Is Diana the Musical the first domino in the straight-to-streaming market?

Is Diana the first domino in the straight-to-streaming market?
 
 
And you thought Princess Diana’s actual story was dramatic?
 
In one of the biggest stories to hit the Covid-infused airwaves of late, the Producers of the new Broadway musical Diana announced they’d be doing a performance in the next few weeks . . . for no audience . . . but a ton of cameras.
 
That’s right, Diana is going to Netflix. It will premiere on the streaming network before Diana’s (currently scheduled) May 25th, 2021 Broadway opening.
 
A lot of people have been floating the idea of shooting a show as we wait out the pandemic. After all, the sets are sitting right there in the theaters . . . and the actors are sitting right there at home.
 
It makes sense why Netflix wanted this specific show. Diana is a big brand and a documentary – two things Netflix audiences love. And, Netflix makes decisions on data. I’m sure they know how many people will watch the musical based on how many people have devoured other Diana content on their site. (Ahhh, digital stats – aren’t they great?)
 
Now, the question is . . . will other shows follow? Which ones? And will it happen during the pandemic? Or when Broadway comes back? And will Diana sell more tickets because of this stream?
 
So many questions . . . because it’s such an exciting idea.
 
What’s awesome to me is that Broadway is a business that does NOT like to take risks. But as I mentioned in this blog, now is not a time for a “We can’t” about anything.
 
And major kudos to the Producers and Creative Team and all the unions involved for going for it.
 
Because first, a whole bunch of people are going to get paid. And right now, our artists, musicians, stagehands and everyone needs the work.
 
And second, once one show does something like this, a whole host of others will follow.
 
Yep, a new model just got made. And it’s a good one.
Because it will raise the awareness for a new title before the show arrives on Broadway, which is the hardest thing for any new show to do.  It’s like releasing a cast album before the show opens.  (Waitress did this successfully in recent years, and of course, Jesus Christ Superstar was the first and best example of making a brand before Broadway.)
That’s right, I think streaming is the new cast album.
 
And I’ll predict it right now . . . regardless of how the Broadway show performs (and I’m hearing great things) . . . it will do better on Broadway, on tour, and for the rest of its licensing life, because they made this deal.
 
Now . . . what show will Netflix go after next?
 
– – – – –
We posted a survey about streaming on Monday . . . did you see it? Click here to ask your question about this emerging model for Broadway or for your show!
 

Your questions about going virtual, streaming, and putting shows online.

My first gig as a Company Manager was the 1st National Tour of Jekyll & Hyde in 1999. I was a rookie, and I made a lot of mistakes.
 
The biggest mistake I made was not answering questions before someone asked.
 
I would get asked about housing in an upcoming city, opening night tickets, and much more.
 
And often, I got frustrated and thought, “I’m so busy trying to get us to the next city. I’ll get those answers to everyone when I have them!”
 
Then I realized something . . . if these questions were coming up over and over, then they were important to my company. And it was my job to get them answers, even if I didn’t think they needed them!
 
Because if I wasn’t providing the proper information to my company then I wasn’t doing the best job. (Company Managers, Producers, Directors, and leaders of all types need to “read the minds” of the people they lead.)
 
After getting some great feedback from a mentor, I established a principle:
 
If I received the same question 2x then I had to provide the answer immediately . . . because if I got the same question 3x, I failed.
 
Well, I’ve gotten about 300 questions about Broadway shows, Off Broadway shows, high school shows, community theater shows, and ALL types of shows going virtual in the past 3 months. And with greater frequency in the last 3 weeks!
 
That means I haven’t provided you with enough answers.
 
So, I failed you. I started this blog to help with issues like this, so I fall on my sword and say only this . .
 
I’m going to get you the answers now. Whether I have them or not, or if I have to go to some more experts to help.
 
But here’s where you can help. I want to make sure I answer your TOP questions about streaming, going virtual, online readings, on demand, virtual concerts, and more. Are your questions technical, artistic, how to charge money . . . what?
 
If you are even thinking about going virtual with a show of yours or curious about how it’s done and have questions . . . click here to answer this ONE question survey about your biggest question.
 
Give me these 10 seconds, and I promise to give you a @#$% ton of information.
 
Because that’s my job.
 
Click here to take the survey and get the answers you want.

7 Predictions For When Broadway Comes Back. Part II

Welcome back, readers, and prepare ye for four more predictions for post-Covid Broadway.
 
In case you missed it, my first four projections went up here a wee 24 hours ago. And I emailed some of you Early Adopters the remaining four last night.
 
