The Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2014-2015

Broadway Marketing is an open book test.  Literally.

Every “this time of year,” The Broadway League sends all of its members a book.  That book contains a complete breakdown of who came to Broadway shows in the last calendar year, where they heard about Broadway shows, why they came, how much money they earn, whether they bring their families, and so on, etc. etc.

For Producers like me, who sometimes wish demographic data was a liquid I could dive into and bathe myself with, it’s one of my favorite things to get in the mail every year.

When you know who the primary customers in an industry are, it is much easier to create a marketing plan to reach them.  You wouldn’t go on a trip without knowing where your destination was, would you?  Not researching who the primary customers are in your chosen field, whether that’s Broadway or worm farming, is the quickest way to get lost, and lose a lot of money.

Now, that’s not to say new audiences can’t be found and shouldn’t be cultivated (I always portion a piece of my marketing budget to developing an audience that I feel may be unique to the show I’m working on), but if there is one thing we know about Broadway shows . . . it’s that we live/recoup or die/don’t recoup based on how the traditional audience responds to what’s on our stage.

That’s why I love doing a pencil dive into the pool of demographics The League sends out each year.

And it’s also why I share some of that data with you!

Below, please find the Executive Summary from The League’s office report (along with some comments from me).

And if you want the full 52 page book from The League, click here to order your own copy.

Enjoy the swimming!

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • In the 2014-2015 season, there were a record breaking 13.1 million admissions to Broadway shows.  Approximately two-thirds of those were made by tourists: 49% from the United States (but outside New York City and its suburbs) and 18% from other countries.
  • Sixty-eight percent of the audiences were female.
  • The average age of the Broadway theatregoer was 44 years.
  • Almost eighty percent of all tickets were purchased by Caucasian theatregoers.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  It will be interesting to see if this number changes in next year’s report since we have such a diverse group of offerings this year including The Color Purple, Hamilton, Eclipsed, Shuffle Along, On Your Feet, etc.)
  • Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 78% had completed college and 39% had earned a graduate degree.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  College kids may not want to pay a lot for tickets now, but they obviously will in the future . . . so we should focus on this audience big time.)
  • The average Broadway theatregoer reported attending 4 shows in the previous 12 months.  The group of devoted fans who attended 15 or more performances comprised less than 5.6% of the audience, but accounted for 32% of tickets (4.2 million admissions).  (NOTE FROM KEN:  5.6% representing 32%? Wow.  So much for the 80/20 rule.)
  • Playgoers tended to be more frequent theatregoers than musical attendees.  The typical straight-play attendee saw eight shows in the past year; the musical attendee, four.
  • Over one-half of the respondents said they purchased their tickets online.
  • The average reported date of ticket purchase for a Broadway show was 36 days before the performance.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Got a promotion? Make sure it launches a month before you want folks to show up.)
  • For musical attendees, personal recommendation was the most influential factor in show selection.  Playgoers cited a specific performer as the greatest lure.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  I guess the star-driven revival is here to stay.)
  • The most popular reported sources for theatre information were Broadway.com, Ticketmaster.com, and the New York Times.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Two of the three were ticketing sites?  Huh.)

 

What do you think of the above?  How would you use this to market your Broadway show?

Or, how would you use this to develop your Broadway show?

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Why the Super Bowl reminded me of my first Acting Class.

I watched ‘da Bowl on Sunday like the other 100 million people around the world (actually half-watched, since I had my laptop open while I was talking on the phone . . . so I guess you could say I ‘tched the Super Bowl).  As I ‘tched and used it as an excuse to eat Buffalo Wings, I couldn’t help but think how much each “play” in the game was like a great scene in a great, well, play.

Like most acting students, I was taught the basic fundamentals of acting/writing in one of my first classes on the subject with a simple improvisational exercise.

It went something like this.

  • Two characters stand on a stage.
  • One character wants something.
  • The other character doesn’t want the first character to get what they want.

Poof.  Instant drama.  No matter what that “want” is, whether it’s to get the other person to go out on a date or to give them $500 dollars . . . or to score a touchdown.

See where I’m headed?

Sporting events like football, where there are two teams, are the simplest form of classic dramatic structure there is.  I want to score.  You don’t want me to score.  We clash.  Eventually, one of us will lose.

And to make it even more thrilling of an event?  There’s a ticking clock.

Sporting events and theater seem so diametrically opposed (maybe that’s because there is such little crossover between the fans), but when you take away the shoulder pads and you take away the Capezio tap shoes, they are much more similar than you think.

