Did you know Broadway has a loyalty program? And why you should have one too.

One of my favorite theater reporters wrote an article for the Associated Press recently and with the headline alone, he nailed something that I had been thinking for years:

A Broadway Secret:  A Frequent Flyer Program for Theater Fans

If I had the insight to write that article, I would have headlined it, “Why the @#$% do more people not know about the awesome thing that is Audience Rewards, for @#$%’s sake?”

And that is one of the many reasons I don’t write for the Associated Press!

If you don’t know about Audience Rewards, click here, learn more and join.  It’s the “Official Loyalty Program for Broadway” that was started years ago, in a tri-partisan partnership between the major theater chains (which ain’t such an easy thing to broker, by the way).

As a member of Audience Rewards, you earn points, you save money, you get freebies.  Bingo, bango, bongo . . . who doesn’t want that?

Don’t misunderstand, AR is a vibrant program with a ton of members.  But why doesn’t it feel like an Airline or Hotel loyalty program, which has entire websites dedicated to how to earn more points, hacking VIP status, and more?

In other words, why aren’t YOU a member?

It didn’t take me too long to realize one of the answers.  You see, AR is an “industry” loyalty program, not a brand-specific loyalty program.

You’re probably a member of a whole bunch of loyalty programs:  American Airlines, Marriot, Hertz, Chili’s, your nail salon, poke bowl place, etc, etc.

You’re probably NOT a member of these loyalty programs:  Travel, Hotels, American Chain Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Fast Food Fads, etc.

See what I mean?  Industry vs. Specific Brand.

In fact, our loyalty program is probably one of the FEW industry-wide loyalty programs out there (again, a testament to the power brokers who negotiated this deal – because it’s somewhat unprecedented).

I’m so thankful for Audience Rewards, because it gives our fans something to hang their loyalty on, and for us Producers, it puts butts in seats.

But what I’d like to see is more show-specific loyalty programs.

What punch card can you offer your most loyal fans for coming back more than once . . . or even better, recommending your show to others?  What type of upgrades can you offer to the audience members who pay full price rather than discount? What non-advertised secret clubs can you create that people can aspire to get an invite to (see American Airlines Concierge Key program).

If you’re not rewarding your customers for their loyalty to you and your brand, then you are missing out on one of the most important parts of your marketing campaigns.  Because keeping the customers you have happy is so much easier than acquiring new ones.

So just because our industry has a terrific loyalty program, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one too.

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Learn more marketing tips live and in-person from some of the best in the Broadway biz here.




What I loved about the Harry Potter Times Square Takeover.

In case you missed it, on September 5th, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child did cast a spell over all the digital billboards in Times Square.

As you can see in this clip,  it was the largest advertising “takeover” in NYC on record . . . and probably the world.

Why did I love this marketing move so much?

Is it because of all the “traditional” forms of media still being used today, Outdoor has held its value, while print, tv and more have dropped precipitously?

Is it because it was a “back to Hogwarts” campaign that was calendar-synced to our back to school week . . . and timing your campaigns with what is on the mind of your consumer always strengthens your impression?

Is it because while Potter continues to do good biz, there has been some chatter about why it isn’t bigger than Hamilton and others, with the brand it has (I’d say it’s the doubleheader – which is never easy for a US audience to embrace)?  This stunt answered the question of its size, especially with the coincided announcements of productions in San Francisco, Toronto and Hamburg.

Is it because Sarah Jessica Parker was there?

I loved it for all of those things . . . and for one other.

I’m positive that when the idea came up in the advertising meeting of taking over every billboard in Times Square, someone said or at the very least thought . . . “That’s impossible.”

And then, someone whipped open their spellbook, gave that person the head of a donkey with no tongue, and made this takeover effin’ happen.

It probably cost a small fortune.  It probably was a giant pain in the a$$.

But the best marketing (and the best everything!) is what hasn’t been done before.  And things that haven’t been done require passion and perseverance.

And, they always pay off.  Always (even though sometimes you can’t see it right away).

Kudos to the Producers, the Ad Agency, the Press Rep and to everyone on the Potter team for doing/imagining the impossible and making it a reality.

Now, if they could only make quidditch a real sport.




We ask again: Why Do Some Broadway Ticket Buyers Show Up At The Theater So Early?

Broadway Producers and Marketers are constantly wondering what makes our audiences member tick . . .and buy tick-ets.

What we often forget is that something like 40,000 of our customers walk through Times Square almost every day, steps away from our offices, and they’re just waiting for us to ask them questions.

