The word is . . . transparency.

We’ve all heard the word “transparency” spoken by our politicians so many times over the last couple of years, that you’d think our primary export in the U.S. was Saran Wrap.

Although the word is a bit overused at this point, I can’t help but want to borrow it for our industry.

Just like the government got a little bloated over the past few years, so have we.  We were a bit more flush in the 90s than we are now.  It’s always been difficult to produce (and it always will be), but it was certainly easier in decades past.  And as Producers we need to act like our current politicians and try and slim ourselves down, which means we need to ask the appropriate questions and push our vendors, service providers, unions, etc. to get rid of their pork.

How do we do it?  The word is . . . transparency.

To be honest, I don’t blame some of the unions and service providers for some of the expenses we’re charged, no matter how little sense they make.  Why?

Study your producing history and you’ll get it.

A lot of folks got screwed back in the days of the birth of Broadway by guys in top hats who skipped town, abused actors, etc.  We’re still a relatively young industry and I believe that a lot of the adversarial tension (and unfortunate precedents) in some of our current relationships has to do with leftover baggage from some of my producing predecessors back in the early EARLY days who . . . well . . . blew it.  Read that Merrick biography.  As much as I admire so much of what he did, and his passion for this biz, he left so many bad tastes in people’s mouths, I can’t believe any of his partners even stayed in the biz.

How do we overcome some of this dysfunction?

Transparency.

Producing isn’t what it used to be.  And the more Producers are open and honest about our business dealings, and the more we are willing to open up some of our business practices for our partners to see (so that they can understand what we deal with on a day-to-day basis), the more we’ll be able to heal some of those fifty-year-old wounds.   Some of the best negotiations I’ve had were times I’ve said, “Here.  Look at the numbers.  You tell me what you would do with these economics.”

We can’t just sit around and say everyone is against us.

We have to accept the fact that we may have been responsible for some of this ourselves.

Leading is not misleading.

In late November, the London production of the stage adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption got busted for putting a quote on their marquee that said the following:

“A superbly gripping, genuinely uplifting drama.” – Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph

Good quote, right?

Only one problem . . . the quote was referring to the FILM version of Shawshank, and the reviewer had gone on to say, “In almost every respect, the stage version is inferior to the movie.”

Ballsy move on behalf of the Producers, right?

I’m a big fan of pushing the envelope, especially when it comes to promotion.  On the first poster of The Awesome 80s Prom, we put a quote on the top that said, “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life!”  We listed the source as, “The Awesome 80s Movie, Dirty Dancing.

But there is such a thing as going too far, and this certainly qualifies.  David Merrick’s Subways stunt had a wink to it (and hopefully The Prom’s did too), which made them work.  The Shawshank stunt is just about pulling the wool over a customer’s eyes.

And it gives us all a bad name.

Although, I guess it did get the show some publicity.  And I am writing about it here, and I bet that a lot of you never even knew there was a stage version of Shawhank in London, so . . . dang it, they succeeded in some fashion.

However, this stunt looks like the prods could get in some legal trouble as well, and more importantly could cause bigger problems for the Producers that have much smarter and savvier ideas in the future.

And that makes this stunt just selfish.

Oh, and for a future blog?  Why the bollocks are Londoners fascinated with play versions of successful movies?  Rain Man, Shawshank, When Harry Met Sally, etc.?  Think the movie companies would ever allow those productions here?  I bet not (and I’m sorta happy about that), but I am oh so curious how one would sell.  Your thoughts?

10 Simple Steps To Start Internet Marketing Your Show.

You’re probably smart enough to know that the internet is where you’re supposed to be if you’re trying to market your show.

But are you smart enough to have started?

If you are one of those Producers or Playwrights who always meant to get around to understanding the internet but haven’t quite got around to it, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  I know a bunch of players in the Broadway arena who still haven’t picked up the ball yet.  