So if you’re looking to make your show thrilling, take a page out of a football playbook . . . and make your show a sport.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Podcast Episode 58: From Millie to Fun Home with Tony Award-Winning Composer, Jeanine Tesori

If you read Jeanine Tesori’s list of credits, you might think they were the credits of five different composers, the subjects and the sounds are so diverse.

From Thoroughly Modern Millie to Caroline, or Change to Shrek to Fun Home . . . there ain’t nuthin’ she can’t write.  And nuthin’ she can’t write incredibly well.

It makes me wonder what’s next???

But before we get to her next show, listen in to this week’s podcast to hear how she got to write her shows, as well as . . .

  • Why her collaborations could make a helluva bat mitzvah.
  • What googling baby armadillos has to do with how she writes a song.
  • Why story is more important than plot when deciding to write a musical.
  • Why her favorite song was one she didn’t think would last longer than a few previews.
  • Her perspective on being a woman Writer on Broadway and how to encourage more to get in the game.

Oh, and during this podcast, you’ll hear some great stories about the preview period of Thoroughly Modern Millie.  After you’re done listening to Jeanine, make sure you tune in to hear Producer Hal Luftig and Producer Kristin Caskey (who’s also behind Fun Home) tell their versions of the same dramatic tale.

Enjoy the podcast!

Click here to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript!

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Why Stephen Sondheim is wrong.

Stephen Sondheim is a genius.  And as I said in one of my first blogs, way back in 2007, he’s the Shakespeare of American Musical Theater.

But that doesn’t mean he’s right all the time.

And last week, he was just wrong.

Not about anything artistic, mind you.  I’m certainly not correcting a lyric of his, or a time signature.

But in an interview he gave with Billboard (where he talks Radiohead, Disney and more), he took the interviewer’s bait and agreed that our industry was “too insular to age well.”

Honestly, I didn’t have an issue with that.  In fact, it’s an excellent and challenging point.  We’ve got a homogeneous makeup that makes coloring outside the lines difficult.

But when the interviewer then asked, “Does the success of Hamilton and works like it help with that insularity?” Mr. Sondheim said . . .

“Yes, yes. But you don’t get a lot of those ­because, first of all, ­producers don’t take chances on new stuff.”

Well that’s where I’ve got a problemo.

Saying “Producers don’t take chances” is one of those sweeping generalizations that I find hard to take, especially from a man who is so brilliant at choosing just the right words to express what he means.

And while it may be easy to point the finger at Producers, that generalization is also just incorrect, and a little insulting to those folks who have taken gigundo chances.

In the last ten years, Producers have gone out on a thin limb and produced a whole bunch of shows that stared conventional commercial formula right in the face and said, “Bring it!”  Need some examples?  Here are just a few . . .

Fun Home
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
The Scottsboro Boys
Passing Strange
Fela!
Holler If Ya Hear Me
Next to Normal
The Visit
Spring Awakening 
(the original and dare I also add my revival)

And there are more.

In fact, we’re doing a lot better than we were in the 90s.  Remember when Sunset Boulevard won the Best Musical Tony in 1995 . . . and there was only one other new musical nominated (Smokey Joe’s Cafe)?  Or even in 1994 when Passion won Best Musical and to fill out the category, the nominators gave a nod to the R&H revue A Grand Night for Singing?

I’d say Producers are taking more chances than ever.  I mean, Fun Home, people!

And the above list is just for shows on Broadway.  What about Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812Here Lies Love and many of the other Off Broadway productions (many of which were enhanced (translation – partially funded) by commercial Producers in the hope of them someday arriving on Broadway)?

And don’t even get me started on plays.  Remember when they said the new play was dead?  In the past ten years we’ve seen non-star driven new plays like Hand to God, August: Osage County, Jerusalem, and more.

I’m proud of my peers for the work they’ve done over the last decade, so yeah, I get a little defensive when someone as VIP-ish as Sondheim says it’s our fault that there isn’t more new stuff on Broadway.  Sure, sure, there were a bunch of jukebox musicals in the last ten years, and a lot of star driven commercial vehicles, but before you say it’s the Producers fault, you have to remember three things:

