Podcast Episode #226: Why doesn’t social distancing work for the theater . . . again?

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I don’t think our biz is doing a very good job at explaining this topic.  I know this because people keep asking why social distancing doesn’t work!

And I have a rule . . . if more than 3 people ask the same question, then the problem isn’t with them . . . it’s with the people who are supposed to have the answer.

I wrote a blog about this topic 9 (!) months ago, which was THE MOST READ BLOG IN THIS BLOG’S 11 YEARS OF EXISTENCE!  By like 5x.

And still, the questions come in.

So in this episode, I’m giving it another try. 🙂

I hope I get it right this time.  Will you let me know?

 

There has never been a way to practice this. Until NOW.

You know the cliche . . . how do you get to Carnegie Hall?

You practice.

But that’s about performers or musicians.

What about if you want to write a play that gets put on at Carnegie Hall? Or better, a few blocks away . . . on Broadway?

How DO you get to Broadway if you’re a writer?

The answer is the same.

Practice.

Every profession practices. If you want to stay at the top of your “game,” you put in time off-the-court, sharpening your skills, so that when the pressure is on, you perform.

For writers, practicing is . . . well . . . writing.

And that didn’t seem like enough to me. I think writers are their own kind of athlete. They need to strengthen certain muscles. They need to become more flexible. They need to know how to hit a jump shot and a layup.

That’s why I asked Eric C. Webb, my Director of Creative Development, with fellow TheaterMaker Christopher Holoyda and my team at The TheaterMakers Studio, to put together the ONLY practice book for playwrights available anywhere.

And AS OF TODAY, it’s available on Amazon.com for a whopping $2.99. (Only through April 19th). And of which, I think Jeff Bezos gets like 90%.

It’s called 100 Playwriting Challenges. And it’s just that. 100 practice exercises for playwrights.

There are exercises for character building, writing better dialogue, etc.

And here’s the promise. You do one of these 5-10 minute exercises a day over the next 100 days, and you will have strong playwriting muscles at the end. You will be a better playwright. Period.

Think of it like doing a set of push-ups for the day. But this strength is going to do oh so much more for you.

I use them. It’s my warm-up. Gets my juices flowing. And then I dig in.

So get it here. It’s $2.99 until April 19th only. And I think Jeff Bezos gets like 90%.

Why did we do it?  Because we believe the world is a better place if there is more theater in it. And that’s why we’ll do anything to help you make more theater and better theater.

Get it here. Gift it to the writer in your life.  But spread the exercises and let’s all get theatrically healthier!

Will Streaming Theater Survive The Post Pandemic Era?

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As the thaw continues in our industry, and more and more shows plan for the not-so-distant future, I’m hearing some cries from our newfound friend, Streaming Theater. 

“Wait.  Are you leaving me?  But I took you in when no one else would!  What about all those Zoom readings we did?  Remember Hamilton on Disney+?  Was I just a one-year stand for you???  Don’t leave me when I’m streaming you!!!!”

Is Streaming Theater being dramatic?  What will happen to the streaming theater movement now that the end of the pandemic is in sight?

Was it a rebound relationship?  Are we gonna stream it and quit it?

Let me be the first to get on one knee and say the marriage between the theater and streaming theater is here to stay.

There is no way we’re going back.

And there’s no way we should.

Don’t worry, don’t worry, streaming theater won’t replace theater.  It will supplement it.

The theater has survived the invention of the radio, television, internet, and it’ll survive streaming theater too.

That’s right, Streaming Theater is its own art form now.  Just like Hollywood was born out of the ashes of the flu epidemic, Streaming Theater was born out of THIS pandemic.

But does that mean Live Theater will suffer as a result?  Will Streaming Theater rise up and kill us in our sleep?

Never.  Because nothing replaces the live experience.  And Streaming Theater will only help spread the word about what we’re doing live to more and more places around the world.

Like seeing Baseball on television encourages kids to pick up a bat and ball.  Like seeing Queen’s Gambit on Netflix shot up the sale of chess sets.

Streaming Theater will be one of the reasons we have a renaissance of live theater in the next decade.

So give Streaming Theater a key to your place, and her own toothbrush, because she’s here to stay.

