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Greetings after a bit of a hiatus, and welcome to the 2014-2015 touring season!

Actually, the season pretty much started back in September, so we’re in the thick of it now!

But how did we get to this point? Hundreds of touring engagements will make their way across North America this season, as they do every season. What are the basic mechanics of the business that make that happen year after year? What’s the timeline?

Well, aren’t you glad you found The Road 101, because it is here where you’ll find out how that wholllle process works! A process that is a long, complex, ongoing cycle. There are many places I could begin, but for this post, I am going to begin discussing this cycle with the Tony Awards Nominations as a starting point, which typically take place at the end of April.

There are many types of shows that are out on The Road in a season and it is often a foregone conclusion that many of these will be back out there — the blockbuster, the second and third year tour, the non-Equity tour, the special attraction, and the smaller Off Broadway type show that has built its brand over many years, are just some examples.

Then, there are the new shows coming from Broadway in the current season. So, in this case, we’re talking the 2014-2015 Broadway season. These shows are the touring question marks. Which ones will make it out on The Road in 2016-2017? That’s right. Wrap your head around that for a second so you can follow along. The shows running on Broadway in 2014-2015 are being considered for touring in 2016-2017.

The Broadway 2014-2015 season is still evolving as I write this post, and booking agents (some already representing some of these shows) and presenters are watching closely which Broadway shows will make it through the season and rise to the top. When the Tony nominations come out in April 2015, that is a moment when certain shows could get a key boost, especially those shows nominated for Best Musical. Though agents and presenters are seeing shows throughout the entire season, it is typically during Tony Awards season when many in the industry check out Broadway to see which are most likely to end up being viable touring properties. A lot of this theatre-going happens during the annual Spring Road Conference, which typically takes place between the Tony nominations and the Tony Awards. Now, winning a Tony Award this season does not necessarily guarantee that a show will go out on tour for the 2016-2017 season. There are many factors that a producer and a general manager need to take into consideration before deciding if their show is viable enough for a tour:

  1. Did the show make it through Tony season in good shape both from an awards standpoint and a box office standpoint?
  2. Did the show make a good impression on enough presenters?
  3. Can the show offer a deal that presenters can work with?

Okay, so, the 2015 Tony Awards have happened and we are now in summer 2015. The blockbusters, second year tours and non-Equity tours are largely routed and slotted in for the 2016-2017 touring season. The booking agents are also more clear at this point regarding which of the new 2014-2015 Broadway shows they represent will likely make it out on The Road in 2016-2017, and which will fall by the wayside. The final part of the 2016-2017 touring season programming process is now in full swing as booking agents and presenters work through final deals and tour routing. Again, these interactions happen throughout the year, but it is during the summer and into the early fall where all programming MUST be finalized.

Why must programming be finalized by fall 2015? Because it is at this point that presenters need to then begin figuring out how they want these shows to be priced. It is important to be thoughtful about all the details that go into pricing and to consider all data and history available to maximize profit. If an engagement is not priced and discounted correctly at the outset, there is the chance that the engagement could lose money, or, conversely, it may make money, but if it was underpriced and over-discounted at the outset there is a chance of “leaving money on the table,” meaning even more money could have been made. The opportunity to maximize profit is then further exploited via dynamic pricing.

So, once the presenter decides on the pricing for a show, which includes prices for singles, subscribers and groups, the presenter then sends this pricing to the show’s booking agent for consideration, which oftentimes ends up turning into a back and forth negotiation. Again, multiply this step by many, many engagements that need to go through this detailed process. For a large company like Broadway Across America with numerous markets, the ticket pricing process takes several months to complete. During the pricing process, things move fast and timing is everything, as prices need to be agreed to by the show and the presenter and locked in quickly so the marketing teams can then get to work on creating the brochures, which will include these prices and discounts, and which need to go into the mail to subscribers by certain established deadlines.

The time is now winter of 2015-2016. The 2016-2017 pricing process is beginning to wind down as we move into March. The booking agents and presenters are making any final little programming and deal tweaks to the 2016-2017 season while at the same time are also in the process of booking the 2017-2018 touring season. Meanwhile, as all this is happening, don’t forget, the 2015-2016 engagements are currently out on the road on tour requiring constant management through the end of their tours in May or June, each engagement culminating in its own final bravo – settlement.

