One of the reasons why I like reading Broadway producer Ken Davenport’s blog, The Producer’s Perspective, is that like a lot of non-profit arts managers, (though he isn’t one), he is constantly asking how the experience of attending a Broadway show can be made better.
It may interest you to learn that this examination extends to the national tours of Broadway shows. Back in March, he took a look at a study the Broadway League did on the demographics of people who attend Broadway touring performances.
It may come as no surprise that audiences for the tours are older, whiter and trend more slightly more female than audiences on Broadway. Among his insights that caught my eye were the following:
- In the 2013-2014 season, Broadway shows touring across North America drew 13.8 million attendances. (NOTE FROM KEN: Broadway saw only 12.21 million attendees. The Road Audience is 13% larger than the Broadway Audience. Now do you see how important The Road is?)
- The most commonly cited sources for show selection (other than being part of the subscription) were: the music, personal recommendation, Tony Awards and articles written about the show. (NOTE FROM KEN: This is all the same as in NYC, with a little less dependency on advertising, because shows aren’t in these towns long enough to have big advertising budgets. Want to be big on The Road? You better be big in NY first.)
- The reported influence of Tony Awards in deciding to see a show continued to grow. Twenty-four percent of respondents said that Tony Awards or nominations were a reason they attended the show, compared in 8% in the 2005-2006 season.
- Theatregoers said that the most effective type of advertising was an email from the show or presenter. (NOTE FROM KEN: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Everyone should look to double their email list every year.)
- Advance sales to single-ticket buyers have been steadily increasing over the past 10 years.Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that different performance times would encourage more frequent attendance.
He makes many other observations, but these were most interesting to me in terms of providing some insight into how best to promote performances to audiences.
In his commentary on the study’s final finding, he suggests touring productions may be important to the health of shows on Broadway by getting people interested in visiting NYC.
- Thirty percent of respondents said they made a visit to New York City in the past year. Of those, 81% attended a Broadway show while in town. (NOTE FROM KEN: And this is the stat I was looking for. 81%. That’s huge. Like 3.35 million huge.)
For me, the last stat is what says it all. See a lot of people think Broadway begets The Road. But I think we should focus on the reverse. See, it’s much easier for a person in Dallas to see a show in Dallas, rather than NYC, right? So perhaps Broadway would benefit from encouraging Dallas citizens to see shows in Dallas first, before trying to sell them Broadway. Get them to buy into what’s close to them, what’s easy for them, and they’ll work their way up to Broadway.
In a different post last week, Davenport noted the importance of touring to Broadway productions. The economics of touring is different from mounting a production on Broadway. While no one knows if a Broadway show will recoup its investment, a tour nearly always does. However, you have to have invested in the Broadway production to have the opportunity to invest in the tour.
Davenport questions why people loudly announce when a Broadway show recoups, but never announce when a tour does. He suggests the following reasons:
Is it because National Tours have an unbelievably high recoupment rate?… So since it’s more of a “given,” do we just not think it’s special enough to put out there?
Or are we afraid of putting it out there for the public for fear of getting the attention of unions and vendors who want a bigger piece? (If so, I think we have plenty of losses on Broadway to point to that balance the equation.)
Or are we afraid of putting it out there because the Presenters of the tours might be losing money, while the tours themselves are making money?
That final point resonates a bit with me. Due to the economics of our region and a mission to make attendance affordable, we lose much more on a sold out Broadway show than we do on a chamber music concert with 1/3 of the seats filled.
Setting that aside, it is very interesting to learn just how important venues in the fly over country between the coasts are to the continued economic well-being of productions in NYC. As it is, looking at the cast bios for these shows, they are certainly dependent on artists migrating from those parts of the country to NYC in order to mount the Broadway productions and tours.