5 Predictions for the Post Coronavirus World . . . and Broadway.

As a few cities around the world start to see some “leveling” of the curve (if not necessarily flattening) and as NYC approaches its apex, it’s time to start looking ahead.

While we are far from out-of-the viral woods yet (and every single effin’ person out there should be so sheltered-in-place, it should feel like you’re starring in your own one-person show), I’m getting a sense of what our world, and of course, our business, might look like in the months, years, and decades to come.

Here are five predictions for our post-Corona world:

1. We will have a Doctor as President.

We’ve had Lawyers and Generals as Presidents already, so it only makes sense that the next profession that will rise to the Commander in Chief role in the next 4-5 election cycles (20 years or so) will be a physician.  We’ve already had one run recently, and expect more to come.

As Fauci and Birx have proven, physicians can lead with more honesty, transparency, and intelligence than many of our typical politicians.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR INDUSTRY:  The reason we’ll want a Doc behind that desk is that we’re all going to want to feel safer and more protected by the folks in charge.  The “Presidents” of our industry (Theater Owners, Artistic Directors, Presenting Houses, Producers) will need to take extra steps to let our audiences know that we have THEIR safety at the top-of-our-minds.  Informing audiences of cleaning policies, signage about washing hands, recommendations to NOT come to the theater if you’re ill (dare I say, a more open exchange policy?), will all be key to getting our audience to show up instead of staying home.

2. Cash is no longer king and isn’t even in the court.

About 3 years ago, I stopped exchanging money when I went to a foreign country.  I just used my credit card and my apps.

One year ago, I stopped carrying cash in this country. There’s no question that paying by cash is way on its way out, but this virus will accelerate that phenomenon.  We bought everything we needed during our sequestered time by credit card online, and many of our necessities came with “contactless” delivery.

Oh, and the other reason cash will slowly disappear is because cash is, well, dirty.  After this is over, will you really want to put your hands on something that 1,000 other people have touched?

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR INDUSTRY:  Our consumers are going to want more ways to purchase their tickets via apps and online.  Box office pickups and hard tickets will decrease even more than they already have.  The ticketing companies who take the lead with mobile purchasing will win the day and the service fees that go along with it.

3. I’d “short” commercial real estate.

There’s nothing like mother nature forcing you to do something to prove that you can do it.  And the “something” in this case is work remotely.  The entire world is working from home right now, and a whole bunch of businesses (maybe even mine?) will come out of this saying, “Wait a minute, we just survived on Zoom . . . and I could save how much money if I didn’t have my office?” The Commercial Real Estate market is going to go through a major disruption as a result of Corona.  The upside?  Less commuting, less pollution, and yes, less chance of another virus spreading as fast as this one.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR INDUSTRY:  We’re not a biz that embraces tech very well, but we took a leap forward these past few weeks.  (Just yesterday I saw some folks figure out how to have a Zoom call who last month were still trying to get their VCRs to stop flashing 12:00 AM!)  While we’ll still be a face-to-face industry (since we require our audiences to be in a room, a lot of our business will still happen in a room), remote working will give those who embrace it an advantage.

4. Like Rock-n-Roll, live streaming is here to stay.

When I livestreamed Daddy Long Legs, I knew it would never replace what we do.  But I also knew it could definitely help market it, and provide other revenue streams for Artists, Producers, Investors, and all sorts of TheaterMakers.When Broadway shut down, I got a least a dozen emails in about an hour with all sorts of livestreamin’ ideas.  Obviously, we executed one of those ideas, and about a hundred other live streamin’ options popped up online right behind it.

And all these incredible initiatives won’t just disappear.  But don’t worry.  It won’t replace the “live” of what we do either.  It will only enhance it.  And this quarantine has given us a very valuable marketing tool that our audience (and our unions) will now truly embrace.

