This ain’t no instant win game.

I know what you’re thinking. Because I’ve thought the same way too.

If I can just get the show open, if I can just get the product launched, it’s going to be a instant smash hit.  It’s that good of an idea, script, score, whatever.

The money will pour in. The reviews will be stellar.  And the tickets will sell like hotcakes at an ‘I Love Hotcakes’ convention.

It’s perfectly fine to think that way . . . it’s perfectly fine to fantasize . . . as long as you’re ok with that fantasy not coming true.

Because odds are, it’s not going to happen.

Does that sound negative?  It’s not.  I’m not saying that your show, product, whatever isn’t going to be a super smash hit, but I just wouldn’t count on it being an overnight sensation.

Because business is not like the lottery.  You don’t wake up one morning and find that you’ve hit the jackpot.

No matter how good your show, your product, or your hotcakes are . . . you have to be prepared to put in the work.

But if you’re an entrepreneur, that’s when you’re going to have the most fun anyway.

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We need younger audiences. But who hasn’t?

The cry in advertising and marketing meetings all over the country is, “We need to find younger audiences!”

And I agree.

But . . . something tells me that this same cry has been heard for every decade of theatergoing.  I have to wonder if even Shakespeare himself was frustrated because he couldn’t get college-age kids to put down their PBR, leave their sorority parties and come listen to some verse.

Back in this country, over the past 75 years, has the theater ever been something that the youngins have flocked to organically?

Nope.

Unfortunately, that means it’s going to take a lot more than a $25 ticket or a ‘bring us your empty PBR can and we’ll give you a free t-shirt promotion’ to win over this lot.

It’s going to take the right product.

Unfortunately, product that appeals to this sect, doesn’t necessarily appeal to the traditional theater going sect, who are the fuel that keeps the theater going economically.

And, as ol’ Bill would say, “there’s the rub.”

Because we do need them.  And yes, every generation may have said that, but I believe that this generation needs it even more, thanks to the declining attendance on Broadway and the declining participation in the arts nationwide.

While young audiences may not be the answer for your short term sales needs, if you’re looking to stay in this business for a long time, they are the future of your long term needs.

Because they grow up.

And eventually they grow out of PBR-soaked hangovers and would rather enjoy a night of Hamlet instead.

You asked. We listened. New At The Booth™ version released.

Products, like plays, don’t have to be stagnant.

They should live, breathe, and morph based on audience feedback and interaction.

We launched our At The Booth iPhone App just a couple of months ago, and, frankly, we got some incredible positive feedback.

But you want to know what the best feedback was?

Constructive criticism.

It’s hard to hear phrases that begin with, “You know what would make this better?”

Luckily, I have an incredible development team that craves those kind of comments, because they know what stings today brings happier customers tomorrow.

So, we took those comments, went back into the e-labs, and tweaked our app to include some more features that you requested.

Here’s what you wanted, and here’s what you’re gonna get with the new update:

  • Portrait view
  • Facebook and Twitter share feature (let your friends know what show you’re seeing!)
  • Restaurants near the theater
  • Lottery and rush information
  • And more.

Download the update today.

And after you do, email me and let me know how we can make it even better next time.  Because that’s what product and play development is all about.

Oh . . . and for those of you who are about to email me and ask for a Blackberry or Droid version?

Don’t bother.

Because both versions are coming.  Soon.  (And BTW, that Droid is one sexy smartphone.)

Get the At The Booth update here.

What will tomorrow’s audience want from their theater?

Yesterday, we chatted about how difficult it is to get the multitasking generation to the theater because they can lay on their couch and channel surf, web surf and Wii surf, all at the same time.

That got me thinking . . .

There have been a number of theories tossed around lately about how the current crop of musicals on Broadway have a certain sound or are from popular musical catalogs, because the current theater-going demographic (folks 40+) is the first group of theater-lovers who grew up on rock and roll.

Simply put, the traditional sound of musicals has changed, because the traditional audience has changed.

Well, in the 1980s, another entertainment game-changer hit the stores:  the personal computer and the video game.

According to my calculations, that puts us about 10 years away from the next group of 40 year olds who grew up on something that their parents didn’t; a something that had a major impact on their lives, and their entertainment.

So . . . if Rock and Roll had such an effect on our product . . .  can you imagine the effect that the computer will have on our product?  Or the video game?

Or, I guess what I’m saying is . . . our audience is about to turn upside down pretty dang soon.  The computer is the car of the last 30 years.  And that’s going to have a ripple effect and change what people want from their theater.

If you’re a writer, get ready to adapt and expand, because our audience is going to want so much more if we expect them to turn off and sit still for two hours.

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Update:  I wrote the above blog two days before this article about the “Theater of the Arcade” appeared in the NY Times.  Read it here.  Interesting stuff on its way.

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XVII. My Mother The Theatergoer.

