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.

At the Broadway League Conference: Day 2/What’s the “deal” with the road?

Day 2 of the Broadway League Spring Road Conference was filled with some great events, from a panel on how to engage the African American audience, to a discussion on the evolution of the current Broadway production of Fences, led by Mr. Denzel Washington himself (they served extra water at that panel, to prevent half the crowd from fainting at the sight).

One of the more spirited conversations was a discussion of the current deal structure for Broadway touring companies (the ‘Broadway League’ is somewhat of a misnomer, since a large majority of its membership is compromised of presenters/performing arts centers (PAC) all across the country).

There are currently three basic deals being brokered right now for touring shows like Wicked, Jersey Boys, Dreamgirls, etc.

1.  The Guarantee

Under the terms of a GD, a local presenter pays a fixed fee, or a guarantee, to the Producer for showing up at the theater with a show.  In addition to this fee (which can range from $250k – $400k for the big shows), the Producer usually receives a royalty (usually 10% of the NAGBOR), and a split of profit (usually 60/40%) AFTER the Presenter has recovered all of his/her expenses (advertising, stagehands, etc.).

Guarantee = More risk for the Presenter, less risk for the Producer.

2.  Four-Wall

The four-wall is more of a straight rental situation.  The Producer agrees to rent the facility from the Presenter, and pay all expenses associated with the Production.  There is usually some profit built in for the Presenter, but the bulk of the upside is for the Producer.  All the shows produced on Broadway in NYC are four-walls.

3.  Terms

The Terms deal is a hybrid deal designed for Producers and Presenters to “meet in the middle.”  An example of a Terms deal would be a 75/25% split of the gross, after advertising expenses were taken off the top of the gross.  Or a 80/20% split after advertising and stagehands costs were taken from the gross.
Brett Sirota, a partner at The Road Company (a ‘wicked’ big booking group), and an absolute expert in this area (and a pretty damn good poker player as well), revealed that for the first time in his recent memory, almost all the deals he has done for the coming season are “Terms” deals or as it was also called, a “Shared Risk Deal.”

Some pros/cons to the Terms deals were as follows:

  • Without getting a guarantee, the Producer may close the show early if it doesn’t perform well.  When that happens, a performing arts center might end up with no product, despite having sold a subscription on the back of that show.
  • For Presenters a Terms deal really depends on those terms, and in some cases, especially with blockbusters, the Presenter is better of with a guarantee because there is much more upside potential.
  • Some Producers of big shows have signed Terms deals, knowing that they were giving more money than necessary to the Presenters, in the hopes of encouraging the Presenter to book the show for a second, third or even fourth time!
  • Since only one out of five shows recoup their investment on Broadway, Producers look for guarantee arrangements because they are easier to sell to investors who may have just lost money in the Broadway production and are now being asked to put up more money for the same product.

There were a lot of other creative ideas thrown around the room, including a development fee (in the style of a facility fee) that went to Producers to help defray some of the costs of developing product, since it is getting so expensive, and since the markets depend on new product to survive.  There was a suggestion to have a seminar on the costs of running PACs around the country so Producers could understand why a Presenter’s expenses are what they are.

But one of the most enlightening comments was a statement about the road in general, and how conversations like the one in that room at the Crowne Plaza hotel were good.

Because the road is not made up of one stop or one show.  It’s a continually flowing entity that connects all of us.  It may start on Broadway but it circles around the country and eventually winds its way back here.  So, it’s important for us to come up with deals that work for all parties.  That’s the definition of a successful negotiation.  A win2.

One more day of the conference.  Until tomorrow!

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We get a lot of scripts, so we’re gonna do something with them!

Introducing . . . The Davenport Theatrical Developmental Reading Series!

It amazes me how many passionate writers are out there in the world.

Every day, scripts are submitted to us from people just like you; people that committed their idea to paper, and now want to share it with as many people as possible.

I have been brainstorming all year on how to thank all of you for your submissions and give you some sort of props for your passion to the process.

I thought about scriptwriting contests with cash prizes, group dramaturgical sessions, and so on.  At the end of the day, I decided that what writers really want, even more than money, is to have their stuff performed.

So, I am starting the Davenport Theatrical Developmental Reading Series to do just that.

This year, DTE will produce four readings of new works (plays and/or musicals) that have been submitted to us through our regular submissions process.

In other words, we’ll help you get your show off the ground!

We will pay all expenses for the reading.   We will help you find a director if you need one.  We will help you cast your reading.  We will help you with dramaturgy.  We’ll handle RSVPs.  We’ll send out a press release.  We will prepare a post show quantitative and qualitative survey for your audience.

We will help you with whatever you need help with.

And then, we’ll all hear your piece the way it was meant to be heard . . . out loud!  Because dramatic writing doesn’t exist on paper.  It needs people to speak it, and people to see it.

The readings will take place at 8 PM on the following dates:

Monday, March 15th
Monday, June 14th
Monday, September 13th
Monday, December 13th

Location, TBD.

Whether you’re a writer or not, you should save the date, because guess who’s going to be invited first?  Yep – Producer Perspective subscribers!  (If you haven’t subscribed to the blog yet, you can subscribe by putting your email in the box underneath my pic.)

How do you apply for one of the four slots?  Submit your script to us by following these instructions.  Your script will automatically be considered.  (FYI, if you’ve submitted to us in the past, no need to submit the same material to us again.  We keep records of submissions and will comb through previously received scripts for consideration.)

If we select your piece, you will be contacted by the Artistic Director of the series, Jane Caplow, who will give you further instructions.

On the day of each reading, I will announce the next project for the series (i.e. I will announce the show to be read on June 14th on March 15th).

So what is the inaugural project?

On March 15th we will christen the DTDRS with Alex Webb’s Amelia, a Civil War-set romance in which two performers embody separated loves – and a diverse wider society.

See you on the 15th!

Questions:  Email Jane.
To Submit:  Click here.

 

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