For those of you not on that list (which you can get here), here are four MORE things that will change when Broadway comes out of its coronavirus cave.
 
4. Streaming will still be a thing.
 
Not only is streaming not going away, but it will expand even when we don’t need it like we do now.
 
I’m not talking about the umpteen livestreams that are poppin’ up like podcasts or blogs did a few years ago. No, no. Most of those will disappear like . . . well, like the many podcasts and blogs that lie dormant in the internet graveyard.
 
I’m talking about full on productions, filmed for posterity and (hopefully) profit.
 
This shutdown has proven how fragile our economic model is. We (and when I say we, I mean all sides of the aisle from Producers to Artists) are going to need an insurance policy in the future, just in case . . . just in case . . .
 
I think that’s a cue for my 5th prediction.
 
5. Broadway will shut down again.
 
At some point in the next few decades, we will go through this again. We’ll be effin’ better at it then, for sure, but this will not be the last time a pandemic put our backs against the wall.
 
Remember when we never shut down for snowstorms? And then a few years ago, we just did. And now, we close up shop about once a year for a storm of some sort (and for good reason, I might add – as nothing is more important than safety).
 
The virus dam has broken on Broadway and around the country, and I predict we’ll go through another contagious storm during my lifetime.
 
(I say this NOT to be alarmist, by the way. I say it so that we’ll prepare for it. And yes, capturing our performances is one way.)
 
6. Remember all those corporations that came into town?
 
Here is the thing about big business . . . they come when they smell money, and they run when they don’t. Broadway’s boom brought a lot of boys to our yard. But they don’t like to sweat like a startup. That’s why I’d bet that we’ll see fewer corporate players on Broadway when we come back.
 
And that’s not such a bad thing.
 
Fewer bucks from boardrooms means more room for the independent TheaterMaker. And that, my friends is what we need to get us back to where we were before and beyond.
 
As Cameron Macintosh said, “It is my instinct that the theatre has always survived on mavericks – people with a passion for the theatre who go their own way.”
 
So get ready, because our depression may lead to our renaissance.
 
Which leads me to . . . my seventh and final prediction (for now anyway).  And, you know what?  If I only got this next one right, I’d gladly be wrong about the other six, because it’s that important.
 
7. Black Lives will matter on Broadway.
 
Yes, I say this because it should happen. Yes, I say this to put it in the universe to will it to happen. But I also predict that it will happen because of what I’m seeing start to happen.
 
And this beginning is because of the honest and courageous work of the organizations that are rising to this challenge, or who have been born from it. Broadway Advocacy Coalition (if you haven’t attended one of their forums, you simply must), Black Theatre United, Black Theatre Coalition, Black Theatre Network and all those orgs (including those led by students (!)  at universities), the theater owes you a debt that we can only repay through our action.
I’ve pledged to take action. And I encourage all TheaterMakers to do the same. Because we just can’t let up, even when the Covid crisis is over.
 
Those are my predictions . . . what are yours? Do you see big changes, small changes, any changes coming to Broadway post-Covid? Put ’em in the comments below.
 
Oh, and if you want to hear the predictions of people much smarter than I am, you should come to this.
 

How our conference has changed . . . and tickets are (finally) on sale.

At the end of our conference last year, I told my team . . . “Next year, we’re going to do something totally different!”

Little did I know! 🙂

The theater is a constantly evolving art-form, so it only makes sense that our conference is evolving as well!

What has changed?

First, we’ve got a new name . . . The TheaterMakers Summit! Since our past attendees have included such a mix of Playwrights, Composers, Producers, Investors, Directors, Actors and everyone who makes theater, we wanted to honor them all.

Second, surprise, surprise . . . we’re going virtual!

Our virtual summit will be held on November 14th, 15th . . . and an extra intensive day on the 16th for a select few (More on that in a minute).

Now, look, I’ll admit it. I was a bit bummed when I realized we weren’t going to be able to have our conference in person this year. I even threw a tantrum my two-year-old would be proud of. Here’s how it went down:

We were in the middle of a Zoom last May when I said, “If we can’t have our conference in person, then forget it! I don’t want to do it!”

And I e-stomped off (which means I “booped” out of the meeting).

I e-stumbled back into the Zoom room a few minutes later (my staff was still there . . . they knew I’d be back) and said, “Ok, ok, if we’re going to do it virtually, then we’re really going to DO THIS virtually!”

Once I accepted the cards we were dealt, we spun the negative into a super-duper positive.

And now I am so excited that we’re going to be entirely online. Because we’re going to be able to unite more TheaterMakers from all over the world, with speakers from all over the world . . . without anyone having to travel. The conversations on how to make theater in the new world will be more robust than ever!

