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!”
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.
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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.
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.
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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)
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!
See you then.