Advice from an Expert: Vol. XIII. What is The Broadway League?

I mentioned The Broadway League in a post recently, and a new reader dropped me a note asking just what the heck “The League” was.

I was in the middle of composing my own response, when I realized that I had a few questions about the League and its history myself.  So I decided to call in an Expert for all the answers!

So, here she is, Ms. Charlotte St. Martin, the Executive Director of The Broadway League (and #19 on BroadwaySpace.com’s list of Broadway’s Most Powerful People) with a guest blog on The League.

– – – – –

In 1930 the brand new League of NY Theatres stated in a document called “The Primer of the League of NY Theatres”  that “a new stimulus is being given to the Theatre in general as a result of the formation of the League.  While that was 79 years ago, it would be safe to say that the League still does that.  And the purpose of the League at that time, “that the public may be assured of better theatrical conditions, greater convenience in purchasing theatre tickets and a vigorous policy by the Members of the League to place the American theatre in that high position which it deserves to hold in the community” would still hold true today and would be a great mission statement today, as well as then.

Other stated purposes at that time are still quite relevant today.

– To eliminate theatre ticket speculation and to protect the public from the exorbitant charges made by ticket brokers for desirable locations.
– To make theatre going easy for the public.
– To make it possible for the public to buy tickets for good seats at theatre box offices.

Even though our name was different then, it is not without merit to mention that one of the key goals of The Broadway League today is not so dissimilar. We have a committee that has been working on an initiative to educate consumers on a national level about “How to buy a ticket from the official sources of Broadway” to insure that our theatregoers are getting what they pay for!

In addition to New York producers and theatre owners,  members of The Broadway League also include the presenters of Broadway in over 150 cities and 250 venues across the country. The organization is a member-driven trade association representing the commercial theatre industry in those areas most important to them including:

1.  Labor

We negotiate with the 14 unions representing Broadway in NYC.

2.  Marketing and Branding 

Through audience development programs such as Broadway on Broadway, Kids’ Night on Broadway and Back 2 Broadway, one of our key goals is to introduce new audiences to theatre through education and opportunities to experience live theatre.  In addition, another key goal is to differentiate a Broadway show from other forms of live entertainment, and the branding campaign launched last year entitled “Now that’s Broadway” is the face of that initiative.

3.  Government Relations

We communicate the needs of commercial theatre with our local, state and national elected officials.  Whether we are working on improving the traffic pattern for NYC, or fighting the attack on our wireless devices with the FCC, we are there to represent the needs of our members. A key new initiative is to work with our lobbyists in Washington D.C. to create tax incentives for the producers of commercial theatre, which ultimately creates a significant number of jobs across the country.

4.  Conferences and Forums

We host meetings, conferences, forums, and other types of events which are opportunities for our members to learn, network and solve industry challenges.

5.  Research

We maintain historical data on individual playhouses and productions – the Internet Broadway Database (www.IBDB.com). The League is “the” source of information about commercial theatre that is important to our members. We collect weekly box office grosses for Broadway and Touring Broadway, and provide research reports on the demographics of the Broadway and Touring Broadway audiences as well as Broadway’s economic impact.

6.  Tony Awards

As co-presenter of the annual Tony Awards which are aired on CBS-TV, the awards recognize excellence and provide national exposure for Broadway.

Over the years we have been quite active in a variety of issues. We convinced the N.Y. State Legislature to drop proposed draconian censorship laws, spearheaded a boycott of segregated playhouses, fought McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklist by refusing to shutter productions because of artists’ political views,  collaborated with the theatrical unions and the City of New York to create a pension plan for Broadway employees, plus so much more.

The more things change, the more they remain the same? No!  Perhaps our mission in fulfilling the needs of our members and theatregoers has remained the same.  But as those needs became more complex and diverse, so has the evolution of our organization into a modern way of thinking and one that yields positive results to better our industry.

– – – – –

For more information on The League, including how to become a member, visit www.BroadwayLeague.com 

 

 

How to invest in a Broadway show. Part II

Yesterday, we dispelled some of the rumors associated with investing in Broadway shows.  Today, we’ll step through my checklist of how to decide whether or not to invest in a particular Broadway or Off-Broadway show.

BROADWAY INVESTING RULE #1:  Have passion for the project.
Broadway shows are often referred to as the “children” of Producers and Investors.  Shows need the same type of care, hand-holding, and unconditional love.

So much love, that even when your kid F***s up royally, you (as the parent) will still love him, right?

Unfortunately, the odds are that your “kid” is going to disappoint you, so you better make sure that your bond is so tight that you won’t care either way.

