And the nominees for this award which is sponsored by . . .

The Olivier Awards (London’s Tonys) announced their nominations last week.

If you didn’t catch them, click here to see the complete list.

And then let me know if you noticed anything . . . ummmmm . . . interesting.

A quick click on the Olivier Awards site will give you a giant clue.  They got a sponser.  And a huuuuge one, in Mastercard.

The Tonys have sponsors too, of course . . . like IBM, and Audemars Piguet, and even The Old Gray Lady, the NY Times .  . . but those sponsors stop at signage, speakers at the awards, and so on.

But Mastercard and the Olivier’s took their sponsorship one step further.

Take a look at that list of nominees once again.  Specificially the Best New Play Award.

Which is not the Best New Play Award.

It’s the Mastercard Best New Play Award.

Yep, MC got naming rights.  On an award.  An award that’s also named after Sir Laurence Olivier.  (throat clear)

It’s a big move, that obviously adds a lot of commercialization especially to something so prestigious and especially to something so British.  I mean, let’s face it, it seems like something Americans would do.  No?

So, I gotta assume that this big move came with a big check.  Or, the Oliviers really, really needed the cash.

And I gotta hope that we are never in the same situation.  Because the American Express Tony Award for Best Musical just doesn’t make me want to win one as much.  You?

 

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Why don’t I rate for that rate?

Spoiler alert:  If you work at or run a non-profit, I’ll bet you your endowment, you’re not going to like this post.

Yesterday I put in a call to a vendor I have not worked with before to ask for some rates for their services for a developing musical I’m working on (this one is probably two years away from even announcing here, never mind being seen on a stage).

I expressed a little concern over the amount I was quoted and the salesperson then said, “Well, this is for a commercial production, right?  If you’re a non-profit, I could give you our non-profit rate.”  (That rate was about 15% less.)

If I was a cartoon, steam would have come out of my ears and my face would have turned as red as a pair of Kinky Boots. (That is what we call in the biz a shameless plug, btw.)

Everyone knows how risky producing on Broadway is, right?  Only 25-30% of shows make money, but we get charged more?  Just because of our tax status?  Non-profits try to make money too, you know, they just put it back into their institution.

Well, guess what most Broadway Producers and Broadway Investors do?  Yep, they put it right back in as well.  And then some!

Additionally, big non-profits are almost guaranteed to be here for years and years, if not decades.  Broadway Producers and their shows are just trying to get through to next week, next month, and if they’re lucky and hit a juggernaut they’re around for a long time.  But Phantom of the Opera is still younger than the big NPs in town.

But still “For Profits” get charged more? Yet we don’t get grants or donations and such, not to mention artists working for a lot less than their  market rate?

One argument I’ve heard is, “Well non-profit is where the “art” is done – and so many important shows wouldn’t happen if NPs were given some favorable status.”  True, sort of.  See, plenty of important arts shows from Angels in America to Clybourne Park were given a wider audience because of their commercial production.  Don’t they deserve a break for taking that risk?  Especially if the vendors are admitting by even having a non-profit rate, that they can survive on those numbers.

Now, I know all you people that work for small struggling non-profits want to punch me right square in the blog because you need those rates to get by, right?

Well, I agree.  101%.

Despite this semi-rant, I’m not proposing we do away with Non Profit rates.  I’m proposing that, oh I don’t know, maybe there should be a sliding scale of Non Profit Rates.  Or maybe if your NP has only been in existence for 3 years or less, then you get the rate.  Or if your budget is less than X dollars, then you get the rate.  I’d have no problem with someone charging me more than someone charging a brand new company that’s producing new American plays by unknown playwrights in 99 seat theaters. (In fact, I’ll donate $100 to the first theater company that fits that description that comments on this entry.)

But granting companies blanket Non Profit rates, when lots of us are struggling to make our bottom lines black and are contributing just as much to the art and the economy, just doesn’t make “cents.”

That’s why I refused to use the vendor I called unless they gave me their NP rate.  Which they did.  🙂

 

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If they don’t go to opening night, then who should?

A friend of mine, and to protect the innocent, let’s call that friend . . . uh . . . me . . . was recently offered a chance to invest $50k into a Broadway musical.  A high unit price, but fairly typical for a higher priced musical.

While I wasn’t sure it was for me, I happened to have an investor that I thought might want the piece.  And I have no problem putting my people into other people’s shows.  What goes around comes around, and if my investors are happy that’s all that counts.

I asked some budgetary questions, as I do, and did the due diligence that I talk about in this seminar.

And just when I was about to recommend the investment to my guy, I was told that for the $50k, this investor would not be allowed to go to opening night.

Uhhh, come again?  You did say you wanted $50k, right?  Not $5k?