5. Oh, and yes, we are going to come back . . . in a big way.

As usual, some folks have used this crisis to signal the end of theater as we know it.  While I appreciate the “drama” of those statements, those self-proclaimed pundits are just dead wrong.  The theater has been around for thousands of years.  It has survived all sorts of world events, from wars to the invention of the television, and yeah, even epidemics and plagues and more, oh my. We will get through this.  And we will come back, bigger and better than before.  Gathering together for a common purpose . . . to share an experience as a community . . . is a primal human need.  And because we’re going to be so starved for it after our time in this social-distancing-desert we’ve been isolated in, we’re going to want to go to restaurants and bars and you betcha, theaters.  Will it happen overnight?  Probably not.  People have less money right now, and that will affect attendance more than fear of catching the bug.

But just close your eyes for a second and imagine . . . imagine what that first night back in a Broadway theater is going to be like.  Just imagine that ovation when the overture starts or the curtain rises.  Imagine the energy.

It makes me want to buy a ticket right now.  And it’ll make other people want to too.

 

How do you think the world is gonna change?  How do you think the business is going to change?  Let me know in the comments below!

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Are you watching our livestream? Tonight, Director/Actor Lonny Price will be LIVE with me on The Producer’s Perspective LIVE! Tune in. Tonight at 8pm EDT.

You can also go back and watch all 15 other episodes including Jeanine Tesori, Kevin McCollum, Sergio Trujillo, and more!

 

Why Politicians Need A Marketing Lesson To Get People To Stay Inside.

In his daily midday address the other day, the butt-kickin’ Governor of NY, Andrew Cuomo, once again tried to emphasize how important it was that everyone stayed the @#$% inside during this crisis.

“I’ve tried to say this so many different ways,” he said, obviously frustrated that he was still not getting his message through to all the right people.

And he’s not the only one.

“Staying inside saves lives,” all the Politicians and Docs have said over the past few weeks.  “Because sure, sure, 80% of the folks who get it will recover, but you could pass it on to someone that is one of the unlucky folks who don’t.  So stay inside to help others.”

Makes sense.  A very compelling argument, right?

Of course.  But unfortunately, it’s just not enough for a heck of a lot of people.

What all the folks behind those podiums are forgetting is that they are selling something.  It’s just not a product that comes in an Amazon box.  It’s a message.  And that message could be more valuable than Jeff Bezos’s entire net worth.

And to get people to “buy” it, they need to go back to marketing basics.

When designing a marketing campaign of any kind, you must remember The Non-Golden Rule . . . people do things for what’s in it for them.  As ugly as it is to admit . . . self-interest is the public’s primary motivating factor.

Gross but true.

So telling people how staying inside will help other people may not be the most effective way to get these folks to actually do it.

It should be part of the argument, for sure.  But in my opinion, the Politicians and Doctors are missing out on a very important part of the message. . .

And the lead that they’ve buried is this . . . even though 80% of the people who get this thing may not have to go to the hospital, they could be dreadfully and disgustingly ill.

I was reminded of this myself when I read Drew Gasparini’s Instagram Story the other day.  If you don’t know him, Drew is a composer-who-will-be-reckoned-with (he’s the guy behind the upcoming Karate Kid score and he was featured on my Podcast recently as #SongWriterOfTheWeek) who also just battled COVID-19 and is now, thankfully, on the other side.

But before he broke the virus’s back, this is what he went through:

It is not hyperbolic when I say this is easily the sickest I’ve ever felt to the point that my own mind was questioning whether or not I was going to be able to wake up the next day.

There was nothing to prepare me for how god awful it is.  I am on day 10, and I am very very slowly turning the corner but my experience was so bad that I am still very much just a shell of myself.  I have never in my life felt as sick or scared that my body couldn’t handle something in my entire life. Ever. Not even close.

Here’s what my week felt like:

  • Constant fever between 100-103 (treated every 4-6 hours with Tylenol)
  • Chills and aches. Sometimes it got so bad that I would shiver when I left bed to the point that I would fall to my knees and have a hard time getting back up.
  • No taste or smell (this is common with this virus)
  • The fatigue was (still is) so bad I could barely lift my head or open my eyes. The most I traveled was from my bed to the couch and I really weighed out the bathroom trips.
  • Perpetual nausea. It was constant, and painful as I tried to force nutrients into my body…
  • Anytime I did eat it would be immediate (overshare) diarrhea.
  • A cough, that once it started it would become a long coughing fit

– Drew

So tell me, readers.  Even if you knew you’d recover . . . do you want to deal with any of that, never mind all of that?

