You have to drill down deep if you want to find oil.

I asked one of my staffers to come up with some ideas for a project we were preparing today.  She’s a quick thinker, so she snapped back a few quick ideas that were all good.

I responded, asking for some new ideas in a slightly different direction.  She took some time, and spat back a few more, which were also all good.

And then she told me she was out of ideas.

I shot back even faster that because she told me she was out of ideas, I was requiring her to come up with three more.

She sighed, realized she walked into that one like I walked into that puddle of slush on 50th Street this afternoon, and went back to her desk.

15 minutes later she came back with three more ideas . . . which were all great.

Sometimes you gotta dig a little deeper if you want to get to the good stuff.  It’d be a lot easier if oil were sitting on the surface, or gold grew on a bush.

But it doesn’t.

And if you wanna be a leader in any industry, you gotta be the one who is willing to go get it, no matter how hard it is.

(Oh, and does anyone else think oil analogies are awkward now after the spill?)

– – – –

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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.

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XVII. My Mother The Theatergoer.

There’s always a lot of talk about the Tonys in the weeks that follow the big show.  What numbers were successful?  Could we give the plays more attention and still hold the audience’s attention?  And who fit Katie Holmes into her dress?

But the most important question for the Producers out there is . . . after watching the Tonys, what shows does the public want to see?

All of us in the industry debate this question like crazy.  But what do we know?  Most of us don’t have a clue what it’s like to be a family of four from the suburbs interested in seeing a show on their next long weekend.  In fact, I would wager that the people making the product in our industry and the people seeing the product are more different than in most industries out there.

But that doesn’t stop us from guessing.

I was in the middle of a heated discussion about my own guesses on what the public wanted to see last week, when I realized it was time to go to the source.  I decided to go to what most advertising agencies would describe as the model of a “traditional” theatergoer:  a suburban female in her 50s-60s who sees 3-5 shows per year, mostly musicals, and pays full price.

And that theatergoer is my momma.  And she’s literally been in my backyard this whole time!

I called Mom, who, of course, had tuned in to the Tonys, and asked her if she would write a mini-blog for me about her perspective on this year’s show.  Most specifically, I asked . . . “Mom, after watching the Tonys, what shows do you want to see the next time you are in town?”

Here’s what Mom had to say . . . [my comments are in brackets] “I watched the Tony Awards a few nights ago.  I love the excitement, costumes, music – even the speeches.  I often get ideas about what I’d like to see on our next NYC trip.  Before I tell you what shows captured my attention from the way they were presented at The Tonys, I thought you might find it interesting to get a few additional details about my perspective (and some of these Kenneth doesn’t even know).  [Yes, she, and about three other people on the planet, call me Kenneth.]

  • My first theater experience was 50 years ago when I saw Annie Get Your Gun.  When the stage curtain opened, revealing a real live horse . . . I was hooked!  [When people see things on stage that they don’t expect to see: kids, animals, helicopters, it elevates the experience.]
  • As a teenager, I was addicted to buying show albums, and also listening to show songs popularized by famous artists.  I loved those album covers and the summaries of the shows on the back (King and I, Mame, etc.)  [Oh, if only popular artists were covering our tunes today.]
  • I was a teen in the ’60s, which put me in the proper emotional state to grasp the power of music.  It brought people together, challenged their thinking and even caused them to take action (Hair, West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar).  

And now, here are the shows that I wanted to see and the ones that didn’t interest me (there were many other shows that I had no opinion on – I’d have to learn more before putting them in the “to see” or “don’t see” category).  It’s important to remember that this is based solely on what I saw on the Tonys.  I might not see any of these shows, or I might see them all.  A lot of things may change my mind before I get to New York next, including what Kenneth thinks I might like to see or not.  [Good ol’ fashioned Word of Mouth trumps all, and I can’t believe she called me Kenneth twice in this blog.]

SHOWS I REALLY WANT TO SEE!