So, from time to time, when I’ve got a question burning in my craw (what does that even mean?), that’s exactly what I do.

In this case, the question was . . . Why do some (and so many) theatergoers get to the theater so early . . . so early that they have to line up outside the theater, because the doors aren’t open yet?!  You’ve seen this phenomenon, right?  Just walk by the Majestic Theater on 44th St on a Wednesday at 1 PM, and see how many folks are in line for the 2 PM show.  I mean, that’s early!  And we don’t even have movie-like previews!

(Side note: these long lines are huge security challenges for our theaters and our city – I’ll let you think about why.)

Last winter, I sent a team of interns TO those lines to ask folks what got them to queue up so dang early, but since it was like 8 degrees out, I thought the answers might have been a bit skewed.  So, I sent a new team of interns out this summer to collect more data . . . and we aggregated the results for you here!

So, below, please see the results of our survey.

What excites me about it is the responses; the desire for audience members to take in the entire Broadway experience (which means maybe we should add “previews” or something of extra value before the show begins) as well as the FOMO answer (because it means that seeing a show is still an event – even if they don’t dress up for it anymore!).

What trends do you see in the below?  And do you get to the theater early?

Check out these numbers!

Want to see all the details of polls for winter? Check out this link!

It was all a Rave.

And just like that . . . we’ve wrapped up our first year of Rave.

Our brand new theater festival had its last performance of its inaugural year last night.

And I couldn’t be happier with how the whole thing went.

Let me do what I love to do, and give you some numbers:

  • 19 productions and 3 readings were produced for a total of 101 performances of brand-spankin’ new theater.
  • Over 4,500 audience members attended performances by these emerging TheaterMakers.  4,500!!!
  • Over 200 Artists helped make these shows happen, both on stage, off stage, in the wings, in the booths, and a bunch behind a desk.
  • There were thousands of social media mentions and reviews, resulting in hundreds of thousands of impressions for those Artists.
  • And there was one, very proud founder/Broadway Producer/Blogger.

I had the easy job for this festival.  Seven months ago I had an idea.  And I posed it to my staff, who looked at me a little bug-eyed and then said, “We’re in.”

See, like me, they believe the world is a better place if there’s more theater in it.  So when I said that we should make a festival happen as part of our 5000By2025 mission, to work they went in order to make this festival happen.

And there’s no way it would have happened without them.

Special thanks to Valerie Novakoff, Britt Lafield, Monica Hammond, Mary Dina, Erica Fallon, Emily McGill, Jenna Lazar, Parrish Salyers, and Kellie Williams for their passion and for taking my idea and executing it with excellence to the Nth degree

And to the Producers, Writers, Actors, Designers, Musicians, and all the Artprerenuers who made their shows happen . . . this thing was nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . without you.

Your passion is inspiring.

So inspiring, in fact, that you’ve inspired us to do this again.

Yep, Rave will return next summer.   Rave 2.0 in 2020.  🙂

So sign up here to be the first to know when we’re taking submissions and when the tickets for the next set of shows-to-be will go on sale.

Because if this season proved anything, it’s that there are a whole group of TheaterMakers out there who you may not know today . . . but you will tomorrow.

UPDATE ALERT!  We’ve just announced the winners of our Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Play, and many others:

Outstanding Production

Noirtown by Michael Bontatibus

Outstanding Musical

Just Laugh, with a book and lyrics by Lauren Gundrum and Brandon Lambert, the latter also contributing music.

Outstanding Play

Fancy Maids by Harold Hodge Jr.

Outstanding Performances

PJ Adzima in The Tycoons!
Madeline Grey DeFreece in Fancy Maids
Kayland Jordan in Fancy Maids
Julia Knitel in The Tycoons!
Terra Mackintosh in Back
Amy Penston in Big Shot
Arturo Luis Soria in Ni Mi Madre
Donna Vivino in Waiting For Johnny Depp

Outstanding Ensemble

The Perfect Fit

Outstanding Original Score

Mhairi Cameron, Oceanborn

Outstanding Book of a Musical

Joshua Turchin, The Perfect Fit

Outstanding Direction

Max Friedman, The Tycoons!

Outstanding Choreography

Sally Dashwood, Girls On Tap

Outstanding Design

Back with sound design by Andrew Fox, scenic design by Tim McMath, and lighting design by Greg Solomon

Outstanding Marketing


Are you a Producer, Writer or other TheaterMaker?  Got a show?  Make it a goal of yours to submit your show for next year’s Rave!  Click here and sign up to know when we’re taking submissions.