And I’ve heard even worse from others.  One friend and industry professional I know had to take pain-killers because his body aches were so bad.

Another threw up blood.  Another had blood coming out the other end.

I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to make me stay inside and bodywash with sanitizer.

And that message could affect the behavior of others in the way the politicians, doctors, and everyone wants and needs.

Hearing what the virus has the potential to do to YOU not only gets at the self-interest in all of us, but it also invokes one of the other primary marketing axioms . . . The Pain-Pleasure Principle.

People will always run to pleasure.  And run from pain.

The current marketing of this “stay inside” message hasn’t showcased enough personal pain to get some of the population to trade in the pleasure of going to spring break, gathering at friend’s apartments, etc.

In fact, the “marketing” has done the opposite.  The current message, and I’m quoting a website here, is “Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.”

While that may be true, and while it does prevent panic, from a marketing perspective, it doesn’t help keep people locked down.  If we want people to listen, we need to tell them, “You can get this.  And yes, you’ll most likely recover.  But in the process, it could hurt.  A lot.  So prevent yourself from the chance of (INSERT DISGUSTING SYMPTOMS HERE) and stay inside.  Doing so will keep you feeling great, and could also save the lives of your friends, family and fellow New Yorkers.”

(This theory is the same that was used in those very successful anti-smoking ads that show people speaking with no larynx, etc.)

I’m sure most of the people who read this blog are the part of the population who are staying inside.  But if you know people who aren’t, and you really want to get them to stay inside, use the above message on them, will ya?

And special thanks to Drew for his honesty.

– – – – –

Last night on our live stream we featured Actor, Producer, Artrepreneuer ALAN CUMMING!  Click here to watch the replay and hear him talk about . . .

  • How he’s utilizing this time of forced isolation to write his next book. . . and bake homemade crackers!
  • His number one tip to negotiating (you may be surprised by his response . . .)
  • What he’s learned from doing his podcast, Homosapiens.

And tonight at 8 PM EDT, we have stage director Leigh Silverman joining us!  Click here to get a reminder to tune in!

When will we come back and WHAT will come back.

It has officially been two weeks since the “social distancing guidelines” set by the Federal Government went into effect, and if one thing is clear from the confusing chatter coming from the Presidential pressers every day, it’s this . . .

It’s going to be a bit before the country opens back up, never mind Broadway.

As of yesterday, gone is the embarrassing goal of an Easter “re-opening” for the country with “packed churches.”  (I mean, I love setting lofty BHAGs, but anyone in the achievement space knows that setting an impossible goal only sets yourself up for failure – and failing at a goal makes it harder for you to achieve the next one . . . and harder for your followers to believe that you will achieve that next one.)

The next deadline for a re-examining of the social distancing guidelines, and therefore a determination of whether or not some businesses will reopen, (set again by the guy currently in the White House) is April 30th. 

But if you’re listening to Fauci, it’ll be longer.  Much longer.  And even though NY’s Governor Cuomo has kept non-essential workers home only through April 15th, he’s also acknowledging that NY has a bigger problem than anywhere else in the US – so how could it ever open up soon?

In the muck of all these differing opinions, one thing has become very clear to me . . .

Different sections of the country will open up at different times.

And more importantly, within those geographic locations, different types and sizes of businesses will open up at different times.

It’s common sense.

The idea of one day waking up and having it go back to the way it was six months ago, with Basketball games packin’ arenas and with OpenTable tellin’ us there wasn’t a reservation to be had at your favorite restaurant, is the kind of Hollywood happy ending that’s just not going to happen.

It’s just not going to be that kind of “Alexa, apartment lights on,” type of switch.

The virus didn’t shut everything in the country down in 24 hours and it won’t let us restart everything in 24 hours either.

