How to make money on YouTube . . . with Broadway?

An interesting article appeared in the technology section of The Times this week about YouTube, and how Google expects their 1.65 billion dollar baby to be profitable this year.

How?

Well, they made friends with the enemy.

The TV and film industries have been fighting with YouTube since the site came out.  As fast as videos of copyrighted material could go up, another lawsuit would be filed.  Google claimed innocence (!), but eventually agreed to police their backyard as much as possible.

Well, those bitter enemy industries are now the closest of friends.

Why?

Like just about everything else, it’s all about money.

The TV and movie producers realized that trying to stop the uploading of their content to a site like YouTube was pointless.  It was gonna keep happening anyway, so why pay those lawyers to keep fighting it.  They also realized that a lot of those clips were doing a lot more good than harm, by providing free media to promote their products.

And most importantly, Google started running ads on their copyrighted videos, and sharing the proceeds.

Suddenly, the lawsuits stopped.

Funny, how a little cash calms the nerves.

So, let’s recap:

Fans put up copyrighted videos.  They get pulled down.  Google pays owners of material, and all is ok.

Huh.  The first two-thirds of that three sentence story sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Think YouTube would ever pay off the owners of the material of Broadway shows by sharing in ad revenue that appears on each clip?

And would that make it ok?

Unlike film or TV, we’ve got quality issues to deal with.  A performance of Mad Men is always the same, no matter how many times it is played.  A performance of Patti Lupone doing Gypsy . . . well, one performance might be HUGELY different from the next.

I don’t expect YouTube to open its purse to Broadway any time soon, but it would be nice, wouldn’t it?  Because as our costs escalate, it is becoming more and more essential that Broadway shows find ancillary forms of revenue to defray those rising expenses.

Read the article here.

At the Broadway League Conference: Day 2/What’s the “deal” with the road?

Day 2 of the Broadway League Spring Road Conference was filled with some great events, from a panel on how to engage the African American audience, to a discussion on the evolution of the current Broadway production of Fences, led by Mr. Denzel Washington himself (they served extra water at that panel, to prevent half the crowd from fainting at the sight).

One of the more spirited conversations was a discussion of the current deal structure for Broadway touring companies (the ‘Broadway League’ is somewhat of a misnomer, since a large majority of its membership is compromised of presenters/performing arts centers (PAC) all across the country).

There are currently three basic deals being brokered right now for touring shows like Wicked, Jersey Boys, Dreamgirls, etc.

1.  The Guarantee

Under the terms of a GD, a local presenter pays a fixed fee, or a guarantee, to the Producer for showing up at the theater with a show.  In addition to this fee (which can range from $250k – $400k for the big shows), the Producer usually receives a royalty (usually 10% of the NAGBOR), and a split of profit (usually 60/40%) AFTER the Presenter has recovered all of his/her expenses (advertising, stagehands, etc.).

Guarantee = More risk for the Presenter, less risk for the Producer.

2.  Four-Wall

The four-wall is more of a straight rental situation.  The Producer agrees to rent the facility from the Presenter, and pay all expenses associated with the Production.  There is usually some profit built in for the Presenter, but the bulk of the upside is for the Producer.  All the shows produced on Broadway in NYC are four-walls.

3.  Terms

The Terms deal is a hybrid deal designed for Producers and Presenters to “meet in the middle.”  An example of a Terms deal would be a 75/25% split of the gross, after advertising expenses were taken off the top of the gross.  Or a 80/20% split after advertising and stagehands costs were taken from the gross.
Brett Sirota, a partner at The Road Company (a ‘wicked’ big booking group), and an absolute expert in this area (and a pretty damn good poker player as well), revealed that for the first time in his recent memory, almost all the deals he has done for the coming season are “Terms” deals or as it was also called, a “Shared Risk Deal.”

Some pros/cons to the Terms deals were as follows:

  • Without getting a guarantee, the Producer may close the show early if it doesn’t perform well.  When that happens, a performing arts center might end up with no product, despite having sold a subscription on the back of that show.
  • For Presenters a Terms deal really depends on those terms, and in some cases, especially with blockbusters, the Presenter is better of with a guarantee because there is much more upside potential.
  • Some Producers of big shows have signed Terms deals, knowing that they were giving more money than necessary to the Presenters, in the hopes of encouraging the Presenter to book the show for a second, third or even fourth time!
  • Since only one out of five shows recoup their investment on Broadway, Producers look for guarantee arrangements because they are easier to sell to investors who may have just lost money in the Broadway production and are now being asked to put up more money for the same product.

