Different is nice, but it sure isn’t pretty . . .

Musical Theater and Straight Plays are different. I’m not just talking about the fact that one has chorus girls and sequins and higher price tickets. There is an inherent difference in the expectations of the audiences that creators of musicals need to recognize.

Need an example? At the end of Romeo & Juliet, what happens?  They both die.  Tragedy.
Sadness.  Love itself dies with them.

Now, let’s look at the musical adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story, arguably the greatest musical ever written because of its seamless integration of music, book and dance.

What happens at the end of West Side Story?  Only ONE of them dies.  Ah ha!  Already
you’re starting to see the difference. But wait for it . . . wait for it . . . West Side isn’t over yet.

After Maria’s feisty “How many bullets are left” speech, the Jets start to carry off Tony’s dead body.  But, like Jesus carrying the cross, they falter.  Who comes running to their aid?  A Shark!  That’s right; the two warring gangs come together right before your eyes.  And a ray of sunshine is cast on what was a very dark tragedy.  Suddenly, there is hope that the future will be better.

Doesn’t sound like R&J, does it?

Musical theater audiences don’t mind tragedy.  In fact, they love a little drama.  But you can’t leave them with a tragic aftertaste.  No matter how dark your tale, it’s important to leave them with the idea that things could get better.  That the sun will come out . . . you know when.

Want another great example of this?  Look at the ending of the original London production of Miss Saigon.  Then look at what they did when they came to Broadway. It’s a subtle change that demonstrates exactly what I’m talking about.

Email me if you figure it out.

 

Ouch! I’ve been branded!

I just
returned from speaking at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association conference in 
Las Vegas.  My panel was on branding.  There I was, seated next to some giant Brands like Southwest Airlines and Doubletree Hotels (I have to say I did love hearing my shows and Southwest Airlines mentioned in the same sentence.  I made a joke that our advertising budget on My First Time is probably about the same amount as one business class airline ticket). 

The speaker from Doubletree told the story about the infamous PowerPoint presentation prepared by two very unhappy Doubletree customers that appeared on the internet in 2001.  I call it the “Complaint Heard ‘Round the World” and for me it represents the beginning of the new era of customer/user reviews and the use of the internet as a word of mouth weapon for your consumers.The Doubletree representative said that this complaint was meant to “inflict pain” on Doubletree.

And that’s when I realized something about branding. In the media world, I think we’ve forgotten where the term “branding” comes from.  It comes from cattle.  When ranchers don’t want to lose their cattle, they take a red hot iron and burn their “tag” into their skin.

In the cave man days of advertising, this is exactly what the big companies did.  They spent millions on major advertising buys (TV, print, etc.) and since there was no competition, these big buys were the equivalent of a red hot iron used on the consumer.  The consumer had no choice, especially when faced with an iron the size of Proctor and Gamble’s, etc. And without even knowing it, all of a sudden they had a P&G brand on their butt. But times have changed. There are more choices now.  And customers have their own branding irons:  blogs, user reviews, creative PowerPoint presentations, etc.  And they’re a bit PO’ed.  Wouldn’t you be?

So what do you do as someone with customers who are ready to brand back?

Be prepared to take it. 

The best companies recognize that power is shifting.  They recognize that in this consumer driven market, their ass is sticking up in the air waiting for a customer to burn their “tag” into them. And online, those tags are permanent.  They never go away.

And when you’re that exposed, the only way to really CYA (cover your ass) is by being responsible to your customers. The great thing is, not only will you win with your customers and make them even more loyal, but they’ll probably go out and burn the butt of one of your competitors.

A picture is worth so much more than a thousand words.

I bet you thought this post was about the strike, didn’t you?

Why wouldn’t you?  The first thing you looked at was the picture, right?

And who could blame you for looking at the picture first.  Pictures are pretty. They have color.  They tell a story very, very quickly and with little effort required. But this post is not about the strike.

See, I was looking through my previous posts and I noticed that they had one thing in

common:  no pictures.

I have committed the cardinal sin of maintaining a web site and for this I am very,

very sorry. So, the community service that the blog gods are forcing me to do is to share the following with you:

All of the websites that I have managed and maintained have had one thing in common. The most popular page on all of the websites was the photo gallery. Always.  Without fail.  Photos are what visitors to websites want. 

So if you have a website for your show or your product (even if it’s a MySpace page), make sure you have more pictures than you can take.  And update them constantly.

More pictures mean more visitors staying on your site for more time. Who could ask for anything more when marketing on the web? 


Strike Thought of the Day: What’s wrong with a little therapy?

Here’s
something to consider as all of you contemplate which “side” you’re
on in regards to the current Broadway Stagehands strike.

The mayor of
New York City offered to provide both the League and Stagehands with a mediator
as well as neutral territory to help bring this strike to a quicker
resolution.  You might recall that his help was instrumental in ending the
Local 802 strike in 2003.

Local 1
continues to refuse his offer of assistance.

The League has
welcomed his help.

Hmmmm . . .

Why would the
Stagehands not welcome an objective party to help bring these two organizations
closer together which would put people back to work faster and satisfy
thousands of theatergoers sooner? 

Could it be
that they are afraid that an objective and impartial mediator would take a look
at their demands and current work rules and advise them that what they are
striking for is not fair in the current economic climate on Broadway and in the
United States?

If this
contract negotiation were like a marriage going through a troubled time, then
Local 1 would be the stubborn husband who refuses to go to therapy.
What’s wrong with talking to someone, Local 1?  It’s just a therapist.
They don’t bite.  Although, if you have cheated on your partner, then you
may end up sweating a bit . . .

This marriage
needs help.  Divorce isn’t an option.  Both parties have kids to
think about.  And those kids really, really want to see The Little
Mermaid.

I owe a lot of people a lot of money.

The stagehands
are going on 
strike tomorrow morning, which means I lost my bet.

But, as an
Off-Broadway producer of three shows that will be up and running throughout the
strike, I am happy to pay up.  🙂

I’ll comment
more on the strike and why I was wrong later.  Right now I’ve got a few
things to do to make sure people know that Off-Broadway is open for business!

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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