And we need those conversations. Because let’s face it. We’ve got some hurdles to overcome.

And the best way to figure out how to solve our problems is to get more and more ideas tossed out on the table by more people.

That’s why I’m going to have leaders from Broadway, Regional Theaters, Foreign Market theaters, Community Theater, High School Theaters and more. We’re going to have experts on all of the subjects facing TheaterMakers today from diversity to streaming to safety in the time of Covid . . . not to mention how to raise money in this craziness, how and where to pivot, what “The Road” is going to look like, and lots more.

And in addition to two days of great content, we’ve added an entire bonus day . . . which will feature more “group thinks” and interactive workshops, for those who want to dig into the issues even deeper.

With the attendance we’ve had in the past, and as accessible as can be since it’s virtual, it could be the biggest public conference of TheaterMakers ever.

Tickets have NOT been on sale . . . until today. (It has taken us some time to figure all this out!)

You can get them here (and you’ll also see the incredible line up of speakers we already have . . . and that’s just a few of them!)

And for those who get a ticket by this Monday at 11:59 PM Eastern, you’re going to get that interactive bonus day for free.

Oh, and expect some other surprises as well.

So yeah, the conference is gonna be different. But I think that’s perfect. Because different is exactly how we need to think right now if we’re going to succeed in getting the theater back to where it was before . . . and beyond.

Learn more and get your tickets for the annual TheaterMakers Summit here.

Looking forward to e-seeing you there.

Get your ticket here.

Dreaming About The Future Of Streaming (thanks to Hamilton).

Oh, if all of my shows could be like Hamilton.

Sure, sure, I’d like the Pulitzer and the Tonys and the billion bucks.

But what I’m talking about now is the giant treasure they had tucked in a vault . . . that they pulled out in the midst of this pandemic.

Yep, I’m talking about the movie they released on Disney+ last week that increased downloads of the D+ app by 74%!

And what I’m dreaming about and proposing for Broadway’s future is that every single play and musical on Broadway films performances of their original cast in the week after opening (just like we record a cast album at about the same time).

And we tuck that sucker away in a vault.

Sounds easy, and I bet you’re nodding your head right now in agreement.

But it’s not that easy.

It’s expensive.

See, Hamilton could afford it. Not only did they have cash to burn, but they also knew there would be a market for their product in the future. (Little did they know what role the movie would play in keeping their brand and Broadway’s brand alive.)

Most plays and musicals do NOT have cash to burn when they open. In fact, most new shows are losing money when they open and therefore can’t afford to invest in a risky insurance policy like spending millions on a shoot.

Never mind that the shoot would have had to be planned months before. (We could try to build this cost into the capitalization, but that might increase the budget by 10-20%, and it’s not like raising previous budgets were a piece of cake.)

So what to do?

In order to capture all of the new shows for posterity and for future revenue opportunities for everyone, including the actors, musicians, and stagehands, we must lower the costs of the capture themselves.

I mean, I’m kicking myself for not having ALL of my shows in a vault right now. I could roll them out and everyone involved would get a check.

But it was too pricey to record Spring Awakening, Once on This Island, Gettin’ the Band Back Together, etc. (And I know that for a fact because I budgeted them all.)

We must reinvent this model in how the labor is paid for video capture (especially since a capture doesn’t require any additional work on behalf of the labor) and then give the labor MORE if/when the capture is distributed.

Think about it this way . . .

It costs a few hundred thousand dollars to record a cast album. And the cast/musicians have to spend a day in a studio, on their day off, recording it. It’s a lot of work. (And most cast albums aren’t making any money, btw).

It can cost 10x as much to capture a show on video. And the labor is paid more than they get for a cast album. . . even though no additional work is required.  For video shoots, the show could be recorded during a regularly scheduled performance (or several).  (If any additional work was required for the shoot – additional rehearsals, etc, then the labor should be paid).

If we lower the cost of capture (please note that I’m saying lower, not eliminate), then every show could put their product in a vault. And then, if the show is a hit and Disney+ or Netflix comes around, then EVERYONE gets paid.

Or give the Producer the option . . . pay the Hamilton model, or pay the bonus-back-end model.

We’re going to need a lot of new models post-pandemic. This is one that could provide an all-important revenue stream for everyone in the future.

Call it COVID-insurance.

And I just kicked myself again for not having it.

– – – –

Want to hear more about streaming from people who know more about it than me?  Sign up now for our 3 part video series about the 3 subjects most on your mind, including streaming . . . featuring the heads of BroadwayWorld and BroadayOnDemand.  See here.

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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