved it.  Just loved it.

I was able to be more present than I have been at a show in a long time.  And you know what?  That made me enjoy it more.

So maybe this Yondr thing is a . . . thing.

I know, heresy coming from me . . . the guy who created “Tweet Seats” for my production of Godspell (and got some great press about it, including Rock Center).

But screens are even more abundant now than they ever were before.  And we’re addicted to them more.  And they distract us more, never mind the artists who are busting their brains and bodies to entertain us.

So maybe it is time for us to be forced to lock up our devices and free up our minds?

But what about the marketing opportunities?  What about the kids who have never known life without a cell phone?

These issues must be addressed because most shows need the marketing engines that are those things in our pockets sans pouches.  And the theater itself needs kids coming now so that we’ll have adults coming in the future.

That’s why I’ve always suggested allowing phones for specific moments . . . pre-show, curtain call (!) or special shareable moments before or after the experience.

But surely there’s a way to do both.

Locking our devices up won’t work for every show, because anything we force our customers to do adds to the friction of them making a purchase.  And most shows want to reduce that friction, not create more.

But it’s an option . . . and an option that I look forward to seeing spread throughout our community, because yeah.  I loved FSL, but I loved it more because I knew for 90 minutes, it was just me and those artists and my friends in the audience . . . and not my friends on Facebook.

UPDATE:  And then my phone was locked up a 2nd time!  Because guess who was on Jury Duty this week in Federal Court?  This guy.  And guess what they also did?  Locked up our phones!  And guess who had several hours of focus time . . . and reading time . . . and brainstorming time.  And guess who wrote on an actual pad of paper with a pen instead of on a screen?

And guess who had the most productive 3 hours he has had in a long time (before he was called for a voir dire)?

This guy.

So maybe we should have Yondr for artrepreneurs too.  Or maybe we should learn how to police ourselves to shove our phones in a drawer and turn off our email notifications on our computers and get to effin’ work.

Maybe. 🙂

– – – – –

Our conference is in just five weeks.  If you miss out . . . well, you’ll never know what could have happened with that idea, with that show, or with your passion . . . but I tell you this . . . come, and you’ll get education and motivation to go after it and now.  Click here.

 

Broadway Grosses w/e 10/6/2019: Gray skies are gonna clear up

There was barely a change in grosses last week as the fall season chugged along. With no new shows on the boards, overall grosses ticked up by just 1% to $30,098,714. American Utopia had a strong start with three previews grossing $395,604 at the Hudson Theatre. An average ticket of $142 put it right behind The Lion King as the sixth-highest.

You can find the rest of the figures below, courtesy of The Broadway League:

Show Name GrossGross  TotalAttn  %Capacity AvgPdAdm
AIN’T TOO PROUD $1,498,490.80         10,926 95.91% $137.15
ALADDIN $1,203,519.40           13,314 96.37% $90.40
AMERICAN UTOPIA $395,604.00             2,788 98.97% $141.90
BEAUTIFUL $905,609.60             8,064 98.25% $112.30
BEETLEJUICE $925,658.32           10,361 86.75% $89.34
BETRAYAL $688,901.25             6,116 73.79% $112.64
CHICAGO $620,207.40             7,253 83.95% $85.51
COME FROM AWAY $945,635.80             8,445 100.92% $111.98
DEAR EVAN HANSEN $991,113.59             7,686 97.64% $128.95
DERREN BROWN: SECRET $303,287.50             4,978 69.99% $60.93
FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME $637,560.95             6,016 98.30% $105.98
FROZEN $967,974.10           11,934 88.58% $81.11
HADESTOWN $1,363,952.00             7,410 100.90% $184.07
HAMILTON $2,992,845.00           10,752 101.51% $278.35
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, PARTS ONE AND TWO $1,001,338.50           12,976 100.00% $77.17
LINDA VISTA $166,400.06             3,727 79.64% $44.65
MEAN GIRLS $761,531.40             8,606 87.82% $88.49
MOULIN ROUGE! $2,176,909.50           10,494 100.75% $207.44
OKLAHOMA! $411,667.96             4,333 83.20% $95.01
SLAVE PLAY $352,872.50             5,991 94.44% $58.90
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,025,261.25             8,204 97.95% $124.97
THE GREAT SOCIETY $382,784.50             5,675 66.92% $67.45
THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM $326,052.00             3,838 74.61% $84.95
THE INHERITANCE $271,487.64             4,059 76.73% $66.89
THE LIGHTNING THIEF $219,484.00             4,103 47.80% $53.49
THE LION KING $1,949,218.00           13,296 98.00% $146.60
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $926,380.80           10,488 81.68% $88.33
THE ROSE TATTOO $428,035.70             5,219 90.48% $82.01
THE SOUND INSIDE $412,475.00             5,337 66.85% $77.29
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD $2,130,636.00           11,655 101.52% $182.81
TOOTSIE $796,591.00             8,875 69.25% $89.76
WAITRESS $611,357.90             6,823 81.61% $89.60
WICKED $1,307,871.00           12,051 83.36% $108.53
TOTALS $30,098,714.42              261,793 87.10% $107.73
+/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON -3,282,396.50      
PERCENTAGE +/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON -9.83%

