Broadway and Politics have a lot in common when it comes to social media.

Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about how to produce shows are from watching how other high risk industries deal with similar issues.  Airlines and perishable inventory.  Sports and VIP experiences.  Restaurants and customer retention.  Etc.

I’ve written about Producers and Politicians before in this post, and I’m sure with only T-minus 8 months and counting before the big contest in November, I’ll write about them again.

But until then, you’ve got to watch this video about the resistance to social media in the political space.  I swear, you could just overdub the words “politicians” with “producers” or “politics” with “Broadway” and the video would be absolutely relevant to our biz.

Any of this sound familiar . . .

“I don’t know what that is, quit using it.”

“That’s not how (we) do it.”

“(Politics) is such a lagging issue when it comes to technology.”

“They are very reluctant to try anything that is untested. They want to stick with the things that have been working for the last 30 years.”

Watch the video.  It’s pretty hysterical how similar we are.

Now, in their defense and in ours, social media and new technology are still a young(er) person’s game (and when I say young, I mean under 40, because I still haven’t crossed the 4-0 threshold yet, so I’m holding on to young as long as I can).  And the fact is that younger voters do not make up the majority of our voters.  That puts more of the decision in the older folks’ hands (and when I say older, I mean 65 plus, which gives me another quarter century).  Same with theater.  The majority of our buyers aren’t tweeting up a storm or figurin’ out foursquare.


But they will be tomorrow, so it’s important all of us invest in it today.  Because other industries are.

What’s going to change our resistance to technology?  Well, we need a lot of passionate people, just like bow-tie wearing Wesley, who is the first person to speak in the vid, who almost falls out of his chair with his desire to get politics into the 21st century.

We need more of those guys in our biz too.

I’m betting that if you’re reading this, you could be one of them.

So do us all a favor, fall out of your chair.  But forget about the bowtie.  That was so me in 1988.
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Potential presidents can teach us something.

The Presidency of the United States could be one of the most valuable things in the world, which is why millions and millions and billions of dollars are spent on advertising and marketing, trying to win YOUR vote.

And when you’ve got such a prized possession on the line, that advertising and marketing better be damn good.

I watch presidential politics very closely . . . 1, because I care where our country is headed, and 2, because I learn so much from watching the candidates’ every move.

Here’s my marketing tip of the day.

Sign up to receive President Obama’s email newsletter, and Mitt’s and even Newt’s.  See what they are doing to get you involved . . . and get you to give money.  Check out the subject lines in their emails.  Check out how they get you to tell your friends to get involved.  Check out how they involve you in online activities and offline activities.

Presidential politicians are all some of the best salesmen and women in the world . . . because what they are competing for is so unbelievably valuable.

And the marketing lessons we can learn from them are even more valuable.

Because let’s face it . . . most of what they’re selling is bullsh*t . . . and they actually get people to buy it.


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This blog has been endorsed by Cameron Mackintosh.

I woke up yesterday morning to Senator McCain endorsing Mitt Romney for President (and I’m sure looking for a VP nod as well).  Since this is an election year, there will be more endorsements coming down the pike . . . for both parties.  Unions, celebrities and more.

But endorsements don’t only work well in politics.  Famous figures “endorse” all sorts of products all the time.  We’ve seen athletes act as pitch men and women for all sorts of products, from underwear to deodorant to jock itch cream.  We’ve seen TV stars in ads for watches, perfume and even Proactiv.

But we rarely see endorsements/spokespeople for Broadway shows.


Is it because it’s an “artistic” enterprise, and we don’t want to seem like we need that kind of hard sell, or is it because it’s hard to get people to stand up for something like a show (and we don’t have the kind of money to hire someone that could move the needle).

You tell me . . . what would sell a Broadway show to you  . . . seeing a simple moving headshot TV spot for a straight play, or listening to a celebrity or major NY figure talk about how they saw that show and they feel every New Yorker should see it too.

I’m not sure that I know the answer to this . . . but I certainly would love to see it tested.  And one thing I guarantee, it would be different.

And in a community where there are only three advertising agencies designing all the campaigns, it’s important that the media doesn’t become homogeneous.  And I got news for you . . . it’s not the agencys’ job to prevent that from happening.

It’s the Producer’s.

(BTW, Cameron Mackintosh didn’t really endorse this blog – but seeing that headline got your attention, didn’t it?)


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Broadway tax breaks in Illinois. Is NY next?

Here’s a trivia question for you . . .

How many of the musicals debuting in the 2011-12 season kick-started in Chicago?

Answer?  Zippo.