There were a lot of other creative ideas thrown around the room, including a development fee (in the style of a facility fee) that went to Producers to help defray some of the costs of developing product, since it is getting so expensive, and since the markets depend on new product to survive.  There was a suggestion to have a seminar on the costs of running PACs around the country so Producers could understand why a Presenter’s expenses are what they are.

But one of the most enlightening comments was a statement about the road in general, and how conversations like the one in that room at the Crowne Plaza hotel were good.

Because the road is not made up of one stop or one show.  It’s a continually flowing entity that connects all of us.  It may start on Broadway but it circles around the country and eventually winds its way back here.  So, it’s important for us to come up with deals that work for all parties.  That’s the definition of a successful negotiation.  A win2.

One more day of the conference.  Until tomorrow!

******************************************************************************************

Only 21 days left to enter The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool. Win an iPad!

Play today! Click here!

And don’t forget to RSVP for my Tony Party!

Surprise, surprise! A show recoups sans star!

Here’s something that you probably didn’t expect to hear (I know I didn’t) . . .

Next to Normal recouped its investment.

Crushing current conventional Broadway wisdom, this non-spectacle, non-star-driven musical about a woman suffering from bipolar disorder fought through a steady rain of a season and made it into profit.  Oh, and it did it in a pretty timely fashion (the recoupment was announced exactly one year from the show’s first preview).

Super kudos to everyone involved in this production who fought the biggest of uphill battles getting into the black.

How did they do it?

IMHO, there are three reasons why N2N recouped:

1.  A killer score

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, when the root word of musical is ‘music,’ there’s a lot riding on that score.  Normal‘s score is so fantastic and fresh, it took down the mighty Elton John and won a Tony.  Nothing spreads word of mouth faster than great tunes.

2. A “committed” team of Producers and Creatives.

Does anyone remember that in addition to trying out at the NYMF in ’05 under the title Feeling Electric, the show came into New York to soft response at Second Stage, then left New York for DC, then came back to NY?  That’s like showing up at a party underdressed, leaving, and coming back a few hours later in a new outfit like nothing happened.  But something did happen, alright.  The team worked their tails off.  It took faith and a giant set of grapes to do what they did.

3.  A low capitalization and even lower running costs.

A Broadway musical for $4 million bucks, even with all that development?  That’s the way to do it.  To tell its intimate story, N2N didn’t need a chandelier and a helicopter.  More importantly, everyone on the team obviously knew that this one wasn’t going to be easy, so they structured it to make economic sense given the material, and now everyone is making a lot more dollars and cents.
The recoupment of Normal on Broadway in this environment is a major event.  It demonstrates that smart material and smart producing can yield positive results, despite what we think is our audience’s appetite.

So when everyone is telling you that your show won’t work, you should remind them that a trend is a trend . . . until one show changes it.

And that show might as well be yours.

You can read all about the recoupment in Patrick Healy’s New York Times article here.

How does a Broadway Producer get paid?

I wrote a blog in November which stumped for the concept that Producers should receive a portion of Author’s subsidiary rights on shows that have not recouped on Broadway, since it was the Producer’s production that branded the show for subsidiary production in the first place.

I got tremendous positive response from the industry from that blog, including several Producers who said they would be willing to take more risks on Broadway if they knew they would have a guaranteed revenue stream to help keep funding their projects in the future.

I also got a lot of questions from readers wanting to know exactly how Producers were compensated for producing shows on and Off-Broadway, so here’s a blog that breaks downs the bucks (or lack thereof).

There are three main forms of traditional Producer compensation.  They are:

1.  Producer Office Fee

The Office Fee is a flat weekly amount paid to the Producer designed to cover costs associated with maintaining an office needed to run a Broadway show.  If you were the CEO of a company, then your rent, your assistant(s), your copy machine, etc. and all of the things that you need on a daily basis would be taken care of under the company’s overall operating budget.  A Producer’s overhead is not covered by the show’s operating budget, therefore the Office Fee was designed to help offset some of those expenses.  For an Off-Broadway show, the average Producer Office Fee is $1,000/week, but it can range anywhere between $500 – $1,500 week.  On a Broadway show, the average Producer Office Fee is approximately $2,000, but this can vary as well depending on the size of the production. The Producer Office Fee is usually paid to the Producers two weeks prior to the start of rehearsals.  Before that, you’re on your own.

