Theaters Aren’t The Only Place To Do Theatre Anymore

My first experience with “site-specific” theatre was in 1995 with a little musical called J.P. Morgan Saves The Nation, written by a then-unknown composer/lyricist named Jonathan Larson (the NY Times called his score “peppy”).  It took place on the steps of Federal Hall downtown.

But this blog isn’t about site-specific theatre.

While I do think we’re on the verge of seeing plays and musicals pop up in office buildings, bars, shopping malls, and everyplace else in the next few years (thanks to the high cost of actual theaters, not to mention the lack of availability), site-specific theatre is so 1995.

In the past week, a few blips have appeared on my trend-spotting sonar that make me think we’re on the verge of another kind of revolution.  And this one, surprise surprise, has all to do with technology.

First, I can’t help but notice that Netflix has taken a more aggressive approach to capturing theatrical content as of late and not just the big branded Springsteen-like shows.  They shot a movie version of American Son.  They announced a movie version of that Cinderella story of a musical, The Prom.  And now, the Off-Broadway one-woman show, Douglas, will be the latest addition to their growing theatrical portfolio.

Second, (spoiler alert!) but I spend a lot of time on my upcoming podcast with Tony Nominated art-trepreneur Paul Gordon (airs this coming Monday) talking about his StreamingMusicals platform, which is off to a strong start (and got him a licensing deal for a new musical that has never played NYC).  I expect the next generation of theatre-makers is going to see this approach as a way to get their shows into the world at a fraction of the cost that typically comes with putting up an actual production.  (And speaking of streaming, we just got a report on my own production of Daddy Long Legs from my friends at  BroadwayHD, and it’s exceeding expectations in the number of views.  Check it out here.)

Third, I caught a glimpse of an ad on a subway platform the other day for a new digital platform called STAGE, which states, “From classic performances to edgy icons and undiscovered gems, musical theatre and performance is the cornerstone of STAGE.”  What’s interesting about this isn’t the network itself, but the ad . . . which ain’t cheap.  That says to me that STAGE ain’t effin’ around.  They see a big future in the platform and are betting on it.

And fourth (because you know, everything comes in threes, so when there are four things, you definitely have a fourk-ing trend), and perhaps most interesting of all . . . a new podcast musical was released this week, called Next Thing You Know by Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, starring Patti Murin, Colin Hanlon, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Lauren Blackman.  This on the heels of the high profile John Cameron Mitchell podcast musical “Anthem: Homunculus,” starring Patti Lupone to name a few (because she counts as a few).  Instead of readings and workshops, these creators have turned to tech to get attention for their new works.  (I wonder if critics will start reviewing them?)

All of this makes me think . . . are streaming and podcast recordings the new “concept recording,” made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber with Jesus Christ Superstar? We all know how that worked out.  Answer?  Yes, yes they are.

And all of this points to one thing:  an uprising is underfoot.

The modern-day creators, who are part of the DIY generation, who grew up able to create and distribute their films and music without gatekeepers, are now finding ways to distribute theatre in the same way.

And we’re just at the beginning of it.

If you’re a theatre-maker, you should start to imagine other ways to get your shows the attention they deserve.

Because over the next ten years, the traditional walls of Broadway and Off-Broadway are going to come crumbling down as the next generation of creators continue to think outside of the . . . box theater.

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Do check out Daddy Long Legs on BroadwayHD, and then guess how much it cost me to shoot something that high of a quality.  And then imagine how you can do it for your show . . .

GUEST BLOG by Sara Fitzpatrick: 5 ways to make sure you’re ACTUALLY connecting with your audience online

The Internet is the child of Al Gore and that’s why we capitalize it like a first and last name.

The Internet is the end.

The Internet is the beginning.

The Internet has made virtual space more valuable than physical space.

The Internet is___________.

All these statements about The Internet are equally true… including the blank statement. So if The Internet is and is not all of these things, how do you use it as an effective marketing tool? This has become an increasingly important question as the days of treating digital as an afterthought are gone. The Internet is constantly evolving, but here are some approaches I’ve discovered from my fifteen years of digital marketing to make sure I’m actually connecting with an audience online.

1. Exercise empathy

If you’ve ever secretly wanted to be an actor, here’s your opportunity to get method.

Start looking at things from the audience’s point of view. The days of big brands shaming people into buying a lifestyle are gone. Now, it’s about welcoming them into your brand world and engaging them in a dialogue. This is not to suggest people will ever stop buying things out of a place of deep shame, that will never get old for some of us! But thinking that people want to hear a monologue about a brand from a rigid entity is outdated and ineffective. Modern marketing engages your audience in a conversation where they feel welcomed into your brand world.

So, if your marketing strategy is based on a dialogue, you need to define your voice. But how do you do that?

