Saturday’s seminar now sold out. Next one scheduled for . . .

The two last spots in this Saturday’s Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar were snatched up yesterday.  By the look of the titles of the projects we’re going to be talking about, it’s going to be a hot session.

If you missed out on this seminar, sign up for the next one, which will be held on Saturday, January 8th from 2 PM – 6 PM.

It’ll be the perfect way to kick off the new year.

And both this Saturday’s seminar and the next will be held at our new studio!  So come check it out.

For more info on the seminar and to sign up, click here.  A couple of the spots are already gone, so register today.

 

Harry Potter and The Elusive Sponsor.

Getting a sponsor for a Broadway show seems like the stuff of fantasy. At every early ad meeting for a show that I’ve worked on, someone usually pipes up that we should find a sponsor to pay for some major expense, and trade away their name in our media, tickets, etc.

It’s always a great idea, and everyone around the table usually nods their head, yes.  Because in theory it makes perfect sense. Broadway shows are a highly visible, high-class product, and other big brands would definitely benefit from associating their wares with ours.

So why is it so rare?

Why, to give you a specific example, did not one of the 15 Marketing Directors for big brands fail to even return my call when I reached out to them with a very unique Broadway branding opportunity?

Here are a few of the excuses I’ve heard over the years from potential sponsors:

  • “It’s hard to associate ourselves with a product, before seeing the product.”
    • Brands don’t like to put their money or their name on something until it has already been introduced to the public.  It makes sense. If a show isn’t well received, does that feeling transfer to the brand? Besides, if a show gets out of the gate and is a hit, we usually don’t need the sponsor.
  • “There are not enough eyeballs.”
    • Even the most sold-out musicals can’t put more than 16,000 bodies (or 32,000 eyeballs) in the seats every week.  A lot of the live event sponsors like to sponsor one-time events that have 20,000 people plus in one night (think concerts, sporting events, etc.) PLUS millions on television.  Thems a lot of eyeballs!
  • “You may close tomorrow.  Then what?”
    • Since we can’t guarantee the length of the run, it’s hard for them to quantify the exposure of their brand.  And at the big brand level, it’s all about dollars and guaranteed impressions.
  • “I can’t advertise in the theater.”
    • Current contractual relationships between most theaters and Playbill, or their program provider, prevent the advertising of other commercial products inside the venue.  No signage, no manned or womanned display booths getting our customers to sign up for services, etc.
  • “It’ll take me too long to get this approved.”
    • Big businesses plan their quarters, their years, and sometimes their decades of underwriting in advance.  Often shows approach potential sponsors just a few months before opening, and at that point, discretionary underwriting funding is gone.

So what are we to do?  Is sponsorship an impossibility?

No.  Of course not.  We’ve got to come up with answers to these “my dog ate my homework” excuses, because there are work-arounds for everything . . . if we’re all willing to do the work.

– Want to know what the product is before you sponsor it?  Try a revival.  Or do you want to come to a reading?

– Not enough eyeballs?  The average Broadway musical probably spends $5 mill a year in paid media.  Get on some of that.  Or try a tour.  And we’ll start working on new media options for you.

– We may close tomorrow?  Put up less money if the risk is greater, but don’t stay on the sidelines.  Or find a show specialist that can tell you what shows have a potential of going down quick and which don’t (we all know, don’t we?).

– You can’t advertise in the theater?  The shows have more ways to reach our customers than ever before, so we can get to them (or start lobbying the theater owners).

– Too long to get approved?  We’ll start coming to you earlier.  We promise.

Everyone wonders why CBS continues to broadcast the Tony Awards every year despite disappointing ratings.  From what I hear, it’s because of the type of viewer that tunes in.  Tony Award watchers and theatergoers are highly educated and usually high-income individuals (Now it makes sense why Lexus, Cadillac, etc. advertise during the telecast, doesn’t it?).  And while there may not be a lot of them watching, they can afford big-ticket items.

Our audiences have significant value to corporations of all shapes and sizes.  We just have to do better at communicating our value, and finding more value for them.

Like Harry P himself, we’ve got to find a way to put them under our spell.

I’m going to cut this post short now, because I’ve got 15 corporations to follow-up with.

Serials are killers.

First of all, a little back story . . .