Chicago was once one of our go-to tryout cities, thanks to its smart audiences, local resources, proximity to NYC, etc.  But rising costs (not to mention “lake effect” snow), have kept Producers from the Windy City as of late.  Instead, the trend has been to debut shows in regional theaters in states like Texas, Florida, which have allowed producers to be a little less under the radar, and saved shows millions of dollars.

But you know Chicagoans.  They don’t like anyone treading on their turf.

So, to counteract the migration away from Chi-town, a bill was passed by the Illinois senate on Tuesday that is on its way to the Governor for signature that would give pre-Broadway tryouts a tax credit for sitting down in Chicago first. (You can read about it here.)

And I’ll bet you money that this bill is signed into law faster than Ron Blagojevich tried to sell Obama’s senate seat.

The bill provides both pre-Broadway tryouts and long running shows up to a 20% credit capped at $2mm per year, which could be just the cash that a lot of Producers need in order to justify the high labor and housing costs of the city that has launched shows like Movin’ Out, The Producers and The Addams Family.  (I wonder if Boston will try to get back in the tryout game of old with something similar, since they’ve lost a lot of ground as well in the last decade or so.)

So Illinois gets tax breaks.  Will we ever get them here in the city?

Not likely.  It’s pretty simple.  Broadway is our end goal.  Those politicians know that we’re not going anywhere else, so they don’t have to do too much to get us to keep producing, and keep pumping millions and billions into the local economies.  What choice do we have, right?  There’s no Broadway in Texas, Florida, etc.

Unless . . .

I’ve noticed another alarming trend lately of New York Producers talking more and more about producing in London rather than on US soil. I know of at least five shows that could have debuted here . . . but chose the UK instead, due to the decreased risk.  Five shows.  Huh.  How many jobs would those shows have added?

I’ve got to admit that even I’ve thought about dipping my toes in the London market more frequently, and I’m as Broadway as apple pie.

So take heed, oh politicians . . . there is somewhere else we can go . . . and I’d watch this trend very closely.  Because if it continues, not only will Broadway and the city and state lose bucks, but more importantly, we’ll also lose credibility.

UPDATE:  I wrote this blog 12 hours ago.  This morning I woke up to an announcement that US Director/Choreographer superstar, Jerry Mitchell, just inked a production deal with London based ATG to develop, create and produce for its theaters.

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Congress is actually doing something good – and it’s about crowdfunding.

Well, well, well, would you look at this!

The House of Reps down in DC passed a bill recently that’s near and dear to my heart called the Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act.  In what is being called as one of the few examples of bipartisanship in the last several months/years, the bill was passed by the house by a whopping 407-17 vote and is now on the floor of the Senate . . . where it is also expected to pass.  And it already has the blessing of the President!

What is the Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act?

Well, it’s crowd-funding.  🙂  (Now do you get why it’s near and dear to my ol’ ticker?  See this, if you need a reminder.)

That’s right . . . rather than resort to the non-profit Kickstarter model, under this bill, entrepreneurs would be allowed to raise investment money from accredited or unaccredited investors in small amounts, up to $2mm (subject to rules and regs, of course).

Now, that $2 mil cap makes this very unlikely to be used for a Broadway production . . . but, could this new legislation be used for an Off-Broadway production?  Or Off-Off-Broadway?  It’s too early to say definitively, of course . . . because you know Congress . . . they’ll probably tack on a few earmarks to the bill that require anyone raising money this way to also raise sheep in Wisconsin or stick their tongue to a flag pole in Winter.  But it’s looking damn good.

Seriously, though, the Senate still has to pass it on, and they are still tinkering with details to ensure that investors are well protected (there is talk of creating a universal platform to accept funds to limit fraud, etc.).  But WHEN it does pass, this act will revolutionize the way the small businessman and woman raise money in this country . . . and many of those men and women are theater producers.

As someone who crowd-funded a show using the regulations available to me that were created in 1933 (!), I can tell you that I’m very happy to hear that the times are a changin’ to make it a less arduous, less expensive and quicker process.  (I had a convo with a member of the White House staff about this very subject after Godspell was announced last year.)

In fact, I’ll be calling the sponsor of this bill, Congressman Patrick McHenry, tomorrow to see if there’s anything I can do to help support this sucker as it makes its way to the desk of the Pres.

The most common question I get from people that want to do what I do is . . . how do I raise money for my show?  There’s a lot of people out there that want to build businesses, they just need an easier way to get going.  Hopefully, an Act like this will help.

To read all about this Bill and a few others that were passed to help make raising money easier, click here.


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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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