My new iTunes Terms and Conditions are how many pages?

How many of you have iTunes?

Now, how many of you have EVER read the iTunes Terms and Conditions that pop up and require you to click “I ACCEPT” before you’re able to download Autotune’s “Bed Intruder Song.”

The last time the T&Cs appeared on my iPhone, they were 55 pages long!  Ok, that’s in iPhone pages, but still!

Who’s reading this stuff?  Anybody?  They could have a “you must eat brussels sprouts” clause buried deep on page 37, and I’d have no veggin’ clue.

Obviously, me not reading an agreement or me eating brussels sprouts is not a good thing.

So, are these super-long agreements over simple issues the result of ambitious self-preserving lawyers?  Or is it the fault of overly litigious consumers who hires lawyers in an effort to make a quick buck?

The irony of some of these contracts is that they were written in an effort to protect the consumer, producer, artist, etc. . . . but because most consumers, producers, artists, etc aren’t reading them, and may make decisions without reading them, they are actually less protected.

Take aways?

1.  Read your agreements.

2.  When creating contracts, ask for simple, straightforward agreements from your lawyers and reps that address the practical issues you expect to face.

3.  Hire help if you don’t want to read your agreements, or don’t understand them.  $500 now could save you 10x that later.

4.  Yes, eat your brussels sprouts.

Me and some friends, poddin’ about social media.

The folks at 2AMt (AKA 2am Theatre) recently asked me to participate in a podcast about the ever-evolving world of social media. And, since it’s a hard subject to get me to shut up about . . . I did!

You can listen through iTunes here, and you’ll hear what I used to do at the mall when I was 10.

If you’re not familiar with the work that David L. and his army of 2AMers are doing over there, check it out. They are part of the revolution.

A student’s private parts end up on the Billboard charts.

Here’s something that couldn’t have happened 10 years ago.

Thanks to the democratization of production and distribution, a self-produced cast album from a student-run theatre group at the University of Michigan made it oh-so-close to the top of the Billboard Cast Album Charts.

Yep, tucked between the original London cast recording of The Phantom of the Opera at #10 and Rock of Ages at #12 was Me and My Dick.

Oh, right, ahhh . . . this is probably where I should say that the subject matter of this student production might not be suitable for all ages (I can probably confirm right now that there will never be a Theatreworks tour of this show).

Regardless of the cheekiness of the humor in the show, you have to give HUGE props (yes, that was a Johnson Joke) to Team StarKid who produced MAMD (as well as their previous hit, A Very Potter Musical, which has racked up millions . . . yep, millions . . . of views on YouTube).  Clearly these guys know how to develop a creative idea that spreads like creamy peanut butter on a slice of Wonder Bread (sorry about that, I’m writing this right before lunch).

And they’ve monetized their idea as well!  The MAMD recording is available on iTunes.

The Billboard article about the charting MAMD says that the creators are waiting to hear if the show will be accepted into this summer’s NY Fringe Festival.

Ahhh, guys?  I’d bet my left and right you-know-whats that you get in.  And that you sell out.

Whether you’ll open at The Palace next season on Broadway?  Well, that’s another story.

Now, before I go sink my teeth into a peanut butter and fluff sandwich (or “fluffernutter” if you’re ol’ school), let’s all ponder what Lord Lloyd Webber said when he saw that right behind Phantom on the Cast Album Charts was a semi-profane student production.  Can you imagine?  “Me and my whaaaat?”  (It’s funnier if you say it with a British accent).

How are you getting your show noticed by people like Lord Lloyd Webber?

In the 21st century, you can make a cast album yourself.  You can make your own videos.  You can do your own press.

In the 21st century . . . you have the tools to do it all by yourself.  (and no, that was not a Johnson Joke).

You just need the desire.

The young composer mafia organizes to sell its wares.

Gwon, Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, RSO, Blaemire, Iconis, Pasek & Paul . . . these are not only the names of some of the most promising set of next generation Broadway composers, these are also the names of the smarties behind a brand new sheet-music selling site called www.NewMusicalTheatre.com.

These composers and lyricists have written some great tunes as they’ve been working their way to the adults table over the last several years.  And some of those tunes have become viral hits thanks to YouTube, etc. inspiring singers all over the country to want to sing them, as they work their way to the adults table.

