What happens when you raise or lower prices?

There was a debate waging on the boards last week about whether or not ticket prices for the theater should go up, down, sideways, or—to quote one of my favorite movies, which is soon to be a musical–slantways, and longways and backways (anyone?), in order to promote accessibility to more audiences.

One thing I think everyone can agree on . . . we all want ticket prices to go down.

That said, there are two axioms I live by in terms of pricing that I thought I would pass on to you.  While I certainly could fill up blog page after blog page on pricing, when it comes to pricing your show, there are two things you should know:

1.  Lowering your prices doesn’t mean more people will come.

2.  Raising your prices doesn’t mean less people will come.

In the luxury consumer goods market (which is what we are, whether we like it or not), it’s about product first and then price.

 

 

What a musical really needs, by Walter Kerr.

Walter Kerr was the Ben Brantley of the ’60s and ’70s.

What’s interesting about Kerr is that prior to his Pulitizer Prize-winning career as a critic for the NY Times, he was a book writer for Broadway musicals, and contributed to six shows on the Great White Way.  (What is also interesting to me is that he was one of Sondheim’s toughest critics and I often wonder if he’d change his tune if he’d been able to see any of the recent revivals.)

Kerr was pretty knowledgeable about what it took for a musical to work, and he said so in a very simple way on January 28, 1968, in his review of the original Off-Broadway production of Your Own Thing:.

Do you remember those little light bulbs that used to pop into place over the heads of comic strip characters whenever one of them got a bright idea?  All a good musical really needs is one such light bulb, for starters.  The wattage doesn’t matter, where it comes from doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is the quick sharp click that lights the place up and lets us see things in sudden color.”

Kerr so poetically puts into words something that I think about all the time.

Yes, the play is the thing.

But without the right idea, the play is nothing.

How many pitches for shows have you heard that you just knew weren’t going to work?  They don’t feel musical.  The stakes don’t feel high enough.  They are too complicated, or not complicated enough.

When deciding what project you are going to spend the next several years of your life on, make sure the concept passes Kerr’s test.

The idea alone has to light up a room, so that the show can light up the stage.

To read the full article, including Kerr’s review of the yet-to-be-revived Your Own Thing, click this link:  Download ‘Kerr Has a Happier Time

Special thanks to my office historian, Jen, for putting this article on my desk.

Here are two words that you never thought you’d hear together.

Sports

and

Theater.

Sports shows haven’t been that successful on the ol’ Bway (except for Good News and those Damn Yankees), especially when compared to other entertainment mediums.  The movies do sports oh so well, so we’ve stayed away.  (There was a rumor about a Rocky musical, but admit it, just the thought makes you smirk in a Lestat kind of way.)

But there’s a show on Broadway right now that’s getting some athletic attention:  Lombardi, which is sponsored by the mammoth machine known as the NFL.

One of my marketing mantras that was taught to me by a smart press rep I’ve worked with is . . . get off the theater pages.

Well, Lombardi managed to do just that recently, with an article in AdAge about the unique partnership between football (which probably has more people watching on a Sunday than going to church) and Broadway.

Since we talked about the challenges of Broadway and sponsorship, I thought you’d be interested in checking it out.

Read it here.

And just imagine what could happen to the Great White Way if this partnership works:

NASCAR presents Earnhardt: His final lap.

Major League Baseball presents:  For the love of Pete . . . Rose.

PGA presents Tiger:  He’s in the woods again.

Who should I surround myself with at the start?

Shows, theater companies, technology companies, etc. are all the same.

They tend to start with one person’s idea.  Maybe that idea is birthed in a dressing room or a dorm room, and then hopefully it grows beyond those walls, and turns into a billion dollar business.

I was talking to an associate recently who was about to birth a new theatrical concept here in the city. It was in its embryonic stage and he was looking for people to hire to help blow up this start-up.

Should he hire the best PR firm?  The best lawyer?  The best designers in the world?

While surrounding yourself with the best of the best is usually a great concept at any point in a company’s life, there is a price tag attached.  And yes, I’m talking about a literal price tag that most emerging companies and artists can’t afford.  But there’s also a price in whether or not the best of the best, who have a zillion other clients (probably bigger than you), have the time to devote to your new idea.  Will they have the passion to work through the night?  How important is it to them?  Will they work harder than you?

Maybe they will, and you’ll get the best of both worlds.

But in my experience, at the genesis of an idea, it’s better to surround yourself with people like you, whether or not they have the fanciest stationery or the longest resume.

Zuckerberg, Gates, etc. started their companies with the people that were in spitting distance of them, who they knew would work harder than anyone to learn what it takes to create a great company.

They chose sweat over style.

And when things started to get real, yo, they brought on the best later, when they could afford it, and when they could demand the attention they deserved.

Could someone commission a Producer?

I was pleased to see that Andrew Lippa, the composer of Addams Family, Wild Party, and a closet favorite of mine, John and Jen, was awarded a commission by Texas State University, as a result of a gift to the University’s musical theater program from Patti Strickel Harrison.

Andrew is a fantastic talent and deserves the kudos and the cash to create new work (when I was at NYU, and when Andrew was doing the cabaret circuit, I sang an early tune of his called, “Make It Fly”, and I still remember the music and the message).

And a special thanks to Ms. Harrison for creating such a commission.

It did make me wonder . . .

Why doesn’t anyone commission Producers?

There is no better education than doing. I worked in the Broadway arena for 10 years before I produced my first Off-Broadway show, and still, I never learned more than when I actually had my hands in the mud and was doing it on my own.

And since I believe the future of the theater is dependent on both the people that build the ship (writers) as well as those who sail the ship (producers), wouldn’t we all be served if we were able to get up-and-coming Producers’ hands dirty?

So commission the writers, because they are the future.

But there have got to be some institutions and some individuals (including some of my peers that have hit it huge with a show . . . you know who you are) that could afford to commission a young Producer or two.

If we don’t support these sailors, we could end up with a lot of boats that sink before they even leave the harbor.

– – – –

Oh . . . Andrew’s bridge went something like this . . .

Make it fly
Make it so that you can touch the sky.
Show the world that you can make the most of what you have.
If you take the ride . . .

It was a good message.

– – – –

CORRECTION:  The lyrics to “Make It Fly” were written by current Broadway Copy Guru and Spotco Exec. Tom Greenwald (who also co-wrote John & Jen).

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