Three blogs that I read that you should too.

I want you to cheat on me.

Seriously.  I want you to register on the Ashley Madison of the bloggin’ community and have an affair.

As a blog writer, I also have to be a blog reader, and I read a bunch of them.  And I have to say that when I started my own personal bloggin’ adventure seven years and over 5,000 posts ago, there weren’t many theater blogs out there.  And now, well, we’ve got a whole gaggle of them (including the Shuberts themselves), plus tons of tweeters, and Instagrammers, and more.

But the three blogs I want you to look at have nothing to do with theater.

I’m a big believer in looking for inspiration outside of the world we live in every day.  A common question I hear from people in the Broadway world is, “Why do we keep doing the same thing over and over?”  Maybe that’s because we’re too inside our own little bubble.

It’s time to burst that bubble and see what the rest of the world is doing.  And that’s why I encourage you to read folks who write about other subjects besides the theater.

Here are three blogs I recommend you read and why:

1.  Seth Godin

Seth’s is the first blog I ever read.  His seminar was the first seminar that I ever took (and I modeled my own after his).  And his fingerprints are all over everything I do.  He preaches customer service, the power of the crowd, and most importantly, how being unique or remarkable in your marketing or your product development is the key to success.  Read his blog here.  And if you want a quick summation of his teachings, read this book.  It helped define my style.

2.  James Altucher

James is a newbie on my reading list.  He’s a straight shootin’ guy who made a lot of money, and lost even more.  He was broke, divorced, suicidal . . . and turned it all around.  Several times.  He has a simple plan of how to achieve success (hint – a lot of work, a little at a time), combined with practical advice on everything from starting your own business, investing in the stock market (hint – a lot of work, a little at a time), to just getting up every day, and taking on whatever challenges the world throws at you.  I find myself nodding a lot when I read his posts.  Read the blog here (and check out his podcast too).

3.  Copyblogger

Now this is where we get technical yo.  Copyblogger is one of the great and early granular marketing blogs on the web . . . mostly focused on, well, copy.  Although they’re going through a platform shift (soon to be Rainmaker) it is one of the greatest blogs I’ve read about online marketing.  You’ve heard me preach before how one of the things that I think Broadway shows are overlooking entirely is building an email list and marketing to that email list.  Instead we depend on buying other people’s lists.  Why should we buy other people’s if we have our own, right?  Copyblogger teaches you how to build a list and how to get people on that list to buy.  Read it here.

So it’s ok.  Click those links.  Cheat away.  I don’t believe in blog-onomy.  And our relationship will be even stronger for it.  Just be safe.

And always come home to me.

 

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A funny thing happened . . . We started a FORUM!

When I was a pre-law guy at Johns Hopkins University back in 19-mumble-mumble, I spent more time in the computer lab than I did in class.

I wasn’t working on inventing Google or Facebook (damnit) . . . I was talking on an electronic theater bulletin board on the brand new Internet.  Yep, I’m talking a pre-AOL chat room known as rec.arts.theatre.musicals.

And I loved it. I remember getting flamed for being a fan of Aspects of Love, and also chiming in on the controversy of Jonathan Pryce debuting in Miss Saigon.  And more importantly, I met people with similar interests.  I ended up getting together with several of them offline, and one even helped me decide which school to transfer to when I decided to drop the law and pursue theater full time.

Chat rooms and message boards have exploded since, and I’m still known to cruise Broadway World and All That Chat every once in a while (and I’ve even been known to post under my real name).

But recently I realized that there isn’t a forum dedicated to people specifically looking to get into the producing game, or looking to get their show produced . . . so we created one!

Introducing The Producer’s Perspective Forum, which is officially open today!

In the forum you’ll find a place to post about your upcoming reading, or a discount offer for your show.  If you’re looking for a job, we’ve got classifieds.  If you’re looking for a producer, here’s where to pitch your project.  You’ll even find a spot to post questions for me.

And yeah, there’s also a place for you to talk about how much you love Aspects of Love.

When I started this blog almost seven years ago, I had a theory . . . “There are a lot of people out there just as passionate about creating and producing theater as I am.  Imagine what we could do if we could get them all together.”

I hope the forum helps you do whatever it is you’ve been dreaming about doing.

Click here to enter The Producer’s Perspective Forum!  And have fun!

 

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Takeaways from my Live Tweetin’ of TEDxBroadway 2015

It has been over a week since TEDxBroadway 2015, but the inspiring words of the color-outside-the-lines speakers are still whispering in my ears as I tackle my day-to-day tasks in this color-within-the-lines industry (if it even lets you color at all!).

