Variety cuts their coverage. Should you and I complain?

Variety, one of the few “trades” that remain, has changed their business model over the past twelve months, just like most media companies, and, well, like most companies period.

They’ve put their online articles behind a paywall, fired critics, and just recently I noticed that the legit coverage I pay $299 a year for has now been cut to just one page, and one feature article.

Am I mad?

You betcha.

But not at Variety.

Look, Variety is a business, just like Broadway, just like a diner, and well, just like your own household.

When you can’t pay your expenses in any of those situations, you have to cut out the crap, or the stuff that isn’t necessary, in order to survive.

What I’m mad about is that somehow, Broadway has become the crap.

We’ve failed to make ourselves relevant enough to the modern readers of Variety.  The higher-ups had to think that a cut in our coverage wouldn’t cause that much of a stink, or put that much of a dent in their subscriber base either. There was obviously a meeting at some point where someone at Variety said, “Look if we cut theater coverage, we may lose X number of subscribers, and that will decrease our revenue by Y. But since we’ll be saving Z dollars, and since Z is greater than Y, it makes sense to lose the page.”

And if you are having trouble keeping the lights on, then that’s how meetings should go in industries of all kinds whether that is on Broadway, in a diner or in your own household.

Because that’s business.

And we don’t have to like it.

But yelling at Variety isn’t going to do us any good.  We’ve got to yell at ourselves and find a way to make us important enough so people aren’t cutting coverage, they are adding it.

That’s a constructive use of our time.

Yelling certainly isn’t.

The right to vote . . . restored! Kind of.

Last week, a compromise was reached between the Tony Awards and the critical press after almost a year of a very public and tense standoff.

Here’s what happened:

On July 14, 2009, the Tonys sent all the reviewers on the “First Night Press List” (those who are invited to see shows on opening night or before) a letter saying that their Tony voter status had been revoked.  An excerpt from the letter stated the following reasons for the change:

 

Please note that this change in no way affects your inclusion on the First Night Press List. As you know, a committee of Broadway press agents develops and administers the First Night Press List, and it does not fall under the purview of Tony Award Productions, The Broadway League, or the American Theatre Wing.

In making this decision, the Tony Management Committee took into account that members of the First Night Press List will of course continue to have the opportunity to express their critical opinions in reviews and other coverage of the theatre season. In addition, the Management Committee took into consideration the fact that certain publications and individual critics have historically pursued a policy of abstaining from voting on entertainment awards in general, to avoid any possible conflicts of interest in fulfilling their primary responsibilities as journalists.”

Ok. Makes sense.  If the Tony Awards don’t control the list, you can see why they might be concerned about who is able to cast a ballot.  Can you imagine a co-op board allowing someone to vote for a building amendment if they didn’t have a say in who was living in the building?  

But, you can without a doubt see the side of the critics who jumped up and down concerned about the lack of the critical voice in the block of voters.  

All in all, about 100 people’s privileges were revoked.  And a lot of those 100 people were very vocal about their displeasure.  

Last week, the Tonys listened.

It was announced on March 25, 2010, less than two months before voting begins, that members of the Drama Critics’ Circle, a group that has been around since 1935, a group that has membership guidelines, structure, meetings, executive leadership and their own awards, will be allowed to cast a vote for the Tony Awards.

While this will still leave several of those first nighters without a vote, I think this was a wonderful compromise that allows the Tonys to establish more of a structure to the body of voters, while ensuring that this body is made up of the most diverse group of contributors to our unique world.  

Critics have a place in this world.  And they should have a vote.  I’m now thankful that they do.

Oh, by the way, I would have linked to the Variety article about this subject . . . but they’ve put their stories behind a e-wall now.  I wonder how that’s gonna work out for them. Here’s a Theatermania article instead.

To read more about the Drama Critics’ Circle, click here.

10 Great gifts for the Producer in your life. [UPDATED]

We’ve updated this blog with the best Broadway gifts on the market in 2018. Enjoy!


Happy Black Friday!

People are in line and online today, looking for great holiday gift ideas for their family and friends.  But what do you get for that odd bird in your nest that is or wants to be a Producer?