Don’t have a show yet?  Start working on one today!  One of the biggest hits of the festival was written AFTER we announced the festival.  12-year-old Joshua Turchin wrote his show just to submit it.  And then this happened.  It can happen to you too.  Click here.


5 Shows That Stand Out at NYMF 2019

It was 15 years ago.

Can you believe it?

15 years ago, almost to the day, we started rehearsals for the New York Musical Festival production of Altar Boyz . . . starring Cheyenne Jackson, Andy Karl, David Josefsberg, Ryan Duncan, and Tyler Maynard.  Talk to any one of those guys and they’ll tell you stories about singing “Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait” and “Jesus Called Me On My Cell Phone” around my little piano in my rehearsal room/bedroom in my apartment.

It was a blast.

Thankfully, we stood out at that first year of the festival, bounced to Off-Broadway a few months later . . . and stuck around for five years.  And now, Altar Boyz is done all over the country and all over the world.

15 years later, we’re in the midst of this year’s New York Musical Festival  . . . which has grown into the biggest, coolest, most influential musical theater festival in the world (is there any other musical theater festival that gets more industry attention? And I say that having a festival of my own!).

And a whole bunch of new shows are standing out.  Every year, I go through the catalog of offerings, looking for the next Altar Boyz and more.  And each year, I tell you which ones stand out to me!

How does a show make the list?  It’s important to know that this isn’t a list of what shows I think are “best,” which are most likely to recoup or win awards, or which are most likely to have five year runs like Altar Boyz.  I put shows on this list based on their descriptions in the NYMF catalog and what strums a chord in the commercial producer in me.  And a disclaimer, I do know a few of the folks on this list (because they’ve been pretty good at getting my attention over the years), but I’ve got no reason to be anything but objective . . . especially since I’m not judging them on what’s going to be the next Urinetown.

Got it?  So here goes . . . based on what I’ve read on the NYMF website, here are the five shows that stand out at this year’s NYMF (and a little explanation as to why, in the hopes that it’ll help you get your shows to stand out to Producers like me when you’re in a festival of your own).

1. Black Hole Wedding

You know that old A Chorus Line story of how Michael Bennett added the “A” before “Chorus Line” to appear first in the ABC’s (thank you alpha order)?  Well, that @#$% works.  🙂  It’s not the reason I added Black Hole Wedding to this list, but it didn’t hurt, and it may have put it over the edge.  But what got me to notice BHW first was the timeliness of its ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter (Energy Politics) combined with the kookiness of the plot.  It is described as a “zany satire,” and there’s always room for one of those at a festival.

2. Ladyship

This musical had three things going for it right away.  1) The word “journey” appears in the first sentence of their marketing blurb . . . and all great stories are journeys.  2) It takes place in the 18th century . . . and a majority of our great musicals are period pieces (including over 55% of Tony Award Winning Best Musicals).  And 3) It features two women (a la Wicked) as its protagonists.  Add that it’s “based on a true story,” and I wanted to know more.

3. Till

Speaking of true stories . . . here comes one about a harrowing moment in American history, when the young Emmett Till was found murdered for the color of his skin.  It’s almost too timely, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued, because I believe musicals can put a spotlight on society in a way that the news can’t and maybe even change a few minds in the process.

4. The Disappearing Man

The Disappearing Man had the shortest description of all the shows in the festival this year. But the funny thing is because the title also suggested something mysterious, I wanted to know more.  Add the cool setting of a “small-town circus in 1936” and it sounded like a world I wanted to walk around in for a while.  Sometimes less is much more, and creating a strong visual for the time and place of your show can make me want to buy a ticket to take a trip there.

5. Savage The Musical

The description of Savage goes as far as to say exactly why it’s relevant today . . . it’s about a “divorced, single mother who fought racism, sexism, and abuse to make a name for herself.”  This woman just happens to be a Native American, Annie Oakley type, and again, it’s based on a true story (are you getting a sense of what turns my ticket buying engine on?).

Honorable Mentions go to . . . Alive! The Zombie Musical (because who doesn’t like zombies), Finding Beautiful (“the first transgender woman to compose for the main stage and the first-ever NYMF Fellow”) and Flying Lessons (it sounds like something I’ll want to take my daughter to someday).

I was bad this year and posted this a bit late, so you can’t even catch some of the events above, but there are still plenty of opportunities for you to see other NYMF shows.  Click here to see all the events and go to one.  We all want more new writers and more new musicals on the boards, right?  We can make that happen by supporting festivals like NYMF.  (And, yes, Rave, too!)

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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