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A sad press release about one of the best Press Agents.

Shirley Herz, one of the “founders” of theatrical press, passed away on Sunday.

What do I mean by “founders?”  Well, although the theater is thousands of years old, we often forget that our industry . . . the Broadway machine that makes musicals and plays for tourists to see, ain’t all that old.  Show Boat, one of the markers of the modern musical, was produced less than a hundred years ago.  Oklahoma is only 70 years old.

And that means people like Shirley Herz, who was 87, were around to see our pubescent years . . . and helped shape us into the adults we are now.  Yep, she helped define not only a generation . . . but she defined the first generation.  And for that, we owe her an incredible debt of gratitude.

She worked on over 100 shows throughout her decades in the biz, and was awarded a special Tony Award in 2009.

I didn’t know Shirley all that well, but what I knew, I just loved.  She was seriously old school.  In fact, if you looked up Press Agent in the dictionary?  Shirley would figure out a way to get the New York Times to cover the fact that you looked up Press Agent in the dictionary.

She also knew that in order to be a Press Agent, you had to be a person.  You couldn’t be a company.  You had to have relationships, and knock on doors, and get kicked out of doors, and establish relationships in order to get your clients some attention.  And you have to work your butt off in order to do it.

You were a great representative for your shows, Shirley.   But you were an even better one for our entire industry.   You’ll be missed.


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The entertainment industry is not all glee and games.

I get breaking news from CNN pushed to my iPhone, as I’m sure a lot of you do as well.  And I’ve read some pretty sad things over the years.

But for some reason, the death of Cory Monteith hit me a little harder than any of the other alerts I’ve received.  And I only made it through a season and a half of Glee.  

Maybe it was because he was only 31.  Maybe it was because he was talked about as one of the nicest guys on the planet.  Or maybe it was because he was dating Lea Michele, who I remember from my days as the Associate Company Manager on Ragtime, and my heart is breaking for her . . . especially since she was standing by him during his recent troubled times.

Or maybe it was because he was on a show called Glee – so how could anything so the opposite of glee” happen to him?

Cory had a history of war with substance abuse.  He had fought a battle and won when he was nineteen thanks to a family staged intervention.  “I’m lucky to be alive,” he was quoted as saying after he came through it.

Just a few years later, he dove head first into the entertainment industry . . . and after a few years of bangin’ round the boards, he submitted a tape of himself drumming on tupperware which got the attention of Ryan Murphy, who forced him to sing something . . . anything . . . and the next thing you know, this Canadian kid with a troubled past, was a big star in Hollywood, and loved by millions, and making millions.

I’m not going to begin to guess what happened or when it happened or how it happened.  I don’t know where Cory got off track, and I don’t know why the rehab he checked into just a few months ago didn’t take.

But I do know this.

Success in the entertainment industry . . . on either coast . . . can be an awesome thing.  It can bring the adulation of screaming fans.  It can bring you more money than you ever thought you’d have in a lifetime.  And it can bring you a sense of power and invincibility that might even trump the power of politics.

And that’s why it’s so essential for us to look out for each other, and especially the kids in our biz who achieve overnight success.

Because the bright lights of Broadway and Hollywood can be blinding.  And losing good people like Cory just can’t continue.  

Our deepest condolences to the the Monteith family, the Glee family, and everyone out there battling with addiction.

I’m making a donation in Cory’s memory to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (did you know that 90% of alcohol and drug dependencies begin in the teenage years?).  Join me.


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Pressing the pause button today of all days.

Last week, I blogged about the importance of pressing the pause button during difficult negotiations.

Today, I’m going to use the same phrase for a much more important reason . . .

Now that we’ve passed the 10th Anniversary of September 11th and distanced ourselves further and further from that tragic day, I hear it mentioned more casually in conversations about the Broadway business.

“September 11th changed the way we discount forever.”

“We are still recovering from the post-9/11 consumer buying patterns.”

“Is the 9/11 Play market over-saturated?”

Now, these are all important comments and questions about our industry in relation to this tragic event.

But, it’s important to remember, especially today, on the 11th Anniversary of the attacks, that none of that crap really matters at all.

It was my 2nd day of work as the Company Manager on the Roundabout production of Assassins (that was subsequently canceled) when the planes hit the towers.  And today, I’m going to press the pause button on my busy business day for a moment, and remember those innocent people who lost their lives during their busy business day eleven years ago.  And I’ll say a prayer for their families who I’m sure will struggle to get through their busy business day today.

It’s easy to get caught up with Business and Broadway and blah, blah, blah . . . especially when you blog about it daily.  🙂

And that’s why it’s important for all of us to press pause and remember . . . and then never forget.


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Something else that newspapers can’t do . . .

Here’s an idea . . .

In all fairness, I’m not even sure websites can do this yet.  Well, I’m sure they can, but I’m not sure they are doing this yet.

I know our industry isn’t . . . but I think you’ll agree after you read this entry, that we should.

If you’re advertising a show, you may buy banner ads across a news website like or Playbill or even Huffpo.

Your ads are served across the network, in most cases,  or what is called ROS or Run of Site, which means they are served on all pages.  Or, maybe you target just the home page, or a listings page, etc.

But what if you could target just your content pages . . . and what if you could retarget the people that visit those pages?

Follow me.

If a customer visits and happens to see an editorial article on, oh, I don’t know, Godspell, let’s say . . . and clicks on that link to read that article . . . then “duh” wisdom will tell you that the clicker is a qualified lead for Godspell.  Someone reading editorial is more likely to be interested, and therefore more likely to make a purchase.

Well, the great thing about niche industry sites like Playbill and BroadwayWorld is that . . . yep . . . they contain many pages about similiar content. There are a ton of articles about Godspell, Mormon, Wicked, etc.  And someone reading more than two articles is more inclined to purchase than one article.  And someone reading three articles is more inclined to purchase than two articles, and so on, and so on.

Imagine if news sites gave you the following options:

  • Serve ads on pages in which your editorial content appears (that’s easy)
  • Serve ads to people that have visited one editorial article (getting trickier)
  • Serve ads to people that have visited between exactly three articles (advanced)
  • Serve ads to people that have visited editorial articles about shows that are similar to yours (got a family show, target people that have read articles about Mary Poppins.)
  • And on and on and on

Google allows some of the easier bullet points on this list to happen with sites on its content network.  But I’m lobbying for our sites (especially the ones that don’t use the Google Content network) to look at building in their own network that allows us to focus on retargeting those folks who have read all about the shows, but haven’t purchased yet.

What the internet allows us to do is get very, very specific in terms of the people we target.  It allows us to fire missles instead of drop big ol’ expensive bombs.

Less waste and better results.

Maybe we can’t do this yet, but we can apply the theory.  Editorial means interest.  Find the people reading your articles, and you’ll find the people who just might buy your tickets.


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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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