If you were there, or if you’ve been to any of the TEDxs, then you know what I’m talking about.  It’s such an awesome day – 500 people in a room with one common goal – to make Broadway the best it can be.  Sure, we all may have different ways to get there, but if we remember we’re all in it for that one mission statement, then it’s so much easier to work together to find solutions (Congress – are you listening?).

Every year since the very first TEDx (and my talk, which you can see here), I’ve followed up the conference with a blog with some of my favorite takeaways from the talks.

This year, I did something a little different.

I live-tweeted the mo’ fo’.

Yep, I sat in the back, under the glow of a MacBook Air screen, and typed like a Tasmanian devil, tweetin’ out 140 characters like a teenager at a Taylor Swift concert hyped up on Skittles and Red Bull.

And when the Skittle high wore off, I realized all my takeaways had become tweets.

So if you want to read what I took away from the talks by Pulitzer Prize Winner Ayad Akhtar, Learning and Tech Guru Elliott Masie, Pasek & Paul, and more, click here to see a stream of my tweets from that day (and some cool rebuttal from other tweeters).

I know, I know, you expected some takeaways in this blog, didn’t you?  Ok, ok, stop your nagging, I’ll give you what you want . . . with a little twist.

Since the takeaways from TEDx are all in those tweets, I thought I’d give you my THREE takeaways from Live Tweetin’ an event.  Eh?  Whatta ya say?  Wanna go with me on this?

TEDxBroadway was only the second event I have live-tweeted, the first being the Tony Awards last year (which was a blast, and I’m sure I’ll do again this year).  But this was different.  Live Tweetin’ a 7 hour conference?  And a TEDx?  Where the speakers change every ten minutes?  It’s like playing speed golf.

It wasn’t easy, but it was fun, and certainly educational.  Here are three things I learned . . .

1.  LIVE TWEETIN’ MAKES YOU LISTEN

When you know you’re responsible for sending out snippets of great comments, with your own little twist, you listen with your ears so wide open, a mountain lion could crawl in there.  I don’t think I’ve ever, ever listened to speakers with such focus.  I was hanging on their every word, because I was depending on their every word, because I knew my followers were depending on me.  And because of that, I learned more just by listening.  Huh.  Imagine that.

2.  PEOPLE LOVE TO LAUGH ONLINE

I’m sure you know this already because of all those cat videos you watch, but as much as people love inspirational and activist tweets, nothing beats a good ol’ laugh line.  Some of my most popular tweets from the day were jokes.  Or, well, my attempt at jokes anyway.

3.  YOU WON’T KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOR

This is one of the major downsides of Live Tweetin’ an event. During one of the talks, I was supposed to have some good ol’ fashioned face-to-face discussion with the gal sitting next to me (a Columbia student, no less), and I was too buried in my Twitter to chat.  One of the reasons I love conferences is that they force offline interaction in a day and age when we can be soooooooo online.  And here I was, effin’ it up.  (I apologized to the coed during the break, btw.)

 There’s a heck of a lot more to learn from Live Tweetin’ an event, and I strongly recommend that all of you try it.

And who knows, maybe it won’t be long until we’re able to live tweet shows.

 

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Look who is bloggin’ now?

Last week I wrote a blog with my 5 Tips to Starting a Theater Blog.  And lo and behold, one appeared!

Ok, truth time – this new blog didn’t have anything to do with my post, but it’s still a blog that we all should must read.  Why?  Well, it’s written by someone who has access to more ticketing data than anyone in the biz . . . the Shuberts themselves!

Check out the new Shubert Ticketing Blog here (with articles by The Swami himself!).

The most recent entry?  “What’s the Problem with Wednesday Nights?”  Or as I like to call it?  Why does Wednesday night (the worst performance of the week when it comes to grosses) suck so bad?  Is it because it’s “hump day”?  Is it because there’s a matinee for most shows that day?  Is it because Survivor is on?  

Read the blog to find out.

And a big thank you to the Shuberts for opening up their data and sharing their info with us.

Now, let’s just hope they read my tips and have picked that publishing schedule . . . because I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.

 

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5 Tips to Starting a Theater Blog (or any blog for that matter).

So you wanna start a theater blog, huh?

Gosh, I hope the answer to that is yes.

See, my mission statement, on and off my blog, is simple.  I want to amplify the conversation about theater.  If more people are talking about theater, whether that’s because of my blog or because they are playing my board game, then maybe more people will want to go see the theater, or get involved in the theater.  And that floats all our boats, and more importantly enriches people’s lives (cuz I think that’s what the theater does).

If there are more theater blogs out there, then there’s more of a chance of the conversation about the theater getting louder, right?

So gosh, I hope you are thinking about blogging.

