7 Predictions For When Broadway Comes Back. Part II

Welcome back, readers, and prepare ye for four more predictions for post-Covid Broadway.
 
In case you missed it, my first four projections went up here a wee 24 hours ago. And I emailed some of you Early Adopters the remaining four last night.
 
For those of you not on that list (which you can get here), here are four MORE things that will change when Broadway comes out of its coronavirus cave.
 
4. Streaming will still be a thing.
 
Not only is streaming not going away, but it will expand even when we don’t need it like we do now.
 
I’m not talking about the umpteen livestreams that are poppin’ up like podcasts or blogs did a few years ago. No, no. Most of those will disappear like . . . well, like the many podcasts and blogs that lie dormant in the internet graveyard.
 
I’m talking about full on productions, filmed for posterity and (hopefully) profit.
 
This shutdown has proven how fragile our economic model is. We (and when I say we, I mean all sides of the aisle from Producers to Artists) are going to need an insurance policy in the future, just in case . . . just in case . . .
 
I think that’s a cue for my 5th prediction.
 
5. Broadway will shut down again.
 
At some point in the next few decades, we will go through this again. We’ll be effin’ better at it then, for sure, but this will not be the last time a pandemic put our backs against the wall.
 
Remember when we never shut down for snowstorms? And then a few years ago, we just did. And now, we close up shop about once a year for a storm of some sort (and for good reason, I might add – as nothing is more important than safety).
 
The virus dam has broken on Broadway and around the country, and I predict we’ll go through another contagious storm during my lifetime.
 
(I say this NOT to be alarmist, by the way. I say it so that we’ll prepare for it. And yes, capturing our performances is one way.)
 
6. Remember all those corporations that came into town?
 
Here is the thing about big business . . . they come when they smell money, and they run when they don’t. Broadway’s boom brought a lot of boys to our yard. But they don’t like to sweat like a startup. That’s why I’d bet that we’ll see fewer corporate players on Broadway when we come back.
 
And that’s not such a bad thing.
 
Fewer bucks from boardrooms means more room for the independent TheaterMaker. And that, my friends is what we need to get us back to where we were before and beyond.
 
As Cameron Macintosh said, “It is my instinct that the theatre has always survived on mavericks – people with a passion for the theatre who go their own way.”
 
So get ready, because our depression may lead to our renaissance.
 
Which leads me to . . . my seventh and final prediction (for now anyway).  And, you know what?  If I only got this next one right, I’d gladly be wrong about the other six, because it’s that important.
 
7. Black Lives will matter on Broadway.
 
Yes, I say this because it should happen. Yes, I say this to put it in the universe to will it to happen. But I also predict that it will happen because of what I’m seeing start to happen.
 
And this beginning is because of the honest and courageous work of the organizations that are rising to this challenge, or who have been born from it. Broadway Advocacy Coalition (if you haven’t attended one of their forums, you simply must), Black Theatre United, Black Theatre Coalition, Black Theatre Network and all those orgs (including those led by students (!)  at universities), the theater owes you a debt that we can only repay through our action.
I’ve pledged to take action. And I encourage all TheaterMakers to do the same. Because we just can’t let up, even when the Covid crisis is over.
 
Those are my predictions . . . what are yours? Do you see big changes, small changes, any changes coming to Broadway post-Covid? Put ’em in the comments below.
 
Oh, and if you want to hear the predictions of people much smarter than I am, you should come to this.
 

7 Predictions For When Broadway Comes Back. Part I

I spend a good 25% of my day thinking about what we’re going to look like on the other side of this thing.

It’s not the healthiest activity to engage in. Things change so fast, it’s hard to know where we’ll be tomorrow, never mind next March (fingers crossed).

But I do it anyway. And I know you do too.

So I thought I’d share three predictions that I see coming as a result of the Broadway shutdown.

Oh, and big ol’ disclaimer . . . every time I make a prediction, by the time I finish making it, something changes.  So I promise to have another set of these suckers in a few months.  Make sure you get ’em by signing up here.)

Here are my predictions as of today:

1. More shows will come in cold.

We’ll have a lot fewer out-of-town tryouts in the coming years, especially in the short term. In fact, I’ve heard rumors about a few new shows that have already committed to coming straight in.

