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.

– – – – –

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.

– – – – –

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.

Ever want more hours in the day? I’ve got some for you.

Fill in the rest of this sentence . . .

If only I had 4 more hours in the day, I would _____________________.

What did you say?  Finish your musical?  Write a screenplay?  Run 2 miles/go to church/spend more time with your kids?

Time is the most valuable asset in the world.  It’s about a billion times more valuable than a billion dollars.

See, you can always make more money.  But you can’t make more time.

In fact, without getting all morose on you . . . the time you have left on this planet to accomplish all those things you dream about doing . . . is tick, tick, ticking away.

That’s why it’s essential to make the most of each hour you have in each and every day, especially if you’ve got theatrical dreams in addition to a day job.

And, well who doesn’t?

If you’re like me, then you’ve probably got lots of stuff you want to do . . . and you’re constantly struggling to find time to do it.

I started creating and producing theater while I was still working a survival gig, and I had to figure out how to squeeze in those necessary hours to pursue my dream in and around that job.

Over the years, I’ve gotten a bit busier, (self-induced, I’ll admit, because I’m addicted to the theater!) and I’ve had to get even better at it, even though it’s now my full-time profession/obsession.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for me to get the question . . . “How do you find the time to do all the stuff you want to do?”

It’s an easy answer.

I studied how to do it.

Optimizing your time, finding efficiencies in your schedule, figuring out what to focus on and what to forget about . . . these are all learned skills.  Over the past ten years, I’ve devoured book after book and listened to speech after speech to figure out what makes the most productive people tick . . . and how they got more out of each and every tick of the clock.

And thanks to that study, and some of my own “special sauce,” the last year of my life has been one of my most productive (and most fun) . . . with even more good stuff to come (just you wait for a super big announcement coming via Instagram soon).

I’m going to share the strategies I’ve learned and used daily in an online workshop on Wednesday, October 18th at 7 PM called “Getting  @#$% Done:  Time Management for Artists or for Anyone.”

In the webinar, I’m going to explain how to find more time in your day to do the things you want to do, so you can get to where you want to be . . . faster.

And if you want to be a success, learning this stuff is a must.

Because in this business, since development can take such a long time, and you’re never quite sure what is going to “hit” until it’s in front of an audience, your probability of success is directly related to the amount of your output.  That’s why we all have to find ways to do more . . . in the same amount of hours (Edison invented thousands upon thousands of things . . . but we only remember him for just a couple – and those couple were more than enough to put him in the history books.)

This workshop is only available to members of TheProducersPerspectivePRO.  And when you sign up for this workshop, you have 20+ hours of others absolutely free.

Look, if you were ever thinking about taking one of my workshops, this is the one.  Because none of the other stuff that I teach actually matters, unless you can find the time to action it.

This workshop will teach you how to do just that.

Sign up here.

And together we’ll find the time that you need to accomplish what you put in that blank at the beginning of this blog together.

Getting  @#$% Done:  Time Management for Artists or for Anyone
Wednesday, October 18th 7 PM
(Can’t make this date?  A complete recording will be made available to you.)

Register now.

What Whole Foods and Broadway have in common

I just got back from a three-day Digital Marketing conference where I learned about the latest and greatest tools in e-technology, what AI is going to do to e-commerce, and why email is STILL the best form of marketing on the planet.

Oh, and if only I had a dollar every time someone said that Amazon was the devil, I’d never have to raise money for a show ever again. (Ironically, that devil has a lot of worshippers, since everyone at the conference shopped on Amazon, and half of the attendees sold something on Amazon . . . including me!)

In one of the many conversations we had about Amazon, we got around to how they owned Whole Foods.  It was odd . . . here was a big digital company, that owned a big Brick and Mortar.  Why?

Because they are more similar than you think.

They both are in the middle of the customer and the creator.

The #1 frustration that Sellers who distribute their products to Whole Foods or Amazon have was that they couldn’t communicate with their customer.  Since their customers mostly purchased through WF, or through Amazon directly, the Sellers never had access to their address, email address, buying habits, etc.

Sound familiar?

Broadway sells tickets through third parties as well (although none of them are as good as Amazon or Whole Foods in servicing the needs of the customers – and that isn’t a knock on our ticketing companies, by the way – it’s just that Amazon and Whole Foods are that good).

So what do we do?

Well, it’s a problem.  And a big one.

Because ironically, as everyone talked about Amazon taking over the world at this conference, the theme of the conference was also . . . BE CUSTOMER-CENTRIC.

How can we be customer-centric if we can’t talk to them?

I Instagrammed last week a favorite quote from Jimmy Nederlander who said . . .

If they don’t let you in the front door, go down the chimney.

And this is what you’re going to have to do to survive in any industry going forward, but especially if you sell tickets, board games, or jalapeno milkshakes through a third party seller like Amazon, Whole Foods or Ticketmaster.

Here are three questions to ask yourself to help you down your customer’s chimney:

  1. What are you doing to capture your customer’s information on your website?
  2. What are you doing to capture your customer’s information at your venue?
  3. What are you doing to capture your customer’s information on your social channels?

The key to efficient marketing is not having to pay to message your most qualified leads.  Third parties make it hard.

But not impossible.

Consider yourself challenged.

– – – – –

Want more marketing tips from three of my favorite marketing gurus?  Join us at our conference and hear from Broadway and Off Broadway Marketing Directors Sara Fitzpatrick, Amanda Pekoe and Amanda Bohan, and many more.  Click here and sign up now!

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.

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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