I don’t really watch television anymore.  I’ve missed out on so many great shows over the years, that I’m catching up, series by series, and watching at my own pace.

Translation?  I just started Season 3 of 24.

If you’re a 24 fan (and I have to admit, I’m semi-obsessed, having changed my ringtone to the CTU ringtone, and I’ve be known to greet callers with, “This is Bauer”), then you know that each episode ends on a super-duper sometimes melodramatic cliffhanger.

The goal of the cliffhangers are twofold:

  • Get you to tune in next week (or in my case, just play the next episode on my Netflix/Wii Play Instantly).
  • Get you to talk about it “at the water cooler” the next morning.

Great television “serials” can do just that.

So why can’t we do serials in the theater?

I’ve seen several mini-attempts over the years, mostly Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway.  There have been a few different live soap operas, and there’s even a live Sex-and-the-City-ish serial sitcom running right now that’s been getting a bit of buzz, called Naked In A Fishbowl.

The reasons why the serial has never stuck are pretty obvious:

  • It’s hard enough getting people off their couches and in an uncomfortable theater seat once a month, never mind every week.
  • Our tickets are much more expensive than Free TV or even Netflix/Will Play Instantly, so serial theatergoing would become an expensive habit.
  • Rehearsal costs of a new show every week would eat away at any potential profit in a theater with a fixed number of seats.
  • If an audience member misses one episode, you are never getting them back.

All of these reasons, and a zillion more, are why they don’t work in the theater (Even the ladies in Fishbowl are taping each episode, so they’ve obviously got their sights set on another medium).

Then again, I would’ve bet that a 12-hour staged adaptation of a Dostoyevsky novel wouldn’t work either, and somehow Demons sold out all of their performances.

There’s an audience for everything, but whether it is sustainable is another story.

And we’ve yet to see that story succeed in the theater.

And yes, that’s a challenge.

10 Shows that stand out at this year’s Fringe Festival.

The thermometer hit 100 degrees last week, which can only mean one thing . . . it’s Fringe time, baby!

This post is a revival of a post I did last year about the 10 shows that grabbed my attention as I flipped through the Fringe Festival catalog of shows.

With over 200 shows in each year’s festival, the challenge facing all the writers and producers out there is getting their shows to stand out in a catalog that looks more cluttered than a NYC diner menu (does anyone ever order the Broiled Boston Scrod Filet at these places?). So how do you get a Producer’s and a Ticket Buyer’s attention with just a 100-word blurb?

Rather than just babble on about what I think makes a good blurb, I thought I would ‘show not tell’ by showing you which 10 shows stood out to me as I flipped through the catalog.

Here we go, in alpha order.

1. 23 Feet in 12 Minutes: The Death and Rebirth of New Orleans

Katrina is still on so many of our minds, especially in light of what that area of the country is now facing.  This docu-drama based on “interviews with over 60 Katrina survivors” sounds like it has the potential to educate and thrill, simultaneously. Most audiences only witnessed Katrina on TV.  This show could get them closer. And that’s intriguing.

2. Bunked

The beginning of the Bunked blurb starts like this . . . “Sponsored by LogoTV, Bunked . . . ”  They had me at Logo. I’m not sure of the depth of this “sponsorship,” but a Fringe level show garnering any kind of attention from a cable network will certainly get attention from an audience.  Plus it takes place at a camp.  I mean, come on, camps are just funny.  Meatballs, Wet Hot American Summer, Friday the 13th.  Oh.  Wait a minute.  www.bunkedthemusical.com

3. Dear Harvey

Got Milk?  Then you’ll probably get tickets to Dear Harvey.  There’s nothing wrong with allowing the popularity of another form of entertainment to help you find your audience, as long as what you’re doing is unique and presents the material in a new and interesting way. After Guitar Hero, there was Rock Band. After Coke, there was Pepsi.  And after Academy Award-winning Milk, comes Dear Harvey, which promises to tell you some stories that the movie couldn’t. www.diversionary.org

4. Faye Lane’s Beauty Shop Stories

Christopher Durang may have started the “put the title character in the title” trend with Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All To You, but this show sounds like a fun addition to the canon (along with another show heading to NYC this fall).  In addition to the ‘teasing’ title (get it – beauty shop – tease), the blurb offers a great quote from NY Magazine and screams out IN CAPS, “BEDAZZLING TRUE STORIES! HILARIOUS SONGS!  FREE PRIZES!”  The free prize line is what got me.  People love free, but what people love even more is unique, and free prizes definitely make this show sound different from all the rest.

