Favorite Quotes Vol. XXVI: How to get young audiences to see your show.

It’s been 9 months since the theater-owner line up was shaken up big time when young gun, Jordan Roth, was called up to head the Jujamcyn Organization.

New York Magazine checked in on the young turk in a fantastic feature published a week or so ago, that describes how Jordan plans to take the theater into the 21st century (yes, I know we’re technically already in the 21st century, but the theater has a habit of lagging behind, so in my mind, it’s still 1998).

So what is Jordan’s advice on getting the younger audience to the theater?  He sums it up like this:

“What I believe in is product. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out how to get a young audience to see The Music Man. If you want a young audience, don’t f*cking do The Music Man.”

Great quote, right?  It’s definitely hot enough to qualify for this FQ column.

But it was Jordan’s final comments in the article that really resonated for me.

“The shows that change the world do it because they offer something you haven’t seen before.”

Unique product is the key to any industry and any art form.  Marketing is great and fine and important and all that bologna and cheese.  I mean, give me a show, and I’ll market the bejesus out of it with promotions and advertising and stunts and more.

But if you really want to be successful?  Give us something that we don’t even know we need . . . but once we get a taste of it, we can’t get enough and don’t know how we ever lived with out it.
Read the feature here to learn about Jordan’s renovation plans, how he chooses product, and the secret door that leads to the St. James Theater.

How much of an economic impact did Broadway make in 2008-2009?

For 15 years, The Broadway League has been measuring our industry’s impact on the NYC economy.

This year, the League changed up how these figures were calculated (much like how the League changed the publishing of our grosses and attendance a year ago).  Previously, the impact only counted money spent by those people who came to NYC “primarily to see a Broadway show, or extended a trip made for another purpose in order to go to a Broadway show.” The reason for the change was to account for the incredible increase in out-of-town visitors (especially the international crowd).  In the 1980-81 season, 69% of our audience was from outside of NYC.  In the 2008-09 season, this figure was up to 81%.

So, to get a more accurate reading, the League now asks visitors to rate Broadway’s importance in their decision to come to NYC on a scale of 1 to 10, and then counts the 8s and above as a “Broadway Tourist” and studies their spending habits.

This more quantitative approach produced a much higher, and I’d argue more accurate, account of what the economic effects of our industry really are to this city.

The results of this year’s report?

In the 2008-2009 season, Broadway’s economic impact was approx $9.8 b-b-b-billion dollars.

To quote the Executive Summary of the report:

“This amount was comprised of direct spending in three areas: spending by producers to mount and run shows ($2 billion); spending by theatre owners to maintain and renovate venues ($51 million); and ancillary purchases by non-NYC residents who said that Broadway was an important reason in their coming to New York City ($7.7 billion) (“Broadway Tourists”).

Those are some serious bucks, don’t you think?

What’s more interesting to me than Broadway Tourist spending is that Producers alone are directly responsible for initiating over 20% of this impact, spending over $2 billion on the production of shows.

Shouldn’t the city, the restaurant industry, the Taxi and Limo Commission, the hotel industry, and so forth, be tripping over themselves to help us with promotions, marketing, tax incentives, and so forth to inspire us to produce more?

To read the release from The League, and to learn how to get a hard copy of the report, click here.

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10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 2: A Marketing Director

I got some great response from the first edition of 10 Qs for a Bway Pro, so I thought I’d roll out Volume 2 this week.

Last week we talked about advertising . . . this week, we explore the more ambiguous world of marketing with none other than that Broadway Marketing Guru, Hugh Hysell.

I’ve worked on a bunch of shows with Hugh, from babies to biggies, and Hugh always brings the goods.  Why?  You’ve got to love what you do if you’re going to do a great job.  And if you spend five minutes with Hugh, you’ll realize that Hugh loves his job . . . and those fingerprints of love are all over every show he does, not matter how big or small.

Here are 10 Qs with Hugh!