Today’s blog was guest-written by Ryan Conway, General Manager for DTE Management. Find out more here!

What “Google Glass” has to do with the launch of your show.

Do you remember Google Glass?

It’s ok if you don’t.  Glass didn’t last long, even though Google itself thought it was going to be the next iPhone and would revolutionize how people “see” the world.

Glass was a wearable Star Trek looking device that gave you a camera and some simple google apps (maps, etc.) right in your eyesight.  It responded to voice commands and a simple tap, and there were rumors that it wouldn’t be too long until you’d be able to walk down the street with your Glass on, and it would facially recognize people as they passed.

And it flopped.  Big time.

I had one.  Two actually, being the early adopter that I am (after I did this, a lot of tech companies put me on their list to get stuff first).

And when I picked mine up at the Glass headquarters (seriously) and put it on for the first time, I remember asking my sales rep (who was more like a brainwashed Google rep), “Do you really think people are going to wear this down the street?”  “Oh yes,” he replied, sounding somewhat like a robot, “The Glass revolution is already underway. And it’s here to stay.”

Those Glass headquarters are now a Tesla dealership, I think.

What blows my mind as I look back at the launch and crash of Glass is two things:

  1. Google, one of the smartest, forward-thinking, revolutionizing companies, got it really, really, wrong.

  2. Google, one of the biggest brands in the world, with the ability to put a marketing message in front of millions and millions of people, couldn’t make a success out of a product that people didn’t want.

I got pitched a show recently, with an admittedly A-list creative team, and big brand as the underlying source material.  And the Producer actually said the words, “This can’t miss!”

While I admired the confidence, I passed because of the arrogance.

Because If Google can miss?  Anyone can miss. And to think that your pedigree and built-in-marketing-machine is enough is one of the biggest mistakes any Producer can make.

A brand and a team yes, even a star, can help mitigate your risk, but it can’t eliminate it.  And the most important ingredient in your show is your story.

And the irony is, if you find a story that captivates your audience, they won’t even care about the brand or who put it together.

———

Are you committed to advancing your career? Are you interested in expanding your network? Do you consider yourself a “do-er”?

If you answered yes to any one of these questions, then join me and the best in the business at The Producer’s Perspective Super Conference for a weekend of learning and networking on November 16th and 17th in NYC! Check out the full speaker and panelists list here! I hope to see you there . . . Be sure to say hi when you see me 🙂

Broadway Grosses w/e 9/29/2019: Leaves are falling, but sales are not!

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending September 29, 2019.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

Three reasons why NOT to start that show, project, or business.

I’m either the best person to write this blog . . . or the worst.

