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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– Enter The Sunday Giveaway!  Win a seat in my Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar!  Enter today!

 

5 Takeaways from the Chicago Seminar.

This past weekend was the debut of the road tour of the Get Your Show Off The Ground Seminar.  First stop . . . Chicago!  And even though it was colder than a popsicle in Sarah Palin’s home state, we turned up the heat on a the projects of the 12 participants.

Before the seminar began, I wondered how different a Chicago seminar would be from a NYC seminar.  What different challenges would Midwesterners face?  How would their obstacles be different?

And you know what I discovered?

The challenges of theatrical entrepreneurs are the same no matter what time zone you live in.

And there are a lot of awesome people with awesome ideas that are on their way up in this business, that live all over this country.

As we always do, here are five takeaways from this past Saturday’s seminar:

  • Make sure you can answer the question, “what’s next?” just in case someone asks it.
  • Taking baby steps doesn’t mean you’re a baby.
  • Looking for investors is like selling Girl Scout cookies.  Start with the people closest to you and then spread out from there.
  • To really make an impact, you have to do the opposite of what is expected.
  • The key to a show staying open and a show closing is in the operating costs.

Thanks to Chi-town for having me!

The next stop on the tour is LA.  There’s only one spot left in the that seminar (which will be held on the 29th).  Click here to grab it.

 

I can’t stop thinking about Microsoft.

On Monday, I wrote about the fall of Microsoft and the rise of its competitors over the last several years, most notably, Apple.

While I know there were various factors at play as the companies swapped places in their race to be the most innovative tech companies on the planet, I couldn’t help but think of one specific difference between the two tech giants that was related to something we’ve discussed here before .

In June of 2008, Bill Gates, the visionary that created the Microsoft brand and the man responsible for its global domination at the beginning of the computer age, stepped down as the head of his company.  And I’m sure in the years before that, he was working in a diminished capacity which was just kept quiet so as to not alarm the shareholders.

At the same time that Mr. Gates was backing off, Steve Jobs, the man behind the Apple brand, who rescued it from almost becoming obsolete, was seizing more control and was even more active in the operations of the company, despite fighting pancreatic cancer.

In other words, at Apple, the lead producer, the man with one, singular sensational vision, was still in the game.

Now, Bill G. retired to do incredibly philanthropic work, so I’m certainly not faulting him for his incredibly generous move.

But one has to wonder . . . if the man who convinced IBM to buy a non-proprietary operating system was still running the company, would they be where they are now?

Maybe . . . like Jobs, Bill will come back.

I don’t know.  Tech isn’t my industry.

But I do know that in our business, as I wrote about in this blog, if you want your shows to keep on working, the guy who put the boat in the water has gotta keep sailing it, or it’ll sink.

Variety cuts their coverage. Should you and I complain?

Variety, one of the few “trades” that remain, has changed their business model over the past twelve months, just like most media companies, and, well, like most companies period.

They’ve put their online articles behind a paywall, fired critics, and just recently I noticed that the legit coverage I pay $299 a year for has now been cut to just one page, and one feature article.

Am I mad?

You betcha.

But not at Variety.

Look, Variety is a business, just like Broadway, just like a diner, and well, just like your own household.

When you can’t pay your expenses in any of those situations, you have to cut out the crap, or the stuff that isn’t necessary, in order to survive.

What I’m mad about is that somehow, Broadway has become the crap.

We’ve failed to make ourselves relevant enough to the modern readers of Variety.  The higher-ups had to think that a cut in our coverage wouldn’t cause that much of a stink, or put that much of a dent in their subscriber base either. There was obviously a meeting at some point where someone at Variety said, “Look if we cut theater coverage, we may lose X number of subscribers, and that will decrease our revenue by Y. But since we’ll be saving Z dollars, and since Z is greater than Y, it makes sense to lose the page.”

And if you are having trouble keeping the lights on, then that’s how meetings should go in industries of all kinds whether that is on Broadway, in a diner or in your own household.

Because that’s business.

And we don’t have to like it.

But yelling at Variety isn’t going to do us any good.  We’ve got to yell at ourselves and find a way to make us important enough so people aren’t cutting coverage, they are adding it.

That’s a constructive use of our time.

Yelling certainly isn’t.

5 Signs that Broadway is becoming more like Vegas.

I’ve been in New York for just shy of two decades now, and to say things have changed in the theater district is as obvious as saying Wicked is a big hit.

The transformation of Times Square into a Vegas Strip-like scene seems to have had an effect on what’s happening inside our theaters as well.

Here are 5 things I’ve noticed that indicate we’re getting Vegas-ized:

1.  WHO IS THE HEADLINER?

We’re becoming increasingly dependent on the names in our shows, just like the casinos have depended on Wayne Newton and friends for years.  In some cases (A Steady Rain, anyone?), Shakespeare has gotten a rewrite because now, “the star’s the thing.”

2.  A TRIBUTE TO TRIBUTES.

When Love Never Dies canceled its Fall NYC opening, the show that took its place wasn’t a limited run play revival.  Instead it was Rain, a Beatles tribute show that has been touring the nation.  If it succeeds, expect more of this type of entertainment to be coming down the long and winding road.

3.  BROKERS ARE NOT GOING BROKE.

In Vegas, the Brokers mean business.  If you don’t have them on your side, you’re gonna get Bugsy Siegeled in no time.  In NYC, they don’t wield that much power . . . yet.  But as they continue to out-spend us on advertising, and continue to organize, we may find ourselves not wanting to sit with our backs to the door, if you know what I mean.  My suggestion?  We all have a sit-down.

4.  PARDON ME, I DON’T SPEAK AMERICAN.

International audiences have been slowly increasing here in NYC, with the Broadway League reporting that 21% of our audience was from around the globe in 2008-2009.  21%!  That means more than 1 in 5 people that see a show many not speak English as their first language!  You’d have to be high on glue to not think that stat has an effect on what runs.  If it increases, expect more and more non-verbal entertainment or spectacular events to take over our boards, like, oh, I don’t know, Spider-Man?

5.  ADVANCE = DAY OF.

It used to be that our tourist audiences picked up a paper before they came into town and bought their tickets in advance.  When my Mom bought my fam Phantom tickets we waited EIGHT months. And we sat in the 2nd row from the back. (Side note: when I went to see it a second time, I bought tickets from a broker because I wanted a great seat.)  Our audiences are becoming more like Vegas audiences, and waiting until they get here to decide, causing most shows to have more availability, requiring more discounting, etc.  So much of our marketing dollars now have to be spent on converting the customer when they get here, instead of before.

Will Broadway become the U.S’s second Strip?  I doubt it.  Great plays and great musicals will always have a place here, whereas I can’t imagine that The Pitmen Painters or Next to Normal will ever play The Mirage.

But we do have more in common with Vegas than ever before.

And you can place a big bet that this trend concerns me.

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