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Posts Tagged ‘producers’

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Hey there, hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Looks like Actors’ Equity Association isn’t giving thanks these days to touring producers for producing Non-Equity tours and road presenters for including these Non-Equity shows in their Broadway Series. If a tour is Non-Equity is it misleading to include it on a Broadway series? AEA thinks so. A recent New York Times article describes the campaign AEA is currently promoting in Chicago in order to gain the sympathies of audience members attending Non-Equity shows at venues such as The Cadillac Palace Theater.

AEA’s touring production contracts terms are up in September 2015 (see p.127) and so the union has been working to gain leverage and strength. In addition to this campaign, AEA has also been holding forums over the past year to hear the concerns of their membership about the lower tiered Equity touring contracts. These are the contracts AEA negotiated about ten years ago to incentivize producers to produce Equity tours in order to garner more consistent work for their union members.

Will AEA’s approach of reaching out to audience members ultimately have an effect on enough people to support their position? Do enough audience members even care, or notice the difference between the Equity and Non-Equity tours that share billing on a presenter’s Broadway series?  Check out this thought-provoking Howlround post by Greg Redlawsk for more on this topic.

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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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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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Another Broadway Across America Theatrical Conference ended its short, but sweet run this past Thursday night in warm (thank goodness!) and wonderful Key West, FL. This year’s conference ran from February 10-13 on the theme of “catching waves and driving change,” the aquatically inspired metaphor being that not unlike that of a surfer, theatre industry professionals must continually “experience, create and innovate” by taking risks to keep up with changing times, while also maintaining a sense of balance and tradition.

For those of you not familiar, BAA’s biennial theatre conference is where all the top presenters, producers, general managers, booking agents, and ticketing and technology experts associated with the commercial theatre industry converge for several days for panels, creative presentations, business, networking and some fun. Well…er…a lot of fun.

To kick things off, popular humorist, Mo Rocca and acclaimed director, Jack O’Brien delivered charming and meaningful keynote addresses, with Rocca describing various theatre memories from his childhood, and O’Brien instructing those on the business side of the theatre to “play” more. He reminded attendees that gathering in Key West in this relaxed and fun way was important, because despite having become very much a business, theatre has been, and always will be, first and foremost about play.

With regard to the panels, the overarching takeaway for me was about how ticket sales are “riding the wave of technology” with trends showing that more and more people are purchasing tickets through their smart phones and tablets. In order to capture those sales more effectively, the industry is reaching out to experts in digital for support, and, in some cases, bringing digital experts on to their own staffs. A small sampling of the ticketing and digital leaders who spoke on this topic included David Andrews, SVP, Shubert Ticketing, Damian Bazadona, Founder, Situation Interactive, Stan Deak, VP New Business Development, Experience, which is based in an app that allows you to upgrade your seat, or add on an experience right from your mobile device, and Julia Vander Ploeg, GM & SVP, Ticketmaster Resale, who discussed the new TM+ website.

Cast members of GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER perform at the BAA Theatrical Conference in Key West.

Cast members of GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER perform at the BAA Theatrical Conference in Key West.

But the conference went way beyond panels! There were also a number of special performances, as well as exciting creative presentations of both new and established works! These included Cyndi Lauper (KINKY BOOTS), Sheryl Crow (DINER), and the lovely Jessie Mueller performed songs from the hit Broadway show, BEAUTIFUL. I was particularly enamored by the presentation of AMELIE, and will be rooting for the show as it continues in its development and journey toward Broadway. Other shows represented at the conference were GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER, WE FOXES, THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD, MOTOWN THE MUSICAL and DIRTY DANCING.

The energy at the conference was inspiring, and by the close it was clear that The Road has never been stronger. It’s heartening to know how alive and well theatre remains despite all the various entertainment choices out there. And I truly believe that The Road, by bringing theatre beyond New York, Chicago and other major cities, directly and indirectly helps theatre at every level thrive all across the country. By maintaining and building new audiences, fans and supporters on The Road, theatre remains highly visible, as well as culturally and economically relevant. And no matter how technologically advanced this world gets, at the end of the day there will never be anything that could ever duplicate the kind of magical experience that only live theatre can offer.

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Closing night fireworks on the beach of the Casa Marina Hotel, Key West.

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contract - cartoonYesterday, Actors’ Equity Association held a forum where its membership had the opportunity to voice concerns regarding what some performers view as the unfair utilization of lower tiered touring contracts by certain productions that will be going out on tour in the 14-15 season. Here is a follow up article on the forum in The New York Times.

Having been an actor myself, and someone who now also has a number of years of experience on the business side of theatre under my belt, I have a decent understanding of both sides. I chose not to attend the forum, but based on the NYT article it sounds as though the AEA leadership provided a sense of the historical and financial context that led to the establishment of these various mutually agreed upon lower tiered union touring contracts.

But is AEA’s membership now satisfied and willing to accept the way things stand, or when it’s time for AEA to re-visit these contracts will the membership push their leaders to seek changes? Any thoughts, or predictions? Feel free to share!

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Returning to the topic of a recent post, below is a link to an article by Chris Jones of The Chicago Tribunewho shares his thoughts about the increased use of tiered contacts for national tours that lately has members of AEA up in arms.

Would love to hear your comments on this issue here at The Road 101 if you have ’em!

‘How and why actors’ paychecks are shrinking on tour’

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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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