5 Ways to attract International Audiences

The most recent set of Broadway stats had international tourists at about 14% of the entire Broadway audience.

While not a majority, it’s still a good chunk (and it was actually down this past year from priors).  International audiences are a challenging group to reach for a whole bunch of reasons, but there are still things you can do to make your show more appealing to this group, if you think they are important to your success.

Here are five ways that you can attract International Audiences to your show.

1.  Choose your art carefully.

If you’re counting on people who may not speak English to see your show, you best make sure the art (logo, etc.) is a very clear representation of what your show is about.  They may not be able to read your blurb, your quotes, or how many nominations/awards you got. For non-English speakers, it’s all about the art.

2.  Show ’em they are welcome.

Want to make sure someone feels at home?  Speak their language.  Add a sentence or two in another language and you’ll instantly make that international reader a heck of a lot more comfortable.  You’ll make them feel like they belong, which will make them more likely to say, “Porterò due biglietti,” which is Italian for “I’ll take 2 tickets.”  And if languages take up too much of your marketing space, some shows will put images of small flags from other countries on their materials to indicate that their show is internationally friendly.

3.  The bigger the brand the better your chance at going global.

International visitors are usually more risk adverse than domestic visitors.  That means, they’re going to go with something they know over something they don’t.  And thus the international success of shows like Phantom and Mamma Mia.  If you don’t have ABBA music or 20+ years of shows under your belt, try and tie your show to anything that might have resonated globally.

4.  Hotels are their new home.

They’ve already made a commitment to stay in a hotel, which means that temporary home has their trust and faith . . . which also means that’s where they are going to go for recommendations and suggestions.  Advertising in hotels (in-room magazines, in-room tv, CTMs) are a big part of grabbing this demographic, and, of course, don’t forget those concierges . . . many of which speak several languages.  Imagine you’re in Japan and you find someone who speaks English.  You’re going to bond with them instantly, right?  You’re going to trust them, right?  That’s what happens here, too, so make sure you have a concierge outreach program in place.

5.  Find a reason to appear in their press.

Does your show deal with international issues?  Got a cast member with international ancestry?  Are there any international connections that you exploit in international press?  Here’s the thing – NY press hears about Broadway all the time.  But international press?  Well, it’s more rare to have a story that resonates, which means, if you can find one, you’ll get some serious play for your play.  Get them to know you’re here before they’re here, and you’re much more likely to get them to buy a ticket.

 

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Top Seven Things Different About Theater in Tokyo

If you follow me on the Facebook or the Twitter, then you know I am currently halfway around the world checking out the Japanese production of Altar Boyz.  I had never been to Tokyo before (and certainly never had an opportunity to eat Cod Sperm – which I politely declined), and I am having a blast.

The similarities between Tokyo and NYC are pretty incredible, from the subway system to the traffic (pedestrian and auto) to the incredible food (I mean, in its defense, I didn’t even try the Cod You-Know-What).

Whenever I travel, I’m always hyper curious about the similarities and differences between theater in foreign lands (which includes some parts of the US) and theater in NYC.

Here are seven things I noticed about theater and business in Tokyo that I found fascinating:

1.  They found a way to get young people to the theater!

The primary audience for theater in Japan is females . . . ok, no difference there . . . but ready?  Females in their 20s and 30s!  Doh!  It’s the thing to do on the weekends here, especially with your gal pals.  Because when I say females, I mean females.  The performance of ABz I saw had, oh maybe 5 guys in the entire audience of 400+ . . . and my translator and I were two of them!

2.  They put their opening night gifts on display.

At every opening night on Broadway, backstage is crowded with flowers and gift baskets and incredible gestures of love and support from the families of the cast and crew.  In Japan, they solved the crowding issue by putting the flowers on display in the lobby for everyone to see!  (See photo – and this is only some of the gifts!)  It’s quite neat, and adds an extra special feeling of excitement (and a nice aroma) to the lobby pre-show.  Our lobbies on Broadway are probably too crowded to do this . . . but maybe yours isn’t?

3.  They run sprints, not marathons.

Unless you’re a megamusical, like Lion King, etc., the runs for shows are short, but they can often find a way to bring them back.  This is the third run of Altar Boyz in Japan, over a couple year period, and it only lasts for two weeks.  Obviously the economics are a little different so it allows them this kind of flexibility, but I thought about regional theaters a lot when thinking about this model.  Shorter runs, brought back year after year.  Create a guaranteed foundation for your next season but making your hit show more scarce.