It’s going to be gradual.

And it has to be.  As Cuomo (the only politician I’m listening to these days) said in one of his pressers, he does need to get the economy, any part of that economy, going again as soon as possible.  And the moment he can let ten people go to a meeting to discuss how to sell a product, he will. The moment he can let hundred people go to a restaurant, he will.

And the moment he can let 1,500 people go to a Broadway show, he will.

But I’m doubtful it’ll be all those things will be all at once.  And it shouldn’t be.

Which brings me to this . . .

Will Off-Broadway be allowed to open up before Broadway?

And could the 499-or-less theaters that fall within that definition, or even the Off-Off Broadway theaters (at 99 seats or less) get a boost of attention and ticket sales first . . . before the Broadway factory is allowed to be operational?

I’d bet money that smaller theaters will be given permission to open up before the larger ones.  That means they could be the sole producers of live theater in the city.  Usually these smaller theaters are getting Broadway’s hand-me-down audiences, but this could be one of the few chances they have to get the theater audience all to themselves. (This is exactly what happened during the last strike in 2007 – and the Off-Broadway shows I had running, including this one and this one, boomed as a result).

And maybe, this could be another steroid shot to the renaissance of Off-Broadway that began last year (which I wrote about here).

If I were an Off-Broadway theater . . . or was producing an Off-Broadway show, I’d look to see how I could have something ready to go for when we are allowed to gather again.  Because in the midst of this darkness, there just might be a chance to stand out.

Or as John F. Kennedy said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.”

– – – – –

Tonight at 8 PM on my nightly live stream, Tony Award-winner, Steven Sater, the bookwriter of Spring Awakening Watch on my Facebook page here.  And click here to see who else is joining us this week!

 

 

3 Marketing Lessons for Broadway from Super Tuesday.

Is it just me or is Super Tuesday the new Superbowl?  Ok, ok, maybe it’s the Playoffs, and Election Day itself is The Big Game.

But it certainly felt like a-must-see-sporting event Tuesday Night, as my wife and I snuggled on the couch, eating wings, and screaming out at the TV when there was a touchdown or even a “fumble” (Like that awkward moment when Joe Biden mistook his wife for his sister – I’m just glad he didn’t make an Arkansas joke after he did it).

As I hooted and hollered (I think I even did “the wave” at one point – my wife did not), I couldn’t help but notice there were some Broadway marketing lessons to be learned from the results.

Now, these are general takeaways, and are not about political affiliation, viewpoints, or any of that ire-instigating stuff, but they do apply . . . so here goes.

1. Whoever has been around the longest, has an advantage.

If you’re in a cluttered market, like this year’s democratic field, and there isn’t an obvious decision for the consumer/voter to make, they’ll default to the thing that has been around the longest.  Joe Biden won the night.  Why?  Partly because he’s been around the longest! He has run for President 3x now, so voters are used to seeing him in a field like this.  He has been a member of Congress even longer than Bernie.  And, of course, he was a VP.  In marketing-speak, he has the highest “awareness” or market penetration of any of the candidates . . . so it’s not surprising that he’s starting to gallop ahead.

TAKEAWAY:  In a recent study I did on Broadway shows, The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera were the two shows of all the shows on Broadway that had the highest awareness.  Why?  Because they had run the longest, of course.  And it’s no surprise that they are two of the most successful musicals . . . in history!  Long runs help perpetuate an even longer run.  So, get your show to run for a long time. 🙂 Or, the better takeaway is for those of you who want to make a career in the theater.  If you’re a Writer, Producer, Director or other TheaterMaker, keep on sloggin’ away.  Your Awareness will catch up too.  Remember how I said Joe ran from President TWICE before?  Yeah, those didn’t work out quite so well.  But he kept on runnin’.  And we’ll see what happens this time.  (And I’d expect Mayor Pete to be in 1, 2 or 17 more races until he notches a big win too.)