And now, it’s Tony Awards season again. Which brings us back to where we started.

Pfew. Did you follow all that? Yeah, I’m still learning to wrap my head around it, too, and I WORK in the business!

In the end, this is just a broad overview of how the booking and pricing cycle works as I have come to understand it. It is likely that others in the industry would have other details to add, but this should give you a pretty good sense of the general timing of it all.

If you have questions, feel free to email me anytime at robin@theroad101.com. If I don’t get back to you immediately, please forgive me. I’m probably swamped in pricing for 2015-2016.

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Well, another fabulous Spring Road Conference is in the books! If you are not familiar with this annual industry conference, check out my posts from previous conferences, such as this one, which will give you a basic overview.

It was a hectic week, filled with a variety of panels, creative conversations, lunches, cocktail parties, networking and shows. What was clear was how far the conference and the commercial theatre industry as whole has come as far as going more digital. The entire program for the conference was available through the Guidebook app and could also be viewed on a pdf. Conference binders were still being distributed, but I have a feeling that by the 2016 conference, the binder option will be gone completely. Also, a number of sessions were dedicated to digital and there was a “Digital War Room” where conference attendees had the opportunity to take advantage of one-on-one sessions with digital pros from various media outlets and social channels, as well as expert media buyers and strategists in the Broadway industry.

There were a multitude of panels on a whole variety of topics. Below is just a sampling of a few sessions…

“’IT’S A GREAT TITLE FOR THE ROAD,’ AND OTHER MYTHS”

This was a jam-packed session that had a lot of vibrant back and forth. Are certain titles right for the Road, but not New York City? Does a tour need a celebrity and what qualifies as a celebrity really as far as someone having enough of a “name” to sell more tickets? Is the summer really not a viable time for tours, or is that one of the many “myths?” There were no hard and fast answers, but it was definitely an airing out of viewpoints and I would say that chances are good that some of discussions will remain in the back of people’s minds when it’s time to think about a possible summer booking, deciding on whether a certain name should be involved, and if a title really will be strong enough to tour.

“WHAT IS THE GP?”

This was another packed and lively session. With the implementation of dynamic pricing, the GP (“Gross Potential”) is no longer the hard and fast largest possible gross for an engagement. People generally felt that the GP was still necessary when making pricing and budgeting decisions, but in this session it became clear that producers and presenters were beginning to become more thoughtful about what this number really represented and considering it a little differently than in the past. No universal approach surfaced during this discussion, but I suspect that in a few years time there will be a more cohesive industry-wide approach on what the GP really means. Perhaps there will be a new definition, as the GP these days seems more like a threshold number that the producer and presenter agree they would like to meet, and exceed.

“THE MILLENNIAL MARKETING MYSTERY”

In this session, guest speak Cathleen Johnson, President of Cathleen Johnson Tourism Consultants, LLC presented data on the “millennial” generation, a generation she insisted we all needed to really pay attention to and understand for the theatre industry to continue to thrive down the road. Johnson pushed the importance of tailoring marketing to attract this newer generation, considered to be an “alpha influencer” in the decision-making process among their peers as well as their parents’ generation. In additional to Johnson, three millennials were also on the panel and they commented on her data. Much of what Johnson said made sense to me, as well as to the millennials on the panel, though, I also felt some of her findings also applied to me and I am definitely NOT a millennial! That said, I think the overarching point was that it was important for marketers of theatre to be aware of the purchasing and social habits of the members of this group when implementing marketing and ticket pricing and discount message strategies.

“MEETING OF THE BROADWAY LEAGUE’S LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL”

This was an exciting and informative session where the panel and several presenters in the audience described recent accomplishments in the political realm, including opposing legislation intended to prevent venues from thwarting deceptive broker practices and advancing tax credits that encourage investment in theatre. These major strides notwithstanding, the big takeaway from this session was how important is is to begin having relationships and dialogue with local, state and federal electeds BEFORE a major issue presents itself, so you don’t have to start from scratch getting these politicians to pay attention to you when a challenge comes up related to your theater or theatre enterprise, and you need them most!