The Producer Office Fee is traditionally split between the Lead Producers of the production.  If there are three Leads, then divide the numbers I’ve specified above by three, etc.  At times, secondary Producers (or other “above-the-title” Producers) also share in a portion of this fee.  In that case, the Producer Office Fee can sometimes be split many, many, ways.  I’ve been on shows where some Producers were getting $62.50/week.

If a show is in trouble, this Office Fee is usually one of the first to be waived.

2.  Producer Royalty

The Producer Royalty is similar to the royalty paid to the Authors or the Designers of the production.  It starts off as a percentage of the gross (customarily about 3%), but usually ends up converting to a percentage of profit through a royalty pool.  There are traditionally minimum royalties paid to everyone in the pool, and a 3% Producer Royalty would usually mean about $702 Off-Broadway and about $3,000 to $4,500 on Broadway per week.  The hope, of course, is that the show is constantly in profit, and that everyone in that pool is paid more than the minimums.

The Producer Royalty is split between Lead Producers as well, just like the Office Fee.  Three Lead Producers who are treated evenly on a $3,000 royalty would get $1k each.  And, usually on the bigger musicals, a portion of that Producer Royalty is split between a bunch of those other names above the title as well.

Unlike the other creatives, however, there is no advance paid on a Producer Royalty and the royalty begins with the first performance.

If the show is in trouble, creative royalties to all participants, including Authors, etc. are usually reduced, waived or deferred pretty quickly.

3.  Profit after Recoupment

This is the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow for Producers.  Before a show has recouped, 100% of its profit (after the royalties specified above) goes to its investors.  After a show pays back its investors in full, profit is treated differently.  First, some folks usually take a sliver off the top (some General Managers, Stars, Authors, etc.), and then the remaining profit is split in two . . . half of which goes to the investors, and half of which gets paid to the Producers.  However, once again, this profit that gets paid to Producers once again gets divvied up, first to the Lead Producers, and then each Lead Producer pays a portion of his or her profit to all of the other big money raisers on the show.  Because the cost of producing Broadway shows is so great, Lead Producers usually “sub-contract” some of their financing, and in exchange for that, they have to give up some of their profit.  But this is the profit that all Producers are praying for, because if you can get a show to recoup, and run for years and years, and spin-off tours and subsidiary companies for years and years, this profit can help provide a financial foundation for your office and help you get future shows off the ground.
In all of the above, you can see how quickly Producer compensation can get diluted, especially if you’ve got a bunch of Producers helping you get your show up (which is becoming more and more the norm).  Now you know why so many Producer’s offices are smaller than the offices of their own vendors!

This dilution has caused the creation of a sometimes utilized fourth income stream known as the Executive Producer Fee and/or Royalty.

The EP Fee is a lump sum payment paid in production to cover the work on a project before it opens.  It can be $10k or $25k on a Broadway show, or whatever is appropriate and “budgetarily” responsible.  The argument for the EP Fee is that every other person on the production team is paid up front, from the Authors to the Director to the Production Assistant . . . so why shouldn’t the Producer be paid?  A CEO is paid, right?  A Managing Director?

The EP Royalty is usually a fixed amount that is paid directly to the Producer during operating weeks that was created in response to the fact that so many Producers had to give up their standard Producer Royalty to their major investors or other above-the-title Producers on the show.
It’s becoming more and more challenging to make money on Broadway as a Producer, as it gets harder and harder to recoup because of escalating costs, and because the traditional compensation streams are being tributized to so many other players.

But it still is possible.

But seriously, I don’t know a single Producer that is in it for the money, and you shouldn’t be either.

I laugh whenever people say that Producers are greedy, and money grubbing, etc.  That is an old stereotype that just doesn’t apply anymore.  Sure, there have always been a few bad eggs in any chicken coop, but if we were really in it for the money . . . we’d be in movies.

Got a question for me about Producing? Click here to join The Producer’s Perspective PRO to access this month’s live Office Hour’s Call with me and ask me anything you’d like to knkow!

_ _ _ _

Get more knowledge about producing, monthly newsletters, and webinars—like Producing 101, plus a Tip of the Week email, when you join TheProducersPerspectivePRO today.

Join the club here.

SIGN UP BELOW TO NEVER MISS A BLOG