To help you get into the game, I consulted with my web-guru, Jamie Lynn Ballard (who makes all of my sites so pretty), and we came up with the following 10 Simple Steps to Start Internet Marketing Your Show.  These tips work for Broadway shows, Off-Broadway show, Off-Off Broadway shows and everything in between.  In fact, this list is even more helpful for the smaller shows.  Apply the majority of these tips and you can make your show seem a lot bigger than it is.

Ready?  Here we go.

 

10 Simple Ways to Start Internet Marketing Your Show

1. Buy Your Domain Name

You’ve heard me say this before, but this is the most important thing you can do when you start plans for a show.  As soon as you have an idea, make sure you snatch up the domain, because if you don’t, someone else will.  Use a site like GoDaddy that sells domains and hosts websites, so you can buy and build in the same place.  And get a starter site for your show up as fast as you can.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all the relevant info yet.  The sooner you can put up your site, the sooner it will show up in search engines, and that means free traffic.   

2.  Know SEO

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is one of the most important things you can learn about internet marketing.  Do it right, and you’ll stand out like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput.  Ignore it, and you’ll fall to the bottom of the web sea.  What you should know is that as technical as it sounds (why are all acronyms scary?), there are basic strategies that are very simple, so don’t be scared.  Pick up a book and get started.  

3.  Build Your List

I’ve spoken on three internet marketing panels in the last six months and in the wrap up section one panelist always said, “The most important thing a web marketer can do is increase the quantity and the quality of his/her opt-in list.”  Email Marketing allows you to build relationships with fans, promote your show, sell tickets and more.  Put a sign-up box on your website to collect email addresses, and send occasional emails to your list with information and updates about your show to keep them engaged.  Use a company like Benchmark to make it easier for you (Constant Contact is so 2005).  It seems so old school, I know, because this is what internet marketers were telling everyone ten years ago, but let me tell you first hand, that an effective marketing email blast is one of the most important tools you have in your show’s marketing tool box.

4.  Invest in PPC

PPC, or Pay-Per-Click Advertising, is one of the most economical and low-risk ways for you to reach customers.  If you aren’t yet ranking high in Google organic search results (and even if you are), pay-per-click advertising gives you a way to appear alongside the sites that are.  Don’t have a lot of cash to spend?  Don’t worry, Google Adwords and other PPCers let you set a cap on how much you want to spend per day.  Tip:  PPC works best when you have a very specific target demographic (e.g. bachelorette parties for The Awesome 80s Prom).  PPC can get pretty involved when you start talking Quality Scores, etc., but it’s worth learning, because it can put butts in the seats and bucks in the box office fast.

5.  Be Social.

Create profiles for your show on social networking sites, like BroadwaySpace, Facebook, and Youtube (if you have video content). Your presence on social media sites may or may not help you sell tickets right away, but if that’s where your audience hangs out, your show should, too.  Make sure you keep these sites filled with content.  No one likes an outdated social networking page.  It’s like the guy on your block who never cuts his lawn.

6.  Tie Your Sites Together With Twitter.  

Twitter is the twine of social media.  By using this microblogging site you can quickly communicate with all your fans.  You can also find new ones by prowling the Twitterverse searching for keywords that fit your show (doing Romeo and Juliet? Look for people tweeting “Shakespeare”).  Once you have them in your world, use Twitter to point people to your website, social networking pages, or blog posts.

7. Blog

In addition to providing you with another channel to interact with your audience, blogs are search engine magnets.  Pick a topic, sign up to a blog site like Typepad, and start blogging.  Keep SEO strategies in mind as you go.  Oh, and remember one thing.  Before you start, eat your fiber.  Your blog doesn’t have to be updated hourly or daily, but it does have to be regular.  Think of it like a daytime talk show.  Every day, same time, same network . . . yours.

8.  Be Your Own Press Agent.

Write and publish articles and press releases about your own shows.  Publish your stuff with sites like GoArticles or EzineArticles, and take it to the next level with a site like PRWEB.  PRWEB allows you to submit your news releases to search engines, news sites, content syndicators, and RSS feeds.  This is one of the fastest ways to increase incoming links (or ‘link population’), which will improve your credibility with the search engines.

