Why The Grease Sing-along Instead Of The Tony Awards.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of chatter about what CBS might air on Tony Sunday instead of the actual, aborted, Tonys.

I heard about Best Ofs, Tributes, and a whole host of other ideas (including some with some pretty big celebrity hosts).

And at the end of the play, CBS chose Grease.

Ok, ok, I’m not giving them full credit.

They chose a Grease sing-along.

A wop baba loo bop a wop BS.

This was a hard one for us Broadway avids to take.   The Tonys is our Super Bowl, our Masters, our Christmas, and Hannukah rolled into one for some!

And now that night will consist of four chords and three jokes.

Now listen – I actually love me some Grease.  Those four chords and three jokes are some of the most brilliant around when you calculate how many people this show/movie/classic has kept smiling over the past 50+ years (not to mention how much money it has made).

So, I apologize for knocking it.  It’s just I love the Tonys that much.

What happened to all those other ideas?  The Best Ofs and so on?

What happened is what usually happened . . . someone added up the cost of a revised “Tonys” (as well as the time and logistics involved in making it) and compared it to the cost of showing Grease.  Guess what won?

See, it’s not so easy to just pull old Tony Awards footage out of a vault and show it . . . like you can pull an old movie out of a vault and show it.  The Tony Awards telecasts weren’t set up for replays.  And it’s just too expensive to do it.  So our sister-in-show-biz, the movie industry, has a leg up on us here.

But hopefully, this will teach us that we need a mechanism in place for situations like this (as I wrote about here), and our lack of flexibility with what we can do with our content is causing us to lose the battle.

We’ll win the war.  Because nothing replaces live.

And in the meantime, on Sunday, June 7th, I’ll just watch Netflix instead.

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If you want something to stream, check out Daddy Long Legs on BroadwayHD.  You can get it for free for 30 days now with the code DLLBHD.

 

 

THIS WEEK ON THE LIVESTREAM: Mara Isaacs, Daddy Long Legs Reunion, Michael Greif, and more!

This week, we’re celebrating the big 5-0. 50 episodes since the shutdown. Are you caught up?

If you missed any, here are a few replays from last week to catch up on!

  • Santino Fontana shared his infamous “baby blowouts” stories and his best Andrew Cuomo impersonation.
  • James Snyder unpacked his first professional role . . . as Luke Skywalker in Stars Wars the Musical.
  • Dominique Morisseau announced she submitted her script for the upcoming SoulTrain musical.
  • Lorin Latarro disclosed her exciting plans for June . . . including Broadway choreographers and ensemblists dancing on the streets of Broadway.
  • Stephanie Klemons talked about how being a double major in Genetics & Microbio Research and Modern Dance helped her on her journey of being the Supervising Choreographer for Hamilton: An American Musical.

You can see all of the episodes here.

AND HERE IS WHO IS ON THE LIVE STREAM THIS WEEK:

Monday, May 18th – Mara Isaacs (Producer – Hadestown)

Tuesday, May 19th – Jamil Jude (Artistic Director & Director, True Colors Theatre – Paradise Blue) and Special Guest Mary Neely

Wednesday, May 20th – Michael Greif (Director – Dear Evan Hansen, Next To Normal, RENT)

Thursday, May 21st – Daddy Long Legs Reunion 

Friday, May 22nd – Des McAnuff (Director – Ain’t Too Proud, Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy)

 

We are going LIVE every night at 8pm EDT (7pm CDT/ 6pm MDT/ 5pm PDT). Follow me on Facebook to get notified as soon as we hit the “GO LIVE” button.

Don’t have Facebook? You can also watch the livestream on Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube channel.

To see who’s coming up next, visit www.TheProducersPerspective.com/LIVE.

[Rant Alert] We’d be better off right now if we had only done this.

WARNING:  What follows is somewhat of a rant.

But please know this rant is directed at me too.  For I believe the things that we don’t get in our lives are no one’s fault but our own.  Blame the person in the mirror.  Because that is the only person you can control.

So here’s the thing . . .

Right now there are thousands of Actors, Stagehands, Writers, Designers, and all disciplines of TheaterMakers out of work.  They’ve got no money coming in.  Zero.

And with yesterday’s announcement that Broadway is out for another . . . well . . .  several months at the very least . . . things are going to get tough for a lot of those artists and fast.  My biggest fear is that many will have to give up on their careers in the theater.  It’s already hard enough to get a job . . . but what if there are fewer jobs?

I’ve got the same worry about our TheaterGoers too . . . just in a different way.  As I wrote last week (in what has become one of my most read posts EVER), the theatergoing “habit” for our audience has been broken . . . so we run the risk of our audience retiring as well.

Scary times, right?

But it could have been less scary.

See, the challenge for the economic model on Broadway is that its revenue streams are limited.  We’re all about getting butts in seats and the best price.  And that’s just about it.  And shoot, even when we can get audiences to show up, there are few ancillary forms of revenue (we don’t get any of that bar revenue, or ticketing fees, etc.).

The most successful businesses have multiple streams of income . . . not only does this generate higher profits when things are good, but when there is a crisis, you’re not solely reliant on one source of revenue.

