Putting What Broadway Bears Into A Box.

When you sit down and prepare to budget a show, what’s the first thing you do?

Figure out how much the theater is going to cost?  Figure out how much the creative fees are going to be?  Or how much you’re going to spend on hair styling bills for a star that submits a receipt for reimbursement every time she steps outside? (true story)

It makes sense to start off with this stuff. But I recommend that before you work on your own show . . . work on everyone else’s first.

For example, I’ve got a bee in my you-know-what about reviving a certain Broadway musical.  So I’m looking at all the other revivals of the last 20+ years first.

And by looking at their numbers, I can create the beginnings of a budgetary box that I can fit my show into based on hard empirical data on what the market can bear.

What’s the first thing I looked for in this search?  Length of run.  Here, exclusive to you, oh faithful blog reader, are the results of numbers crunched by me and my assistant Nicole, thanks to raw data provided by the 

Broadway League.

The following is the average length of runs of productions on Broadway since 1984 (note: some of the productions included in these calculations may still be running)

New Musical                         52.67 weeks

Revival of a Musical               51.59 weeks

New Play                              24.40 weeks  

Revival of a Play                     15.65 weeks

Interesting stuff, huh?  Now, if I know that an average revival only runs 51.59 weeks, I know I better figure out how to recoup the investment in that short period of time.

But Nicole and I are not done yet.  The next figure that will help me build my budgetary box?  Average price of a ticket.  For a revival.  Of a musical. 

Stay tuned.

Print Ads Don’t Smoke Anymore (aka Last Week’s Blog Rewritten)

Check out this article from The NY Times about one of the largest media buyers in the world . . . a tobacco company.  Here’s the paragraph that most interested me: 


“The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company disclosed this week that it would run no ads in 2008 in consumer magazines and newspapers for cigarette brands like Camel, Winston and Pall Mall.

Instead, Reynolds said it would concentrate its marketing in three areas that already make up the bulk of its marketing spending: stores, bars and nightclubs; Web sites; and direct mail.”

What was fascinating to me was not that R.J. was pulling out of print.  Everyone knows that print is dying faster than a two-pack-a-day smoker of brands like Camel, Winston and Pall Mall.  What is interesting to me is where they are putting their money. 

(Here’s where you and I can learn from watching how the big boys play with their big boy budgets.)

What do stores, bars, nightclubs, and websites have in common?  You can buy cigarettes there.  The tobacco companies are putting their money closer to their point of purchase.  They realize that a nicotine craving might be intensified by the right ad and their conversion rates will be higher if cigarettes and a guy willing to take your money are only a few steps (or clicks) away from that ad.  Makes sense, doesn’t it? 

Why would they advertise in a magazine, where they can’t control where their ad is going to be seen?  Magazines are read on planes, trains and in bathrooms.  The odds of getting a consumer to purchase a pack of Pall Malls while on the potty are nil.  If you expect your ad to stay in the consumer’s mind until they are at a point of purchase, it either has to be that much stronger (bigger), or it has to be seen much more frequently.  It makes more sense to not take that risk, and find a way to get to where the consumer is more likely to make a purchase.

Tobacco companies are smart.  With all that we know about how bad cigarettes are for our bodies, people still do it, which means they are doing something disgustingly right. So what is it?

For starters, they realize that mass marketing is on its way out.  Strategic and targeted marketing is here.  They are finding out where their customers are, and where they are most likely to purchase their product.  It’s like modern day warfare.  Their campaigns are becoming a bunch of smart missiles instead of blanket bombs. 

Where are your audiences hiding?


Sorry for the tease.

In my last blog, I said . . .

“An example of something I just learned from one of the biggest American marketing machines tomorrow.”

And then . . .nothing. 

I received thousands of emails from concerned readers all wondering if I had been kidnapped by Bruce Cohen’s family or if I had caught the same illness that
affected Michael Crawford when he signed on to do Dance of The Vampires

I am happy to report that I am fine.  (You can stop sending the thousand emails a day now, Mom.)