But where oh where do singers get the sheet music for such a song if they aren’t published?

Back when I was a sophomore at NYU, I wanted the sheet music to “The Kid Inside” by Craig Carnelia, I tracked him down through the phone book, sent him a letter (yep, with an actual stamp and everything), and 2 weeks letter he sent me a hard copy.  Not only did I sing that sucker to death, I kept that note and told that story to everyone (and here I am, telling it again!).

Thanks to the C/Ls behind NewMusicalTheatre.com, there are no stamps and no phone books required. The songs you want from these fresh fingers are all easily available for your downloading and auditioning pleasure.

So simple, but so smart, right?

By collaborating with what some would consider to be their own competition, and establishing this central site, these entrepreneurial writers hit the marketing trifecta.

1 – it’s a revenue stream.

2 – it gets their music out into the world (getting sheet music out and about is almost as important as getting demos out – nothing markets your stuff better than people singing it).

3 – it provides a legal alternative to sheet-music-sharing sites like PianoFiles.com (think Napster or Limewire but for sheet music).

Oh, and as a bonus, they’re generating a great list of their hardcore fans which they’ll no doubt use in the future to market their shows, concerts, seminars and more.

My only complaint?  I think they’re charging too much. Prices on the site range from $4.99 to a high of $9.99 for the songs that people are really going to want.  If marketing is your goal (and this goes for sheet music, shows or socks), then you want to sell a higher volume.  (Also, $9.99 for a single piece of music is a bit high since I can get “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” on sheets for only $3.95).  And, if you really want to shut down the free-sharing-sites, then you have to compete with them.  iTunes stopped millions from sharing because the tunes were only $0.99.  Money shouldn’t be the mission . . . it should be about marketing, and market penetration.

But regardless of the premium pricing, these business-minded maestros deserve some serious kudos for their DIY spirit.

I have no doubt we’ll be “hearing” a lot from all of them in the future.  And frankly, what I’ve heard already is pretty damn good.

Listen for yourself.

Why shopping online for theater is different than shopping online for other entertainment.

iTunes revolutionized how music is consumed by satisfying our culture’s increasing demand for instant gratification.  Want a song?  Click.  Bam.  Boom.  It’s on your iPod and you’re rocking out to your favorite Carpenters tune in no time.

Netflix is now pushing their instant viewing option as a way to satisfy the capricious mind of today’s audience that doesn’t want to plan ahead.  I want to see Goonies.  Now.  Now.  Now!  And all from the comfort of one’s own couch.
And the latest is from Amazon.com, the company that re-energized how we bought books.  Now, with The Kindle, you can have the latest Jackie Collins e-delivered to you in seconds, wherever you are.
So what do all of these trends have in common?
They don’t require the buyer to get off his butt.
The fundamental difference between purchasing theater tickets online and purchasing most any other product online, is that the purchase of a theater ticket is a commitment on behalf of the buyer to make a physical effort in order to have the experience at a future date or time.
In addition to all of the examples above, food, clothes, electronics, etc. are all e-shopped items that can be delivered, but buying a theater ticket requires you to get off your couch, determine your method of transportation, block out time to see the show (there ain’t no pause button), and physically get your American Idol watching a$$ down to the theater.
This is one of the greatest challenges that the theater faces in the next decade, as more and more entertainment options become instantly available to us (it’s also important that as we develop our marketing strategies we realize this fundamental difference in our customers’ purchase thought process).
But these challenges are not insurmountable.  As I’ve said before, I believe that as more of these two dimensional forms of entertainment become available to us, the three dimensional form or the “live” entertainment experience becomes that much more rare, and that much more valuable . . . provided the experience is still special.
A lot of people disagree with me.  They say that the internet has changed the face of entertainment and that theater will be dead in 20 years.
My response?
Somehow, the theater has survived the invention of the radio, the movie, and most significantly . . . the television. As long as we tweak our experience to satisfy our new audience’s expectations, we’ll have no problem surviving this.
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Speaking of The Kindle, for those of you who own that little cracker-jack of a device, you can now get my blog e-delivered directly to your Kindle.  Visit the Kindle store and search for Ken Davenport or click here!
If you don’t own one, let me tell you that it’s one of my favorite new toys, thanks to the PDF feature.  It allows me to read more scripts than ever before.
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