1. What is your title?

I am President of HHC Marketing, a multi-division marketing and promotions company specializing in Broadway and Off-Broadway.  HHC’s divisions include full service marketing for Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows, BroadwayBox (running the advertising department for their sites including BroadwayBox.com, LunchTix.com and TicketsThisWeek), and TheMenEvent.com (the city’s largest Gay email list, which I use to promote my full service clients).  I am also President of Teams on Broadway (our Street Team Firm).  Often, in playbill listings, we are referred to simply as “Marketing” and many shows refer to me as their “Marketing Director.”

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

On Broadway, HHC is working on Looped, Jersey Boys and Fela!.  Our Off-Broadway clients include The Temperamentals, John Tartaglia’s Imaginocean, The 39 Steps, Flying Karamazov Brothers’ 4Play, The Irish Curse, Looking for Billy Haines, Yank, Leslie Jordan’s My Trip Down the Pink CarpetSigns of Life, as well as some shows that have not been announced yet (sssshhhhh – I can’t tell you).  Teams on Broadway is currently providing the street teams for Fela!Memphis and The Miracle Worker.  Yes – we did the Princess Leia team for Wishful Drinking. 🙂

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

I run a very active marketing company that seeks out, negotiates and administers marketing programs for our clients, often without spending a dime.

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

Creativity, people skills, charm, drive, follow-through, and strong attention to detail.  As a theatre marketer, as funds are usually quite low, one needs to be very creative and think out of the box.  Our goal is to form effective, attention-grabbing promotions that directly influence the ticket buyer.  You then have to charm promotional partners to help you make your plans come thru.  At the same time you have to be able to drive yourself to fully administer every minute detail of a promotion.  A marketer has to walk the line between being a creative artist, a charming pal, and an anal-retentive, highly-organized business person.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

As my mother says, life provides you opportunities for your transferable skills.  I was trained as an actor (BFA UNC-Greensboro, MFA University of Florida).  My acting career was largely in touring theatre where I used my creative skills in the rehearsal process, and anal-retentive skills to keep the performances solid over months and months of doing the same show.  I think these skills have been very useful to me as a marketer.  After I left acting, I knew I wanted to enter the business world of theatre, so I became an intern at Richard Frankel Productions, where I moved up to be Associate General Manager of an Off-Broadway show, which then went on to tour and then on to play in Vegas.  At the same time, I was producing a show in the Fringe that did very well, and I moved it to an Off-Off Broadway venue for an extended run.  That run proved to be my true training to be a marketer.  I had no money to promote the show, but with the advice of a Broadway marketer, I did lots and lots of promotions (bookstore, internet, nightclub, bars, barter ads, etc).  The show stayed alive, and I recouped my investment.  The marketer who mentored me (Scott Walton) later  hired me, and together we grew his company, and in 2002 I bought him out.  I have never taken a marketing course, but I do teach it at Columbia.  Mom is very proud.

6. What was your first job in theater?

My first paid job was as an actor with the Kaleidoscope Theater out of Providence, RI.  We did summer tours of kids’ shows to the music tents in New England (Warwick Music Tent, South Shore Music Tent, etc.).  I played a cat in Pinocchio and the Genie in Aladdin (with a 12-year-old Joey Pizzi as Aladdin and Pinocchio).

7. Why do you think theater is important?

Theatre is adventure, escape, entertainment, enlightenment, education, magic, joy and sorrow all rolled up with beautiful images, soaring music and inspiring words  Life meets Art.  Love it.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Audience development.  The audience needs to grow (so there are more people to buy tickets).  With the arts being cut in education, we are not developing kids with art in their lives.  Without that exposure, how will they learn about art in themselves and thus appreciate the art of others?  We need theatre that cultivates new audiences, and allows them to discover the richness that theatre can provide.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

Make theatre cheaper to produce.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

The word ‘marketing’ can mean so many things, and even in the industry that title can refer to different jobs depending if you are working in the commercial or not-for-profit sector.  I would suggest that an aspiring marketer first get an internship in NYC within a theatre marketing firm, press office, or general management office. Learn how shows are marketed and why those decisions are made.  Knowing the current environment allows you to help it grow and adapt to the ever-changing consumer environment.

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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