Memphis:  The music and the dancing were so exciting, this is at the top of my list.  (I have to admit that ‘Listen to the Beat’ sounded like Hairspray‘s ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat.’ but I loved the music and the dancing in that show, too!)  [Music, dancing . . . the keys to an audience-pleaser of a musical.]

Fela!:  I love the costumes, the music and the dancing.  The story (about using music to communicate) also seemed very interesting to me.  [See her comment about growing up in the ’60s.  What our audience lived through helped make them who they are today and influences what they want to see.]

Million Dollar Quartet:  Loved the music and the story idea and Levi Kreis’s performance.

Red:  I really liked the premise about the importance of art and what I saw of both Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne.  [Mom was disappointed to hear she wouldn’t get a chance to see this show because of its limited run.  I told her if she was disappointed, imagine how the Producers must feel.]

NAH, I’LL PASS

American Idiot:  To me, it seemed like a concert, and not a show.  I’ve heard about Green Day because my other son is in the music business, but I’ve never listened to any of their music before.  The music was interesting to me, but I’m not going to play it in my car anytime soon.

A Little Night Music:  I don’t know this show very well, so I can only base my thoughts on what I saw, but I wasn’t inspired.  I love ‘Send In The Clowns,’ but I didn’t learn anything else about the show through the performance.”
So there are Mom’s Tony Award Takeaways.

Now please remember, this is only one Mom’s opinion. And the opinions expressed here by my Mom are solely my Mom’s and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Moms everywhere or even me.

But she’s a Mom with a Mastercard, and she uses it to buy tickets.  So maybe we should listen to all of the Moms out there more than we listen to those of us on the inside of the business.

So . . . what did your Mom think?

[Update:  My mom came into the city this weekend unexpectedly.  Although she wanted to see Memphis, she ended up getting Chicago tickets instead (and special thanks to Michael at the Ambassador BO for helping her out).  Why?  “I thought your step-father would enjoy it more.”]

Favorite Quotes Vol. XXVI: How to get young audiences to see your show.

It’s been 9 months since the theater-owner line up was shaken up big time when young gun, Jordan Roth, was called up to head the Jujamcyn Organization.

New York Magazine checked in on the young turk in a fantastic feature published a week or so ago, that describes how Jordan plans to take the theater into the 21st century (yes, I know we’re technically already in the 21st century, but the theater has a habit of lagging behind, so in my mind, it’s still 1998).

So what is Jordan’s advice on getting the younger audience to the theater?  He sums it up like this:

“What I believe in is product. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out how to get a young audience to see The Music Man. If you want a young audience, don’t f*cking do The Music Man.”

Great quote, right?  It’s definitely hot enough to qualify for this FQ column.

But it was Jordan’s final comments in the article that really resonated for me.

“The shows that change the world do it because they offer something you haven’t seen before.”

Unique product is the key to any industry and any art form.  Marketing is great and fine and important and all that bologna and cheese.  I mean, give me a show, and I’ll market the bejesus out of it with promotions and advertising and stunts and more.

But if you really want to be successful?  Give us something that we don’t even know we need . . . but once we get a taste of it, we can’t get enough and don’t know how we ever lived with out it.
Read the feature here to learn about Jordan’s renovation plans, how he chooses product, and the secret door that leads to the St. James Theater.

Farewell to a great Broadway critic.

Michael Kuchwara was one of my favorite critics.

According to Merriam-Webster, one of the primary definitions of “criticize” is “to find fault with: point out the faults of.”

What was amazing about Mike was that he was able to adhere to that definition, yet his reviews still radiated with his love for the theater.  I don’t know how he did it, but even when he hated something, his reviews still sprung from an incredibly positive place.

Michael’s curtain fell way too prematurely this past weekend, when he passed away at the age of 63.

The industry has lost a lot more than a critic.  The industry just lost one of its dearest friends and supporters.

You’ll be missed, Mike.

To read more about Mike, click here.

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