I only touched on a few aspects of the conference here. To really get a feel for this conference and its exciting vibe you must experience it first-hand! If you are a new producer, presenter, marketer, or booking agent looking to learn more about the Broadway and commercial touring industry and to meet the professionals who work in it, I highly recommend that you gain the credentials to join The Broadway League and attend this annual conference. League membership and the conference may seem pricey to some, but if you plan on being in this industry for the long haul, then it’s definitely a worthwhile investment!

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SPIDERMAN - WSJNow that it’s lights out for the most expensive show in Broadway history, SPIDERMAN – TURN OFF THE DARK after a widely reported troubled run, does the show have a chance of spinning a new web somewhere else?

Maybe.

Check out this article in The New Yorker  that discusses ways of making lemonade out of a Broadway lemon. One of the ways is on The Road. I talked a bit about this in a recent post. The New Yorker article broad strokes things a bit about The Road, as making any show that goes out on tour a commercial success — Broadway flop or Broadway success — depends on a combination of smart producing, thoughtful season programming, attentive day to day management, and expert tour marketing. These missing details aside, however, there are plenty of useful takeaways here. Especially the reminder that “Theatre is a business, yes, but it’s a weird one.”

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Greetings! It’s been a hectic few months in my world between getting temporarily displaced by Hurricane Sandy, along with a writing project heating up, while at the same time earning a promotion! So, I’m a bit behind on my posting.

But I’m back!

And so are dynamic pricing and heat maps. Actually, dynamic pricing and heat maps never left, and, in fact, are likely here to stay, as more and more presenters and producers begin to rely on these capabilities to sell as much of their inventory as possible, and maximize their GP.

I’ve discussed dynamic pricing and heat maps in previous posts. You can check those posts out here, and here. What’s caused me to think about dynamic pricing and heat maps once again is that I’ve become much more immersed in ticket pricing in my new position, and it is becoming clear how dynamic pricing and heat-mapping can be useful tools to help presenters re-think manifests, figure out the smartest way to scale houses, decide when to put certain groupings of tickets on sale, etc.

I recently enjoyed an informative webinar on dynamic pricing, heat maps and patron loyalty that was sponsored by TRG Arts. TRG Arts is a company that provides heat mapping and marketing support culminating in data that helps their clients make more informed decisions about ways to increase revenues and understand who attends their theaters, how to keep them, and how to attract new subscribers.

No need to be a client of TRG to benefit from some of their wisdom. I recommend that you check out the webinar I link to above, as well as subscribe to their blog, Analysis from TRG to keep up on the latest in these areas, and perhaps pick up a few ideas!

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Jordan Roth and Pam MacKinnon discuss an effective audience engagement initiative implemented during tech of “Clybourne Park.”

The 2012 Spring Road Conference wrapped up with a bang at the post-theatre party hosted by NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT last Thursday night after an incredibly fun and informative few days at The Hudson Theatre, The Millenium Broadway Hotel, and restaurants and clubs throughout Times Square!

In my next few posts, I will highlight some of the panels and events that took place to give you a sense of where the industry mindset is currently at, and what people were talking about.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: OPENING OUR DOORS 

HOW TO GET AUDIENCE AND HOW TO KEEP THEM?

This first early morning session on Tuesday 5/15 was led by renowned New York theatre producer and Jujamcyn Theaters President, Joardan Roth where he, along with his CLYBOURNE PARK director, Pam MacKinnon discussed actual examples where they were able to engage potential audiences in unique ways.

The session started with the basic question: “Why are we inviting people in to our show in the first place?” The answer was simple and seemingly unremarkable enough: to educate and entertain. A producer wants his show to inform people in some way, while also leaving them with a feeling about that information, with the hope that audiences will then act in a positive way on that information that will potentially get the word out even more about the show. To engage people successfully, though, you need to find a way to make people feel as though they have a sense of ownership in relation to the show. In other words, you want people to feel compelled to root for the show, and you want them to feel motivated to act as advocates, or ambassadors for the show.