Like we are now.

Ok, here comes the rant part.

One of the biggest, ‘virtually’ untapped resource for an additional revenue stream for Actors, Designers, Investors, Stagehands, and everyone who works on a show . . . is, well, a literal revenue stream.

Streaming.

This is a big “duh,” now . . . since there are bazillion Broadway streaming events going on every single night during the crisis.  We’ve got livestreams like mine, virtual Mother’s Day concerts, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows, and so many more a whole website was created to curate them!

But no one is paying their rent or their groceries because of ’em.

When Broadway was shut down I got about 147 emails from folks saying, “Ken!  What can we do to stream Broadway shows?!?!?”

That’s when I knew we @#$%ed up.  And big time.

This is when I really point this rant at myself.  Because I should have known that streaming wasn’t only important to our industry, but that one day it would become necessary.

See, I livestreamed Daddy Long Legs, back in 2015 and got over 150k people from 135 countries to tune in . . . with zero marketing . . . and NOT during a pandemic.  (You can see it now, here, by the way.)

But streaming that show was expensive and contractually cumbersome.  And every time I investigated doing the same things on other shows . . . especially big Broadway shows . . . the numbers just didn’t add up.  Producers were forced to spend way too much money upfront to have a realistic shot at recouping that cash.

And it’s hard for a show that’s struggling to build a NY audience to invest additional money in something that could be years away.  (It’s easy for Hamilton to do . . . . which obviously paid off.)

So I stopped pushing a new video-capture model for running shows.  And other folks in the biz stopped pushing it as well.  There were a few shows that popped up on a screen here or there, and there is, of course, BroadwayHD.  (But if you’ll notice – the majority of their titles are NOT Broadway titles – but London titles – where the rules and economics make more sense, or Off-Broadway, non-profits, or “others.”)

And the fact is . . . if I had pushed harder for a new model . . . had we all pushed harder . . . there could be dollars being earned by EVERYONE involved with Broadway shows over the past decade RIGHT NOW.

Shame on us.

See, you can’t wait for a crisis to come to have an epiphany.  You don’t start eating better when you have a heart attack.  You do it years before.

Instead, we just never thought we’d need this content.

So we didn’t do anything serious about it.

Bad on us.

Maybe we can now.

And it’s easy.

See, the problem with the model right now is that we pay an extraordinary amount of money to capture a production on video. . . even though filming that production may not require any additional work from everyone involved (they just do their usual show), and even though that content may never be monetized.  We’re paying a ton of money for an option to monetize it . . . and that monetization model is also extraordinarily high risk.

Why not allow all shows to be shot, and archived, for a minimum amount of money (if any), and then have the payments made if/when the shows are released.

Imagine what we could be giving to our TheaterGoers and our Artists right now.  (Hamilton is about to keep their buzz going big time when they release their movie on Disney+ in July.)

I call this the “Save The Stream For A Rainy Day” concept.

If the capture is used, the Producer pays.  If not, the Producer doesn’t.

And then . . . to fix the monetization of the content model, why not cut all the artists involved in a much bigger portion of profits rather than getting a flat payment, which would allow the unions and Authors to get “Bonanza Insurance” in case something really blows up online.  (Or give the Producer a choice – pay a high upfront fee on release or a bigger royalty cut.)

There is a way to figure it out and provide for another revenue stream that everyone in our industry desperately needed before all this happened.

And now?  Scheez.  I’m literally kicking myself.  K-I-C-K-I-N-G M-Y-S-E-L-F!

Ok, rant over . . . no more talking about what happened.

Now we just need to make something new happen.

– – – – –

You can see Daddy Long Legs for free here now, AND get this . . . I’m reuniting that cast on my livestream at 8 PM on May 21st!  Click here for more.

 

THIS WEEK ON THE LIVESTREAM: Santino Fontana, Dominique Morisseau, Lorin Latarro, and more!

We had a week of big laughs on last week’s Livestream, and not just because I can’t seem to get through an episode without screwing something up.  🙂

If you missed any, here are a few replays from last week to catch up on!

  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez, the songwriting duo shared a cut song from Disney’s Frozen 2 especially for us!
  • Jordan Fisher taught me about the world of Twitch, and now I’m hooked and wondering how start Twitchin’ for the theater.
  • Rob McClure shared the inspiration for his Conductor Cam series on Instagram (which is a must-see)
  • Julie Halston described how important it was to wake up each morning and glam up!
  • Ashley Park and I reminisced about our Tony Nominee luncheon and who was at our table and more.

You can see all of the 43+ episodes here.

AND HERE IS WHO IS ON THE LIVE STREAM THIS WEEK:

Monday, May 11th – Santino Fontana (Tony Award-winning Actor – Tootsie, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Sunday In The Park With George)

Tuesday, May 12th – James Snyder (Actor – Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, If/Then)

Wednesday, May 13th – Dominique Morisseau (Playwright/Book Writer – Ain’t Too Proud, Pipeline)

Thursday, May 14th – Lorin Latarro (Choreographer – Mrs. Doubtfire, Waitress, American Idiot)

Friday, May 15th – Stephanie Klemons (Choreographer/Director – FLYHamilton, In The Heights, “Hunters” starring Al Pacino).