I know theaters have fixed capacities, and I know there are a lot of people that put on big musicals that deserve to be there to celebrate the big Broadway debut. But isn’t someone putting up fifty grand in a very risky proposition due the right to a couple of seats in a big theater?

I’ve planned opening night parties as a Producer.  I’ve been a GM and a CM on opening night parties.  And I know who gets to go to these things.  Everyone and their brother and their assistant who has ever even thought about working on the show.   (And the Company Manager usually always has a few emergencies in their pocket at the end as well!)

And all of them should go.

But the moment we start telling $50k investors that they can’t go?

That’s the moment we start losing investment dollars to other industries.

The perks are one of the few things that separate us from other investment opportunities.  When you buy 100 shares of Coca-Cola, they don’t give you a 6 pack of Coke, right?

But we can give you billing, insider access, and you betcha, opening night tickets.

Needless to say, my friend . . . and by my friend I mean moi . . . passed on this opportunity.

Why?  Because Broadway Investors are the reason why we get to do what we do.  They/we/you deserve to be celebrated for what they do, and therefore they deserve the respect of being invited to our celebrations.

 

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His ‘shadow’ will be cast for a long time to come.

When famous people that have had an impact on the biz pass on, I usually blog about it.  See this for example.  Or this.

This past weekend, the biz lost someone who has also helped keep shows going for a long time.

But Broadway won’t dim the marquees for him.  And I can’t imagine he’ll get an above the fold obit on the New York Times, or even on Broadway.com.

And that’s exactly why I am writing this post.  Because too often, we (and there’s a big ol’ “I” in that “we”), focus only on the 1% of Broadway doers . . . when it’s the 99% that are sloggin’ away, every day, eight shows a week, literally pulling the curtains on The Great White Way . . . making shows happen, and making audiences happy.   And they deserve to be noticed.

Christopher “Shadow” Edwards was a Local 1 Carpenter (and Prop Guy and Electrician and whatever else was needed) over at the Off-Broadway production Avenue Q, which my office General Manages.

And Christopher “Shadow” Edwards passed away last week.  And he had only recently celebrated his 40th birthday.

Shadow was an accomplished technician (and quite an accomplished Wii tennis player, as he proved to me whenever I visited Q).  But was most impressive about him was whenever I asked him how things were going . . . and I asked him that question during some tough times . . . he always said, “Can’t complain.  I love the theater.  And I get to work in theater.  How bad can it be?”

We’re going to miss him at Q.  And I’m going to miss him coming to my office to collect his paycheck, rubbing in how much better of a Wii tennis player he was.  And how he always used to hit me up to give him a lighting designer gig, because that’s where he wanted to take his career next.

I’m sure he’s lighting up the sky now.

We’ll miss you, my friend.  If I owned all the marquees in the city, I’d blacken ’em out just for you.

 

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Theater things that don’t make sense: Vol. 10: GMs shouldn’t have to sell.

The theater is a bootstrappy business.  Someone has a barn, so you put on a show.  You grab costumes from a closet, and props from a living room and up the show goes to hopeful success.

Expansion and the fleshing out of the actual roles and positions that are necessary to optimize the show (and the industry) for the best onstage and offstage performances therefore comes slowly.

And there’s an example of that slow adoption still happening in the business today, and it doesn’t make much sense to me.

General Managers of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows have, in the past, been in charge of distributing sales information to the Group Sales Agents all over town.  It started as the dissemination of prices and locations and protocols, etc.  Sounds like a very managerial task to do, right?

It was.

But, what was really happening . . . or what should be happening . . . is very traditional B2B (Biz to Biz) marketing.  Selling the show to salespeople, so they’ll in turn sell it to their clients (Tour Operators, Group Leaders, etc.) who then, in turn, may have to sell it to their clients (the people attending the shows).

And frankly that’s not what General Managers should be doing, for 3 reasons:

  1. They’ve got plenty of other things to focus on.
  2. Sales is not their area of expertise.
  3. See Reason #1.

Now, I love my GMs, and many are great salespeople and marketers (Renaissance men and women doesn’t even begin to define them – they’re probably better Producers than all of us).  The point I’m trying to make is that Group Sales marketing is an important enough component of marketing a Broadway show that it deserves salespeople doing the selling.  Group Sales biz represents close to 10% of all Broadway sales.  And that’s an average.  If you’ve got a heavy Group Show, that number can easily double.

So you need to ask yourself . . .

Who do you want doing your B2B selling?  A seller or a manager?

There is evidence of a transition starting to take place. I know of a few marketing agencies who have folded Group Sales Strategy and Communications into what they do.  So we’re headed in the right direction.  Just took us some time to get there . . . and everyone isn’t there yet.

On your show, or in any business, it’s not a question of if other staff members can do the same job . . . it’s a question of who can do it the best.

And sellers selling?  That makes a heck of a lot more sense to me.

 

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