My 5 Friday Finds: Just Chillin’

Hello Producer’s Perspective Readers, and welcome to a brand new column here at TPP.

Starting today, and each and every Friday going forward, I’ll post a bullet-pointed blog with 5 Things I Found That Week that I think you’ll find fascinating or could help you in some way.

They could be anything . . . a show that caught my eye, a marketing trend, a book that I’m loving, a songwriter that I can’t stop listening to, a life hack . . . who knows!

But there will be five of them. They will be every Friday. And I think you’ll find they are worth a click or a ponder.

So without further ado, here are this week’s (and the first) Friday Finds:

  1.  Be More Chill Heads to Broadway: Everyone in this biz knew that Joe Iconis would have a Broadway show someday, but no one expected it to be this one. What makes this show a find is that it is the first Broadway show to get a Broadway run solely on the backs of social media.

The people wanted this show. And they got it.

Wait, wait. Did you hear that sound? It’s a revolution beginning.

Read about it here. Visit the Be More Chill website here. See some of the social that got it all started here.

  1. A Book About General Managers by a General Manager: I wrote a blog in 2014 answering the question “What Does A General Manager Do?”  Well, GM Peter Bogyo one-upped me and wrote a whole book about it.

He was nice enough to send me a copy, and I’m enjoying it. Check it out here.

  1. I Cut My Ties To Cable Last Week: I’m an early adopter. So when I make a move in my life, I know that others are doing the same. And last week, I got rid of my Verizon cable and went straight to Hulu. Anyone else?

Why is this a find? Because during the first hour of watching, I immediately noticed how the commercials were so much more hyper-targeted to me (and when signed in under her profile, the ads were hyper-targeted to my wife) than standard cable.

This is “programmatic” television advertising, and our business (which is always a bit behind other industries) has just started to get behind this trend.

Expect a lot more of it in the future, and if you’ve got a show, push for it yourself. (There’s a reason this stock has been killin’ it.)

  1. Al Roker Will Appear in Waitress: No one casts better than Barry and Fran Weissler. I worked on their 90s revival of Grease, which they kept running well beyond its expiration date with celebrities from all different worlds (from Olympic Gymnast Dominique Dawes to Xena\, The Warrior Princess).

And obviously, the casting of Chicago speaks for itself.

This week, they landed everyone’s favorite weatherman Al Roker for their surprise hit, Waitress.

This find reminded me that stars can be found in all different forms of entertainment mediums, and the unlikely of stars can get you the most press.

Read the announcement here.

  1. The Easiest Thing I’ve Ever Done To Save Money: I promised you life hacks. Here’s one:

You shop on Amazon?

Duh. We all do.

Since the birth of my little one, it feels like at least one box with that Amazon swoosh arrives on my doorstep every day.

While I normally don’t do this sort of thing, I signed up for the Amazon Store Card and get 5% off every purchase. And since I purchase everything on Amazon, it adds up to a nice chunk of change every month.

If you shop there, it’s worth the 5 minutes to sign up. They just give you back money that you can use on your next show. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed our first Friday Finds! See you next week, and if you’ve got a find of your own, send it to me and you may just see it here.

Be careful of how much you ask your audience to do.

Over ten years ago, my productions of The Awesome 80s Prom and Altar Boyz were two of the first shows to send an email to their audience after they saw the show: to thank them for coming, and to ask them to come back, spread the word, etc. (see the now so outdated NY Times article about it here.)

I experimented with a whole bunch of different types of marketing “asks” in those emails and in the emails we started sending to customers before they came to the show as well.

And while engagement rates with these emails were always high, I noticed something pretty quickly when I asked them to do too many things.

I was reminded of this the other day when I got a marketing email from a show that wanted me to buy tickets . . . and download a CD . . . and watch a video . . . . like the show on Facebook . . . and write a review…

What did I do?

None of them.

What I learned way back then (and honestly what I have to remind myself every time I design an email to an audience mine) is that your audience gets distracted very easily, and even more so today than ten years ago.