We are going LIVE every night at 8pm EDT (7pm CDT/ 6pm MDT/ 5pm PDT). Follow me on Facebook to get notified as soon as we hit the “GO LIVE” button.

Don’t have Facebook? You can also watch the livestream on Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube channel.

To see who’s coming up next, visit www.TheProducersPerspective.com/LIVE.

Broadway’s return isn’t about marketing. It’s about habit-ing.

While we don’t exactly know when we’ll be able to ‘light the lights’ on Broadway just yet . . . there’s already been a lot of discussion about how to get our audiences’ butts back in our non-socially-distanced seats.

“What do we say to our audiences?”  “When and where do we say it?”  “What incentive or offer do we need to provide?”

These are all classic marketing questions whenever you bring a product to market . . . but no one on Broadway could ever have imagined we’d have to ask them to figure out how we bring our product back to market.

All of these questions need answers, and I have it on very good authority (cuz I’ve seen the plans myself) that some of the brightest advertising and marketing minds on Broadway EVER are working on this challenge just as hard as the scientists all over the world are working on a vaccine.

And they’re going to crack it.  And I’m sure we’ll see a fantastic return to Broadway campaign . . . as soon as we know when Broadway is going to return.

That said, to return to the record breakin’ levels Broadway was pre-Covid, and to grow beyond them, we’re going to be required to be more than marketers . . . we’re going to need to be habit-makers.

Stick with me here . . .

If you’ve ever tried to make a change in your life . . . exercise more, eat healthily, stop smoking, etc., then you know, that kind of change is haaaaard.

That’s because what you’re doing is trying to create a brand new habit in your life.

And that’s like trying to turn the Titanic.

You’re set in your ways.  You are “at rest.”  And just like Newton taught us, “an object at rest tends to stay at rest.”

Of course, it’s not impossible.  You can get to the gym, change your diet, drop your golf handicap, whatever you want . . . it just takes a lot of effort . . . and time.

How much time?

Well, there are all sorts of theories on how long it takes to create a habit. Some say 21 days.  Some say 30 days.  Some say months . . .

One of the best books I’ve read that had a huge habit-making impact on my personal and professional life is Atomic Habits by James Clear.  In it, James suggests it takes about two months to create an automatic habit (like getting up early, writing every day, etc.).

And here’s the problem that is related to theatergoing . . . the moment you skip a workout, binge on some Oreos instead of almonds, etc., the harder it is to get back on track.  Especially if that habit is expensive and time-consuming.  You’ve probably experienced this yourself, right?

Now, what does this have to do with the price of a Broadway ticket in a pandemic?

For the core Broadway theatergoer . . . going to Broadway is a habit.   Some have a once once a month habit.   Others 4x a year.  But however often they go . . . it’s a habit.

And that habit was just broken.  Big time.

To put it in terms we can all understand . . . We’re not just skipping going to the gym.  The gym was shut down entirely.

Pretty easy to just sit on your couch and not sweat, am I right?

And, when this sort of thing happens, it’s not only that old habits are broken.  It’s that new ones are created.  And those new habits are usually whatever is readily available and easy (enter the couch and the Oreos).  And right now, that might be, oh, I don’t know, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime . . . YouTube!  (Don’t get me started on why theater and Broadway isn’t more available on streaming platforms . . . actually DO get me started! I’ll just save it for a blog next week.)

If all this wasn’t enough, the longer that time goes by before we try to restore a broken habit, the harder it is to get it back again.

An object at rest tends to stay at rest.

So, to sum up . . .

For the average theatergoer, the habit of going to the theater is broken.  And new habits are taking its place.  And these new habits grow stronger every day, as the old habit of going to the theater grow weaker.

We’re not the only industry that this is happening to, of course.  People are creating new habits of cooking, and breaking habits of going out (this survey says half of the people who are cooking more will continue that habit.)  People can’t go to the gym, so they’re exercising at home, or not.

And these new habits will affect the rebound of the restaurant industry and the gym.

In any business, making your product a habit with the most amount of people possible is what makes your product a smash hit.  Checking your Facebook page, your morning Starbucks, Googling something every time you need an answer . . . habits are why these companies are billion-dollar empires.

Our job now is not just to market Broadway, but we must come up with ways to restore the theatergoing habit to the people who have lost it.

How do we do it?  Good question.

Good news/bad news?  We probably have a bit of time to figure it out.

So tell me, how would you put the habit of going to the theater back into the lifestyle of our audience?

Throw some ideas in the comments below and I’ll do a follow-up blog with some ideas in the next few weeks.

(Oh, and I meant it about that streaming blog . . . expect a rant coming soon to this space.)

 

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P.S. Join me and my guest tonight as we go LIVE on my Facebook page. I’m thrilled to be sitting down with Julie Halston (Tootsie, On The Town, Hairspray) at 8pm EDT 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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