The answer I HOPE to hear when I ask ticket buyers what got them to buy a ticket.

As the theater comes crawling back to life, marketing is going to be more important than ever.

Every dollar we spend, and every dollar that comes back, is going to be 10x as important as it was. We’re all going to have a bunch of startups. And startups demand more attention to details than ever before.

I’m a big believer in audience research. I became obsessed when I attended a focus group about the Bernadette Peters revival of Gypsy I worked on in 2002. (Some of the people we talked to didn’t realize it was a different production from the Tyne Daly Gypsy from the early 90s!  It taught me that just because you eat, sleep and breathe your show and all of Broadway, doesn’t mean your audience does!)

The most important question to ask your audience is the following:

How did you hear about “INSERT NAME OF SHOW”?

That’s it. So if you WANT to do research but DON’T want to do complicated surveys or focus groups, you can learn a ton with JUST that one question.

Tracking the path your customers take to buying a ticket is how to understand . . .

1 – What is working . . . so you can double down on it

2 – What isn’t working . . . so you can turn it off.

So what’s the one answer I LOVE to get every time I ask this question?

When I started out and needed an ego boost, I LOVED hearing that the customer heard about my show through an advertising buy I authorized (a billboard, etc.), or through a marketing stunt I came up with.

But then I realized that my favorite answer was . . .

“I don’t know.”

This meant two things:

1. It meant that they most likely heard about it through word of mouth, which is the most important form of advertising.  It’s the most effective, and it’s the cheapest.  Getting WOM, especially in an industry with challenging economics like Broadway, is essential for the show to survive.

2. Not knowing what morsel of marketing got them to buy a ticket means your marketing is working under the radar.  And that’s the best form of marketing. It’s working without them knowing it’s working. It’s branding.

Now, unfortunately, there is no quick hack to getting this kind of response.

You have to do great work . . . and do it for a long time.

And that’s the quickest way to NOT be a hack.

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If you’re looking for marketing tips, check out the marketing course included with your membership in The TheaterMakers Studio.


 

3 Reasons Why Crowdfunding Did NOT Take Off on Broadway

It has been 10 years (!) since I crowdfunded Godspell. It remains one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in this business.
It took two years to put together. It took three law firms. I had to pass a securities exam. Oh, and let me tell you when this SEC slaps your wrist in the midst of your offering, you lose some sleep.
But, like most difficult things, it was also one of the best things I ever did for my business. And my life.
Not only did we fund the production, and help launch the careers of some superstars, but I’m also still friends with many of “People of Godspell”, which is what we called our Producers and Investors (we had over 730 of them!).
We created a family. And it still exists. (That’s pretty common with Godspell, actually, as anyone in it can attest.)
After we successfully crowdfunded the show, using an old regulation called a “Reg A,” Congress passed The Jobs Act . . . which made it MUCH easier for businesses to crowdfund. (Bad timing on my part!)
Everyone predicted an explosion of this type of microfinancing in all industries . . . Broadway and Off-Broadway included.
And it didn’t happen.
I don’t know of ONE Broadway or Off-Broadway production to utilize the new “Regulation CF” since it was passed.
Why?
There are three reasons why.
1. The max money you can raise
Regulation CF was designed for small businesses, so there’s a $5mm cap on how much you can raise. That immediately knocks out 99% of Broadway musicals, leaving only Broadway plays.
Now, ALL Off-Broadway shows are (or should be) well under $5mm. So, this regulation should be in “play” for any commercial producer looking to crowdfund an Off-Broadway show. Still, I don’t know of anyone who has done it. Yet. See below for why.
2. It ain’t cheap to raise small amounts of money.
In our business, there are a limited # of vendors in each area of expertise. There are 3-4 advertising agencies. 2-3 accounting firms. And there are more, but still a limited number of lawyers.
And our lawyers don’t specialize in this . . . which means you’ll need to hire another attorney who does. And that adds to your budget. And smaller businesses don’t want to add to a budget that they were concerned about raising in the first place.
3. You have to work even harder to raise less money.
I remember a consulting session I had once with a writer who launched a Kickstarter campaign. He wondered why he hadn’t raised all this money in the first five days. When I asked him what he had (added) done to promote it, he said, “Nothing. Don’t people just find it in Kickstarter?”
Like anything, just because you build it, doesn’t mean ANYONE will come. You have to spread the word about your offering. And when you’re raising small amounts of money at a time, you have to spread the word every further. We spent a ton of time and money marketing the Godspell offering. That, plus the press we get (that’s where the SEC got saucy), plus my own network, is what led to a successful raise.
Most people don’t want to work that hard. Because it’s true, it IS easier to raise bigger money from fewer people. (That’s why the point of crowdfunding shouldn’t be to raise the money – it should be to raise a marketing army – because all those investors with skin in the game, will shout your show’s name from their e-rooftops!)
(By the way – I gave Kickstarter guys some marketing nuggets and the good news is – he reached his total with three days to spare.)
Wait. Was that three reasons already? But I’m not done. So here’s a BONUS reason why crowdfunding hasn’t taken off on or Off-Broadway.
4. Producers think it makes them look desperate.

