Podcast Episode 49 – Drew Cohen

 

When a show is a hit on Broadway, everyone looks at the grosses and thinks, “Look at how much money they are making.”

Drew Cohen looks at the grosses and thinks, “Look at how much they are going to make.”

The licensing of theatrical properties around the world is a ginormous business.  And the numbers and dollars associated with it aren’t publicized anywhere (and very few will talk about them).  But just think about this for a second.  The American Association of Community Theatre estimates that there are around 7,000 CTs around the country, who do several shows a year.  Add to that the 36,000 high schools out there, and you’re talking a lot of licensed productions.  And that doesn’t even include the professional companies and regional theaters . . . and what about the rest of the world?

It’s a lot to deal with . . . and as the President of MTI, Drew Cohen deals with it all, for a ton of titles, from Annie to Folliesall the Disney properties, and the Cameron Mackintosh musicals too.

Since the licensing industry isn’t one that gets talked about a lot, I was thrilled that Drew invited me into his office for this candid talk on everything from:

  • Can a show get licensed if it is never produced in New York City?
  • What do high schools look for when choosing a show to do?
  • How has technology changed licensing?
  • When should the rights to a show be released . . . after a show closes or (GASP) before?
  • What you can do to get your show licensed by a company like MTI.

One of Drew’s greatest assets is that he loves the theater, but he didn’t grow up in it.  So he tackles it with the same passion we all have, but he’s got a pure business background.  That’s good for all of us, since he’s distributing content to our future actors, authors . . . and audience.  The more he distributes today, the healthier Broadway will be tomorrow.

Enjoy hearing Drew’s perspective!

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

BONUS – Q&A With Ken Davenport

 

That was fun.

On Wednesday night, I got on the phone with enough people to fill a Broadway theater and we brainstormed Broadway.  People called in and asked questions on everything from how the American Express promotion for Broadway shows works to how to encourage more diversity in the theater.We had many more questions than we could handle in our 1 hour time limit (ok, we went over . . . but I couldn’t help it), but still tackled a lot of stuff.

In case you missed it, I thought I’d give you the Cliff Notes version and sum up my top takeaways that we came up with on the Teleseminar.

Ready, set, here are my Top 5.

1.  What you’re not getting from people, you’re probably not giving to people.

The world runs on reciprocity.  If people aren’t helping you promote your productions, help promote other people’s.  If you need volunteers to build your set, get out there and volunteer to build someone’s first.  And don’t wait until you have something you need to start this process.  Get out there and help people now.   Not only is it a great way to live, but you’ll bank favors for the future.

2.  When choosing a theater for your out-of-town tryout, think about who lives in that town.

Are you looking to have an audience that is similar to the NY audience?  Are you looking for a “hometown” audience that will support and spread the word about the show?  The audience’s response is going to influence your development, so choose where you try out carefully.

3.  Want a booking agent or publisher?  Show them the money.

Best way to attract a licensing house or a booking agent . . . show them how well you’re doing on your own.  Don’t just sit at home and wait for someone to book or license your show.  Do it yourself, however you can.  Then show what you’ve done and how much money you’ve earned without any help to potential booking agents and publishing houses.  And say, “If you were my agent when I booked all these gigs, you would have earned $XX already.  Imagine what we could do together.”  Business people respond to a benefit to their bottom line.

4.  Producing a show is like running any other small business.

You need a product (a show).  You need a place to sell that product (a theater).  You need to market that product (advertising).  And so on.  Producing Broadway and Off Broadway shows doesn’t require super magical wizard powers.  Approach it like opening a restaurant, a bakery or a souvenir shop . . . and it will seem more manageable.  And you’ll be more successful too.

5.  How do you start producing?

You just do.  You don’t have to start with a Broadway show.  Or an Off Broadway show.  Or even an Equity Showcase.  Produce a living room Shakespeare reading series.  Produce a new play reading at your local library.  Get friends over to your dorm room and improv a new play.  Producers are fire starters.  Get some wood together.  And light the match.

I could go on and on with some of the cool stuff all of us came up with together . . . but I got a better idea.  How about I just let you listen to it on your own?

Click above to listen to the teleseminar.  Totes free.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Click here to download it.

