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Archive for the ‘Seasons’ Category

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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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Welcome to the final installment of The Road 101’s “Acting On The Road” series with guest, Patrick Oliver Jones. This interview was conducted in mid-May. The Road 101 is so grateful to Patrick for taking the time out of his busy schedule on the road over the past six months to check in with us to let us know what it’s like out there on tour. We’re super excited to see what’s next for Patrick down the road, and wish him all the best!

THE ROAD 101: How long have you been out on the EVITA tour, and what were some of the highlights for you?

Patrick Oliver Jones: Rehearsals started last August, and I’ve been with the show from the beginning. We’ve been to some wonderful cities like Chicago, which is probably my favorite city to visit in the US, as well as new cities for me like San Antonio, which has a beautiful river walks that wind their way through the heart of downtown. The real highlight, though, are the people I’ve worked with and come to know. The cast is not only fantastically talented onstage but a pleasure to be with offstage as well. Each person is perfectly suited to their role and the friendships formed during these last nine months are ones I look forward to continuing long after the tour has ended.

TR101: I hear that you will be leaving the EVITA tour a little early. What’s next for you?

POJ: Yes, my last day with the tour was May 9. After a much-needed vacation and then a few days back in NYC, I started work in upstate NY at the Merry Go Round Playhouse to do Mr. Banks in MARY POPPINS. We open Wednesday, June 4 and have a spectacular cast of veterans from the Broadway and National Tour companies as well as those new to the show like myself. Once Poppins closes, I will make my way down to St. Louis to play the Grinch in SEUSSICAL. As it turns out, our director and production stage manager from EVITA were part of the original Broadway production of SEUSSICAL and they gave me some of the rich history and creative process of this unique show. My last 3 years have been filled with ensemble work in two national tours. I am truly looking forward to taking on two iconic principal characters in these upcoming shows. It’s set to be a wonderfully fun summer!

TR101: Do you plan on going out on the road and performing in tours again in the future?

POJ: At this point my sights are set on work in NYC. Life on the road is fun and involves going to some great places, but I moved to the city years ago with the goal of working in the city. So now is the time to concentrate on that. With so many workshops and shows on and off Broadway, I’m excited for the chance to perform in new works, including readings and concerts. Should a tour come along in the future that has a great role and a wonderful creative team, I might be persuaded to hit the road again. But for now, I’m happy to set my roots firmly in NYC!

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The men of the National Tour of EVITA from the opening night party in San Diego. (Patrick is 4th from left.)

The men of the National Tour of EVITA from the opening night party in San Diego. (Patrick is 4th from left.)

With the 13/14 touring season now more than half-way through, The Road 101 decided it was time once again to catch up with our peregrinating performer pal, Patrick Oliver Jones for our Voices From The Road series. Patrick is currently crossing the country in the National Tour of EVITA.

THE ROAD 101: Hey Patrick, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with The Road 101 again! How long have you been out on tour now with EVITA? I imagine it can get tiring constantly performing and traveling. How do you find balance out on The Road?

Patrick Oliver Jones:
It’s been about 6 months since we started rehearsals back in NYC. At this point, the cast has become like a family, connecting and sharing our daily lives with each other. The balance really comes in finding time to both enjoy the closeness and camaraderie of my cast mates, as well as carving out time for myself to work on a blog, catch up on my favorite TV shows, or stick to my New Year’s resolution to workout more. Some cities I’m out and about, seeing all the city has to offer, but some days are wonderfully lazy in the hotel room. As for my friends and family, Facebook, Instagram, and other social sites certainly help me keep connected, especially as our tour gets closer to their cities.

TR101: What is a typical performance day like for an actor out on tour?


POJ:
Days truly differ during the week. We do have some days that are pretty similar every week like Mondays (traveling to the next city), Tuesdays (a day off until 5pm when we have a company meeting and sound check before opening that night), and Saturday/Sunday (when we have two shows each day). As an understudy for Peron, a typical rehearsal day during the week would be a run-through with the other understudies and swings in the afternoon with a couple of hours to rest and eat before show that night. Those days we have nothing scheduled but a show that night are chances to sleep in, do laundry, eat out with friends, see the city sights, and/or doing some shopping.

Our call time is always 30 minutes prior to show time. We have a fairly short show, about 55 minutes each act, so our day usually ends around 10-10:30pm, depending on show time. Since I’m a night owl, then I’m usually off to bed around 2-3am each night.

