Do audiences care if a Broadway show is in previews? Survey says . . .

Oh Spidey . . . you just can’t keep your name out of the papers.

And, based on the 1.8 million bucks you did over Christmas week, I bet you’re starting not to care.

The latest bit of publicity about the uber-musical hit the wires late last week when Bill de Blasio, a NYC public advocate, sent a letter to the Department of Consumer Affairs stating that Spidey was in violation of the law, due to its extended preview period, and their alleged failure to disclose this information to ticket buyers.

While part of me believes Mr. de Blasio is looking to catch a ride on the Spider-Man publicity train in order to further his own political ambitions, this is not the first time this argument has been made (anyone remember Nick and Nora?).

This bit of news started an internal debate between the two sides of my mind.  Do we have to do more to distinguish between opening and previews?  Should we charge less?  And then came the big question . . . do consumers really care?

I formulated my own opinion (surprise, surprise) and then realized that if I really wanted to find out if consumers cared, I needed to talk to consumers!

So, I sent my trusty weekend intern Jason out into the cold to chat with folks in the TKTS line and find out!

We asked 100 US residents if knowing that a show was in previews made them more inclined to see it, less inclined to see it, or if it made no difference at all.

Ready to see the results?

Not so fast.  Before I reveal to you what they thought . . . what do you THINK they thought?  Come on, imagine this is The Price is Right and you have to guess before you see how much that box of Wheaties actually costs.

What percentage was more inclined?  Less inclined?  And what percentage didn’t give a flying superhero.

Here are the results:

12% were MORE inclined to see a show in previews.
18% were LESS inclined to see a show in previews.
70% didn’t care either way.

Surprising? Not to me.

Now, as with any survey, you have to take into account the group sampled (and the size of that group).  A TKTS audience may be only in town for a short period of time, and have a totally different criteria for making that choice.  A NYC resident theatergoer may want to wait until a show is fully cooked before taking a bite.  Admittedly this was a down-and-dirty survey.

But it still says something.

The audience just wants in.

However, the bigger challenge for the Producer is that if your show is a bit “rare” during previews, you should be more concerned about what the audience is saying on the way out of the theater.  Because if they don’t care that the show is in previews, then they’re not going to cut you any slack for it either.  For them, it’s just there . . . so you better be prepared to give them the goods.

We love talking to the folks on line at the TKTS booth.  Wanna see what we’ve asked them in the past?

– Read the results of our survey of WHO is actually standing in that line here.

– Read the results of our “When I say Broadway, you say . . . ” survey here.

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Who should I surround myself with at the start?

Shows, theater companies, technology companies, etc. are all the same.

They tend to start with one person’s idea.  Maybe that idea is birthed in a dressing room or a dorm room, and then hopefully it grows beyond those walls, and turns into a billion dollar business.

I was talking to an associate recently who was about to birth a new theatrical concept here in the city. It was in its embryonic stage and he was looking for people to hire to help blow up this start-up.

Should he hire the best PR firm?  The best lawyer?  The best designers in the world?

While surrounding yourself with the best of the best is usually a great concept at any point in a company’s life, there is a price tag attached.  And yes, I’m talking about a literal price tag that most emerging companies and artists can’t afford.  But there’s also a price in whether or not the best of the best, who have a zillion other clients (probably bigger than you), have the time to devote to your new idea.  Will they have the passion to work through the night?  How important is it to them?  Will they work harder than you?

Maybe they will, and you’ll get the best of both worlds.

But in my experience, at the genesis of an idea, it’s better to surround yourself with people like you, whether or not they have the fanciest stationery or the longest resume.

Zuckerberg, Gates, etc. started their companies with the people that were in spitting distance of them, who they knew would work harder than anyone to learn what it takes to create a great company.

They chose sweat over style.

And when things started to get real, yo, they brought on the best later, when they could afford it, and when they could demand the attention they deserved.

Fun on a Friday: Shut up, Dick!

talking to a lot of ‘people’ lately about their love of theater.

And I’ve heard some incredible, touching stories that could make a Romanian weightlifter cry.

And then I’ve heard stories like this one:

A theater lover was seeing a revival of The King and I many, many years ago.  And . . . well . . . I think I should just let him tell the story in his own words:

Nothing pisses me off more than people who sing along with overtures or songs on stage. Immediately upon the down beat of the overture this gravel-voiced man behind me starts to hum loudly.  I gave him a quick “shh” and turned back to my seat.  He continued a few beats later and I shushed him again.  On his third try I turned to face him and in a stage whisper said, “Will you please stop that awful singing?”

It was then that I realized I had told Richard Rodgers to shut up.

To his credit he apologized.

You know what my favorite part of that story is?  It wasn’t that my new friend taught Dick some good theater-going habits.  It wasn’t that even the Maestro of Musicals knew he was in the wrong!  It was that Richard Rodgers hummed along to his own tunes.  I mean, if the composer gets the songs stuck in his head, you’re on to something!

I have to do something that I haven’t done in three years . . .

Due to the unbelievable response from yesterday’s announcement, I . . . uh . . . I just don’t have anything for you today.  But I promise I’ll be back tomorrow.

Thanks for understanding . . . now I’ve gotta get back to my call list.

I’ve got some “People” to talk to.

– – – – –

Oh, I am speaking today at Patron Technology’s E-Marketing E-Mersion E-vent. The topic?  Whatever you want it to be.  For the first time, I’m trying something totally different at this conference – no specific topic for my presentation. Instead, I’m going to lead a town hall open forum where, as a group, we try to solve specific issues facing people attending the conference.

If any of you are going, I will see you there.

And we’ll see if it works!

It’s raining customers…hallelujah.

We’re lucky.

We know there’s a market for what we do.

We know there are thousands upon thousands of people that want to see the theater every single day.

It’s literally pouring audience members.

Your job as a Producer and Marketer is to collect as much of that rain as possible.

Think of every marketing initiative you execute like putting out a pot whose purpose is to catch the rain as it comes falling down.

The great P&Ms put out all different sizes and shapes of pots every day.  Some they pay for (big media buys), others they make on their own (press and publicity).

The day you don’t is the day your own personal drought will set in.

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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