Institutions can have personalities, too.

I recently got an email from a non-profit here in the city asking me for money.  The message said, “Please give me money.  Signed, Institution.”

Then I got an email from the Scott Elliot, the Artistic Director of the outstanding New Group, asking me to subscribe.  In addition to a much more personal letter (it was signed simply, “Scott”), the email also featured a nice photo of Scott.

Obviously, you know which one I was more inclined to support.

But it goes beyond that.

In addition to this appeal being much more likely to succeed because of the personal nature of the communication, the strategy of attaching a person (with a face) to a institution has many more long term benefits.

Subscribers, donors, etc. are much more likely to support people . . . not buildings and not companies.  That’s why it’s essential for every non-profit, every building, and every company to have a face, or a personality, that represents the human component of what they do.

When I was in London recently, I went to see Deathtrap at the Noel Coward Theatre. When I opened my program, guess who greeted me with a letter?  Cameron Mackintosh! (Cameron owns the Noel Coward).  And the letter wasn’t just a “welcome to my theater” letter, but rather a letter that talked about the show, the actors, and more.

There are many companies around the country and in this city that are already using this strategy, but there is more that we can all do . . . and more rewards to reap from it.

Think you’ve got this covered?  Try my test to see if your company is successfully using personalization properly:  Ask 10 people who are casual visitors to your space what name comes to mind when you say the name of your venue. If they all don’t say the name of your Artistic Director, CEO, or whomever you want them to say within 3 seconds, you fail.  🙂

If you failed, or if you haven’t started yet, here are five things that person can do to expand his or her presence:

1.  BLOG IT UP!

I think every Artistic Director should blog, and it should be available right on the home page. Describe your daily successes as well as the challenges you face.  Give insider scoop on upcoming shows (photos and more), etc.  In blog form, these entries might seem more journal-like, and less solicitation-like, and you might find yourself raising money passively throughout the year.

2.  SIGNED, YOU.

Every letter, ticket confirmation, and donation request should come from one voice . . . yours.  And include photos.

3.  GREET THE PEEPS.

As often as you can, park yourself in front of the ticket takers and shake hands, get recognized, and meet as many of your customers as possible.  And don’t just talk to the Richie Riches.  Today’s single ticket buyer could be tomorrow’s subscriber.

And if you can be there at the end of the show to listen to people’s thoughts, complaints, feedback, etc., even better.

4.  SHOW FACE.

Take advice from Scott and insert your photos into your correspondence. I’d also put photos of you and your team by the box office, and other key places.  You want people to recognize you when you’re at the Duane Reade.

5.  ANSWER EVERY EMAIL

Your email should be plastered all over your site.  Let your subscribers, patrons, and more have direct access to you.  And respond. It’ll mean a lot to them . . . which will no doubt mean a lot to you.

Are these things that difficult to do?  No.  Do these things take time?  Yes.

But I have a feeling you think your institution or your company is worth it.

Have you gone undercover lately?

I don’t watch much television, so I didn’t catch the CBS business docu-drama, Undercover Boss.  Did you?  It’s ok, you can admit it.  The world loves reality TV (which, by the way, is something that we, as writers, producers and creators have to come to terms with – we don’t have to go to R-TV’s extremes, but there is an element of the genre that excites audiences – what can we do to our entertainment to excite ours?).

UB featured bosses anonymously joining the lower ranks of their companies to learn more about what it’s like to be on the front lines.

For example . . .

A Waste Management CEO sifted cardboard.

The 7-11 CEO made doughnuts.

The CEO of Hooters . . . well . . . you don’t want to know.

Producers, Artistic Directors and Theater Owners don’t have the anonymity factor in most organizations to learn from their “fellow”-employees about the real issues they face everyday, but they could learn a lot from their audience.

So, all of you Producers, ADs, Owners, Writers, etc . . . take a shift at a show and work merch, usher, take tickets, sell tickets at the BO, etc.

You may have to miss the latest episode of Real Housewives of Bangladesh, but I guarantee you’ll never look at your audience the same way again.

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Special thanks to blog reader Malini for giving me a heads up about this show.  If you’ve got something that you think will make an interesting post, don’t hesitate to send it my way!  Just email me.

