Have you seen where the decisions are made?

There is a reason why Generals and Presidents visit the front lines, and it’s for more than just morale.  They visit so they can understand the conditions that face the troops.  The smart Generals, and the smart Presidents, learn a lot in those secret-until-the-last-minute-and-then-highly-publicized visits.  And they take that info home and develop new strategies to make their efforts more efficient.

Have you visited your front lines lately?

In NYC, Broadway tickets are distributed in a lot more areas than you think, and it’s important for Producers to take a tour of all the locations where their “birds” (street for ‘tickets”) are hawked.

What will you learn?

You’ll hear conversations from potential ticket buyers, as well as how the people peddling the tickets are pitching your shows.  You’ll see what advertising options are available, and what is influencing the buyer’s decision at that moment.  And I’m sure you’ll take that info home and figure out how to increase your presence in those areas to insure that you increase your sales.

Here are five spots that you should check out on your next rounds:

1.  Your Box Office

Duh.

2.  The TKTS Booth

I don’t care if you’re “at the booth” or not, you should spend a lot of time here.  The TKTS booth has the gravitational pull of the sun to theater lovers.  Rich, poor, it doesn’t matter. They flock to the booth.  I’ve learned more about what makes a consumer tick by standing in that line than I have in ten years behind a desk.

3.  Hotel Concierges

Full-price sales are the key to financial success on Broadway (which is why there’s a lot of lobbying going on to get the TKTS booth to sell FP tickets as well – and why shouldn’t they?).  Hotel concierges, most of whom work with a respected ticket agency like Americana, sell full price tickets (plus a markup).  So, doesn’t it make sense that you should see what’s happening at these desks that dot hotel lobbies around the city?  Just a poster up in their shop is a serious impression.

4.  The Times Square Information Center

Nestled in right next to the Palace Theatre, sits the Times Square Alliance’s Information Center, which has some cool museum-like artifacts of the old Times Square (check out the real live Peep Booths), a souvenir shop, and is also home to the Broadway League’s “Broadway Concierge & Ticket Center”.  In addition to tickets, the Ticket Center reps will talk restaurants and recommendations . . . and will do so in six languages.  And they even wear a uniform of all black that make us look like the 1st class industry we are (can someone explain to me why the TKTS ticket sellers aren’t required to where a TKTS shirt, a shirt and tie, or a See A Broadway Show t-shirt?  (Shoot, I know shows that would pay for those sellers to wear logo tees.  Ok, that’s pushing it, because TDF is a non-profit that can’t show individual show allegiance, but you get the point.)

Even though the Info Center is hard to find, there is a lot buying going on in there, so check it out.

They’ve even got a mini-stage, which made me wonder why we’re not doing live performances there a few times a week, and pulling people off the street to hear, oh, I don’t know, the lead from Mamma Mia! doing “Winner Takes It All”, etc.  Done at key times during the weekend, I bet it would get people into the center, and sell tickets.

5.  Sandwich Board Central

Out in front of the Marquis Theater, in the new pedestrian walkway, is a section of the city I call Sandwich Board Central.  Every Producer I know hates sandwich boards, until they see that they actually sell tickets.  I know what you’re saying, you’d never buy tickets from a guy passing out a flyer, but a lot of people do.  They only way to figure out why is to hang out in SBC for a while and listen.  It’s a specific type of buyer . . . and maybe you can learn how to get more of them . . . or better . . . maybe you can learn how to turn them into a buyer who gets their tickets before they see a sandwich board.

6.  Scalper Way

Up closer to the TKTS booth, you’ll find a bunch of folks, half of them looking homeless, screaming their lungs out, with a fan of tickets in their hand, trying to get rid of every show you can imagine, at every price you can imagine.  What they lack in teeth, they make up for in the old fashioned hard-sell.  And you know what’s amazing?  People actually buy tickets from them!!!  And that’s what I find interesting.  You can learn more from your enemies than you can from your friends.  So I do.

Purchasing a $135 ticket, or even a $50 ticket, doesn’t happen as easily as you might think.  There’s a lot of back and forth, and a lot more people wriggle off your hook than you think.

Paying a visit to the places where decisions are made can help you learn about the factors that go into these big decisions, and will allow you to make better decisions in how you bait your hook in the future.

 

 

Fun on a Friday: my greatest wish for you.

There is nothing greater than watching an audience see something they find entertaining and then showing their love by giving it a rousing ovation at the end. Standing Os, “bravos!”, dancing in the aisles, whatever . . . it’s the audience’s way of showing their appreciation for what we do.

Well, I can only hope that one day you all get an ovation for one of your shows like the one the guy gave below to something he found unbelievably entertaining: Mother Nature.

Now, when you’re done watching, (and please, for the love of all that’s holy, watch the whole thing because it gets better), watch the 2nd video I’ve posted below, which is a parody of the first.

As “just-for-fun” as this post may be, there are a few things to glean from the parody and the original vid.