2. Create and abide by your brand guide

Your show is meant for somebody and the better you can figure out who that person is, the more effectively you can reach them.

What does your show’s brand pyramid look like?
What are its key attributes?
Who are your competitors?
What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
What does the consumer look like for your show?
What are the visuals, tone and creative that will best convey your brand message to your most likely consumer?

When you’re able to clearly abide by that brand voice you can generate tailored, high-quality materials. The digital space may be a person’s first touch point for your brand, so pay attention to what you’re saying. The quality of your content online is more important NOW more than ever, which leads us to the next guideline–

3. Weight quality over quantity

Your brand voice in the conversation will come through in the content you create. Be thoughtful; it’s easy to understand why consumers are increasingly wary of anything online. Create quality content you stand behind. Once you’ve created this content, you need to be strategic about where it goes.

Advertising is not always content and content is not necessarily advertising. What’s impactful in print may equally fall flat on a smartphone. The time and effort spent creating content that tells us what your brand voice is will be wasted unless you’re also smart about where it’s being heard. Different advertising and social media platforms have taken on distinct personalities; personalities you need to consider for your messaging.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that even if someone isn’t “following” you, it doesn’t mean they’re not engaged. Consumers are using social media as a research tool for brands instead of blindly following them—which is another reason your brand voice needs to be consistent and true. A new user is as likely to see your Instagram post as a loyal fan. “Followers” don’t carry the same amount of weight as they used to because they don’t necessarily translate to popularity or customers and vice versa. And speaking of followers….

4. Beware of fake news

Bots and followers leave everyone with that uncanny valley feeling: looking at a face that appears human but isn’t actually a flesh-and-bone human being. It’s a vile and insidious feeling. You’re unable to trust that anyone is who…or even what they say they are. I feel horrible even talking about it, I need to go buy something.

Buying followers and utilizing bots is a big example of putting quantity or quality… or quantity over reality. We don’t buy bots and I would never recommend it to anyone. Not only because it’s an ethically grey area, but because it’s not actually helpful in gathering insights for your brand. It really has more to do with how the audience is reacting to your product. How is the audience growing? What are the elements of your marketing matrix that drive traction and interaction? What are the messages that spark the most engagement? Fake follower data isn’t going to help you with that.

And alongside bots, the last important trap to avoid in your path to becoming the Beyoncé of branding-

5. Just because your friends are jumping off the bridge…

Just because everyone is buying New York Times triple trucks in July, doesn’t mean you should too. ALWAYS consider your brand voice and be loyal to it. Like your savvy customers, you can see what the competition is doing as research, but that doesn’t mean you should blindly follow and do the same thing.

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Sara Fitzpatrick is the Founder and President of ARTHOUSE, a full-service media agency that partners with forward-thinking web advertisers in the strategy and design of innovative brand campaigns. Their services include branding, content creation, social management and media buying with a focus on how creative drives campaign success.

You can hear her podcast interview with Ken here.

Have an idea for a show? Here’s the First and SECOND thing you should do.

One of my most read blogs is something I threw down way back in 2009, entitled, “Got an idea for a show?  Here’s the first thing you should do.”

You can read that blog here.  And you should, because my advice holds true today.

The simple synopsis of that blog is that if you’ve got an idea for a show you want to write, produce, create, etc., then you should grab the domain name tout suite (aka NOW!).

The blog was written in response to a bunch of cyber-squatters I had run into on a couple of big Broadway shows, who held my domains ransom until I shelled out some serious cash.  See, as soon as they heard the show was in development (not even production), they threw down the $12 or so and waited until someone like me came along and wanted it.  Their ROI was well over 1000%.

The good news is that since that blog in 2009, Google has futzed with their algorithm enough times and consumer search behavior has changed so much that cyber-squatters don’t have the business they once did. But buying the domain for a musical or play that you’ve written as soon as you’ve got an idea is still an important first step for anyone trying to build a brand.

Because if you don’t buy it, someone else will.

But getting the right domain name isn’t enough anymore, especially if you want the holy grail of all things marketing…organic search traffic.  Imagine…free traffic, that others pay mucho dinero for, just coming to your site, learning about you and your shows, instead of someone else’s.

See, when Google futzed with that algorithm, they stopped rewarding people who just owned a domain that matched what the consumer wanted to find.  Now, Google takes a real hard look at the quality of the website that the domain points to.

Wait…you have an idea for a show…or worse…you’ve written a show…and you don’t have a website yet?  Or you have a website, but Google isn’t finding you first?  Or you’re a writer or director or actor or ANYTHING and you don’t have a website yet?

Sound the alarm.

Because the 2nd thing you have to do as soon as you have an idea for the show, or want a career in any business is…get a website.