If you offer your readers too many choices, not only may they not do the thing that is most important to you (in this case, buy tickets), but they may just not do anything at all.

The moment I started putting one . . . just one . . . call to action in my emails, surprise, surprise, I started getting better results.

So rather than try to push three things one time in an email, I started pushing one thing THREE times.

Boom.

I know, I know . . . as Producers, Writers, Entrepreneurs, we have so many things we want to tell our audience. We’re like kids at the zoo! Look at this, Ma! And this too! Did you see this?

But guess what . . . your audience doesn’t care about it like you do.

You’ve got a much better shot at trying to get them to care about one thing . . . just one.

(And if you think this is just my opinion, then read about the famous “Jam Study” here.)

So the next time you’re designing an email or any type of communication to your audience, follow this checklist:

  1. What is the ONE thing that you want your audience to do?
  2. Push that ONE thing at least three times.

And if you’ve got something else you want to get them to engage with?

Do that one thing next time.

GUEST BLOG: For the Love of Theatre by Alexander Libby

At the age of seventeen I started a theatre company and called it “For the Love of Theatre.” I converted an old carriage house that my father had built into a theater venue, and even cut trap doors in the floor through which stairs would rise to give the illusion of a two-story set. My friends and I cranked a manual genie lift in hundreds (perhaps thousands) of rotations every time the stairs needed to go up or down. It was exhausting…and a blast!

But we still needed a cast, and so everywhere I went I solicited actors. At the grocery store, the mall, the movie theater, I approached total strangers and asked, “Have you ever acted?” Regardless of their answer, I beamed. “You would be PERFECT for a role in my new show!” That’s how my cast was assembled.

Prior to opening night, I contacted the state of Maine’s local newspaper and suggested that if they had a slow news day, perhaps they’d be interested in a 17-year-old kid who’d started a theatre company. Luckily for me, news slowed long enough for the paper to feature my story on the front page of the Arts section. Thanks to that coverage, both weekends of performances sold out. Each night, people from the community lined up around the ‘block’ and crowded into our converted 99-seat theater. Carriage House was a hit.

At the time I didn’t know that one of the actors in the show — a woman I’d found in a dress shop downtown, who had never acted before — happened to work with Maine State Music Theater, a very well known professional summer stock theatre 20 minutes away from my house. That is how I started working in theatre professionally.

The funny thing is, I didn’t whip up The Carriage House Theater because I thought it would be my ticket to working on Broadway. I just wanted to put on a show. In hindsight, I’m not sure that I would have become a Broadway Stage Manager or ultimately started my tech company ProductionPro without The Carriage House Theatre in Freeport, Maine.

At the heart of every invention — in music, in mechanics, in filmmaking — lies an idea. A big one. Turning an idea into a palpable thing and connecting with an audience generally comes with deliberate, painstaking attention to one question:

“Why?”

Why this story, in this form, at this time?

Over the past 30 years, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of creating stories for the stage and screen. The consistent answer to my “Why?” is and has always been: “Because I want to make and help people make shows of all kinds.” To that end, in my newest venture, I’ve joined the startup tech scene. Never in my wildest dreams did I set out to run a tech company, but opportunity knocked. When I realized I had an idea that would enable Show People to see and share the most up-to-date version of their films, plays, television shows, and live events, at any given moment throughout development, I knew in my gut that I had to follow through.

So if you have a big idea and your answer to the question, “Why?” is, “Because I need to, because, as poet Pablo Neruda writes, ‘I know no other way’, then listen to your gut.” The intention is there. Now’s the time to make something of it.
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Alexander is Founder and CEO of ProductionPro, a Digital Production Notebook for directors, choreographers, designers and their teams.  It automatically pulls together all the scripts, designs, reference videos, and charts into one very simple place that enables cast and crew replacements, and remounting of the production. Learn More about Alexander Libby

Broadway Grosses w/e 9/2/2018: Summer Sets Sail

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending September 2, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

Why we’re closing Gettin’ The Band Back Together on 9/16.