This is the one that we need to get over. By not allowing the small investor to participate in the making of theater, we’re ignoring a huge portion of the theatergoing population. Small donors are what got Barack Obama elected. Small investors are what brought down giant hedge funds with the GameStop saga.

And by embracing small investors, whether through crowdfunding or by Producers dividing up $50,000 units into more reasonable numbers, we could launch more new shows, more new voices . . . and market them as well.
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If you’re looking for tips on crowdfunding, check out our 8 Tips for a Kick A$$ Kickstarter here, or get my book on How To Raise Money For The Arts Or For Anything.

You didn’t know her. But you would have. RIP Our Friend, Patricia Rumble

Patricia Rumble came to me a few years asking for some help in getting a show she wrote off the ground.

I was so taken by her passion for the theater and her passion for life, that I started working with her privately.  It’s something I rarely do nowadays.  But trust me, if you spent five minutes with this woman, you’d bend over backward while doing backflips, to help her.

She became one of my favorite clients. Ever. She was so optimistic about her future.  And whenever I gave her an idea of something to do to get her closer to her goals, she executed it before we could even get off the phone.

I once told her to get in touch with a local Texas theater and see if they would help her with her show.  The next day she drove down to the theater, talked her way into a meeting with the Artistic Director right then and there.  And secured a reading.  Boom.

I checked in with her a few weeks ago to see how she was doing. I was expecting to hear the good news I always heard when I checked in.  She always had great stuff going on.

This time, she told me she developed early-stage cancer in 2020.  She had a simple procedure to address it.  And it ended up being not so simple.  She had a series of complications, including . . . Covid.

She spent over three months in the hospital.

When she finally was in the recovery stage, she told me she was, “on fire to continue writing.” She started and finished a new one-woman show.  She was adapting a previous play of hers into a musical. And she was in negotiations to turn another into a movie.

She said there was a reason she got out of the hospital – because she had “more to do.”

It’s hard to read the tone in an email, but, it read like it was written with the excitement of a college graduate, not a woman in her 70s.

But that was Patricia.

She was getting ready for another surgery. And in her last email to me, just 23 days ago, she said . . .

“Looking forward to theatre to be open once again so we can continue what we love doing.”

Patricia died last week.

That’s really all I have to say about it. I think you understand the type of theatermaker person she was.

But I will say this. She wanted to keep making theater. She wasn’t done. And now she can’t.

She’s another tragic example of how precious our time here is.

Patricia can’t keep writing. But I guarantee you this, she is up there right now, cheering us all on to do the things we dream about doing.

We owe it to her to do “what we love doing.”

I will, Patricia. I promise.

The World Premiere of The Neil Diamond Musical will be . . .

It was almost a year ago to the day.
We were about to announce that our Neil Diamond Musical that has been in development for a few years, would have its world premiere in Boston in 2020.

And then, it became clear to us, and to the rest of the world, that this pandemic wasn’t going to cooperate with anyone’s plans.

So we’ve been waiting.  And waiting.  And . . .

Now . . . finally . . . I’m thrilled to announce that the show with a book by four-time Academy Award nominee Anthony McCarten will have its world premiere in Boston at the Colonial Emerson Theater (where I grew up going to shows), in July of 2022.

Oh.   And the title!  Well, it’s called . . . A Beautiful Noise.

You can see the exact dates and sign up to get exclusive access to tickets here.  (And in the spirit of the season, look around and see if you can find a little Easter Egg hidden on the site, just for you.)

You’ll hear a lot more from me about the show in the coming months.  We’ve all been so starved for theater, I plan on sharing a lot.  🙂  So follow me here to see photos and videos along the way.

But right now, all that we wanted to do was put our Sweet Caroline of a flag in the Beantown ground and say. . . we’re coming . . . we’re coming to America Boston!  And THEN America!

See more here.

Will Game Of Thrones make it to Broadway? And will it be a hit?

News travels fast across Westeros!

Today, multiple ravens announced that Game of Thrones is headed for the stage!

As this article reports, the wildly (and Wildling) successful HBO series is set to debut in 2023 in NYC, London, and in Australia.  Which will come first?  Who knows, but I doubt Broadway will host the premiere, given our high cost and high stakes (if you make it here you can make it anywhere – and if you DON’T make it here, then good luck elsewhere!).

George R.R. Martin will write the “story” along with Duncan MacMillan (who brought us 1984) and Dominic Cooke will direct.  Simon Painter and Tim Lawson will produce.

So the team is first-rate.

But this will be a challenging one.

I’m always fearful of source material that is SO successful.  It gives you quite a hurdle to jump over.  Harry Potter did an amazing job with their adaptation (and GOT is taken a similar approach in coming up with a new story for the stage version), but it hasn’t been the slam dunk business-wise we all thought it would be (this Producer included).

And this genre has had a checkered past.  Remember Lord of the Rings?  Another celebrated fantasy series that never got all the way here?

Regardless of what happens (and I’ll be praying to the Red God for its success), the fact that a brand this popular sees the theater as an important part of its extension, is another reason why the future of the theater looks bright.

Film, TV, theme parks, merchandising, and yes, the theater.  The most successful entertainment brands in the world should have a piece of everyone.

What do you think about a Game of Thrones theater piece?

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