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.
Looking forward to e-seeing you there.
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.
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.
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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.
Streaming is all the rage these days . . . whether that means an opportunity to watch a musical shot in New York City like this one, or whether that’s a blogger like me who turns his camera on weekly to talk to an industry hot shot.
And streaming has a very distinct place in our present and our future (although not exactly how you might think – keep your eye on this blog for more on that later this week).
But there’s another type of recording that I’m surprised hasn’t taken off in our world . . . and based on current trends AND the current COVID-19 crisis, I think it should.
And . . . gasp . . . this one is more suited for PLAYS than musicals.
Why aren’t more plays being podcasted?
Audio-recorded content has surged over the past several years.
So why aren’t more plays appearing on Podcasts or in audiobook format?
I know, I know, plays are meant to be seen . . . but ahhhh, not sure if you’ve read the news lately . . . people can’t actually see them. And since shooting a play on video is so very expensive and logistically difficult (and again, please check the news about why even that’s problematic these days), why not turn to the done-for-peanuts-and-in-one-day audio version?
The growth of consumers’ appetites for listening to recorded content on their phones, iPads, and in their cars has proven that they devour content that they love.
Audible is doing a bit of this downtown, but the rest of us just aren’t serving enough content to our audience.
And we should. (It’d also get some cash to our artists who could use it now, before we lose many of them.)
I’m not just talking about why The Hangmen, which canceled its Broadway run because of COVID-19, might think of putting out an audio version with that original cast. Or what about To Kill A Mockingbird?
I’m also taking about EMERGING plays.
Podcasted or Audio book-ed plays could be the new “Demo” for emerging playwrights looking to get their plays produced.
It’s HARD to get people to read a script. It’s EASIER to get them to listen (evident by the growth in podcasting and audiobook devouring referenced above).
So doesn’t it make sense that if you were a new playwright and wanted a Producer to “read” your script, you might have a better shot of them listening to it?
Just imagine this query letter:
“Hi. I wrote a play. It’s 110 pages. Will you read it?”
“Hi. I wrote a play. I recorded it with actors and you can listen to it on the treadmill.”
Isn’t the experience easier and the product better?
Selling anything, whether that’s a bar of soap or a brand new play, is about reducing the friction between the buyer and the seller, and having audio versions of what we produce does just that.
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