To that end, Mr. Roth spoke of an initiative that he and his creative team tried out on CLYBOURNE PARK. During their tech, CLYBOURNE PARK invited students studying theater tech at Fordham Univesity to observe the entire tech process, and blog about it on Broadwayworld.com. These students not only learned a lot themselves about how a professional show works from an insider’s view, but they also essentially became guides to others who were outside of the process in that the students took their personal, behind the scenes experience, processed it, and enthusiastically told others about it. These students became advocates and ambassadors for the show. One of the Fordham students attended the morning session and said that she could not wait to see CLYBOURNE PARK after her experience, that she felt a part of it all in some way even though she was not technically a part of the show, and that she was rooting for CLYBOURNE PARK to win the Tony.

Apparently, when the blog launched it received around thirteen thousand hits within the first day. By the end of the first week of posts, the blog had received over one-hundred thousand hits. Mr. Roth’s feeling was, once people read a number of the blog posts about behind the scenes at CLYBOURNE PARK, what was the next thing they were then going to potentially want to do? See CLYBOURNE PARK!

Some conference attendees raised concerns about the risks of this idea, including how so much can potentially go wrong during tech, and how was that handled? Also, what about the possibility of a negative blog post? In response to these concerns, Mr. Roth and Ms. MacKinnon said that in their case the creative team had felt confident that nothing major would go wrong in tech because the show had already had a production in New York and LA, so everyone knew what they were doing. Also, there was an understanding at the beginning of the relationship between the show and the students that the blog posts would be vetted and edited by the show prior to being put up.

Another example that Mr. Roth gave as a way he engaged people personally in relation to CLYBOURNE PARK was via his Twitter account. He created a contest essentially looking for the best answer to the question: “#iwanttogobackstage at Clybourne Park with Jordan Roth and why?” This simple (and free!) initiative had a 1-2-3 marketing punch…

1) It encouraged people to share their thoughts publicly

2) It created more fans

3) And the backstage tour with Jordan Roth and the winner would be filmed

One final example Mr. Roth gave with regard to how CLYBOURNE PARK was planning to engage audiences in a unique way was through a relationship he fostered between CLYBOURNE PARK and the Discovery channel program “How Stuff Works.” CLYBOURNE PARK would be the first theatre production to appear on “How Stuff Works” showing how stuff works behind the scenes of a Broadway show. In addition to the TV show, “How Stuff Works” also has a website that receives millions of hits and downloads, and the program is also one of the Top 10 podcasts on iTunes.

As the session was winding down, attendees questioned how ideas like these could feasibly apply to the Road. The Road is far more limited in many ways compared to Broadway in that shows on tour move from place to place in most markets after just a week, and so it’s challenging to implement techniques like these when a show is only in town for such a short period. Going back to his opening remarks, Mr. Roth basically encouraged The Road to simply start thinking about reaching audiences in creative, proactive ways that make people feel “invited in.” One suggestion he made to the presenters was to send ambassadors to other markets that have the same shows arriving at their theaters earlier in the season. Those ambassadors could then start blogging about these shows way ahead of time, getting the local audiences back where they’re from excited and better informed about upcoming shows, and creating buzz well in advance of these shows coming into town.

Mr. Roth was a dynamic and generous speaker who proved through example that there are plenty of innovative ideas out there to bring in more audiences, and I have no doubt he will continue to discover new, smart ways to connect his projects with theater-goers.

I look forward to telling you more about other topics that were covered at the conference, so be sure check back here at The ROAD 101 soon!

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Check out this super awesome promo created by my company, BROADWAY ACROSS AMERICA announcing our 2012-2013 season in Boston! (More season announcements from around North America to come in my next post…)

 

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You would think that a show that has garnered a Tony Award, a stellar review in The New York Times, or certainly both would be an easy sell on The Road. The truth of the matter is, though, while these endorsements are wonderful stamps of approval, no doubt about it, they don’t mean as much out on The Road as they do to local New York City area ticket buyers, or to those who come to New York from out of town who seek out shows with these sorts of accolades. Also, by the time a show that was on Broadway begins a national tour, the knock-out reviews and the Tony win are a good year or more in the past, so that initial excitement and momentum are essentially lost.

What seems to be a primary lure to get ticket-buyers on The Road is familiarity. Familiarity with a show’s title, or, if the title isn’t familiar to them, then someone in the show — a “name.”

Year after year you will hear about certain names going out on The Road. Some are known through television and movies, and some mainly just through Broadway. But these days, is being a Broadway name alone enough?

‘Following in past actors’ footsteps, more Broadway stars take to the road’

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