Why? Won’t we still need the creative R&D?

Yes! But the current, previous out-of-town model will be too expensive in the new Broadway economy (see Prediction #2).

And, the out-of-town tryout will also be too . . . well . . . out-of town! Even with a vaccine, trust in travel isn’t going to appear overnight. I expect artists will prefer to keep their circles smaller and stay-at-home, if they can.

Which brings me to . . .

 

2. Everything will cost less . . . because it will have to.

Costs have risen like a rocket over the past several DECADES.

It was hard to keep a lid on ’em, to be honest, since the mega-hits were earning so much mega-profit.

Vendors, unions, and everyone who makes a living on Broadway set their rates based on the best possible scenario, not average scenarios. So, as long as one out of five shows continue to recoup, it’s hard to make the argument that expenses are out of whack. (We’ve had a 20% success rate since we started keeping track!) 

But that potential has changed. Tourists account for 65% of our audience, and right now many can’t come to the city without quarantining for 14 days! Unemployment is 50% higher than it was in 2008. And our audience has said they’re not sure when they are going to come back.

Does that mean we do nothing? NO. We need to produce shows. We need theaters lit. The ONLY way we get back to where we were before and beyond is to raise the curtains. When our audience hears the roar of the crowd and smells the greasepaint, they will run back.

But how do we do that if the risk is HIGHER than it was pre-Covid? You stimulate the production by decreasing the costs . . . across every budget line.

 

3. Broadway Investors will get better returns.

And hey, hey, Broadway Producers (this guy included), don’t think you can ask everyone else to cut expenses and not cut your potential as well

Because here are two truths . . .

First, you know what is going to be hard to do in the next year? Get people to invest in Broadway.

You know what helps stimulate investing in Broadway . . . or in anything? Giving Broadway investors better returns.

We’re asking for the people we “deal” with to change their models . . . we’re going to have to change ours.

 

Phew . . . this is a lot to digest. My anxiety level just spiked and I have three predictions to go!

I’m going to go drown that anxiety in a big, sugary coffee from Starbucks. I’ll tell you the other three things (including the BIG ONE) in tomorrow’s blog.

Don’t want to wait? I already wrote the other four predictions. If you want them now or are afraid you’ll miss them tomorrow, then fill in the form below.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you! Anxiety ahead!

“Give me the rest of them now, Ken!”

 

FILL IN FORM BELOW:






A few (choice) words from Governor Cuomo (that may sound familiar).

This will be brief.

And it will NOT be a trashy takedown of our Governor. Because he has done a fantastic job facing this monster of a crisis.

No, no. The choice words I have for him are his own

Let me explain . . .

After New York hit the apex, our Governor appealed for aid from the federal government.

And every day he expressed frustration at how Congress was talking about diving up the money.

His argument was simple . . . More money should go to the states that suffered the most.

He even got into Twitter fights about it.

And of course, he was right. The people who hurt the most should get the most help.

So, Governor (and Honorable Mayor de Blasio, as well), I hope that logic will apply to Broadway and the theater as well.

See, the theater is one of the hardest hit industries in our city, our state . . . and on the damn planet. There is no curbside pick-up for the theater. No take-out. No 50% occupancy.

It’s all or nothing. And for the foreseeable future, it’s nothing.

When you give the green light for New York to enter ‘Stage 4 on Monday’ (cross fingers), theater doors will remain shut.

And almost 100,000 actors, musicians, stagehands, and more will remain out of work.

Like New York state, these individuals suffer the most.

And, at the same time, these individual are part of an industry that has an economic impact of $14.7 billion a year.

So, using your logic, shouldn’t the industry that is suffering the most, yet providing the most, get the most?

Isn’t this the same as you telling the fed that New York should get the most, because it paid the most to federal coffers?

You know why this blog can be brief?

Because what you said makes so much sense.

And now it makes sense for us.

– – – – –

Interested in hearing more about how Broadway and the theater comes back?  Last chance to join the 3 Part video series that started earlier this week.  But the 3rd video – about safety in the era of coronavirus – is still to come!  And when you sign up, you get access to the other vids as well.  Click here.

