You make the call: would you take the group and change your show?

The fight between Art and Commerce is like the fight between Cats and Dogs, Republicans and Democrats, Lindsay Lohan and the law.

As a Producer you may be faced with tough decisions all the time.  You’ll have artists who want to add more scenery to a scene that you know won’t result in more ticket sales . . . but you’ll want to do it, because it will make the show’s statement stronger.  You’ll have marketers that want your star to appear on Howard Stern . . . even though your star hates Howard like Lindsay Lohan hates paying for expensive jewelry.  And you’ll want your star to do it because maybe Howard reaches an audience that is right for your show.

Or . . . you’ll be faced with the real-life decision that came across our desk here at DTE last week.

Here’s what happened.  And pay close attention, because just like my favorite part of watching football when I was a kid, I’m going to give you the chance to “Make the call!”

I have a division at my office that sells group tickets to Broadway shows.  A few weeks ago we got an inquiry from a group of 500 people that was looking for a show.  Yep, 500!  That’s 1/3 of a big Broadway house, which means quite an impact on a weekly gross.  We suggested a few shows to the group leader that we thought were appropriate for this group, and the leader went off to scout them.

The group came back and said there was one show that they specifically interested in.  “Great,” we said and started to place they order.

There was just one problem.

The group explained that there were a few moments in the show that they thought were objectionable, and unfortunately, because of the mission statement of the organization, they would not be able to book their group (of 500!) if those moments were in the show.

Insert dramatic chords here.

The “moments” weren’t specifically plot-related, nor would they involve a great deal of work to alter them.

But would the show make the alterations to satisfy this group?

Insert more dramatic chords here.

Obviously there are a lot factors that would be involved in this decision, like when the group is looking to come (what time of year and what performance during the week), how well the show is doing, how much the group is paying, etc.

But if you’re a commercial theater producer, the question is whether you would be willing to ask your creative team to make the changes to their work to accomodate this bonus to the bottom line?

And that’s the question I’m asking you!

You make the call.  Would you change the show for the group?

Comment below!  (Email subscribers, click here to add your comment).

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How I learned to drive.

No, I’m not producing a revival of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning Paula Vogel play (although someone probably will in about 5-7 years . . . and it’ll probably star Lindsay Lohan or Vanessa Hudgens).

I’m gonna talk about how I actually learned to drive.

My Stepfather was driving me somewhere, and I said, “Hey, guess what?  I got my learner’s permit.  Do you think you could teach me how to . . . ”

He pulled over before I could finish the sentence.

“Get over here.  Take the wheel.”

“What?  Now?  Shouldn’t I be in a parking lot first?”

“Just get over here and start driving.  You’ll just go slow.”

The next thing I knew I was on the road.  And driving.  Sure, I had to pull over a couple of times to let the cars piling up behind me pass us by, but my Step Dad knew that no parking lot was going to teach me as well as an actual road.

Part II of the story is that after an hour of driving around, we pulled into the McDonalds drive-thru.  I ordered (feeling pretty cool, because I recognized the voice on the other end of the intercom as someone I went to Junior High with), and proceeded to make my way to the 2nd window.

That’s when I pulled our station wagon up onto the curb and smacked a pole.

Needless to say, as soon as I heard the crunch, any coolness I felt went out the drive-in-window.

I expected my Stepfather to freak.  But he didn’t. We pick up my Nugget Value Meal and his Quarter Pounder with Cheese and he even let me drive back home.  We got there and inspected the damage.  It was minor, but definitely damage.

I apologized profusely and almost cried my 16-year-old eyes out.  He stopped me and said, “Hey, you’re learning, you’re going to screw up.  And you know what?  We can fix it.  I’ll take it to the body shop tomorrow.”

Then he said, “Let me know when you want to go out driving again?”

Obviously I was blessed in having an incredibly supportive mentor and parent . . . but what can we learn from my driving lesson?

1.  Get on the road.

Don’t keep “practicing” producing.  Don’t keep talking about wanting to produce.  You don’t need a learner’s permit to do what we do.  So Produce.

2.  Go slow.

If it’s your first time out, and you’re nervous, take your time.  Go slowly, but definitely go.  Moving slowly is much better than standing still.

3.  Don’t be afraid to hit a pole.

You’re going to f-up.  You’re going to cause a little damage here and there.  Especially when you’re just starting out.  But producing isn’t brain surgery.  It’s not even driving a car.  No one is going to live or die by what we do so don’t be afraid to get in an accident every once in awhile.  That’s where you really learn (I can tell you that I STILL take care when driving through a fast-food chain to this day – and I drive thru them often).

4.  If you do smack a pole, there’s always a way to fix it.

What’s interesting about this one, is that fixing a problem you’ve created is really where you learn.  Great Producers are great problem solvers . . . even if they’ve created the problem in the first place.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to call my Stepfather and thank him for teaching me how to drive . . . and so, so much more.

Who says a Broadway Show can’t be at the top of pop culture?

In today’s world, it sure is hard for a Broadway show to compete with the likes of Paris Hilton, MTV, Anderson Cooper, Lindsay Lohan, and the like.

But on Twitter, one show has not only competed with them, it has crushed them.
Next To Normal is now up to 618,703 followers (and growing), besting so many other seemingly more “popular” people.  It’s ranked as the 205th most popular tweeter on the web!
How’d they do it?
N2N used this new technology the old-fashioned way, with tried and true unique and interactive content unavailable anywhere else.  They tweeted the entire musical in twitter-ese, the actors have been tweeting what they’re feeling behind-the-scenes, and now, the composers are asking all 600k of those followers for ideas for a new song for the show.
Pretty great, right?  Without a doubt, it’s the best use of Twitter by a musical since the technology was born.
But before we go celebrating just yet, let’s remember the most important question to ask yourself when you engage in any marketing campaign:  what has it done to the box office?
Obviously, it hasn’t dropped 600,000 butts right into the seats of the Booth Theater, but that’s not what it was meant to do, and luckily the smart folks behind the campaign know that.  Twitter wasn’t designed to be a direct response tool.  Pushing a ticket offer out to that group on a repeated basis would be a sure-fire way to disengage all of them and fast.
Social media was designed to be . . . well . . . social.  And a campaign like this builds brand awareness inexpensively and at the same time, revs up your passionate users like nothing else could.
And that’s why there’s a long line at the box office every morning for Normal rush tickets.
You can’t bet your brand on social media.  It’s not going to make you or break you at the bank.  But done right, it’s a way to get your brand mentioned in the same sentence as the big boys.
And that certainly can’t be bad.