There’s always a lot of talk about the Tonys in the weeks that follow the big show.  What numbers were successful?  Could we give the plays more attention and still hold the audience’s attention?  And who fit Katie Holmes into her dress?

But the most important question for the Producers out there is . . . after watching the Tonys, what shows does the public want to see?

All of us in the industry debate this question like crazy.  But what do we know?  Most of us don’t have a clue what it’s like to be a family of four from the suburbs interested in seeing a show on their next long weekend.  In fact, I would wager that the people making the product in our industry and the people seeing the product are more different than in most industries out there.

But that doesn’t stop us from guessing.

I was in the middle of a heated discussion about my own guesses on what the public wanted to see last week, when I realized it was time to go to the source.  I decided to go to what most advertising agencies would describe as the model of a “traditional” theatergoer:  a suburban female in her 50s-60s who sees 3-5 shows per year, mostly musicals, and pays full price.

And that theatergoer is my momma.  And she’s literally been in my backyard this whole time!

I called Mom, who, of course, had tuned in to the Tonys, and asked her if she would write a mini-blog for me about her perspective on this year’s show.  Most specifically, I asked . . . “Mom, after watching the Tonys, what shows do you want to see the next time you are in town?”

Here’s what Mom had to say . . . [my comments are in brackets] “I watched the Tony Awards a few nights ago.  I love the excitement, costumes, music – even the speeches.  I often get ideas about what I’d like to see on our next NYC trip.  Before I tell you what shows captured my attention from the way they were presented at The Tonys, I thought you might find it interesting to get a few additional details about my perspective (and some of these Kenneth doesn’t even know).  [Yes, she, and about three other people on the planet, call me Kenneth.]

  • My first theater experience was 50 years ago when I saw Annie Get Your Gun.  When the stage curtain opened, revealing a real live horse . . . I was hooked!  [When people see things on stage that they don’t expect to see: kids, animals, helicopters, it elevates the experience.]
  • As a teenager, I was addicted to buying show albums, and also listening to show songs popularized by famous artists.  I loved those album covers and the summaries of the shows on the back (King and I, Mame, etc.)  [Oh, if only popular artists were covering our tunes today.]
  • I was a teen in the ’60s, which put me in the proper emotional state to grasp the power of music.  It brought people together, challenged their thinking and even caused them to take action (Hair, West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar).  

And now, here are the shows that I wanted to see and the ones that didn’t interest me (there were many other shows that I had no opinion on – I’d have to learn more before putting them in the “to see” or “don’t see” category).  It’s important to remember that this is based solely on what I saw on the Tonys.  I might not see any of these shows, or I might see them all.  A lot of things may change my mind before I get to New York next, including what Kenneth thinks I might like to see or not.  [Good ol’ fashioned Word of Mouth trumps all, and I can’t believe she called me Kenneth twice in this blog.]

SHOWS I REALLY WANT TO SEE!

Memphis:  The music and the dancing were so exciting, this is at the top of my list.  (I have to admit that ‘Listen to the Beat’ sounded like Hairspray‘s ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat.’ but I loved the music and the dancing in that show, too!)  [Music, dancing . . . the keys to an audience-pleaser of a musical.]

Fela!:  I love the costumes, the music and the dancing.  The story (about using music to communicate) also seemed very interesting to me.  [See her comment about growing up in the ’60s.  What our audience lived through helped make them who they are today and influences what they want to see.]

Million Dollar Quartet:  Loved the music and the story idea and Levi Kreis’s performance.

Red:  I really liked the premise about the importance of art and what I saw of both Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne.  [Mom was disappointed to hear she wouldn’t get a chance to see this show because of its limited run.  I told her if she was disappointed, imagine how the Producers must feel.]

NAH, I’LL PASS

American Idiot:  To me, it seemed like a concert, and not a show.  I’ve heard about Green Day because my other son is in the music business, but I’ve never listened to any of their music before.  The music was interesting to me, but I’m not going to play it in my car anytime soon.

A Little Night Music:  I don’t know this show very well, so I can only base my thoughts on what I saw, but I wasn’t inspired.  I love ‘Send In The Clowns,’ but I didn’t learn anything else about the show through the performance.”
So there are Mom’s Tony Award Takeaways.

Now please remember, this is only one Mom’s opinion. And the opinions expressed here by my Mom are solely my Mom’s and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Moms everywhere or even me.

But she’s a Mom with a Mastercard, and she uses it to buy tickets.  So maybe we should listen to all of the Moms out there more than we listen to those of us on the inside of the business.

So . . . what did your Mom think?

[Update:  My mom came into the city this weekend unexpectedly.  Although she wanted to see Memphis, she ended up getting Chicago tickets instead (and special thanks to Michael at the Ambassador BO for helping her out).  Why?  “I thought your step-father would enjoy it more.”]

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