Dreaming About The Future Of Streaming (thanks to Hamilton).

Oh, if all of my shows could be like Hamilton.

Sure, sure, I’d like the Pulitzer and the Tonys and the billion bucks.

But what I’m talking about now is the giant treasure they had tucked in a vault . . . that they pulled out in the midst of this pandemic.

Yep, I’m talking about the movie they released on Disney+ last week that increased downloads of the D+ app by 74%!

And what I’m dreaming about and proposing for Broadway’s future is that every single play and musical on Broadway films performances of their original cast in the week after opening (just like we record a cast album at about the same time).

And we tuck that sucker away in a vault.

Sounds easy, and I bet you’re nodding your head right now in agreement.

But it’s not that easy.

It’s expensive.

See, Hamilton could afford it. Not only did they have cash to burn, but they also knew there would be a market for their product in the future. (Little did they know what role the movie would play in keeping their brand and Broadway’s brand alive.)

Most plays and musicals do NOT have cash to burn when they open. In fact, most new shows are losing money when they open and therefore can’t afford to invest in a risky insurance policy like spending millions on a shoot.

Never mind that the shoot would have had to be planned months before. (We could try to build this cost into the capitalization, but that might increase the budget by 10-20%, and it’s not like raising previous budgets were a piece of cake.)

So what to do?

In order to capture all of the new shows for posterity and for future revenue opportunities for everyone, including the actors, musicians, and stagehands, we must lower the costs of the capture themselves.

I mean, I’m kicking myself for not having ALL of my shows in a vault right now. I could roll them out and everyone involved would get a check.

But it was too pricey to record Spring Awakening, Once on This Island, Gettin’ the Band Back Together, etc. (And I know that for a fact because I budgeted them all.)

We must reinvent this model in how the labor is paid for video capture (especially since a capture doesn’t require any additional work on behalf of the labor) and then give the labor MORE if/when the capture is distributed.

Think about it this way . . .

It costs a few hundred thousand dollars to record a cast album. And the cast/musicians have to spend a day in a studio, on their day off, recording it. It’s a lot of work. (And most cast albums aren’t making any money, btw).

It can cost 10x as much to capture a show on video. And the labor is paid more than they get for a cast album. . . even though no additional work is required.  For video shoots, the show could be recorded during a regularly scheduled performance (or several).  (If any additional work was required for the shoot – additional rehearsals, etc, then the labor should be paid).

If we lower the cost of capture (please note that I’m saying lower, not eliminate), then every show could put their product in a vault. And then, if the show is a hit and Disney+ or Netflix comes around, then EVERYONE gets paid.

Or give the Producer the option . . . pay the Hamilton model, or pay the bonus-back-end model.

We’re going to need a lot of new models post-pandemic. This is one that could provide an all-important revenue stream for everyone in the future.

Call it COVID-insurance.

And I just kicked myself again for not having it.

– – – –

Want to hear more about streaming from people who know more about it than me?  Sign up now for our 3 part video series about the 3 subjects most on your mind, including streaming . . . featuring the heads of BroadwayWorld and BroadayOnDemand.  See here.

Know what tonight is?

It’s the Altar Boyz reunion!

It has been 15 (!) years since my first musical opened Off Broadway, and tonight we’re reuniting the original cast and creative team on my Facebook live at 8 PM Eastern!

Tune in and you’ll see:

Scott Porter, Matthew

Tyler Maynard, Mark

Andy Karl, Luke

Ryan Duncan, Juan

David Josefsberg, Abraham

Kevin Kern (“Wonder-study” #1)

Daniel Torres (“Wonder-study” #2)

and

Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, Composers & Lyricists

Kevin Del Aguila, Bookwriter

Marc Kessler, Co-Conceiver

Robyn Goodman, Producer

Stafford Arima, Director

Christopher Gattelli, Choreographer

Lynne Shankel, Music Director & Co-Orchestrator

and funny lady Susan Blackwell is hosting!

And in addition to some crazy stories from the Boyz, we’re also going to release a BRAND NEW ALTAR BOYZ VIDEO!

Click here to get the reminder and join us! Be sure to tune in on my Facebook, on my Twitter, on Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube Channel, or on Broadway on Demand.

See you then.

 

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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