And I look forward to us growing old together.

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Looking to learn more about how to stream your own shows?  Click here and join the revolution before you’re left behind.  Because in the future, there will be two types of TheaterMakers . . . those who know how to stream and.  Wait.  That’s it. There will only be one type of TheaterMakers.  Those who know how to stream. Learn how here.

What is Clubhouse and do TheaterMakers need to join?

I told you!

On Tuesday, I mentioned how every few blinks a new social media platform is born.

The latest? A part podcast, part livestream, audio-only network called Clubhouse.

It’s the next variant in virtual conversations.

See, what social media did to blogging, Clubhouse is doing to podcasting.

A podcast (like a blog) is one-way recorded audio communication.  You push out an episode.  People listen.  Maybe they comment every once in a while.

Clubhouse is two-way audio communication. And it’s LIVE.

Someone like, I don’t know, me, hosts a session.  About a specific topic, like, I don’t know, when Broadway will come back. And sure, sure, I may offer my insider-opinions and share a few behind-the-scenes-secrets.  But the cool part of Clubhouse is when the hosts involve the audience.

Yep, the hosts can allow any of the followers to join the conversation, ask a question, debate an issue, etc.

It’s like public-access talk radio.

And it’s working.

There were 600,000 active weekly users in December.

There are 10,000,000 active weekly users in February.

Hello, organic growth! Nice to meet you!!!

Right now, Clubhouse is an invite-only platform.  That’s right, you can only join if you’re invited by a member – like the original Gmail. And since it’s still in its beta testing, it’s only available for iOS devices.  Can you say “velvet rope strategy”, anyone?  They are all-in on the “club” part of their name, for sure.

So what’s my prediction for this new network?  Will it flame out like Snapchat?  Or Foursquare?  Will Facebook either buy-it or crush it with a similar product (e.g. reels to TikTok’s, well, TikToks)?

Like talk-radio, Clubhouse will be a smaller platform as opposed to mainstream social media (e.g. Facebook, etc.), but its users will be MORE passionate.  These are where fan clubs will congregate to compare notes on their favorite shows and debate the ones they hate.

So yes, keep your ears on Clubhouse if avid theater fans are something you’re interested in (or if you are one!).

And by far, the best way to learn Clubhouse or ANY new platform is just to give it a try.

That’s what I’m going to do.  Like everything in the tech space, in the theater space, and in life, I’m just going to jump in and see what happens.

Yep, next Wednesday, March 24th at 2 pm EST/ 11 am PDT, I’m hosting my first clubhouse event, The Producer’s Perspective Matinee!  A 30-45 minute conversation about . . . well, shoot, why not . . .”When is Broadway coming back . . . and what is taking so long???”  And my co-hosts will be Sammi Cannold, Tim Hughes and more to be added soon!

Join me by following me on Clubhouse (@kendavenport).

I’ll talk a bit, and I’ll take questions, comments, and we’ll see what happens.

If you need an invite to Clubhouse, I can give you one. The first 5 people to follow me on Instagram and DM for an invite will get it!

5 NEW Things About Social Media Every TheaterMaker Should Know.

Don’t know about you, but it feels like every time I blink, there’s a new social media platform causing a buzz.

Or an old social media platform changing up its platform, trying to keep up with the new ones.

And because social media is a necessary tool in every TheaterMaker’s marketing toolkit, it can be difficult trying to keep up.

We’ve been doing a lot of research and in-the-trenches-testing lately (which means, we’ve been posting a lot).  The goal?  To determine what is working today, so we can predict will work tomorrow, no matter how many times we blink.

Here are five things we learned about social media that you should apply to your show, or yourself.

1. It’s not about Likes.

How many times a day do you check your Likes after you post?  Maybe you have a goal of hitting 10, 100 or 1,000?  Well, you’re aiming for the wrong “goal post”.

The fact is, the # of Likes is NOT what platforms like Facebook and Instagram care the most about . . . even though you do.

What do they value the most?  SHARES.  The more your posts get shared by your followers, the more the network will reward you with more views.

Likes are cheap. It doesn’t put the person’s rep on the line.  But shares are like “word of mouth,” the most valuable asset you can have.

And the Networks encourage it.