This theory is based a bit on famed investment guru Peter Lynch’s theory of “invest in what you know.” Peter believed you should put money into companies that make products which you see and use every day (and products that you can’t live without).  I believe this should be adapted to entertainment investments as well.  Invest in shows that you can’t see NOT happening.  Invest in shows that you believe are important to be seen; whether that’s because it has a socio-political message, whether that’s because it features an amazing performance by an legendary actress, or whether that’s because it’s so much fun that the audience’s day will be better just by experiencing the show.Invest in shows that you love.

BROADWAY INVESTING RULE #2:  It’s all about who’s driving the boat.
Before investing in a mutual fund, Wall Street geeks will tell you to look at a variety of factors, one of the most important being who is managing the fund.  You’ve got to know who is making the day-to-day decisions.  What is their track record?  Where did they learn to do what they do?  How long have they been doing it.

These are all questions you need to ask before investing in a Broadway show.  Look at the Producer’s resume (you can find them all on the Internet Broadway Database (www.ibdb.com).  Have they produced shows that have recouped?  How many hits do they have?  How many misses?  Would you have produced similar shows?  Do you have similar tastes?Choosing to invest with Producers with a proven track record is one of the best ways you can reduce your risk when investing in a Broadway or Off-Broadway show.

BROADWAY INVESTING RULE #3:  Just like an actor, you have to know your objective.
What do you want out of investing in a Broadway show?

Different objectives will greatly affect what project you choose to do.  Do you want to make money?  Do you want to get access to opening night parties, etc. so you can network?  Are you looking to get inside access to agreements and figures, etc. so you can learn more about how to produce your own show?  Do you want to support the work of a specific playwright?

One of my favorite “objective” stories is about the investor who was thinking about graduate school as a way to learn how to produce.  They decided against it, and took the money they were going to spend on tuition and invested it in several shows.  They thought there was more to learn by playing the game.  Last I heard, they were doing pretty well and beating the odds. There are a zillion reasons to invest in a Broadway show.  Make sure you have at least one.

BROADWAY INVESTING RULE #4:  Don’t try and be a one-hit wonder.
We all want our first time to be perfect (I even wrote a show about it!), but often our first time out isn’t what we hope it will be.  Don’t expect to knock one out of the park your first time up at bat.  When signing up to invest in Broadway, imagine that you’re a baseball player playing a full nine innings.  If you strike out the first time (or even the second and the third) don’t worry, you could hit a homer in the bottom of the 9th and win the game. If your first show doesn’t make it, have a post-mortem with yourself (and with the Producer) and try and determine why it didn’t work. Learn from it, and apply those lessons to your next time up at bat.  Your odds of success should get better each time. Just don’t pull yourself out of the game.

BROADWAY INVESTING RULE #5:  Examine the lay of the land.
It’s impossible to time the market.  But, in a playing field as small as Broadway, with its limited audience, it’s important to take a look at your potential competition.  Are you doing a new musical at a time when six other new musicals are opening?  How do your stars match up against the other shows’ stars?  Are you the only classic play?  Are you the only comedy?  The big TV networks program their seasons so they can appeal to all of the appropriate demographics, without too much weight on one type of show.  Since Producers are mostly independents, we can’t program collaboratively, but as an investor you can look to see if your show is going to get lost in a sea of other similar shows, or if it will stand out amongst a lack of competition, without having to place $125k New York Times full page ads.

 

So there you have it!  The above are the first five basic questions I ask myself when contemplating investing in a Broadway or Off-Broadway show.  There are countless others you should ask when you get into the details of the production after you examine the budget, find out who’s directing, etc., but these will get you started on the road to investing in a show. You’ll notice that a lot of the above rules and checklists are very similar to the rules and checklists for investing in the stock market or any market (invest for the long haul, know your objectives, risk tolerance, etc.).  And that’s the most important thing to remember. Too many people think investing in Broadway is a hobby, which it can be, and in those cases you’ll probably only hit a winner on the average 1 out of 5 times. Broadway is big business, and should be treated as such.  And if you apply the same principles you’d apply to other investment vehicles and do the due diligence, there’s no reason you can’t turn that hobby into something that is fun, educational, and yes, even profitable.

– – – – –
Do you dream of being able to write, produce or direct full-time? Join my community of theater professionals on TheProducersPerspectivePRO who are all working to achieve their goals, plus get instant access to 30+ hours of training, monthly newsletters and networking opportunities, and so much more! Join TheProducersPerspectivePRO today!

SIGN UP BELOW TO NEVER MISS A BLOG

X