5. Have A Nice Life

The best marketers on the planet will tell you to lead with your strongest asset, or, in cliche-speak, always put your best foot forward.  Have A Nice Life certainly took that advice when composing their blurb. Rather than start with what their show is about (a musical group therapy session), the first sentence starts with, “Direct from a sold-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe . . . ”  It continues with quotes, but the words ‘sold-out’ combined with the reputable EF made me sit up in my chair and circle this show.  www.nicepeopletheatre.org.

6. MASKS

Do you know who Terryl Daluz and Mann Alfonso are?  Me neither.  But they were given an NAACP Theatre Award for Best Playwright.  And that makes them important.  Awards, even if they’re not from organizations as esteemed as the NAACP, always attract audiences.  And where there is an audience, a Producer will soon follow.  If you’re a writer, try to win something while you wait for a production.  Enter the many playwrighting competitions online.  Doors will open faster for you with somebody’s, anybody’s, seal of approval. www.masksproductions.com

7. Mobius

“WARNING:  This play contains nudity.”  Need I say more?  Yes, lines like this will turn off a few folks (although probably not many Fringe festival attendees), but a Warning, or a Not For All Viewers disclaimer has a way of getting people . . . er . . . titillated . . . into buying a ticket.   www.mobiustheplay.com

8. Platinum

Chicago was a much maligned musical before it was revived on Broadway in 1996.  Since then, every Producer I know has combed through the catalogs of old shows, looking for the next musical that could be rediscovered and prove to be more valuable now than it was when it originally opened.  Platinum is a musical with a book co-written by Hollywood Squares and Academy Awards writer, Bruce Vilanch, and UnsungMusicalsCo., Inc. has revised it for this year’s Fringe.   www.platinumthemusical.com

9. A Separate Peace

People like what they know, and most people know A Separate Peace.  It has been screaming for a stage adaptation (I hear there’s a musical in the works). Add in a quote from the LA Times, and this show says, “Come down and say hello,” just l
ike an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile. www.aseparatepeace.info

10. The Swearing Jar

Did you ever have a swearing jar?  I bet someone around you did.  There’s something about this title that we can all understand, and that is inherently funny. And once again, a title does half the show’s marketing for them.  That makes me F***ing interested.  Ahh, darn it.  Here’s a quarter. www.thebridgetheatrecompany.com.

So there you have it. This year’s 10 stand-out shows (with honorable mentions to My Broken Brain, The Morning After/The Night Before and Veritas).

For tickets and info on all the shows in the Fringe, visit www.fringenyc.org today.

Now, it’s important to note, that these are the shows that stand out to me from a marketing perspective.  I have no idea whether they’ll be any good.  These are just the shows that have great potential to get butts in seats.

Then we’ll see what they can do with those butts.

(Hmmmm, this blog could be retitled, “The strangest sign off line in the history of blogs.”)

 

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Looking to learn how to get your show to stand out?  Here are two quick tips:

1 – Read Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow, my bible to product development and marketing.

2 – Take my Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar, which I guarantee will give you a bunch of great takeaways on how to get your show to stand out at the Fringe, NYMF, and on Broadway!  Take the seminar today.

Get Your Show Off The Ground Seminar – SOLD OUT!

Thanks to the 20 folks that snatched up the slots at the GYSOTG Seminar (try and pronounce that with me . . . guy-sought-g).

For everyone else that wanted to get in, I’m sorry but we are sold out.

We are still taking waiting list applicants, however, in case any of the 20 have to back out.

If you want to be on the waiting list, email my assistant asap at melissa@davenporttheatrical.com.  The waiting list will be treated on a first-come-first-served basis, so email asap if you still want a shot at the January seminar.

Because there was such a terrific response to this seminar, I am planning a second one to take place in a warmer month.  Think June . . . pre-Fringe, pre-NYMF, pre-your big success.

Thanks again, and all you folks that did get in . . . see you on January 23rd!

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Don’t forget to vote for the 2009 Producer of the Year.

Make sure you cast your vote by Sunday, December 27th at 8pm.

The winner will be announced here on the blog, on Monday, December 28th.

VOTE NOW

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