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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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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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Census MichiganI’ve talked a lot here about the tax credit incentives for commercial theatre productions that in recent years have become more and more common. These tax breaks will likely make a difference with regard to where producers launch a tour, or do a pre-Broadway run, and this decision will subsequently have an impact on that local economy. New York State is the most recent state to get on the tax credit boat. Now that New York has entered the mix, there will be even more competition to get these shows.

Case in point: below is a link to a recent article where we see a real example of how Chicago benefited at Detroit’s expense with regard to the launch of the MOTOWN THE MUSICAL National Tour in part because of the Illinois Live Theatre Production Tax Credit Program. It’s too bad, as Detroit would have made more sense for the launch of the “MOTOWN” tour from a historical standpoint, and that city certainly could have used the jobs and economic bump.

“How Chicago lured MOTOWN THE MUSICAL away from Motor City”

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uncle sam dollar sign bagbway in binghamton

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Wonderful news out of Albany yesterday, which is not something I get to say too often. No April Fool’s joke, the State Legislature approved a tax credit in the state budget for FY14-15 that will cover 25% of production-related costs for shows that tech and/or try out road tours, or pre-Broadway productions in the State of New York outside the boundaries of New York City. I first mentioned the possibility of this tax credit back in October 2013 in this post.

Below are links to several articles that cover this recent win-win for New York State and Broadway tours and pre-Broadway productions. And if it’s a success this will show, once again, how beneficial the performing arts can be to local economies. Hopefully, this will set a good example and one day a tax credit will also be considered for other sectors of the theatre industry, especially the historically and culturally significant, but vulnerable independent theatre sector in New York City where so many performers, directors, designers, managers, and producers that work on these Broadway level shows got their start.

Bravo, Albany!

THE NEW YORK TIMES

PLAYBILL

THEATERMANIA

BROADWAY WORLD

AP

amNY

SCHENECTADY GAZETTE

BUFFALO NEWS

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Digital Image by Sean Locke Digital Planet Design www.digitalplanetdesign.com

Hey there, Road 101 fans! I’m back here in the blogosphere after a super busy several months during which I was completely immersed in a time-sensitive musical theatre commission, as well as deeply involved in our hectic, and, often-times dramatic New York City 2013 primary elections! For those of you who do not live in NYC, we’re in the midst of a significant change-over here, from the Mayor on down.

In addition to the work I do at BAA, I am also a member of a 501 (c)6 here in NYC called The League of Independent Theater and this election year has been crucial towards achieving our goal of helping to get candidates elected who are pro-performing arts, and who pledge to do everything in their power to help our economically and culturally vital, but ever-struggling independent theater scene throughout New York City’s five boroughs.

Being engaged in the local elections was an amazing and educational experience. Quite a few of the candidates who we endorsed won their primary races (which in the preponderance of NYC races is tantamount to being elected), and so we are excited about this being a real beginning towards sustainability, and making sure that the performing arts don’t get short shrift. I encourage everyone out there, wherever you live, to get involved during an election year. It could make all the difference to the future of the arts in your community!

LIT based its endorsements on a candidate’s willingness to commit to our 8-plank performing arts platform; if not the whole platform, then as many planks as possible. The most challenging of our planks, but one we feel is absolutely vital, asks our lawmakers to: “Implement a proposal that would reduce or eliminate property tax assessments for those non-profit organizations that have an artistic mission and/or rent performance space to similar non-profit performing arts groups with artistic missions of their own.”

Okay. Ho-hum, Whatever. What does any of this have to do with commercial theatre touring, you ask? Well, the independent theater sector in NYC is not the only sector looking for a little bit of a tax break. The Broadway League, and other stakeholders in the theatre presenting world, are currently in the midst of their own tax-credit initiative proposal that they are seeking from Albany that would incentivize touring productions and pre-Broadway productions to do their tech and initial productions in New York State. Tours have continually shown that they invigorate local economies, so it makes sense for New York State to find ways to get more productions to come and launch their tours here. Whether it was as a result of these efforts, or perhaps they saw the light on their own, Albany lawmakers via the New York State Senate’s Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee, chaired by Sen. Betty Little, (a committee that thankfully also includes my fabulous, pro-arts State Senator, Brad Hoylman) will be considering a kind of tax credit for these sorts of productions during the 2014 legislative session. Here are two articles on the topic:

‘On with the show, with tax credits’

‘Proctors CEO: Boost local economies with tax credits for touring Broadway shows

As you already know because you are someone who is “in the know,” or because you read my previous posts on the topic, Louisiana and Illinois have already implemented a tax-credit for touring productions, and Massachusetts may potentially be next. Or, maybe, my home state will beat Massachusetts to the punch. 🙂

But the point I want to leave you with is that theatre touring, and performing arts in general, is ultimately a business, whether it be commercial or non-profit, that benefits the economy, and every once in a while, it’s important that those of us who participate in the performing arts, whether as a booker, a presenter, a producer, an actor, a stage manager, a director a designer, etc., get a bit more pro-active on the political front, so our elected representatives remember that they need us, and that we’re not just all song and dance.

Don’t forget to vote November 5th!!!