The hardest thing a Producer has to do is decide when to close a show.

And I had to make this decision over the last 24 hours.

So I did. And Gettin’ The Band Back Together will play its final performance on September 16th.

Why is it so difficult to close a show? Or close any business?

It’s not just the money (although that’s a major part of it, for sure), but when a team of the most creative people you know spends years of their lives working toward a common goal, and it doesn’t turn out the way you all dreamed . . . it’s heart-crushing.

See, in the theater, the creators, the actors, the designers, the stagehands, we all dream that every single new show could be “the one.” The one that keeps you employed, gives you security, allows you the flexibility to do other things, and so on. You show up to that ‘meet and greet’ on the first day of rehearsal, bursting with the hope that this will be the one you’ve been waiting for and working for.

It’s like dating when you’re looking to get married.  No matter how practical and realistic you are, everyone goes on a first date wondering, “Could this be the one?”

And, honestly, what’s frustrating about this “one” is how much the audiences who are seeing the show love the show. And no, no, this isn’t just a biased Producer talking. This is a guy who does statistical analysis. We did a survey of our actual Telecharge ticket buyers and got a 98.2% positive rating, and an exceptionally high “Net Promoter Score.” (How likely they are to tell their friends and family to get tickets.)

But, for a whole bunch of other reasons, (many of which we can’t control, from seasonality to critics and so on) we can’t get the sales traction we need as fast as we need it.  That’s also a statistical fact.

Now, here’s where my decision and any Producer’s decision gets difficult.

And while it’s hard for me to talk about these things in an open forum like my blog, I didn’t start this blog to only talk about the good things that happen when you produce shows. I started this blog to talk about all the things that happen when you produce shows . . . including when shows don’t live up to your own expectations.

So, the tricky thing is . . . I could decide to try and push on with Gettin’ The Band Back Together. I could continue to grind away at more marketing initiatives, and get more celebs to play cowbell, and create more video content . . . and more specifically, I could do what other shows might do right now and go out and try to raise more money to keep us open longer than our reserves would allow.

And honestly, nothing would make me happier than to keep the show going, keep people employed, watch it build, and make a whole lot more people laugh.

But, based on that statistical analysis I’ve done of our sales trends, and based on the conversations I’ve had with industry experts and my mentors, as well as my esteemed team of co-producers, I’ve come to the conclusion that additional monies might keep us going, but would not get us to profitability quickly enough. (Broadway’s biggest challenge is that our high expenses shorten the runway for word-of-mouth to take hold.) We’re like a plane trying to take off, and while we’re gaining some altitude, we’re just not doing it fast enough.

So, I had to check my emotion at the door and analyze this like any CEO would. At the end of the day, this is a business, and I must uphold my fiduciary responsibility to my investors and close earlier than I would like . . . on September 16th (the end of the Broadway Week promotion).

By doing so, I will be able to return any available monies left in our reserve (I raised a big reserve because I always knew this would be a tough plane to get in the air.  Honestly?  I never expected to get rave reviews with this type of show (even though we got good ones out of town), I just didn’t expect so many of them to be so . . . well . . . mean.)

And, by not asking my investors for more money, they will be in first position to recover funds through the disposition of the stock and amateur rights (which we expect to be strong). When you get a loan, the loan gets paid back first, and in this case that might not happen, which I had to take into account.

It aches to close a show. Especially one that you’ve built from nothing. Especially one that has so many wonderful people working on it who have become some of my closest friends.

But in business, when the data is on the wall, sometimes there is nothing else you can do.

Actually, there is one more thing I can do.

Start over. Do another one.

And you can bet that I will.

Gettin’ The Band Back Together will play its final performance on Broadway on September 16th at 7:30 PM.

Do me a favor . . . go. The company and I will return the favor by giving you a great @#$%ing time.

You can even get 2-for-1 Tickets through Broadway Week.  Click here and come see what all this is about.

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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