Enjoy it.  And let me know if you like it. Maybe we’ll do it again.

Podcast Episode 48 – Daryl Roth

 

(After yesterday’s breaking news, we now return to our regularly scheduled podcast.)

Get this.

Daryl Roth has produced seven Pulitzer Prize-winning plays.

That should give you an idea about how good her taste is in material.

Seven, people!  Seven!

That would be more than enough to fill out most people’s resume.  But Ms. Roth’s goes well beyond that, with a slew of Broadway productions and Off Broadway productions, including the 2013 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Kinky Boots (which was all her baby, from that very first idea to the four productions currently playing all around the world).

Daryl took a break from being one of the most prolific Producers around and chatted with me about her perspective on Broadway, Off Broadway and much more, including . . .

  • How listening to a voice inside her that she never heard before got her to produce her very first show.  And how you should listen to the same one.
  • Why aren’t there more women lead Producers?  Is there still an old Broadway boys’ club?  And what can we do about it?
  • How Kinky Boots was born.
  • What she looks for when picking a producing partner (listen to this podcast to hear from one of those partners himself).
  • Why after all this Broadway success, she still remains committed to Off Broadway.

A quick listen to this podcast, and you’ll quickly realize why Daryl is known in the biz as one of the classiest Producers we have, with a style totally her own.  She proves that you don’t have to rule with an iron producing fist to achieve success in this business.  You have to love your product, and love the people who work on that product, and the rest will just come.

Enjoy my conversation with Daryl Roth, because I know I sure did.

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

Podcast Episode 47 – Gregg Barnes

 

I’ve worn a lot of hats since I started working in the theater.  And I’ve loved just about every job I’ve ever had, because it was in the theater.

Except one . . . when I worked in a costume shop.

Yep, I wasn’t so fond of that.  And why?  Because I sucked at it.

Not only could I not thread a needle, I couldn’t understand which color went with which, and what the heck is a spat for anyway?

Ugh.  Just thinking about costumes and design makes my head hurt.  Which is why I have so much respect for those that do it . . . and do it better than anyone else.

One of those someones is none other than today’s podcast guest, the Tony Award-winning Costume Designer, Gregg Barnes.  Kinky Boots, Something Rotten!, Aladdin, and The Drowsy Chaperone are just a few of the shows that feature Barnes originals.  And a little known secret – I first met Gregg when he taught a costume class at NYU.  (I’m sure I sucked at it then too.  Sorry, Gregg.)

I had so much to learn from Gregg, and thankfully he schooled me up on everything wardrobe related and more, like:

  • What social media site is his new favorite design tool.
  • Why Broadway costumes are so darn expensive.
  • How to calculate the right costume budget.
  • His first step when designing any new show.
  • When he likes to be hired on a show, and who MUST be hired before him.

Just having this frank fashion convo with Gregg made me finally feel like I don’t suck as much anymore.

But I still can’t thread a #@$%ing needle.

Enjoy Gregg!

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

Podcast Episode 46 – Susan Stroman

 

This is one of my favorite podcasts.

Maybe that’s because of all the elements in the theater, dance and what makes a great Choreographer great is one of the areas of what we do that I understand the least.  And well, who better to help me “get it” than five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman?

“Stro” started her career as a Choreographer of shows like Show Boat and Crazy for You, before following in the steps of Fosse and Bennett and becoming a Director/Choreographer.  The Music Man, The Producers, Young Frankenstein, and The Scottsboro Boys are just a few of the titles on her long resume.

That transition from Broadway dancer to Broadway Choreographer to Broadway Director-Choreographer is just one of the things we discussed in her podcast, along with:

  • How she convinced Kander & Ebb to let her and some friends create the (fantastic) revue that started her Choreographic career.
  • Her first step when she’s creating “steps.”
  • Why she doesn’t have a style, but how she does have a signature (and hear my mind get blown as I realize what she’s talking about).
  • Why Choreographers make great Directors.
  • How to work with titans of the entertainment industry like Mel Brooks and Woody Allen.

Oh, and, in this podcast, you’ll hear the debut of my brand new James Lipton-like question, which I’m calling “The Smithsonian.”

I hope you enjoy the podcast, and that you learn as much as I did.

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

 

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