Ticketmaster tackles the subject of their fees, on their brand new blog.

There’s a new voice in the theatrical blogosphere.

And it has a market cap of over a billion buckaroos.

The recently merged Ticketmaster unveiled their own blog a couple of weeks ago, written by their very own CEO, “Nathan” (he signed the blog by his first name only).  Their first (and so far only) post begins with the sentence, “We get it – you don’t like service fees.”

Master-of-the-Nation (my pet name for the new company formed by the Ticketmaster/LiveNation merger) continues to explain that they are going to use their blog to help educate the consumer on the fact and fiction of e-commerce, how fees are going to be presented in the future, and why the fees are what they are (news flash: that billion dollar market cap has something to do with it).

While they’re a little late to the explanation party, I gotta give props for their desire to shed a little light on their world, and for the changes they are about to implement, which are a direct response to the comments they’ve heard from their consumers (they have frightening data demonstrating the drop-off-rate when a customers sees those fees).

But the line that made me fall in love was this . . .

This [new] user experience mirrors what you see across the web from leaders in their field – Amazon, Apple, Expedia, Zappos and more. It’s not complicated, it’s just the right thing to do.

We are the leader in the industry, and so we are accountable for taking the initiative to drive industry change. We take that responsibility very seriously, and at the new Ticketmaster we wake up every day obsessing over the fan experience. We think this change is a big step toward creating pricing transparency that is good for fans, and thus good for business.

Kudos, MotN.  I look forward to seeing how you will continue to think of the consumer first, and market cap second.

Now, the only other thing that Nathan has to learn right now is that a blog needs to be updated more than once every week.

Come on.  You’ve got googles of stuff to talk about.  Give us some regular content, already?

It’s not that hard.

To read the full Ticketmaster statement on their Ticketology blog, click here.

Favorite Quotes Vol. XXV: The definition of frugality.

The biz page of The NY Times had an interesting article the other day about pharmaceutical giant Teva, a company that doesn’t have the brand name of a Pfizer or a Merck, but is the biggest generic drug maker in the world.

The opening of the article described how its competitors’ (mentioned above) executives both had private planes to shuttle them on both corporate and personal trips.  The CEO of Teva, however, flies commercial flights when traveling domestically in the US and when he heads overseas?  He flies business, not first.  And Teva is a company with a market capitalization of 51.92 BILLION bucks!

There were two quotes that jumped out at me that all of us can learn from.  The first was from Ronny Gal, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein who said this about their travel methods: “The day they get their own plane, is the day I downgrade them.”

But it was William S. Marth, the biz class travelling CEO who said the sound bite of the article for me.

When describing the company’s incredible success over the past decade (their profits have jumped from 135.5 million to a whopping 2 billion dollars), along with his business practices up and down the balance sheet, Mr. Marth had this to say . . .

“Frugality doesn’t mean doing less.  It means doing as much or more with less.”

There’s a big difference between cheap and frugal.

You don’t want to be cheap.

But when faced with a business that has economics like ours, frugality is a necessity.

How does a Broadway Producer get paid?

I wrote a blog in November which stumped for the concept that Producers should receive a portion of Author’s subsidiary rights on shows that have not recouped on Broadway, since it was the Producer’s production that branded the show for subsidiary production in the first place.

I got tremendous positive response from the industry from that blog, including several Producers who said they would be willing to take more risks on Broadway if they knew they would have a guaranteed revenue stream to help keep funding their projects in the future.

I also got a lot of questions from readers wanting to know exactly how Producers were compensated for producing shows on and Off-Broadway, so here’s a blog that breaks downs the bucks (or lack thereof).

There are three main forms of traditional Producer compensation.  They are:

1.  Producer Office Fee

The Office Fee is a flat weekly amount paid to the Producer designed to cover costs associated with maintaining an office needed to run a Broadway show.  If you were the CEO of a company, then your rent, your assistant(s), your copy machine, etc. and all of the things that you need on a daily basis would be taken care of under the company’s overall operating budget.  A Producer’s overhead is not covered by the show’s operating budget, therefore the Office Fee was designed to help offset some of those expenses.  For an Off-Broadway show, the average Producer Office Fee is $1,000/week, but it can range anywhere between $500 – $1,500 week.  On a Broadway show, the average Producer Office Fee is approximately $2,000, but this can vary as well depending on the size of the production. The Producer Office Fee is usually paid to the Producers two weeks prior to the start of rehearsals.  Before that, you’re on your own.

