The two big Os in marketing.

My two favorite forms of media to buy in today’s theatrical market are . . .

Online

and

Outdoor.

The problem with that second O, is that it’s expensiv-o in the heart of the city, where all those potential theatergoers swarm.  Seems a bit unfair that we have to pay the same price for those big billboards as Tide or Levi’s, which are available to the purchaser all over the world, as o-pposed to Broadway, which is available . . . well . . . only on Broadway.

That’s why I couldn’t help but wonder why more of us don’t try to make deals on available outdoor opportunities like the one in this picture.

What about approaching the real estate companies and asking for signage in unrented storefronts?  They’re sitting there, making no money for someone . . . why not give them some earning potential in the meantime?

Or what about mural billboards on available brick walls?

Or instead of leaving the signage of closed shows up on theater marquees, putting signage up for other shows in the same theater chain?

The best Producers I know don’t just buy whatever their agency or media company is selling.  The best Producers I know look for something that people haven’t thought of yet.

The best Producers I know look for the third “O” of marketing . . . new Opportunities.

Go where others haven’t gone before.  Consider yourself an explorer, like Magellan or Ponce de Leon.

Because when you do discover some New World of Media, or new anything for that matter, it’ll feel . . . well . . . (cough, cough) . . . O-tastic.

Merch madness means you’re mad if you don’t have merch.

I’ve worked on some stinkers of shows.

And you know what?  No matter how short the run, we’ve always sold some t-shirts.

T-shirts and other pieces of merch are social proof badges that audience members can showcase in their own communities which elevate their status.  How high that status goes depends on the show and the value of the brand (Wicked = high, In My Life = low).

Thanks to the high price of theater tickets, getting a buyer to tack on a $20 t-shirt is easier than in other industries (how many times have you seen a merch stand selling $20 t-shirts outside a movie theater?).   Some merch buyers may subconsciously want to demonstrate to the public that they were able to afford that ticket.  Others may feel the need to demonstrate how passionate they are about a show.  (Theater has a way of creating some passionate people.  Need an example?  Watch the YouTube of Jared’s Broadway Musical Museum Apartment below.)

In other words . . . Got merch?  If the answer is no, then get it.

I don’t care how big or small your show or your theater is, you should have a merch line.  You don’t have to have a perfume line, but at the very least you should have a t-shirt and a button (I always advise merch sellers to have at least one less-than-$5 item for the budget-conscious consumer that still wants to buy).

Profit margins for merch are high, so take advantage of it.  A Company Manager friend of mine once worked on a flop that ran out of money before the show finished its run.  He had no money in the bank to load-out the show!  How did he pay the crew for the load-out?  He paid them in cash out of the merch sales . . . and they got everything out and everyone paid.

Thanks to the plethora of t-shirt sellers now available to you online, and to the low minimums now required for purchase (check out CafePress for the simplest of stores), it’s truly possible for everyone to make money selling merch . . . and that money can be used to offset your production and operating costs.

Which begs the question . . . if merch is almost always a money maker . . . why do Broadway shows outsource the merch to companies that only pay them a royalty?

Shouldn’t shows work the small startup costs necessary to operate a simple merch company into the capitalization of a show?  Isn’t that ancillary revenue stream a good diversification for the show and therefore a benefit to the investors?

I think you know the answer.

Should previews be open for online review by bloggers, chatters and more?

Ellen Gamerman at The Wall Street Journal wrote a terrific piece last week about previews, and how problems that shows encounter during the several weeks of previews are exposed more in an online world than they were a decade ago.

It’s true.

Leading man flubbing his lines?  It’ll be all over the boards.  Problems in Act II?  Expect a blog about it.  Set come crashing down on the ensemble?  Well, in that case, you’ve got bigger problems than the boards and the blogs.

There’s a lot of people out there that are jumping up and down, throwing tantrums that two year olds would be proud of, saying, “You can’t review previews!  These people shouldn’t be talking about previews!”

To that I say . . . here’s a bottle of milk and a blanket, now get over it.

As much as we might not like our shows facing quicker criticism from audiences than ever before (and a few of mine have faced some harsh online attacks), there is nothing we can do about it.  Online word of mouth is the new Word of Mouth, and there’s nothing you can do to get in its way.  Can you imagine if any of the people upset about “preview reviews” went up to a group of folks at a Starbucks who were trashing a preview of a play and said, “You can’t talk about that show, it was a preview!”

The group would laugh, and probably trash the show even more.

Word of Mouth used to be invisible, which is why no one complained about stopping people from “chatting” about shows in previews.  The internet gives us (and others) a chance to see the formerly invisible force, which is why so many people want to stop it.

But you can’t.  We all need to realize that Online Word of Mouth and Traditional Word of Mouth have merged into one stronger and faster force of customer communication.

Critics, of course, who work for publications and are given free tickets, are subject to regulation.  One of the reasons I helped form the ITBA, was in the hopes that the new media warriors (aka The Bloggers) could get the same access as critics, which would give the shows a chance to reach a new audience, but with some control over when the bloggers were seeing the shows.

But if your chatters are paying for a ticket, you can’t stop the e-talkin’, so I wouldn’t even try.

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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