9.  Analyze This!

The #1 rule of marketing is to test and then test again.  Just like in grade school, you didn’t know how you were doing until you saw your report card, right?  Get your web report card by signing up for Google Analytics.  Analytics is a free service that allows you to track and analyze your web traffic so that you can judge the effectiveness of your marketing initiatives and understand how visitors found you, what they like about your site, what they don’t like about your site, and what you can do to keep them coming back.  If you’re not looking at your metrics, it’s like going through school without ever knowing if you passed or failed.  You can’t get better without someone telling you how you’re doing.  Let Google school you.

10.  Be Submissive.

Search engines can be old-fashioned, and sometimes they like a formal introduction. If you’ve got a new site, take the time to submit it to search engines.  Hit the major ones (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.), of course, but take the time to look for specialized link directories and niche sites to submit your website for indexing.

 

For specific tips on starting a theater blog, click here.

Oh What A Night! Photos from the 2nd Annual Producer’s Perspective Social!

Wow!

Over 150 of you came to Hurley’s last Thursday night to meet, mingle and talk shop.  There were playwrights and directors and web designers and, yes, a whole gaggle of Producers.  Wings were eaten, cards were traded, and yes, a Kindle was won.

It means a lot that so many of you turned out for this event.  It’s so exciting to me to see so many people in one room that all love the theater and who all want to…well, for lack of a more eloquent phrase…do stuff.

Hopefully you all met people that can help you do, whatever it is you want to do, faster and better.

Because together, we can help make things easier for all of us today . . . and tomorrow.

For those of you who didn’t make it this year, make sure you put Thursday, December 9, 2010 in your calendar now.  🙂

Enjoy the photos!

And I heard some great stories about connections made, kindles loaned, and more.  Comment below if you’ve got a fun social story to share!
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BTW, there are just a couple of spots left for my “GET YOUR SHOW OFF THE GROUND” seminar. Makes a great gift.

If you want in for yourself, or for someone you know, book your spot now.

Here’s how.

The Shubert stimulus package.

Earlier this week, the theatrical royal family known as The Shuberts announced an unprecedented three year development deal with two commercial producers, Frederick Zollo and Robert Cole.  Zollo and Cole (has a nice ring, doesn’t it?) have been responsible for a bunch of shows between them including Angels in America, Chitty2 Bang2, and, this season, they teamed up like the Wonder Twins to produce a little event known as A Steady Rain.

The deal seems pretty simple.  Zollo and Cole get three years to develop projects and get dibs at Shubert theaters (one of the most challenging issues facing producers is how to develop a show without knowing if it will get a theater).  This first-look deal guarantees Z&C that their shows will have a home, and gives their artists the security that their work will be seen on a Shubert stage.  In addition, the Shuberts get first chance to invest, and they’ve given the guys some nice offices in the castle on 44th St.

What’s exciting about this deal is its similarity to the movie model.  The Shuberts have forged a relationship with producers that they trust, respect and that have done well for them; guaranteed them “distribution” (theater availability); and pledged financial support if the product is something they are interested in.  While the guys aren’t necessarily hired guns that are being paid to develop product, they have been given an incredible public demonstration of confidence and support from the largest landlord in the theatrical world.

Independent producers are so often out there on their own, flailing in the wind, trying to drum up interest for projects from artists, investors, etc,.and that is getting harder to do considering how risky of a proposition Broadway is.  When a producer can say that they have a contractual relationship with The Shuberts for developing new material that guarantees them a theater and possible investment, that goes a long way.

Look, Z&C are smart, successful, and powerful producers in their own right, so I’m sure they didn’t have problems getting their phone calls returned before this deal.  Still, I’d bet that they go up a few notches on everyone’s call list now.

This is a bold move, and a great one.  Let’s hope it’s successful for everyone, because if it is . . . they’ll be looking for more Producers to fill the offices in Shubert Castle.

My suggestion for the next deal?  Get someone from the Roth generation.

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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