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I’m writing this post from my mobile phone. I’ve never done this before, so apologies in advance for any typos or weird formatting!

Day 2 of the Spring Road Conference has been a full day of diverse panels and creative conversations that began at 8am. Below is a small sampling of just a few of today’s discussions…

EVOLUTION OF THE ROAD

In this panel, a group of presenters, producers and booking agents discussed general observations, as well as some of the economic challenges involved in commercial theatre touring from their varying perspectives. Here is an overview…

– In the course of laying out a tour presenters and producers feel there is room to improve with regard to balancing the strength of sub load-ins from one market to another. In other words, perhaps adjusting the deal for a show from market to market in relation to the size of the sub load-in is worth considering, as a larger sub load-in involves less risk compared to a sub load-in that is not as robust.

– Bookings are happening further and further in advance, allowing for more lead time.

– The success of family titles was seen as varying from city to city from one presenter’s standpoint. Certain cities will have more family programming over another and the popularity of family programming is not necessarily uniform across markets.

– The question of whether there is too much product out there was brought up, and how that might be affecting the success of an engagement, as well as the number of weeks competing tours are able to get as a result.

– Revenue Management: Dynamic Pricing, also called Demand Pricing, is becoming an increasingly popular and effective tool for presenters and producers to maximize revenue and the panel concurred that demand pricing has even much more potential. Demand pricing, when implemented effectively, in addition to increasing gross revenue also helps to offset show and venue related expenses that continue to increase year after year.

– On a universally positive note, the panel agreed that Broadway is becoming more mainstream. Songs are getting out there due in large part to the recent theatre reality shows, as well as TV shows (such as “Glee”) that have helped to educate a larger population about musical theatre.

– The panelists agreed it was wise to think more about seeing how to effectively harness the digital activity that goes on during Broadway runs and apply this momentum to touring shows. The first time theatre ticket buyers hear about a tour coming to their town should not be when they are being sold a ticket.

“HAVE SAFE TIX!”

This panel discussed the ongoing problems presenters have with ticket scalping websites that make themselves appear as though they are associated with the presenters and their theaters. Many presenters are trying to get state and federal legislation passed to combat these companies, as many patrons are buying their tickets from these sites thinking they are buying tickets from the actual theatre organization. These sites overcharge and also don’t provide customer support when something goes wrong. The theater then ends up holding the bag and dealing with angry, confused patrons who thought they bought their tickets from the theater. It seems presenters are fighting an uphill battle against the savvy scalpers, but they are indeed fighting hard, and have been finding better ways to educate their audiences about these sites.

CREATIVE CONVERSATION

We were super fortunate to have the leads of KINKY BOOTS along with Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Mitchell and Cyndi Lauper as a creative conversation. These conversations are fun, informal panels about the creative process and other behind the scene tidbits. This group had a wonderful chemistry, which is also apparent when you see the show!

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The most significant takeaway for me from this year’s conference is how much more digital the commercial theatre industry has become since I first started attending this conference six or seven years ago. Producers, presenters, and their teams are clearly beginning to embrace digital media and strategies to strengthen their marketing and ticket sales. Even the conference schedule was accessible via an app!

It’s both exciting (and a relief!) to see that the commercial theatre industry is starting to implement technology more assertively, and in creative ways. Using digital marketing and social media enables audience members to interact with the brand in a more direct and constant way, and also extends a sense of the live experience. This, combined with effectively reaching ticket buyers through all the various electronic devices we have now, and will continue to have, will help sustain the industry and make theatre remain a prominent entertainment choice for years to come.

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I’ve discussed live theatre tax credits on this blog on a number of occasions. Recently, I specifically posted about Boston becoming a city where this credit may go into effect if a recently introduced bill is passed into law. You can check that post out here. The theatre tax credit bill, according to The Boston Globe, was filed on January 17, 2013.

I have also posted about New Orleans, which already has a theatre tax credit in place, and which is referred to in relation to the proposed bill in Massachusetts.  You can check out my post about the theatre tax credit in New Orleans here.

My colleague, Rich Jaffe, President of Broadway in Boston, discusses the potential that this tax credit has to grow the economy in Boston, as part of this informative coverage on the topic:

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The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess

Not specifically about touring, but not a huge leap…Boston is considering legislation that would establish a tax-credit for pre-Broadway shows. This bill is just another example that proves how theatre clearly remains culturally relevant and popular in the U.S., and is also desirable as far as boosting local economies. Theatre productions put people to work, as well as bring patrons to nearby businesses such as restaurants, parking garages, and shopping. So in a macro, long-term sense, Boston will likely earn this tax credit back, and more.

In addition, while Boston is indeed a prominent cultural city and, therefore, a desirable market for commercial theatre productions, it tends to be an expensive place to produce or present, so a tax credit seems like it would definitely lure pre-Broadway shows that might consider other cities that already have similar tax credits in place, such as Illionis.

Here is an article regarding the pending tax credit legislation in Boston:

‘Legislation seeks to lure Broadway shows to Hub’

And here’s some recent coverage about the upcoming pre-Broadway run of TUCK EVERLASTING in Boston

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