Hey, big business can learn from us too, you know!

I preach pretty much daily about how Broadway and the Arts could afford to take many a cue from the big business world.

Well, I forget sometimes that we’ve got a lot to offer too, and our relationship with traditional industry might be more reciprocal than it seems.

Enter The Economist, which featured an article about the Arts and Management last month.

The first paragraph of the article contains these two sentences:

Artists routinely deride businesspeople as money-obsessed bores.  Many businesspeople, for their part, assume that artists are a bunch of pretentious wastrels.

True that, Econ.  True that.

But as the article concludes, and as I agree, the best of all business requires an artist’s imagination to forge new ground, and the best of all artists need a businessperson’s wherewithal to insure that their art has a life.

So I guess we’re stuck with each other.

Maybe we should kiss and make up instead of calling each other names.

Read the article here.  And special thanks to reader, Nurul, for sending it on.

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FUN STUFF!

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Five things theater can learn from the World Cup.

Well, it took twenty years, but “football” has finally tipped in the US. I remember when my female cousin from Norway had to fight for a chance to try out for our high school soccer team.  They didn’t even have a women’s team!  (BTW, not only did she make the team, but she made the starting line-up, and scored more times than Tiger Woods at a “Golfers Who Love To Text Strippers” convention.)

Times have changed, and the number of people in New York City wearing soccer jerseys these days certainly proves it.  We’ve all got World Cup fever.

Now, how can we make that fever contagious and help spread a similar fanaticism about theater?  Here are five things theater can learn from the World Cup.

1.  NEW AUDIENCES CAN BE FOUND

People said soccer/football would never be big in this country.  It took time, but a whole bunch of people who have never watched competitive soccer are watching now.  And I guarantee they’ll watch more in the future.  While we will always need to satisfy our core audience first, we can’t ignore outreach efforts for new audiences.  They are out there.  We have to be persistent.  We have to be creative.  And we have to be accessible.

2.  PARTICIPATION IS THE KEY TO LONG-TERM GROWTH

Do you think it’s a coincidence that 25 years ago there was no girls’ team in my hometown, and no one gave a crap that Argentina beat Germany in a 3-2 squeaker?  Soccer became a bigger part of American life just a couple of decades ago . . . and now those kids are grown up, and are loving watching what they participated in.  The arts are no different.  If it were mandatory that every kid out there performed in at least one play during their high school career (and I’m not saying that it should be), Broadway would have a bigger fan base.  Today’s participants are tomorrow’s audience.

3.  GIVE ‘EM SOMEBODY TO ROOT FOR

A friend of mine is 1/4 Spanish, but you’d never know it.  If you saw him coming down the street, you’d think he was cut out of a Gap ad, the guy is so ‘American’ looking.  But somewhere along his genetic journey, he got a little Spanish blood in his system.  Well, ever since Spain started making a run at the Cup, he’s been touting that Spanish blood like he’s a direct descendant of Don Quixote!  He bought jerseys, set up viewing parties, and more.  And he doesn’t even speak the language or like the food!  When publicizing your shows, make sure you take advantage of where your cast, crew, and creatives are from, and what they do. Give the audience a way to feel connected to each person involved with your production, and they’ll passionately support your product.

4.  LESS OFTEN IS MORE EXCITING

There’s nothing like a little scarcity to make people more excited when your event rolls around.  The World Cup is only every four years.  It’s so special that people are giving up many other entertainment opportunities to make sure they don’t miss each GOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLL!  In fact, this may be the first year the World Cup has had a negative effect on Broadway ticket sales.  (We slump during other major sporting events like the Super Bowl – you don’t think this took a bite out of some biz this year?)  So maybe your show doesn’t have to do 8 shows a week.  Maybe scheduling is like a good juicy steak:  the more rare it is, the more your audience will be drooling for it.

5.  EVERYONE LOVES A COMPETITION

We’ve been watching competitions since the beginning of time.  I bet even Adam and Eve bet on the snake races.  There’s something about watching one team go up against another.  It’s why competitive sports, board games (and war), bring out such enthusiasm and pride with both players and audiences.  Shows don’t go head-to-head in the same way that sports teams do (no one has taken me up on this idea yet) but there has to be a way to make it seem like we do.  Ask yourself what would make your audience paint their face for you.

I’m no Pollyanna.  I don’t believe theater will ever compete with major competitive sports (except maybe Championship Chess Boxing or Wife Carrying).  But there is something we can learn from how they have increased their dominance on the attention span of the world.

And maybe, just maybe, 25 years from now, my kid will say, “remember when high schools didn’t have a Broadway team?”

How I get my theater news.

If you enjoyed yesterday’s blog, then you shouldn’t thank me. You should thank Mr. Thomas Cott.

Tom has worked in a lot of areas in the entertainment industry over the last 25+ years, from marketing to producing to fundraising and so on. He’s an incredibly dedicated believer in spreading ideas and information in order to encourage education, which by its nature encourages change.

Tom runs a news clipping service called “You’ve Cott Mail,” where he serves up a handful of the day’s most interesting arts related articles from publications, blogs, newsletters, etc. from around the globe.

It was in a recent edition of “You’ve Cott Mail” that I discovered the article that I blogged about yesterday, hence the props due to Tom.

If you’re not signed up on Tom’s list, visit his site and click on the link on the left for YCM.  You’ll be glad you did.  “You’ve Cott Mail” is a like a vegetable that tastes like french fries.  It’s oh-so-good for you and should be consumed daily, but it also tastes great going down.

And if you’re looking for more than a handful of the day’s articles, then make sure you bookmark supersite, www.BroadwayStars.com, started by one of the original theater bloggers, James Marino.  All of the news that’s fit to type is on that site.  I refresh the page about 30 times a day looking for the latest news.

Consuming news in the 21st century is not like it used to be when you had one paper, or one TV channel.  The best news sources are like giant buffets, serving up dishes of all different types and temperatures from all over the world (e.g. HuffPo).

“You’ve Cott Mail” and BroadwayStars are the two of the best buffets in town.  And I gorge myself at both every day.

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