And if you’re the head of an institution . . . a non-profit regional theater, or an off-off Broadway company with a unique voice, blogging is a must.  It’s one of the best ways you can get across what makes your theater different from all others and keep your audience engaged . . . and loyal.

So you’re in?  Good.

As someone who has been blogging about Broadway and beyond for six years now, let me tell you the easy part is deciding to do it.  The hard part is getting it done.  And the even harder part is continuing to do it.  The blogosphere is littered with blogs that have died after a few weeks or months.

I don’t want that to happen to you, so here are my five tips on how to start and write a theater blog.

1.  WHY ARE YOU BLOGGING?

Make sure you come up with your own mission statement.  How is your blog and your voice going to be different from the other voices on the web?  (There are other theater blogs out there, you know.  Check out the ITBA (which I helped organize) for some samples and some inspiration.)  People read blogs not only because they are different . . . but also because they can’t find that voice or that information anywhere else.  That’s why people read me.  Why sure, I think I put out some good stuff every once in awhile, but I’m also one of the few, if not only, producers blogging.  So if people want that perspective, then I’m the option.  Period.  So if you’re starting a blog with just general reviews about Broadway shows, you’re in for a long struggle to get traffic.  You can do it, but it’s not going to be as easy as if you were writing about something more specific, and were one of the few people doing it.  As Seth Godin would say, be purple.

2.  SET YOUR SCHEDULE

Your blog is like a periodical.  It’s your job to decide whether it comes out like a daily newspaper or a weekly magazine, or even monthly.  But you must decide the frequency before you start.  And don’t pressure yourself into something you don’t think you can handle.  Consistency is more important than frequency.  If you only think you can post once a week, then great . . . don’t say, “I’m so going to try to do it every day,” and then fail.  Because failing will make you feel bad and you’ll be more likely to give up the whole thing.  It doesn’t matter what schedule you decide, as long as you decide one and pick it.  And be specific.  My blog goes online at 11 AM every morning and gets emailed out at 8 PM (Curtain time!).  Readers will come to expect your blog, like the nightly news.  Don’t give them a moving target.

3.  GOT IDEAS?

I find the hardest thing about writing my theater blog is not the actual writing of the blog, it’s coming up with the ideas.  That’s why I go through life with my eyes wide open, always looking for ideas (I also read other blogs, newspapers, etc. voraciously).  And when I find an idea, it goes on a list that I keep close to my side so that when I sit down to blog every day (and I try to do it first thing in the AM for publication the next day), I can pick one of the ideas that I’ve already come up with and just go.  You desperately want to avoid staring at your computer at 3 AM knowing that your blog posts in a few hours and you still don’t have any idea on what to write about (believe me, I’ve been there, and it’s painful).  It’s those moments that you’re most susceptible to just not posting one day.  And once you break your set schedule, you’re that much closer to giving up.  Have ideas ready to go.  Ask your friends for ideas.  Ask your readers for ideas.  HINT:  If three people ask you to write about something, there’s a much bigger audience waiting to hear about it.

4.  GET TRAFFIC

The traffic to your blog is going to be small at first.  It’s going to be your friends, your family, etc. It’s just like if you were starting out as a stand-up comic (another vocation that needs a unique voice).  Who would be at those first few shows?  Frankly, it’s just like if you were starting out as anything!  But hopefully, those friends and family will tell more friends and more friends and more friends.  Other ways to help boost your traffic is to make friends with other theater bloggers.  Link to each other.  Write guest blogs for each other.  But nothing builds traffic like great content.  So just keep your head down and write good stuff.  If you write it, they will come.

5.  DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT MONEY.

I have this theory.  If someone does something . . . anything . . . just for money, one of two things are going to happen.  Either that something is going to fail, because it was started for the wrong reasons.  Or if it doesn’t fail, that person is going to be unhappy, because they did it for the wrong reasons.

Blogging is not about making money.  Period.  Forget it.  No way no how.  So don’t even think that it’s going to happen.  And if along the way, you discover some ways to monetize what you are doing, that’s a supreme bonus.  But if you want to blog because you think you can earn an extra buck, just give up now, because you will give up later.  Twitter was very famously started with no concept of how they were going to make money.  Their CEO said they weren’t even thinking about it during their first few years.  You shouldn’t either.  But if you produce good enough content and offer good enough value, you may find that people come to you with an offer of their own.

 

It’s easy to start a blog today.  Just go to WordPress and get one going.  Wordpress will tell you that it’s “free.”  And yeah, you can use the software for free.  But it will take a lot of your time, which is definitely not free.

That said, blogging is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, and my career, and I encourage you all to take a swipe at it yourself.  Because the more of us doing it, the better theater will be.

Blog away!

 

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