Here is a list of 10 gift ideas for those folks with shows on the boards, or for the Producers-to-be out there.

And if you are a Producer, just email this list to your family and friends and tell them that it’s their civic responsibility to do their part in stimulating the economy . . . by buying you everything on it.

1. Be A Broadway Star Board Game

Yes, full disclaimer, this one is mine.  But it’s such a no-brainer gift for anyone who loves Broadway, it’s always top of my mind for Broadway gifts.  The game itself is like Life with a dash of charades . . . but Broadway style.  Win Tonys, Audition for Wicked, and the person with the most fans wins.  Fun, right?  There’s a reason it’s the best selling Broadway gift on Amazon every year.  But don’t take my word for it.  If you want some objective advice, go check out the 55 FIVE star reviews on Amazon.

2.  A Playbill Binder!

Playbills are probably the one thing on the planet that is given away free, yet is priceless to a Broadway fan (especially a NEW Broadway fan). Protect them in this binder that includes free sheet protectors!

3. A Broadway Puzzle of your favorite Broadway Stars!

If you’re like me, then holiday times at the parents’ house includes puzzles. So forget about the ones with windmills and skylines, how about one featuring Broadway stars!

4. Broadway Nail Decals

Need a stocking stuffer or a Broadway Secret Santa gift? This is it because it’ll come in under ANY budget.

5.  The Abominable Showman:  The Unauthorized David Merrick Biography

David Merrick is to Broadway shows as Henry Ford is to automobiles.  Read all about how Merrick became the powerhouse that he was.  This bio is like a training manual of both what to do and what not to do.

6. The Broadway Coloring Book

Created by my own Director of Marketing, Monica Hammond (I have such a multi-talented staff), The Broadway Coloring Book is available as an instant download PDF for you to print, color and enjoy right away or gift to friends! This 10-page coloring book features hand-drawn scenes from some classic Broadway shows, including Mamma MiaChicagoCabaretGypsy and more! Color the costumes and sets of Broadway as many times as you like! Download your copy now!

7.  Gift Cards

No list would be complete without suggesting you get tickets for the Broadway lover in your life. Unfortunately, we don’t make this easy on Broadway.  You can’t get gift cards for specific shows, but you can get Telecharge Gift Cards and Ticketmaster Gift Cards.

8. Anything from Broadway Cares

Give the gift that gives back when you get anything from BC/EFA.  From their Broadway snow globes to Broadway ornaments to a 1992 Jerry Mitchell Broadway Bares “solo strip” DVD (hubba, hubba) these gifts will make the giver and the getter feels good all over.

9. Once On This Island Cast Album

If you love Ahrens and Flaherty, if you love great musical theater period, you’ll love this Tony-award winning cast, and so will the theater lover in your life.

10.  The iPhone

No list of mine is ever complete without the iPhone.  Sure, AT&T sucks more than Moose Murders, but carrying music demos of shows in a killer web phone that has an app-game where you can produce We Will Rock You is something I’m telling Santa that I want.

Stock and Amateur is the way to a “living” . . . but for whom?

There was a great article on the front page (!) of Variety this week (it’s rare that a theater story gets the cover) about the life after Broadway for musicals that may not have been so well received by The White Way.  (To be honest, the article seemed like a byline from a Dreamworks exec, because the article began by stating how DWorks was set to recover a chunk of their $26 million capitalization through national tours and high schools, therefore not making the past year and a half a total loss.)

The article went on to give specific examples of how a bunch of theatrical writers have earned a great deal of cash from shows that, for lack of a better word, flopped on Broadway.  Some of the shows mentioned were All Shook Up, Footloose, Seussical, and The Wedding Singer. 

Apparently, the success of the post-Broadway life of these shows has afforded the very talented writers of these musicals to keep on keeping on as theatrical writers.  Let’s all be thankful this Thanksgiving week for that!  Good writers writing is better for all of us.

But there is one thing about the article that bugged me a bit.

In the third paragraph, the author writes . . .

Community theaters and high school productions don’t produce the instant big bucks of Broadway and tours, but the royalties paid to creatives, producers and investors are pure profit . . .

Uhhh, hold up.