Because, look, I have a lot of ideas . . . and I like to launch. 🙂

And while that has paid off for me more often than not, it also got me in trouble earlier in my career, stretching me too thin and not giving me enough time to focus on the more important projects.  You know, the ones that could have the biggest impact on my professional and personal life.

See, time is the most valuable of all commodities (not money!), so I have to constantly remind myself that no matter how cool I think an idea is, sometimes it is best to NOT pursue it, regardless of whatever exists in your damn DNA that makes you want to get every single ideal out there in the world.

I have been working on this a bunch, especially since I’ve bumped into quotes like these while looking for content for my  #mymorningwhiteboardquote series for my insta:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffet

“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes.” – Tony Blair

“Focusing is about saying no.” – Steve Jobs

Ooohhh, but it’s so hard, isn’t it?

That’s why I’ve come up with this list of 3 reasons why you should NOT start a new show , script, or any kind of business, even if the idea may be a good one! (I’d suggest you keep this one by your desk.)

1. It’s going to take up more of your time than you think.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve signed up to produce a show or write a script and thought, “I’ve done this before. How hard can it be?.”  Once I even opened two shows a night apart from one another, thinking, “It’s just producing a show.”  Ha!  What an idiotic statement that was.Every project is different.  And every single one has its own unique challenges that require you to exercise some muscle you probably didn’t even know you had!  So be ready to work just as hard on your 100th show as you did on your first, and for it to take a lot more time than you think.  (Oh, and don’t be seduced into thinking a smaller show or project is easier to create – I find the smaller ones take even more time – but often can’t produce the same rewards as a bigger one.)

2. It’s going to need you to pay a LOT of attention to it after it gets on its feet.

A project’s launch is just the beginning.  In fact, let’s compare it to an actual launch . . . of a rocket!

For months or years before a rocket’s launch, a tremendous amount of time and effort is spent designing that rocket.  But right after the NASA folks hit that launch button, the real energy is spent getting that rocket in the air.  Those engines have to roooooooar!

Getting to opening night is not where the bulk of the work is done for a show or any business, even though it may seem that way.  The real work is done after the doors open for consumers.  That’s when you have to make sure your audience is satisfied, both creatively and from a customer service perspective.  And of course, it’s where you have to market your butt off.

I don’t care HOW big your brand is.  Nothing is going to sell itself.  Expect to have to put on your salesman hat and bark like you work at a carnival game if you want your show to be a success.  And that’s gonna take time.

3. You think it’s going to make a bazillion dollars.

This is the easiest reason of all to NOT start a new idea.

If your #1 motivation is making money, do us all a favor, but especially yourself, and stop.  Because it’s just not going to work.  Shows are about audiences.  Businesses are about customers.  Making money is about you.  And that is inherently the opposite approach to how to build a successful business.  It’s too selfish.  And it won’t work.

Every time I’ve pursued an idea solely because I thought it was a moneymaker, it has not made money.  You shouldn’t build a thing unless you believe that thing will make someone else’s life better somehow.  Now, that does not mean you should avoid thinking about your potential customer base, or the commercial viability of what you are putting out into the world . . . it just can’t be the only reason you’re doing something.  Because it’ll fail.  So put it down and focus on something you love and you know other people will love instead.  The irony is, that’s when the money will pour in . . . when you’re not thinking about it.

If you’re reading this blog, then you probably have ideas . . . ideas for shows, screenplays, or even restaurants, apps or how to fix healthcare.  Some of them you should buckle down and do . . . now.  Many even many.  But others, you should kill.  If only just so you can focus on the other ideas and make them even better.

Life is short.  You do NOT have to time to do everything.  And if you want the type of success I know you do, you’re going to have to say no . . . not only to other people . . . but more importantly to yourself, and that great big idea-generating brain of yours.

– – – – –

If you like the quotes above, do follow me on Instagram.  I put a quote on my whiteboard every day, which is right in front of my desk, so I stare at it all day long.   I do it to keep me on track.  And I post it on Instagram to help keep you on yours as well.  Follow me here.

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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