TR101:
 What city are you writing from now? What do you like about it?

POJ:
Milwaukee. This is one of the few cities on tour that I haven’t been to, and of course the locals here say that it’s a shame we aren’t here in the warmer months. Not much to do with temps in single digits and snow up to my knees. Haha. I did at least get to the Public Market, a warehouse type collection of shops and eating places in the downtown area.

Mostly I like being here because I have friends living just outside Milwaukee that I’ve known since I lived in Orlando and was working at Disney World. I’m actually staying with them this week, which helps out financially as well. On a SETA contract, the amount of our per diem is based upon where we stay, whether in producer-provided lodging or on our own. By “taking the buy-out” I receive more per diem to cover the cost of finding my own lodging, which in this case is nothing since I’m staying with my friends.

TR101: Where are you off to next? Are you looking forward to it, and have you ever been there before?


POJ:
After Milwaukee we get a week off, which I will use to go back to NYC for some rest and relaxation, as well as auditioning. While I’m happy to have this tour, I do look forward to whatever is next, particularly a principal contract. The past couple of years have given my resume good ensemble credits, but now I’m ready to tackle more leading roles. So I have about 2-3 auditions planned for each day I’m back in the Big Apple.

After the layoff the tour starts up again in Cincinnati for two weeks. I have been there before and look forward to sampling more chili, which the city is known for. But I’m particularly hopeful for warmer weather, at least above freezing. From Minneapolis to Milwaukee and NYC, the winter freezes have been following us. I love snow and feel like a kid every time I’m out in it, but shivering cold is never fun. Haha. So getting a chance to not have to bundle up in our upcoming cities will be a welcome relief!

*  *  *  *  *

Patrick Oliver Jones is currently on the road with Evita (Peron u/s), having recently finished the Equity national tour of The Addams Family (Lurch, Mal u/s). Off-Broadway he starred in the world premieres of The Extraordinary Ordinary, Magdalene, and Swiss Family Robinson (NYMF). Regionally, Patrick has led a revolution in Les Misérables, made ladies swoon in Beauty and the Beast, antagonized Quixote in Man of La Mancha, and spent his days mooning in Grease. His dramatic works include The Tempest (Ferdinand), Look Homeward, Angel (Eugene), and To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday (David). On camera he has co-starred in BLUE BLOODS and LAW & ORDER: CI as well as numerous national commercials in the U.S. and Canada. www.PatrickOliverJones.com

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An article in yesterday’s New York Times exposed the growing frustrations of some of AEA’s membership about upcoming 14/15 tours using lower-tiered contracts. You can check out that NYT article here.

For more information about the Short Engagement Touring Agreement (SETA), please check out my post from a few years ago here.  Also, in a more recent post, actor Patrick Oliver Jones, currently on tour with EVITA, talks about how the SET Agreement works here.

Stay tuned for more on this issue as details develop following AEA’s Town Hall Meeting on January 27.

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tony award trophy

At the end of this post is a link to a recent New York Times article giving a bit of a Tony Awards wrap up. Despite not winning Best Musical, MATILDA THE MUSICAL was already doing well at the box office and has a solid advance. However, the challenge now is trying to decide whether or not to go on tour in the 2014-2015 season. Seems like a no-brainier given the show’s popularity, but the producer, Michael David, while expecting the show to go on tour, realizes the challenges of building a touring version that retains what makes the show so dynamic and special, while at the same time is practical enough from a costs standpoint, as well as creating a version that will fit technically and aesthetically into all the different theaters it would tour in around North America.

Tony Win Gives Box Office Boost to ‘Kinky Boots’

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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!

* * * *

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 brought up Dynamic Pricing in other posts. If you need some basic background on the subject, you can check those posts out here and here and here.

Dynamic Pricing will probably be the subject of more of my posts going forward, as more and more producers, performing arts organizations and arts presenters look towards this strategy to try and take as much advantage of their ticket inventory as possible.

If you are a member of Americans for the Arts, there is a FREE webinar on the topic this Monday, Feb 4th at 3:00p EST. For non-members, the cost is $35.00, but if you are not at all familiar with Dynamic Pricing, this webinar could be worth the money — money that you could ideally earn back down the road through Dynamic Pricing!  🙂

Here is a link to info on the webinar:

A Look at the Future of Dynamic Pricing

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