Profit to Producers?  I’m not so sure about that.

Let’s break down how this works a little more specifically.

Producer finds show.  Producer produces show.  Show fails on Broadway for what could be one or several of a billion reasons:  bad show, bad producing, bad timing, bad whatever.  Whatever the reason, investors lose millions.

There is much sadness.

(Now here’s where the Variety article comes in.)

Stock and amateur rights are sold to a company like Samuel French or MTI.

In most cases, the Authors receive 60% of all monies.  The show receives the other 40%.  (Sometimes this can be 70/30 or 50/50, depending on the number of years this agreement is in place.  At some point, however, the Authors will receive 100%).

So where does that 40% go?  Well, if the show has not recouped, then it goes straight to the investors in an effort to get them paid back.

In the case of most flops, as evidenced by the article’s description of the current financial situation of Footloose (hasn’t recouped despite healthy licensing), the shows still never recoup.

Since Producers only really make money when the shows recoup, this means that despite taking the risk in the first place, despite mounting the production that got the Stock and Amateur companies interested in the first place, the Producers get zip.

Doesn’t that seem a bit counter-intuitive?

And what if I added to this fact that it has become more traditional lately that Directors (on original musicals, mostly) get a piece of the S&A for their contribution to the long term viability of the show?

So here’s my question . . .

It truly is fantastic that the S&A money can keep our writers writing by helping to pay their rent or buy a 2nd home.  I want these guys working on shows so I can produce them.

But if the Producers aren’t getting anything to help pay their rent after a show flops, what is keeping them Producing?

Is this one of the main reasons why there are more career writers than career Producers?

Here’s my proposal:

Producers should get a small negotiated percentage (the exact number to be determined based on who originated the project, how much was completed before the Producer came on board) of all monies received by the Authors from stock and amateur . . . until recoupment.

I don’t want it forever.  If a show recoups, I’m good.  Keep it.  We’re all gonna be ok.

But if it doesn’t, Producers deserve a small piece to help keep them in the game.  Just like we are all better off with writers writing, we’re all better off with Producers producing.

Otherwise, Producers who produce shows that cost them money, time and investors (ever tried to raise money from a group of people after a show flops?), aren’t going to be too happy reading articles like this one.

If you were a Producer on one of the shows mentioned, how would you feel?

 

She’s back. And she doesn’t like what you’ve been saying about her.

The subject of this post was a tagline that I wrote 17 years ago, when I dreamed about doing a concert version of a show.

Which show?

Read the subject/tagline again . . . and guess?

Get it yet?

Yep . . .

Carrie.

I’ll admit it.  I was bloody obsessed.

I had gotten a hold of some “killer” bootlegs from London and Broadway from a guy online (serendipitous side note: that guy turned out to be Jeff Marx, author of Avenue Q!) and was intrigued by quotes calling half of it brilliant and half of it camp.

I found more recordings by Betty Buckley and original Carrie Linzi Hateley that featured some of the tunes.  I went to Lincoln Center to watch the 10 minutes of footage they had (I had to make up some story about how I was doing a paper at NYU on flops in order to get permission to see it.  Oops. Busted.).  I bought a script off eBay.  I even have the original Playbill somewhere.

And I wanted to do it again.

My idea wasn’t to do the full musical. I just wanted to do the brilliant half!

The idea was to take the best elements of the musical, the best of the book (as read by celebs) and the best of the film, and combine them into one night of multimedia Carrie-awesomeness,

Surprise, surprise, I couldn’t get the rights, although I am proud to say that Michael Gore did return my phone call.  I remember the message explicity.  “Thanks for calling, Ken.  At the moment, we’re not releasing the rights to Carrie, because we’re waiting for the right time to do it again.”

Well, my friends . . . She’s back.  And she doesn’t like what . . . (Oh wait, I did that already).

A small article was buried in this weekend’s Variety about an official reading of the show coming up in the next few months (I hear that this guy is directing).

I’d bet my original Carrie playbill that this is the hottest reading of the year.

Hottest. Get it?  Cuz at the end of the show, Carrie sets the gym on fire with her mind..  Hehe.  Awesome.

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