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.

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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.

Forget about streaming . . . what about this? Especially now.

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?”

Or

“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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I do have more to say on streaming later this week.  Make sure you get that blog (and get my free book – which you can also get in audio version, of course) by clicking here.

 

 

Quick Announcement re: our Fall Conference and a Favor . . .

Hey all . . . a quick announcement about our fourth annual TheaterMaker Super Conference . . .

First, rest assured, it’s still happening (on November 14th and 15th to be exact).

Second, like most live events in 2020, we’re going virtual.

I was initially disappointed when I had to make this decision, but I quickly realized how many benefits there were from holding a virtual theater conference.

Most significantly, a virtual conference will make it easier to unite TheaterMakers all over the world without you having to spend any time or dollars on travel.  And we’ll be able to bring you speakers from everywhere as well.

Since we’re still designing and planning the event (and since this is our first virtual event), I need to ask you a favor. I have two questions for you that will take two minutes, and will help in how we structure and curate the event.  Can you help us out?

You can answer the questions here.

Thank you in advance and stay tuned to this space for the announcement of the conference details.

In Tech (and in Life), Time is like Toothpaste.

I’m in a hotel room as I type this.  And I just finished a sweet caesar salad with chicken that left me fully satiated . . . and with some breath that could kill a whole bouquet of roses.

So I went to brushy-brushy-brushy (as Elmo sings to my daughter every night), grabbed my toothpaste, and noticed that I was just about down to the end of the tube.  I crinkled the tube some more, pressed out the corners and squeeeeeeeeezed with all my might to get a few more drops onto my brush.  “Come on,” I urged the tube, “I gotta kill this Caesar!”

I eventually got a little dollop to pop out but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have a little anchovy aftertaste right now.

You’ve been there before, right?  With toothpaste, or hand soap (ever put more water in the bottle to extend its life?), etc.

Now flash back to when you opened that tube of toothpaste . . . or that bottle of soap . . . you didn’t think even think about it coming to an end, now did you?  You probably over-pasted, or let some spill, and didn’t give two dollops.

But eventually, your tube did run out.  It always does.  And then you found yourself with less than what you needed to do the job right.

The same is true with time.

And I find my “toothpaste theory” is never more evident than in tech.

Tech is the most expensive and arguably most important time in a show’s run-up to a Broadway opening.  It’s where all the elements come together.  It’s when there are more people getting paid than ever before.

And you only have a fixed period of time before the tech ends, and the performances must begin.

And at the beginning of tech, everyone spends a little more time on things than they should. And then, as the first preview gets closer . . . and you start to approach the end of the “toothpaste tube of time,” things get more tense, as you’re trying to squeeze every last second of time out of your tech rehearsals to give that first audience the best show possible.  “If only we had another day,” is probably the most commonly heard expression in tech.  Well, second most common to, “Oh @#$%!”

So . . . it’s important to go into tech remembering that the toothpaste at the beginning of the tube is just as valuable at the end. Do that and you’ll find yourself with a better show for that first audience, which will result in better word of mouth, and so on, and so on.

Oh, and, by the way, this toothpaste theory works for life too.  No matter what age we are, we all think there is plenty of time to do all the things we dream about doing, from writing a play to having kids to taking that vacation to that one place we’re dying to see.

But, the fact is, life is short.  And you don’t want to find yourself at the end of your own toothpaste tube trying to squeeze a few more years out.  Because you can’t.

So go out there and do something you want to do today.

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Want to start working on that script of yours that is in your head but not yet on a page?  Take our free 30 Day Script Challenge . . . and get it on paper in 30 days, guaranteed.

Want a job in the theater? Join our TheaterMakers Studio Production Team Database!

The theater is a collaborative art form.  Even one-person shows can’t be done on their own.  (At the very least, you need at least one person in your audience!)

The cool thing about meeting the right collaborator is that your energy to make something happen doubles, triples, and increases exponentially with each person you add.  And then one day, you’ll find yourself sitting in a Broadway theater teching your show, looking around at the hundred people working on it with you. . . and remembering when it was just you, in your room, with an idea (yes, I’ve had this moment several times).

This is why we encourage TheaterMakers to meet other TheaterMakers and get them signed up on their show, or simply just meet for coffee and brainstorm!

And, believe it or not, one of the most common questions I get asked is . . . “Ken, where can I find a Director/Designer/Composer/Orchestrator/Actor, etc.”  Shocking, right?  Because we all know how many people are desperately looking to work as a Director/Designer/Composer/Orchestrator/Actor, etc.

That’s why we’ve started a TheaterMaker Production Team Database . . . so when you need someone for your show . . . or if you’re a TheaterMaker looking for a job on a show . . . you know where to look.

Post your profile if you’re a Director of plays or a Choreographer of musicals.  Or a Writer, Investor, Designer or whatever.

Search through the profiles if you’re looking for any of the above, or are just looking to meet someone who shares the same passion of making shows as you do, and see what you can cook up together.

Whatever you’re looking for, it’s in our brand new, free TheaterMaker Database. And it’s now open for your submission and browsing pleasure!

Click here to check it out and create your free profile now.

And do it now.

Ask yourself.  What do you have to lose by signing up?  And putting yourself out there?

Only a possible collaboration that could take you exactly where you want to go.

It takes 30 seconds.  Sign up and start working (with someone else) today.

Sign up for the TheaterMaker Production Database here.

 

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