  1. Producers don’t hold the keys to the theaters.  Ultimately, we’re not making the decision of what gets on and what doesn’t get on.  The theater owners are the St. Peters of Broadway.  I actually think they’ve been done a pretty good job of balancing art and commerce as their cupeth runeth overeth with the number of Producers lining up to put show in their theaters.  But at the end of the day, they call the programming shots.
  2. Producers have responsibilities to investors.  I would love to do nothing but produce new daring and adventuresome musicals twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year.  But first, see point #1.  I have to get a theater in order to work, and I’m subject to the algorithms of the theater owners on whether or not that is possible.  Second, the majority of the Broadway audience wants a certain type of show.  Yes, it’s our job to push that envelope with shows like Hamilton, Spring Awakening, Rent, A Chorus Line, etc. but we are producing a product for a specific audience that is looking for a certain experience.  Additionally, the investors who fund those shows are not writing a check to a nonprofit.  They are looking for a return, or at the very least their money back.  I always say that I produce for three groups: my authors, my audience, and my investors . . . and I have to balance those three entities, which ain’t easy as they are often in opposition.  And, well, if my shows don’t make money, I don’t eat.
  3. And lastly, new stuff like Hamilton . . . well, shoot, it just don’t come around that often.  In other words, great is hard to find.  That’s what makes it great.  It’s not that we’re not taking chances, it’s just that we’re panning for gold, and nuggets are rare.  Now, in his defense, Mr. Sondheim said something just like this in the rest of his interview, so I know he gets it.  But it is worth repeating.  We want to take risks.  God knows, every day I wake up hoping, dreaming, begging to stumble across what I believe is the next Les Mis, Rent, Hamilton . . . Sweeney Todd.   

In other words, if we want new, daring, jump-off-a-cliff risk taking stuff, then it’s on all of us to be responsible for it.  We  have to find out ways to encourage every player in the Broadway ball game to figure out how we can work together to make it happen, not just say it’s someone else’s fault that we’re not doing enough of it.  The theater is a collaborative art form.  And the business of theater is even more so.

You should read the article, because despite The Maestro’s misstep with this one comment, he also dropped some serious truth-knowledge bombs like this one, that all writers should heed:

With any art form, you’ve got to know the past to be any good. You have to know what has been done before you.

Study the classics, my friends.  Before you can break the structure, you have to master it.

And now, I’m going to see if I can get Sondheim on my podcast.  Think I’ve got a shot?  🙂

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Why Broadway shows are going to get shorter.

At an industry event the other day, a Broadway Producer peer of mine and I were chatting about all the shows filling the theaters these days and how she was going to work them all into her schedule.

“You know what my four favorite words are?” she asked.

“No.  What are your four favorite words?” I responded, setting her up for the spike.

“90 minutes.  No intermission.”

There’s no question that there has been a trend over the last ten years for shorter shows.  We haven’t done an infographic on it (yet), but I’d guarantee that the running time of both musicals and plays has slimmed down over the last decade.

And my Producer’s Perspective prediction is that they are going to get even shorter.

Here’s why.

This week, a study was released by Common Sense Media with a bunch of stats on teens and tweens and their use of digital technology.  The key finding of the report, as detailed in this CNN article was that “On any given day, teens in the US spend about nine hours using media (social media, movies, video games, music, etc.) for their enjoyment.”

That’s right.  Nine hours.  They spend more hours consuming information and entertainment through media than they do sleeping.  And yeah, nine hours is also longer than they spend in school.

Just how do they do it?

Multi-tasking.

Half of the teens in the study say “they ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ use social media or watch TV while doing their homework.”

They are consuming entertainment while they are doing other things, often important things.  They are inundated by so much information in so many places, from their TV to their laptop to the phone in their pocket, that they can’t focus on one thing for any serious length of time.  Add to that a little “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) and no teen is going to want to wait too long to respond to a text or an Instagram pic that their friends may have just posted.

I know, I know, this is awful, right?  It’s crazy how you and I are married to our phones, never mind the next generation, who were practically born with a phone in their hand.

It might be awful.  But it ain’t changing.

And it is certainly going to affect how entertainment is created in the future.

Because this ADD generation is our future audience.  And they can’t sit still for too long without consuming entertainment from various sources.  So the idea that an audience is going to sit through a three-hour play in twenty years is just cuckoo.  That’s why John Caird said in his podcast that he doubted The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby would even be produced in 2015.

But that’s not the primary reason the shows are going to get shorter.

It’s not just that this is the audience of the future.  It’s that these teens . . . that can check social media 100 times a day . . . they are the writers of the future.

They are going to write what they know.  They are going to write how they consume.  They are going to create shows that satisfy their own desires.

And those desires are going to be shows that are shorter, and that have information coming at you from all angles . . . from the stage . . . and maybe from that phone in your pocket too.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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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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