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Posts Tagged ‘brand’

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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On May 1 at 8:30AM EST the 2012 Tony Award nominees were announced. There are a number of exciting races, but with regard to The Road and the 2013-2014 touring season, it will be interesting to see if the charming and romantic ONCE, beloved by many, can beat Disney’s popular, large-scale NEWSIES. Will Road presenters “vote with their heart” for ONCE, as many did back in 2004 with the modest AVENUE Q, which beat out the mammoth WICKED for Best Musical? NEWSIES doesn’t need the Tony accolade as much with the well-established Disney brand behind it. If the lesser-known ONCE does not win for Best Musical, might that affect presenter confidence in the show’s ability to attract subs and singles, who may not be acquainted with the title?

And here are the nominees …

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A special guest from WAR HORSE visits the Crowne Plaza Ballroom.

The 2011 Spring Road Conference ended on a high note late last Thursday with a fabulous closing night party hosted by THE BOOK OF MORMON. A wonderful finale to a fun and educational few days.

Over Wednesday and Thursday, there were several more panels on a variety of industry-related topics, but first, a couple of additional takeaways on ticketing and pricing, which I talked about a bit in my previous post…

One presenter, Gina Vernaci, the Vice President of Theatricals at PlayhouseSquare in Cleveland revealed that she and her staff were able to increase their subscriber base, in part, by no longer offering a “mini-package” option. In my previous post, I mentioned that a number of markets out there offer “flex packages” to try and entice those people who may not want to get locked into an expensive full subscription package. Even though Vernaci said she realized that not offering a mini-package was counter-intuitive, she decided to give it a try, offering instead more affordable packages for her entire season of seven shows. Vernaci also looked at her house and did some re-pricing. As it turns out, applying both of these ideas worked well for her market, as her sub load-in increased to approximately 22,000. Another point that someone made during these discussions was how important it was to not set ticket prices too high. The argument being that it’s easier to raise prices than to lower them. Having to lower a ticket price sends a different message, and not a positive one, compared to keeping prices steady, or raising them, which implies a greater demand.

Switching gears a bit, Wednesday morning opened with a fascinating talk called “Making Your Case” during which panelists and audience members described their recent experiences in Washington where the push is on to get the theatre industry on the radar screen of lobbyists and politicians. One of the panelists included the esteemed Broadway producer, Tom Viertel, Chairman of the Board at Scorpio Entertainment. Viertel announced the impending formation of a Legislative Council that will include theatre industry professionals from each state, who will be liaisons between the theatre industry stakeholders within their state and elected representatives.

One major lobbying effort that the theatre industry has been working on relates to securing tax breaks for theatre investors that are similar to the tax breaks that investors in film and investors in U.K. theatre productions receive. A bill in support of this tax break initiative for theatre producers is reportedly being considered in Washington, and it was announced that Senator Charles Schumer of New York will likely be introducing it in the next several weeks.

A main takeaway from this panel discussion was that while there are professional lobbyists out there, we all have to be our own lobbyists and get out there, get to know our public officials personally, and “make a case” for our industry.

Switching gears again, another illuminating seminar that was popular among conference attendees was called, “A Vision Of The Digital Future” where professional digital marketers, along with the SVP of Digital Operations at The New York Times, discussed the ways in which social media drives real time experience, and how “mobile” is now the biggest trend in digital communication. The panelists also all agreed that these days it has become imperative to brand your product across platforms in order to allow users to access your brand in variety of ways.

The panelists also stressed that gathering research and data to determine and understand your audience was the key to help you best decide on branding strategy and that data analytics should be used to drive decisions on how one chooses to invest time and money in social and digital marketing strategies. You need to look at your consumers’ habits, see what platforms they use and understand how to integrate the media that your consumers are using.

The panel encouraged those in attendance to really think about how to use social media and emerging technology to further the experience and relationships with subscribers. “Geotargeting,” the capability of determining where a website visitor is located, came up often as a popular method to proactively reach out to consumers in order to deliver content in an interactive, spontaneous and fun way. “Geotagging” was also suggested as a way to get word out about a show. For example, find a way to get a patron to use an app while in your theatre that allows her to let people know she’s there and that allows her the capability of letting people know out in the world right then and there how she feels about the show.  The other major takeaway from this discussion was the importance of content. Your audience is expecting something valuable and exclusive, so the content of your message must offer something they can’t see, or get, anywhere else.

Because theatre is live, it is always going to be a unique experience that people can’t get anywhere else, but it is clear that if theatre is to remain alive and thrive in this country, we must collectively fight the good fight and advocate for the performing arts on a political level, and also stay in step with the fast-moving times by embracing the digital world and using it to our best advantage.

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Well, per all the links below, THE BOOK OF MORMON, the irreverent musical by South Park creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, with Robert Lopez of AVENUE Q fame, is a huge Broadway smash. Though I have not seen it yet, I know from those who have, as well as the reviews, one of which describes the show as “blasphemous, scurrilous and more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak” that much of the content is far from squeaky clean.

Assuming the capitalization and weekly operating costs for this production are not inconceivably high, there is a decent chance that THE BOOK OF MORMON will hang in there long enough to eventually be a commercial success in New York given the reviews and positive word of mouth.

But what about on The Road?

THE BOOK OF MORMON and other shows that have opened, or will soon be opening this season, are going to be considered for the 2012-2013 touring season, and, in early May, presenters from around the country will be descending on New York for The Spring Road Conference where they will have a chance to take in THE BOOK OF MORMON and all the other new offerings. I believe the presenters who truly like THE BOOK OF MORMON will be in a difficult position. Can they safely offer it on subscription and risk possibly alienating the loyal base that they’ve cultivated?  And what will be the producers’ marketing strategy be prior to going on The Road? As with other shows with less mainstream subject matter that also lacked a “brand name” title, the THE BOOK OF MORMON producers will likely need to begin building strong name recognition and enough audience support for this show on a national level pretty far ahead of a tour if they hope to be able to court enough presenters to create a viable routing scenario. A critical and artistic success in New York does not often equal financial success on The Road. The Equity tour of SPRING AWAKENING, for example, had its challenges, per this article in The St. Petersberg Times about the play at the Straz Center in Tampa Bay.

The commercial touring industry is a business after all, and yet, at the same time, The Road needs to offer fresh, edgy shows of quality, otherwise this country will one day end up permanently thinking that the theatre is made up only of blockbusters and revivals, and that outcome would certainly be ungodly.

THE BOOK OF MORMON reviews:

THE NEW YORK TIMES

WASHINGTON POST

LOS ANGELES TIMES

NY DAILY NEWS

TIME OUT NEW YORK

ROLLING STONE

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For those of you in New York City interested in hearing some theatre industry folks talk about the business side of The Road, I was invited to be on a panel tonight at The Players Theater called So Many Ways to Hit the Road: The Value of Touring for Building Your Brand”

Should be a lively and informative discussion, so hope you can check it out!

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