2. Endorsements matter.

My favorite phrase of the night from the CNN Color Commentators was “Joe-mentum.”  Made me spit out a buffalo wing.  But it’s true.  After Joe’s win in South Carolina (which was partly due to the endorsement from Jim Clyburn), he was speedin’ into Super Tuesday with some extra gas in the tank. . . and then he got those late-in-the-day endorsements from Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg . . . and then . . . blast off.  Getting other people to support your mission is an easy way to double or triple your base.

TAKEAWAY:  Get testimonials from your audience members, celebrities or any influencers out there. And don’t just put those quotes on your website, but get those folks to push their message about your show out to their audience.  However you can.  Yes, even if you gotta trade something or even pay ’em!   If you think Jim, Amy or Pete just gave Joe their endorsement without getting something in return (one of them has VP written all over their future), well, you should not be a politician . . . or a businessperson.  Because this is how the world works.  Reciprocity.  Give ’em something to get what you want!

3. Buying advertisements is effective but NEVER as effective as word of mouth.

I used to like Mike Bloomberg.  He did amazing things for NYC.  He runs his governments like a business, yet he goes after the NRA and other social reforms like he’s got a gun.  But, Mike proved that money can’t buy you everything. And, by the way, this isn’t the first time voters have rejected a politician trying to make up for their lack of awareness or poor word of mouth with cash.  They rejected billionaire Ross Perot.  Mitt Romney supplemented his campaigns with his own personal fortune.  That didn’t work.  And, now, it looks like Mike is against the ropes.  Actually makes you feel pretty good about the American people.  Spending more than 10x what your fellow candidates spend may get you in the race, but it can’t get you to win the race.  And kudos to Elizabeth Warren for reminding us all of this . . . even if it hurt her own cause.

TAKEAWAY:  Buying more advertising to “make up” for your late arrival to the market, or to overcome bad reviews or worse, bad word of mouth (those debate performances, Mike – and what did you do that required those NDAs anyway?) may improve your standing, but it won’t guarantee your rise to the top. So don’t let advertising agencies convince you otherwise.  As the above proves, getting your show to run a long, long time and getting positive word of mouth is much more important than spending $100 million.

This race is only just getting interesting . . . so you can bet I’ll be back over the next 7 months with more comparisons of Political Theater to actual Theater.  But I promise . . . NO discussion of actual politics. 🙂

What do you think about the strategies candidates use to marketing themselves?  Comment below.

And if you want to learn more about political marketing and how we can use their strategies to help our own businesses, check out the smart blog of this actual political marketer.  (Yep, candidates hire marketing companies too.)

If you read only ONE blog of mine this year, make it THIS one.

It has been quite a couple of weeks.

And no, I’m not talking about disappointing box office figures.

I’m talking about Tropical Storm Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

I watched CNN over the past week or two with my mouth agape, as I watched people swimming in rivers where roads should be, and holing up in shelters, praying their homes would be standing upon their return.

And then I thought, “And yesterday I was worried about how we didn’t sell as many tickets to see a musical comedy?”

The irony of all of this is that I’m in pre-production for Once On This Islanda show about how to rebuild a community after a great storm.

So, in that spirit, I’d like to ask three requests:

1 – Count your blessings.  If you weren’t affected by these two natural disasters, you’re lucky.  Sure, traffic sucks.  Someone didn’t call you back.  Your show hasn’t been produced (yet).  But you’re lucky.  There are millions of people whose lives and livelihoods are in absolute chaos right now.

2 – Make a $10 donation to The Red Cross.  (That’s like two Starbucks!)  Just text REDCROSS to 90999 and donate $10 right now.  (Or click here to donate more.)

3 – Give good thoughts.  Whether you call it a prayer or positive energy, send it down to those who were affected, so they can rebuild and come out of this stronger than ever.

The theater is an amazing thing.  It is designed to entertain, to educate, and to heal.  So it is important that all of us continue to do what we do, no matter what is happening out there in the world.

But, it’s also important to remember that our tiny troubles with tap shoes and top hats are nothing compared to what so many others are going through right now.

Text REDCROSS to 90999 right now.

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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