1.  This video was posted on YouTube in January.  It had only 10,000 views . . . until Jimmy Kimmel tweeted the bejesus out of it.  Now it’s got 4.5 million.  To spread your word, look for people with big mouths and a lot of people already listening.

2.  The authors of the parody found something they enjoyed (and something that audiences already enjoyed), adapted it using their unique voice, and created something they’ve monetized.  Isn’t that the same story behind Mamma Mia?  Wicked?  The Phantom of the Opera?

3.  The best viral videos aren’t made, they just sort of happen naturally . . . like, well, like a rainbow.

Enjoy both videos (trust me – watch ’em both) and have a great weekend.  (If you’re an email subscriber and the videos don’t appear in your email, click here to see them).

I mean, talk about “Rainbow High!” (Anyone know what show?)

The Tony Awards beat me to this blog.

The theme of this year’s Tony Awards opening number was the current overwhelming number of songs on Broadway stages from the popular musical canon.

Well, dangit, that’s what I was going to say!

But it’s more than just this year’s crop.  While leaving American Idiot a few weeks ago, I walked through Times Square and looked at all the marquees.  Connections to popular music are all over the Great White Way in one way or another.

Let’s look at all the book musicals (in alpha order) currently playing on Broadway and connect the popular dots:

A Little Night Music

Stephen Sondheim is not considered a “popular” composer, but ALNM features his only major pop hit “Send In The Clowns,” of the over 800 songs he has written.  It won a Grammy for ‘Song of the Year’ in 1976.

American Idiot

Composed by punk-rock super-group, Green Day, the album of the same title also won a Grammy for ‘Best Rock Album.’

Billy Elliot

Composed by rock superstar (and sometimes Rush Limbaugh supporter), Elton John, who has more Grammys than a retirement home.

Chicago

What do I have to say about this composing team?  How about this:  two words repeated.  “New York, New York.”  That popular enough for you?

Come Fly Away

Speaking of NY, NY, Come Fly Away is all pop tunes sung by pop legend, Frankie S.

Everyday Rapture

This bio musical uses pop tunes to tell some of its story.

Fela!

Fela Kuti’s tunes may not have been featured on morning radio in this country, but in his homeland, his pioneering sounds were all the popular rage.

Hair

The astrological tune, “The Age of Aquarius,” held the #1 spot on the charts for 6 weeks and is listed as the 57th Greatest Song of All Time according to Billboard.

In The Heights

I got nothing on this one, except for the obvious influence of pop music of the time on the score.  So far, that’s 8 out of 9 with a direct connection to the pop world.

Jersey Boys

A bio-musical about one of the most popular guy-groups ever, who sold more than 175 million records.

La Cage aux Folles

Not only did “I Am What I Am” rank on the charts, but Herman had a hit with “Hello Dolly” in 1964 when the Louis Armstrong recording knocked The Beatles out of the #1 spot!

Mamma Mia!

The gold-record standard of the jukebox musical still has ’em dancing in the aisles and grossed almost $800 million last week, almost 9 years after its opening.

Mary Poppins

The Sherman Bros have should get an award for having so many awards. Oscars, Grammys, Golden Globes, and more.  Their supercalifragilisticexpialidocious songs have been sung by the masses for years.

Memphis

David Bryan, the composer of Memphis is the keyboard player for a little known band called Bon Jovi.

Million Dollar Quartet

Some of the greatest classic rock tunes, and classic rock characters, are featured in this jukey musical.

Next to Normal

Outside of his musical theater work, Composer Tom Kitt is the founder of The Tom Kitt band, and his work on American Idiot led him to be hired by Green Day to provide arrangements for their latest album, 21st Century Breakdown.

Promises, Promises

Promises Composer Burt Bacharach has written 70 Top 40 hits in his lifetime, including “I Say A Little Prayer For You” and “A House Is Not A Home” which were both integrated into this revival.

Rock of Ages

Mamma Mia but with 80s tunes.

South Pacific

How many covers of songs can a composer/lyricist have?  R&H’s tunes were all over the place in their day, and are still used in pop culture today.

The Addams Family

Like In the Heights, there’s no real strong connection to the pop world here.  That makes 18 out of 20 with direct connections to the pop music world.

The Lion King

Another one by Sir Elton.

The Phantom of The Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber is like a modern day R&H when it comes to his theater songs becoming standards.  Streisand, Manilow, and Mathis are just a few of the folks that have covered and scored hits with “Memory” alone.

West Side Story

Leonard Bernstein was successful in the popular idiom in another way . . . the classic way.  He grabbed a couple of handfuls of Grammys in his day, including one for Lifetime Achievement.  He wrote for the movies, for shows, for choruses, and more.  His stuff was everywhere.

Wicked

What Andrew Lloyd Webber is to the UK is what Stephen Schwartz is to America.  He is our most popular successful composer, with Grammys and Academy Awards and more, oh my.  “Day by Day” was a Top 40 hit, and he has even written songs for Five For Fighting.