4.  Who says it is hard to get sponsors?

In Japan, as in most other countries except ours, lots of corporate sponsorship (as well as some governmental assistance) help make these musicals possible.  Wait a minute, let me amend that . . . I should say that corporate sponsorship is hard to find in the commercial world.  It’s all over the non-profit balance sheets (e.g. American Airlines Theatre and so on).  So, I guess the reason it’s more evident in other nations, is because there is no real difference between “non-profit” and “profit” theater.  It’s just theater.  Ok, I’m not as jealous as I was five seconds ago.  Not as jealous.

5.  Actors are the same wherever you go.

It’s just the coolest thing.  No matter what country I go to or what language I speak, every actor I meet is the same.  They have such passion for what they do, such natural performance energy . . . and they even all carry these huge bags around with them everywhere they go.  Seriously, when I met one of the “Lukes” (there are three casts of the show that perform in rep to their own set of fans), he apologized for having a huge bag with him.  “I just came from the gym, and I have my songbook and my dance shoes . . .”  I laughed.  It could have been anyone on the street in NYC.   But beyond bags, they all love what they do soooo much, you can’t help but smile.  I even got a little song one night over some chicken gizzards (very yummy).  And when I asked him what his dream role was, expecting to hear about some authentic Japanese drama that I couldn’t pronounce, he answered . . . “Roger from Rent.”

6.  Theater tickets are expensive here too.

Top price for a ticket to Altar Boyz?  7,800 yen or over $100.  Expensive, right?  Now remember that their audiences are in their 20s-30s . . . and are paying it.  And I didn’t see a giant TKTS booth in the middle of Shinjuku station either.  They are doing something right.

7.  Why have 1 when you can have 2.

Double and even triple casting is a marketing strategy in Japan.  They had three “teams” of Altar Boyz that rotated performances.  I thought maybe this strategy was just for ABz until I saw this photo:

Photo (9)

I mean, if one Annie is cute, why not two!   but one of my Japanese Producer friends confirmed that they often cast two or three actors to rotate the leads, and it’s not because their actors don’t have the stamina, it’s because every actor has their own set of fans.  Imagine doing Sweeney Todd with Patti LuPone playing half the perfs, and Betty Buckley the other half.  Come on, you’d go both times, right?

 

Theater is different in Tokyo.  No doubt about it.  But at its core, it’s the same . . . a group of passionate people getting on a stage in a dark room and sharing their hearts and souls for as many people that will come.

And everyone I spoke to there wouldn’t give it up for any profession in the world, no matter how much money another life paid them.

And I wouldn’t give it up either.  Even if it meant I had to eat Le Sperm de Cod.

(Stay tuned . . . next week, I’m off to Paris to see My First Time!  I’ll see how the French do it!  And yes, that’s what she said.)

 

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One Secret to Finding New Audiences, or What I Learned from Mohegan Sun.

Casinos have a lot on the ‘line’, which is why there is a lot to learn from everything they do.

I stumbled upon a simple little trick that I’ve started using for my shows already, and it has been so successful, I had to share it with you.

It’s simple . . . if you want to get a new audience to the theater, you may have to get that new audience to the theater.

The Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut needs people to come to its casino constantly.  And they do.  But to really fill their craps tables they know they need a bigger market than the natural adopters . . . they need people who may have always thought about going to a casino, but would never make the effort on their own.

So they have buses . . . for free . . . or with cash back incentives that are scheduled to pick people up from places like NYC and take them to the Indian lands of Connecticut for a little blackjack and maybe a little Jimmy Buffett.

I started thinking about all the people in my hometown and nearby that would love to see a Broadway show (especially if they knew me), but the thought of planning it, figuring it out, and getting over the fear of coming to the city, was just too much on their own.  New York and Broadway seem far away, even when you’re just a few hours by car.

So . . . knowing that these folks would never come to a show without a little catalyst, we decided to make it easy for them.

We created BroadwayRoadTrip.com, and on Saturday, February 4th, a bus full of people will depart Sturbridge, MA, come to see the Godspell matinee, get a talkback from me, and then return home that night.

The local papers have done stories on it (the hometown boy connection always helps), and this pretty small town is a buzzin’ about Broadway.

You know what I love about this simple casino-concept?  This bus will sell out . . . and on board will be 56 people who never would have seen Godspell had we not set it up for them.

And you know what else?  We will take a survey, but I bet over 90% of them will have never been to a Broadway show before.

My hope and my dream is that they enjoy their day with us so much, that when we ask them if they want to come see another show in a month or two that they don’t have a personal connection to (translation: that I’m not producing), they’ll fill up another bus again, and bingo, bongo, we’ve got brand new multi-musical buyers.

By the way, there are a few more spots left on this bus, so if you’re from Massachusetts and want to come to NYC for the day, see the show, and meet my Mom (who will be on board), click here.

Has this been successful so far?

Ahhh, yeah.  So much so that we’re doing another BroadwayRoadTrip from Washington DC on February 25th.