Unfortunately, getting a website isn’t as easy as getting a domain (which is why Google started rewarding those with quality websites and not just clever domains).  But it’s so much more important.

Establishing your web presence early can easily save you thousands of dollars in advertising when your show is ready for production.  And it can help so many people discover you and your talent even before you have a show!  I know, because I’ve built about 50 in my career, including one of the first ever sites for an Off Broadway show.

Having a quality website is so important, we’re holding an online workshop entitled:  Websites:  Why You Need One and What It Should Look Like.

During this hour-long workshop, you’ll learn:

  • How to build a website (and your brand) without breaking the bank.
  • The one mistake even big-time ad agencies make when building a website.
  • How to use “The Secrets of SEO” to get people you don’t even know to visit your website.
  • A simple trick that I reserve for my consulting clients that can double and triple the traffic to their site.
  • What most web designers will leave out if you don’t ask for it.

And lots more, including a Q&A on all things web related that you might be curious about.

The Online Workshop is next Wed, July 12th at 7 PM EDT.  But if you can’t make that time, register anyway and we’ll send you the complete files the very next day.

The Workshop is $179, or free for ProducersPerspectivePRO members for only $97.  And you get all the other benefits that come along with a PRO membership.

This Workshop, like our others, is 101% guaranteed.  If we can’t save you $179 or make you a lot more than that over the lifetime of your show’s site, then just email us after you take the Workshop, and we’ll gladly give you a refund.

Sign up for the Workshop here or for PRO here.

Have you cut your electronic grass lately?

Websites used to be simple.

You put them up.  Period.

But you can’t get away with just erecting a site and walking away anymore.  Oh no.  Especially when you’ve got a long-running show.

You see, if the Internet is like the information superhighway, then websites are the houses along this electronic roadway.  And as consumers race by, you want a site that stands out and makes the driver say, “Oooh, look at that beautiful/interesting/unique ‘house’ . . . let’s pull over and see what’s inside.”

That’s why it’s important your initial design be something that can attract the consumer when they’re cruising by.

But that is not where your design job ends.

Too many shows (and businesses, for that matter) think that once they launch their mega site, they can move on to something else.  But that’s the equivalent of not cutting the grass in front of your house for months, or letting the paint peel, or not raking the leaves.  Who wants to stop at a house that looks like that?  In fact, when your site looks a little run-down, “drivers” will speed up instead of pulling over, and say, “Honey, we’re in a bad neighborhood, let’s get the eff out of here and quick!”

With that, you’ve lost them forever.

That’s why it’s not only important to freshen up your site with new content as often as you can get it, but it’s essential that you comb through your site at least once a month, looking for outdated content, stale information, and anything that makes it look like you’re letting the grass grow a little too high.

What’s great about the net is that it allows you to get the latest and greatest information on anything with the click of a button.  But that means anything BUT the latest and greatest information looks like someone doesn’t care.

And if you don’t care, how do you expect a customer to?

 

(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 on a Friday: Ever wonder what Marlon Brandon put in his Bio?

Sometimes I think choosing what to put in your bio for a new show can be more stressful than the opening itself!  Do you include that Off Off Broadway show?  Do you thank your parents?  Do you add a ILYKD???

A little known fact – the reason that actor bios in Playbills are so short is that every show gets a set amount of pages from Playbill for free, and once those pages are used up, the Producer gets charged.  Take a big show with a big cast, and a lot of Producers, and you’ve added an unbudgeted expense to your weekly nut.  No good.  And that’s why you see so many 30 word bios.  And that’s why so many people stress out about ’em.

A fun little website called Trivia Happy wondered if some future famous actors stressed out about their first bios, so they dug ’em up and posted ’em here.   Included were the likes of Al Pacino, Charlton Heston, John Travolta and .  . . Marlon Brando’s, which went something like this:

Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski) made his first appearance on Broadway three seasons ago as Nels in “I Remember Mama.” He went from that to a leading role in Maxwell Anderson’s “Truckline Cafe” when he was first singled out by the critics for his performance in the role of Sage. Also impressed was Guthrie McClintic, who chose him to play Marchbanks in Katharine Cornell’s revival of “Candida.” He next appeared in Ben Hecht’s “A Flag is Born.” Born in Omaha, Neb., Brando spent his school years in Evanston, Ill., California and Minnesota. The choice of the stage as a career had never entered his mind until after he had come to New York and spent several months engaged in such odd jobs as running an elevator and operating a switchboard. When he did decide to go on stage he spent a year studying with Stella Adler and followed that with a summer season of stock at Sayville, L.I. It was there that a New York actors’ agent saw him and helped him get his first acting job with “I remember Mama.

Read the other actors’ bios here.

And then start working on your bio.  And yes, include the Off Broadway show, your parents, your website, and ILY2.

 

(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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