There you have it.  24 musicals on Broadway and 22 of them with direct connections to the world of popular music.  Some looser than others, I’ll admit. And some are chicken-egg questions (Did their pop success come from the theater work or vice-versa?).

But my point is not that you need to be a successful pop artist to be a successful Broadway composer.  In many of the cases above, the Broadway success came first.

What I am saying is that the overwhelming lack of degrees of separation between successful Broadway composers and the world of pop music suggest that there may be a characteristic that binds the two.

And that characteristic is melody.

So if you’re a composer looking to get a show up on Broadway, you might want to make sure your songs have some similar characteristics to what’s on the radio.  I can’t tell you how many demos I listen to (or stop listening to) where the composers seem to be after some sort of intelligentsia award, instead of just writing a song that people might enjoy hearing in their car, or while cleaning their room, or while they are finishing a blog at 2:08 AM (Lady Gag
a is on in the background on my Sirius radio).

I’m not saying that theater songs have to be Britney-like trite or super-simplistic (God knows Green Day isn’t trite, and Elton’s stuff is some of the richest musical and lyrical material you’ll ever listen to).

But they’ve all got melody and hooks and songs that people like to sing along to.

And that will put you at the top of charts and the Tony Awards.

The 2nd Annual Producer’s Perspective Social!

Last year, I invited all of my readers to mingle offline at our first PP social, and we had a blast.  So, we’re doing it again!

On Thursday, December 10th, I’m inviting all of you to come join me in celebrating the holidays, and the theater in general, at The 2nd Annual Producer’s Perspective Social.

Just like last year, I’m buying the first round for each of you.  And we’ll have door prizes, including free tickets to Broadway shows like Mamma Mia, Memphis, Finian’s Rainbow as well as Broadway merch from my friends at The Broadway Store andSh-K Boom/Ghostlight Records.

And for the grand prize, I’m giving away my newest favorite toy . . . The Kindle!

So come on down to Hurley’s Saloon the Time Out Lounge at New World Stages on Thursday, December 10th at 6:30.  Say hello to me and to your fellow readers, who include Producers, Writers, Designers, Actors, Union reps and more.  We’ll talk shop and network and share stories from the past year and talk about the exciting stuff that is in store for all of us in 2010.

Here are the deets:

Thursday, December 10th.
6:30 – 8:00 PM

UPDATE: Due to the overwhelming response, we’ve moved the event to a larger venue!  

Hurley’s Saloon-2nd floor

232 West 48th Street (betw. Broadway and 8th)
Time Out Lounge at New World Stages
340 West 50th St. (betw. 8th and 9th aves)

To RSVP, email my assistant Melissa at melissa@davenporttheatrical.com.  She’ll need your full name.

Feel free to spread the word to your friends but they will have to RSVP on their own.  No plus ones.

FYI, space is limited so RSVPs are essential.  We had a terrific response last year and we did have to stop taking RSVPs so if you’re coming, RSVP today.

See you there!

Three things we can learn from THAT wedding video.

If you haven’t seen Jill & Kevin’s wedding video, then you’re one of the few (I posted it below).  The “Video Seen ‘Round The World” has now been viewed by almost 18 million people.  In fact, it was so popular, it got protestors!  (You know you’ve made it, when people start criticizing you.)

But why did it go from something that they did for fun, to a global phenomenon?

Here are three reasons why this viral video was so successful:

1.    PEOPLE LOVE FUN

At the end of the day (literally), people want a good time.  Most people’s lives are filled with stress, anxiety, and more.  Watching a whole bunch of people have a good time is a good time.  The energy and fun is contagious.

2.    PEOPLE LOVE ROMANCE

No matter how many failed marriages we hear about, or how many affairs are touted in the tabloids, deep down, we’re still a sucker for a good love story. We want to believe that it’s still possible for two people to belong together. Nothing says that like a wedding, where the bride and groom look like they’re having the time of their lives.

3.    PEOPLE LOVE SURPRISES

We all know how weddings are supposed to go.  They have a format.  Most of them are formal to some extent.  It’s a serious matter dedicating yourself to another person for the rest of your life, so it should be done with a certain tone, right?  Well, here comes Jill and Kevin dancin’ down the aisle doing something we were totally not expecting.  By blasting convention, they surprised us, and made their wedding unique and remarkable, and unlike any other in the world.

So those are the three reasons why Mamma Mia is so successful.

Oh wait, I was talking about a viral video. Or was I? Wait a second.  Mamma Mia is all about fun, with romance at its core, and unexpected songs telling its story.   Huh.  Look at that.

The above three characteristics are why the video (and Mamma Mia) were successful, yes, but also why it was entertaining.  And the proper ingredients to entertainment can be applied across platforms to videos, sitcoms,  and yep, shows.  Does your show have these elements?

Don’t get me a wrong.  There are other ways to entertain people, but by the look at the number of views on that video, and of the number of people that have seen Mamma Mia, it may be that these characteristics are the way to entertain the most people.

Oh, and the other reason why this video became a phenomenon?  They didn’t try to make it one.  They just made it.

The audience took care of the rest.

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