What’s so special about the DC area?   That’s where cast member, Nick Blaemire is from (Hometown boy angle again).   And if you know Nick, or have even seen the show, I’d bet money that the Nick Express Bus from DC is going to be one heck of a party.  Click here to get tickets for that trip.

We have to remember in this business that if we want new audiences, sometimes we gotta make it real easy for them to get here.

 

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What we need are Broadway sentries.

Marketing has a lot of similarities to warfare, believe it not . . . but instead of trying to kill, you’re trying to capture.

If you were reading Sun Tzu’s Art of War, or any book about battle strategy, you’d probably run across a section where they talked about protecting your city’s points of entry. You’d put troops at the ports, the bridges, the tunnels . . . and anywhere there was easy access to your castle.

Marketing something like theater is different, because we want people getting in to our city when they arrive at our entry points . . . we just want them coming in with the right message . . . your show’s message.

That’s why if you’re catering to a tourist market, I’d strongly suggest advertising at airports, bus stations, train stations, billboards near tunnels (like the Lincoln where there is a big ol’ Godspell billboard), etc.

But I think Broadway needs to go one further.  I was at an airport recently that caters heavily to a tourist market and as I passed through the arrivals gate, a woman handed me a gift bag . . . filled with information about my destination, and a whole bunch of coupons as well.  She got me thinking about my purchase decisions before I even got to the car rental desk . . . and she did it with a smile (and no billboard can do that).

The Fear Factor bullet point of my holiday week blog from yesterday got me thinking about all sorts of ways to make consumers feel more “at home” when they’re away from home.   And while I know we’ve got our points of entry covered with high-priced advertising options, I wondered if we could put real, live, bodies (Broadway sentries, if you will) at some of these high traffic areas to help talk/walk people through what Broadway has to offer.

Imagine a manned (or womanned) Broadway desk near the baggage claim area, near the bank of hotel phones or the airport transfers.  Expensive and logistically difficult, I know . . .  so maybe it’s even something Broadway.com should do?  Or what if we just reached out to all those folks working in those areas to be more Broadway savvy?  Or what about Broadway volunteers at the bus and train stations?  Free tickets to Broadway shows in exchange for a few hours of Broadway community outreach?  I know a bajillion students/seniors that would take us up on that (and that’s how many cities staff some of their public interest facilities).

We know how our primary ticket buyers are getting in to the city.  That’s half our battle.  The second half is making sure that we don’t have to fight to get them to buy a ticket.  And I’m convinced that if we arm them with the right information, they’ll be the ones fighting over the tickets.

 

(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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How can we get people to see a show a second time?

One of the economic challenges of a long-running musical or play is that because it’s pretty much the same experience, it’s hard to get an audience to come back a second time (which is one of the more subtle reasons why it has to be higher priced).

It’s not like a sporting event, where each and every event is totally unique.  Nope, for traditional plays and musicals, we actually endeavor to make every event exactly the same night after night.

And then we try to run those events eight times a week for years.

So if you take our high prices and duplicated experiences, it’s easy to understand why getting an audience member to come back a second or a third time ain’t easy.

Obviously some shows tap into a repeater market, but I don’t care how wicked your show is or what in the rent it’s called, repeaters will never make up a majority of your audience.

Therefore, as I’ve written about before, you shouldn’t dedicate too much of your media resources behind trying to get an audience to come back.  You’d be better off getting that audience to encourage others to come for a first time.

That said, I got a direct mail piece from The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas yesterday . . . and they were trying to get me to come back (Hmmmm . . . I wonder why . . . could it be that my blackjack skills are not quite the stuff that make up MIT card-counting club movies?)

In the piece, The Venetian offered me a typical free Sunday – Thursday room (or a lower rate on a weekend), a discount on a meal . . . and, get this . . . a free John Madden video game.

I haven’t had time to play a video game since I signed on to produce Godspell, but for some reason, it got me interested in going back.

Now yes, a return trip to The Venetian will be a totally different experience (one can only hope – now I do know you always split 8s), but it still made me think . . . is there something we could offer to a customer apart for the usual lower priced ticket to get them to come back?

What about a free dinner at the restaurant next door?  Free CD?  What about the movie and/or novel upon which the show is based?  Or what about a free ticket to another show (You’d buy it from the other show – which would reduce your ticket price, but might be worth it).

Note to you that these ideas are all based on the concept that you have access to the names/contact info of your own customers – which we actually don’t have on Broadway (but should).

Again, I wouldn’t put major amounts of time and resources into the 2nd and 3rd time showgoer, because it is a difficult conversaion.

But maybe that’s because we haven’t found the right value-add for that audience?

What would get you back to a show for a second time?

 

(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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FUN STUFF

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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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