TAKEAWAY:  Don’t just create content.  Create shareable content.

2. It’s not about your # of Followers either.

How many times a day do you check your # of Followers?  Do you jump up and down when you grab a few?  Do you get depressed when you lose some?

Well, forget about how many Followers you have.  And focus on who you have.  Because the truth is, it only takes one follower to make the difference for your career or your show.

What do you want from your social media account anyway?  Do you have a goal?  If you’re using it to grow your business, you should.  And then you can focus on who your ideal followers might be and create content just for them.  Leave the millions of followers to the Kardashians and get a few hundred of the right followers instead.

TAKEAWAY:  It’s about who, not how many.

 3. Get engaged.

This sounds like advice my Mom gave me all through my 30s. But what it means in social media is that to have the greatest reach, your content must engage your followers. You must create stuff that gets comments. You must start conversations.

This is why controversial posts or posts that ask for your viewer’s opinions and outrages get so much organic traffic. The platforms WANT your passionate opinion on their networks . . . and they’ll send you people who agree AND disagree with you as a reward.

(I’ve even heard of one Instagram expert who puts typos IN his posts on purpose, so people will comment things like, “You spelled it wrong,” etc. over and over.  All those comments are still counted by Instagram!  Maybe that’s one of the reasons my TikTok post about Ratatouille got 2mm views!)

Remember, social networks are online water coolers. They’re boring if everyone just agrees all the time

The flip of this is that you should also get engaged with other people’s content. You need to comment on other accounts that you follow (especially those who you want to follow you!).

TAKEAWAY: Don’t worry about creating PERFECT content. Create content that makes people want to comment.

4. Authenticity is (still) in.

Be open. Be honest. Be you. If people don’t like that, that’s ok. Let ’em follow someone else (see #2).

And show ’em what’s behind the curtain. That’s what people want. Think of your social media platforms as your own reality show. And we all know that the good stuff on reality shows is not always the “good stuff.”

One of my most viewed posts of all time is NOT a shot of me winning a Tony Award, or a shot of me hanging out with a celeb. It’s of me, walking my dog, in my PJs, holding a pint of Pinkberry, after finally getting my six-month-old daughter to sleep.

I look like a mess. And since we all look like a mess sometimes, people gave it their thumbs up.

TAKEAWAY: You are the star of your own reality show.  Show them all the angles.

5. Increasing your content WON’T increase your following.

If you think to yourself, “Oh if I post 3x as much per day, I’ll get 3x as many people to follow me!”

Sorry, but that is NOT how the platforms work. We know. We’ve tested and tracked increasing content across all our show accounts.

The platforms don’t care about the amount of content, they care about the quality of the content. And how your content can help other members of the platform.

And that’s the KEY. Your platforms are about you, duh, but to truly grow your reach, they can’t just be about you. They have to help your followers somehow.

How? You can help with the right inspirational quote at the right time. By reminding them of a holiday. Or, the best way to help that gets the most shares? By being downright funny. Because nothing is more valuable than a laugh, especially these days.

But wait, there’s more!

TAKEAWAY:  It’s not how much you post, it’s what you post.

6.  BONUS: Don’t create as you come up with it.  Create content like you make cookies.

Most people post content on the fly.  Nothing is more inefficient than that.  You don’t make one chocolate chip cookie at a time, do you?  Why would you make your social media content the same way?

Make your content in “batches.” Take time to make a whole ton of it, and then spread it out over a specific period of time.  Not only will you save time, but you’ll also make better content.

Yummy.

TAKEAWAY:  Learn how to Costco your content.  Get it in bulk.

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Speaking of “batching content” . . .

Truth time . . . I learn most of my social media tips and tricks from OTHER industries that know how to do it much better than we do. And if you want to grow your following for your show, or yourself, I suggest you do the same.

And now . . . yep, I’m about the lift the curtain for you right here . . . the place where I’ve learned the most about social media is a site called DigitalMarketer.

Digital Marketer is holding a very special social media workshop THIS THURSDAY, March 18th called “Create A Year’s Worth of Content In One Day.”

If you want to grow your following and reach (and every TheaterMaker should), I strongly recommend you take it.  Click here to learn more.

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