The Producer Office Fee is traditionally split between the Lead Producers of the production.  If there are three Leads, then divide the numbers I’ve specified above by three, etc.  At times, secondary Producers (or other “above-the-title” Producers) also share in a portion of this fee.  In that case, the Producer Office Fee can sometimes be split many, many, ways.  I’ve been on shows where some Producers were getting $62.50/week.

If a show is in trouble, this Office Fee is usually one of the first to be waived.

2.  Producer Royalty

The Producer Royalty is similar to the royalty paid to the Authors or the Designers of the production.  It starts off as a percentage of the gross (customarily about 3%), but usually ends up converting to a percentage of profit through a royalty pool.  There are traditionally minimum royalties paid to everyone in the pool, and a 3% Producer Royalty would usually mean about $702 Off-Broadway and about $3,000 to $4,500 on Broadway per week.  The hope, of course, is that the show is constantly in profit, and that everyone in that pool is paid more than the minimums.

The Producer Royalty is split between Lead Producers as well, just like the Office Fee.  Three Lead Producers who are treated evenly on a $3,000 royalty would get $1k each.  And, usually on the bigger musicals, a portion of that Producer Royalty is split between a bunch of those other names above the title as well.

Unlike the other creatives, however, there is no advance paid on a Producer Royalty and the royalty begins with the first performance.

If the show is in trouble, creative royalties to all participants, including Authors, etc. are usually reduced, waived or deferred pretty quickly.

3.  Profit after Recoupment

This is the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow for Producers.  Before a show has recouped, 100% of its profit (after the royalties specified above) goes to its investors.  After a show pays back its investors in full, profit is treated differently.  First, some folks usually take a sliver off the top (some General Managers, Stars, Authors, etc.), and then the remaining profit is split in two . . . half of which goes to the investors, and half of which gets paid to the Producers.  However, once again, this profit that gets paid to Producers once again gets divvied up, first to the Lead Producers, and then each Lead Producer pays a portion of his or her profit to all of the other big money raisers on the show.  Because the cost of producing Broadway shows is so great, Lead Producers usually “sub-contract” some of their financing, and in exchange for that, they have to give up some of their profit.  But this is the profit that all Producers are praying for, because if you can get a show to recoup, and run for years and years, and spin-off tours and subsidiary companies for years and years, this profit can help provide a financial foundation for your office and help you get future shows off the ground.
In all of the above, you can see how quickly Producer compensation can get diluted, especially if you’ve got a bunch of Producers helping you get your show up (which is becoming more and more the norm).  Now you know why so many Producer’s offices are smaller than the offices of their own vendors!

This dilution has caused the creation of a sometimes utilized fourth income stream known as the Executive Producer Fee and/or Royalty.

The EP Fee is a lump sum payment paid in production to cover the work on a project before it opens.  It can be $10k or $25k on a Broadway show, or whatever is appropriate and “budgetarily” responsible.  The argument for the EP Fee is that every other person on the production team is paid up front, from the Authors to the Director to the Production Assistant . . . so why shouldn’t the Producer be paid?  A CEO is paid, right?  A Managing Director?

The EP Royalty is usually a fixed amount that is paid directly to the Producer during operating weeks that was created in response to the fact that so many Producers had to give up their standard Producer Royalty to their major investors or other above-the-title Producers on the show.
It’s becoming more and more challenging to make money on Broadway as a Producer, as it gets harder and harder to recoup because of escalating costs, and because the traditional compensation streams are being tributized to so many other players.

But it still is possible.

But seriously, I don’t know a single Producer that is in it for the money, and you shouldn’t be either.

I laugh whenever people say that Producers are greedy, and money grubbing, etc.  That is an old stereotype that just doesn’t apply anymore.  Sure, there have always been a few bad eggs in any chicken coop, but if we were really in it for the money . . . we’d be in movies.

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