Here’s what happened.  I wrote the follow up to that blog that same night and thought I was really cool when I figured out how to automatically post it the next
morning since I was going to be traveling all day.

And, as you know . . . it didn’t work. 

Sorry for that mishap.  I’m re-writing the blog now and it will be up later. Hopefully this version will turn out better anyway.  I had to rewrite my high school graduation address in 1990 when my Commodore 64 crashed, and that worked out OK.

Rewrites generally do.

So the next time that you lose a paper, an email, a version of a script, or a well constructed and almost award winning and publishable blog entry (ok, I’m
exaggerating), take it as a reminder that the key to writing is rewriting.

Sure you can bang your head against the wall and take TypePad’s name in vain . . . or you can just sit back down, stop bitching and make the next one even better.

Or you can use your situation as inspiration to write something brand spanking new.

Like I just did.  Wait a minute. I didn’t mean to do that. That wasn’t my intention when I started this entry.  Dang it!

The follow- up coming soon.  And I mean it this time.   

I don’t borrow. I steal.

Yep, I steal from giant corporations all the time.  And you should too.

Ok, as much as  I’d like to build up some “street cred” with a bad boy reputation, let me explain what I mean. Shows open and close so fast and have such limited budgets, that it’s difficult for us to try and stay ahead of the marketing and technology curve.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from those with the resources.

Watch what the Big Boys do.  Sign up for the Banana Republic email newsletter and see what happens when your birthday rolls round.  See how Amazon.com communicates with you and recommends item after item.  See how Las Vegas hotels take care of their high rollers (their version of the premium ticket buyer).

Let companies with bigger budgets pay for your research.  Learn from what they do well.  And learn from their mistakes. An example of something I just learned from one of the biggest American marketing machines tomorrow.

Give away tickets, sure, but don’t paper.

Every smart company knows that with any product launch, you’ve got to give away some product to start the snowball of word of mouth marketing rolling down the

What separates the great marketers from the mass marketers is who that product is given to. 

Ten years ago, there were one or two “papering” organizations in the theater business that had a list of people who were interested in seeing theater that could be
mobilized quickly to fill a house.

Now, there are at least four major papering companies that charge their members a service fee of a few dollars for getting these tickets.  Shows, big and small, give these organizations free tickets, and then these companies profit from being able to get rid of them.  And they’re growing.  One company recently sent me a direct mail offer to sign up.  They are spending more media dollars than my shows.

The hope for the shows is that the members help spread the word of mouth and turn their friends into paying customers.

And maybe that happened ten years ago.  But do you know what’s really happening now?

Word of mouth is spreading about these companies and a way to get a $4 ticket to a show, rather than the show itself!  How do I know this?  Simple . . . the  growth of the number of companies engaging in this activity proves the growth in the market.  Where there are competitors, there is a market share to be had.  And that’s bad news for the theater.  We’re increasing the size of an audience looking for free or extremely discounted tickets.

On top of that . . . does anyone really think that this is the best way to spread word of mouth?  These people that use these services are now trained to expect free tickets.  There is no reciprocity factor any more.  There is no feeling of “Wow, I got a free ticket to a show and can’t wait to see it.”  And if you were one of these people and actually saw a great show, wouldn’t one of the first things you said to a friend be “I saw a great show and I only paid $4!” 

Giving away product is fine, but choose wisely.  It may be easier to call a papering company to get rid of 100 tickets to a preview, but you’ll be much better
served seeking out corporations and hair dressers and banks and anywhere where they don’t usually get this sort of offer (and you can pick specific geographic
locations where you think your demographic may be hiding).  These people will be super-excited to get the offer (and therefore more inclined to talk ositively about the experience) and since they are hand picked by you, more inclined to enjoy your product.  And, by avoiding these companies that profit off our paper, you’ll be helping to prevent the disintegration of our paying audience. 

Avoid papering companies like they are vampire musicals.